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Editor’s Note: Throughout this election season , The Recorder will be giving judicial candidates in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties an opportunity to speak to our readers in their own voices. Last week, the four candidates for Alameda County Superior Court spoke at a forum sponsored by the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club and moderated by Recorder Editor in Chief Scott Graham. The following is Part 1 of the forum. It begins with opening remarks, edited slightly for space, followed by two questions and answers. Part 2 of the forum will appear tomorrow. Bar Association President G. Judson Scott Jr., Court Commissioner Trina Thompson Stanley and Deputy State Public Defender Michael Goldstein. Lise Pearlman: I was thinking, it’s a tough choice that you will have. We have good candidates. I think Trina [Thompson Stanley] would make a good judge. I wish there was more than one position available for us on the court at this time. One of the differences though between us … is that Trina is already there serving as a commissioner. And she will still stay there if she’s not elected. I’m not part of the judicial system currently, and I won’t be part of it unless I am elected. One of the other major differences between us is that Trina’s experience is in criminal law. And for the past 20 years, governors have been appointing judges primarily with experience in criminal law … to lawyers who need, and a populace that needs expertise in civil law. As a consequence, we have been losing the support of the business community and law firms to private judging and arbitration, and when the courts go to Sacramento now they don’t have as much clout as they used to have. It’s kind of what happened to the public schools as well. We need to bring them back. I’ll work to bring that back. … Why is this important? Well, I guess about 13 months ago all of us were glued to our TV sets, waiting for the Supreme Court to decide what it was going to do in Bush v. Gore. I am sure the rest of you share my own major disappointment in the way the majority of that court chose to decide that case, not on what appeared to be the rule of law, but on a result-oriented conclusion. If we do not have respect for the rule of law, we do not have one of the primary benefits of our democratic society. And I have worked for 30 years both on an independent judiciary, and the integrity of the judiciary, primarily when I was at the State Bar Court. … We need more judges who will stand up for judicial independence. … G. Judson Scott JR.: I thought it might be useful for you to list the six criteria, the six factors that are important for good judges, and then to tell you something about myself in relationship to each of them. The first is to be open-minded and listen. The second is to be fair and just. The third is to be legally competent and well experienced. The fourth is integrity. The fifth is hard work. And the sixth is the ability to be both tough and compassionate when the need arises. Being open-minded and listening, I had the great honor of serving this last year as the president of your [Alameda County] bar association. In the process of doing that I was able to bring together all the local and specialty bars for the first time … to listen and to talk to one another. I know that I learned by listening, and that is one of the thing s I would do if elected. Fair and just: I served as a settlement commissioner for the court on a regular basis, and I also do mediations as part of my practice. [I've been able to] succeed in doing that because I can bring the people together to reach agreement. You can’t do that without being fair and just. … Legally experienced and competence: I’m an AV rated lawyer, I’ve been a trial lawyer for 26 years, I’m a member of the million-dollar roundtable. I’ve had a very good and satisfactory practice as a lawyer. … I’m also the only trial lawyer for this trial court position, which is obviously something else that you probably want to think about. … Hard work: I have a reputation for that. … In the last year I had to juggle being president of your [local] bar, an active trial lawyer, and also my Navy reserve admiral job that I had where I had to coordinate people across the county. … Trina Thompson Stanley: As you know I presently sit in Dept. 151 as a juvenile court commissioner. Meaning no disrespect to my colleagues, I did want to make a few corrections. Since October of ’95, there have actually been 16 civil appointments, six of which have come from the criminal bar, two of which were elected and three of which were commissioners who were elevated to the bench. I am also a trial lawyer by trade, prior to becoming a commissioner. Many of you who are present here now recognize me as being a colleague in the public defender’s office for some years, and also after 10 years of [private] practice in Alameda [and Contra Costa] county in which I handled predominantly murder cases. … But what I’m most proud of is the fact I was able to institutionalize an internship program, of which one of my interns, Jacque Wilson, is present, and I’m very proud of him because he is now a member of the public defender’s office. And there’ve been some 15 students who’ve graduated out of that program, who are all pursuing their own goals and endeavors. … So I’m very proud of that, because that is where I was giving back to my community. And sitting as a commissioner, I’m able to continue in that role as a public