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Decrying what it called a “dangerous” trend toward punishing judges for administrative decisions, the California Judges Association on Thursday leaped to the defense of a pair of Los Angeles judges facing election challenges from angry prosecutors. In a resolution issued Thursday, the state judges’ lobby said it was “deeply concerned by recent attempts to recruit candidates to oppose sitting judges, based solely upon disagreement over good-faith administrative decisions.” Today is the deadline for lawyers in Los Angeles to file papers if they wish to oppose a judge on the March ballot. Criminal supervising Judge Dan Oki and assistant supervising Judge David Wesley are expected to face challengers for their seats. The resolution comes as the state Judicial Council meets today to consider new rules that would expose trial court administrative decision-making to greater public scrutiny. Thursday’s resolution didn’t mention either today’s vote or the Los Angeles judges specifically. “The challenges in Los Angeles were factored into the equation, but the issue has come up before,” said CJA President and L.A. Superior Court Judge Eric Taylor. “The judges association represents 2,700-plus judges. We adopted the resolution in support of any judge being challenged for reasons like those stated.” The pair of L.A. judges have been targeted by Steven Ipsen, president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys. Ipsen, who didn’t return a call for comment, published a full-page advertisement calling for attorneys to challenge the two supervising criminal judges. To avoid overtime costs after the busy Memorial Day weekend earlier this year, the judges enforced a 2 p.m. deadline on complaints filed in arraignment court. One accused carjacker who wasn’t arraigned was charged with committing a murder after his release. “There had to be some accountability for this,” said L.A. Deputy DA Marc Debbaudt, who is challenging Oki for his seat. “This wasn’t a legal decision. It was an administrative one,” he said, adding that it led to the release of a man charged with a serious felony. “The way he went about making the decision was as troubling and problematic as the decision itself was,” Debbaudt said. Meanwhile, the Judicial Council is meeting to consider a series of rule changes, requested by the state Legislature, which would bring more public scrutiny and accountability to administrative decisions made in the state’s trial courts. Among other things, judges would be required to release documentation and inform the public about decisions affecting court budgets, accessibility, scheduling and other matters. Some judges oppose the rules, and some have cited concern about administrative decision-making being used in election challenges. While Taylor said the CJA’s resolution didn’t address the proposed Judicial Council rules, the language used in the resolution approved by the CJA’s 24-judge board seemed to bristle at the implied criticism in the rules. Calling court administration an “extremely complex undertaking” handled by judges who volunteer to help while juggling court calendars, the resolution said that “challenges based upon administrative decisions are inconsistent with California’s system for reelecting judges, and will discourage judges from performing vital administrative responsibilities.” Spokesmen for Oki and Wesley say the two judges are being challenged for trying to carry out their responsibilities within budget constraints, adding that prosecutors were given ample notice of the local rule before it took effect. “We are of the opinion it’s not a sufficient reason to be challenging a longtime incumbent judge,” said Oki’s spokesman Fred Huebscher, owner of The Political Scientists, a campaign advising group. “It’s clearly a political vendetta by a portion of the association of the deputy district attorneys,” said Wesley spokesman Hal Dash, of political advisers Cerrell & Associates. “It’s to cover up the fact they were terribly late” in filing charges, he said. “They are trying to blame the judges for cases that should have been filed by the 2 o’clock deadline. This was not even Judge Wesley’s decision.”

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