Experience key in judicial race

Montrose resident Michael J. O’Gara is running for office as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. O’Gara is a candidate for office No. 94, opposing Eduard R. Abele and C. Edward Mack. The countywide election is June 3.

Superior Court Judges are elected to a six-year term.

O’Gara, 43, who has 17 years experience prosecuting cases, and is currently a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, has been rated “well qualified” for the office by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Abele, a district attorney, and Mack, a public defender, were both rated “qualified.”

O’Gara received such a high ranking based on his experience and expertise. He has received the endorsements of a long list of law enforcement — including L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca — community leaders, Superior Court judges and elected officials, from L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich to Glendale Unified School District Board of Education President Greg Krikorian. News organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, have also backed his candidacy.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Marsha N. Revel endorsed O’Gara for the position based on his “knowledge of the law, great judicial temperament, and professional attitude.”

“He’s a pleasure to watch,” she said. “He displays great judgment and great strategies. And, he’s honest. Everyone knows he is someone who can be trusted.”

O’Gara worked under Revel for five years and demonstrated a host of qualities worthy of the position, she said.

“If someone deserved harsh judgment, he worked tirelessly toward that. Or, if they deserved a break, he knew the difference,” she said. “He’s been acting like a judge for a long time.”

O’Gara grew up in Sun Valley and graduated from Sun Valley’s John H. Francis Poly Technic High School in 1982. He earned a bachelor of arts in history from UCLA, where he enjoyed involvement as a saxophone player and drum major in the college’s marching band. “We went to three Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl,” he recalled with fondness.

In 1990, he earned his juris doctorate from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. After working as a law clerk for a few different law firms, he moved on to the district attorney’s office, where he was hired in 1991. Some of his assignments included work in Compton, Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena. He also handled juvenile felony, non-injury cases at the Kenyon Justice Center in Watts. “It was very difficult, but rewarding work,” he said of his time working in juvenile justice, adding that he handled a lot of gang cases and also served as a sexual assault deputy.

While working in the Pasadena District Attorney’s Office, from 1994 to 1998, O’Gara handled a variety of sexual assault, murder, rape, kidnapping, child abduction, and other felony cases.

In 1998, he was sent to the downtown Los Angeles office and, in 2000, he was assigned as calendar deputy, which meant he was the primary district attorney in a particular courtroom. His duties included organizing discovery/evidence, taking pleas and making offers to the defense.

“As a calendar deputy you have to know what the judge knows,” he said. “You work as hard and have to keep up with all of the laws. It was a great experience.”

After five years as calendar deputy he was assigned to the fraud and corruptions bureau.

As a youth, O’Gara didn’t expect to someday go into the legal profession, he said. “My dad worked in television and I wanted to be a television director.”

However, while in college, he worked as an intern for a television studio and decided that wasn’t really the job for him. In 1989, a friend suggested he work as a law clerk for the district attorney’s office, and the rest is history.

O’Gara’s mom was a professional ice skater, and he met his wife, Melissa, while going to watch his mom practice with a precision skating team at a Burbank ice skating arena. They married in 1995 and have two children, a son, 7, and daughter, 4.

In his spare time, O’Gara enjoys participating in scouting and sports activities with his children.

Although the other two candidates in the judicial race are worthy opponents, O’Gara said, he is the best qualified.

“I’ve worked all over the county, and my experience is more applicable to being a judge,” he said. “My experience is better suited and I have a wider variety of experience. I like being able to use my experience to help the people.”