servant. Because every time a child comes before me, I have been in every pocket of North County, so when they come in and tell me a story about what is going on with them … we talk about real basic things, how they are dressed. … The next court appearance … if they’re dressed appropriately, I tell them to go out in the hallway, let the other kids see you. Let them know that the commissioner gave you your props. … What I’m trying to do is instill pride in our youth, and give them the aspiration to know that I was just like you. I grew up in Oakland and at one point I had to transition out of my family home, and as a high school student, was raised by my track coach and his wife, and informally placed in their foster care home. And from that humbling experience I have learned hard work. … Michael Goldstein: Good afternoon. My name is Michael Goldstein. I hate hard work. [laughter] But I’m doing it too. I’m a deputy state public defender. I’m doing death penalty appeals. … I began my legal career in 1974 as a volunteer attorney for the United Farm Workers, I was doing labor law work then for a summer stint. I have done, besides criminal appellate work, I’ve done employment and labor, and civil rights litigation at the appellate level. I spent a long time working at Matthew Bender & Co., writing and editing and then in management, which gave me familiarity with a lot of different other substantive areas of law I’m not going to bore you with listing. One thing that showed me was that I’m comfortable doing what many judges, particularly in the civil area, have to do, which is skipping from one substantive area to the other, being able to quickly dip in deep enough to understand it and make an intelligent ruling. I’ve had experience outside the realm of legal practice itself. I know something about corporate life, organizational life. … I took a timeout from law entirely from 1992 through ’98, I did an intensive three-year program in counseling psychology at John F. Kennedy University, and actually interned as a psychotherapist and couples counselor, and at the same time did mediation training. So what does this mean about being a judge? People come into court often at difficult and intense moments of their lives. They have done things that are motivated by parts of our souls that are sometimes difficult to understand, and either be compassionate with or respond to appropriately in terms of consequences. … This training requires learning to recognize and monitor one’s reactions as they come up, put them aside, put yourself in the shoes of the person before you, try to understand the reality that they’re dealing with, and respond both compassionately and appropriately. … I’m the only one who’s running who’s an out-of-the-closet progressive. And I’d like to suggest to you that that might say something about the quality of courage that I would show on the bench, in terms of rulings I would make whether popular or not, knowing that another election could be coming. Recorder: What Alameda County judge would you most like to emulate if you are elected to the bench? Scott: That’s an interesting question. It’s a tough one because there are different attributes about different judges. I think probably Richard Hodge, because I tried the first medical malpractice case in his courtroom. And he was very candid about the fact that he had never had a medical malpractice case before, but he jumped right into it, he learned fast, was a very fair judge, really worked hard. I remember at the end of our trial and the jury’s deliberating, he brought another trial in already to get another one going. So I liked him and I admire him, but there are others too that I also could name. Stanley: Well, as a sitting commissioner and having tried a number of cases in front of a large number of the judges in Alameda County, I’d have to say unfortunately it would be a quilt work. It would be a combination of most of the judges that sit in Alameda County, because they’ve all in some way shaped and formed in some way who I am as an attorney and as a commissioner. So I can’t name one. Recorder: Can you name a few attributes of some that would come to mind, present or former? Stanley: In terms of present or former judges, Judge [Henry] Ramsey, since he gave me my initial introduction to being on time and punctual and making sure that I was never late for anything, he would definitely be in the forefront. Because I learned that lesson well from both him and Judge Judy Ford, who is endorsing me. In addition to that, again it would be the whole host of judges, because Judge [Vernon] Nakahara and other judges who’ve taken the time to mentor me, have provided me a great deal of pride, Judge [Gail] Bereola, a number of them. … Goldstein: If it wasn’t clear already, this question exposes me as an outsider to the trial courts of Alameda County. I’ve had almost no experience in those courts practicing. I’ve probably had contact with three judges, so what I would like to say is I’d like you to visualize the judge you know who treats litigants most courteously, that you know when you go before them they will be prepared on the issues and have read any submissions you made to them in advance, and understand the case and understand what’s going on, and take the time to consider it carefully. There is one anecdote about Judge David Krashna, who is here, which really appeals to me. The story I heard is that, at least as a commissioner, he used to sometimes come off the bench and greet, I believe, drug court defendants who were in his court who’d done a good job, face to face and, taking away the trappings of power, sort of meet them man-to-man or man-to-woman, on the floor, as another human being congratulating them on what they’d done. Pearlman: There are a number. … One who stands out in my mind is Sparky Avakian, who served many years with distinction in this court. And I modeled myself, when I was the presiding judge of State Bar Court, after Sparky, after a number of other judges, Allen Broussard, every one that I could see that the best qualities that they had I tried to emulate. And I’ve got a quote I’m really proud of, and that is from Sheriff Charles Plummer, who has seen 49 years of law enforcement in this county, and knows almost every judge in the county, including on the bench now as well as those he’s seen decades before, and he says he would rate me in the top 10 percent. Recorder: By a 3-to-2 vote the Alameda County Board of Supervisors recently approved the construction of a new 420-bed juvenile hall. Do you feel that this represents the correct approach on juvenile crime, and what steps can judges take to deal effectively with juvenile crime? Stanley: This is somewhat of an unfair question for me because I sit presently as a juvenile court commissioner and I’m prohibited from discussing any matters that are now before the court, and particularly any court that I could possibly even rule on or be a participant in. So I’m unfortunately under mandate not allowed to answer that particular question. I have to defer to my presiding judge, Brenda Harbin-Forte, on those matters, along with the probation officer, Sylvia Johnson. I think that all of those who appear in my courtroom know that I’m very consistent in terms of how I try to find some creative measures in dealing with the minors that come before me, and also making detention decisions, which I’ll need to make at about 1:30 this afternoon. … Goldstein: As a matter of policy, which a judge doesn’t particularly have influence on, but this was the question, as a matter of policy, I have a lot of concerns about the establishment of a huge new centralized detention facility, and it looks to me like it represents a continuing tilt, as we’ve had with adult and juvenile offenders, towards harsher and harsher and more and more punitive measures. As far as what does work, kids don’t act out, whether in minor ways or in extremely serious criminal ways, because they were born wanting to do that. In dealing with juveniles it’s necessary first to assess every case individually as to what the offender needs, and within that to draw on an appropriate mix of consequences so that they know they can’t continue doing what they’re doing without taking on serious consequences, and looking for resources that are available to them in the community to aid in their dealing with whatever it is inside that’s making them do what they’re doing. Pearlman: It isn’t just sitting judges and commissioners who are constrained, all the judicial candidates are constrained not to address questions that might come before the court. So we all have that limitation. But I think that rather than address that question head on, I think what we need to do is look at the fact that courts are there to enforce the laws as they are written, and they have to maintain a distance from the political decision making. But what we can do and what I have done for 30 years is be out there in the community working with disadvantaged youths. For example, the Oakland Youth Chorus has been touted by the New York Times as a model social program that helps provide an alternative to drugs and violence. We have had a thousand kids go through the Oakland Youth Chorus in the last 25 years. Ninety percent of them go to college. And that is kids who mostly come from single-parent, disadvantaged homes. Because it’s a disciplined environment. And other programs like Bobby Sox, a lot of things that we can all be out there and help with. … Scott: Well, with respect to this youth facility, it’s replacing, actually it’s not a new facility, it’s replacing a facility that’s in terrible shape, and it’s been criticized for a long time. So to the extent that you replace a bad facility with a good facility, that’s a good move. Secondly, we worked last year on the bar association to set up a blue ribbon task force, to work with the court to make sure that court facilities are better addressed. That isn’t anything that we’re prohibited from talking about. Fortunately, the courts, and through the courts administration, and the work that [court executive officer] Art Sims did with the county board of supervisors, they were able to get funding for that very facility, as well as approval for some others, to significantly improve the court facilities in which we all practice, and in which are clients come to try to find justice. And so I think that anytime you can improve your facilities it’s a good idea. And I was proud to be part of that process and to be able to help in whatever way I could to make it happen. And then finally, nobody’s answered the second part of your question, so I will. Which is whether or not that’s the right approach. It seems to me that there are some kids you can treat outside the system, but unfortunately [there are] some kids who’ve engaged in some very serious crime who do need to be in a juvenile hall facility. Under those circumstances, if all the reports and everything say that that’s where they should be, then I think that I agree with that.

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