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SACRAMENTO � June’s election of the so-called “bagel lady” to the Los Angeles County Superior Court has spurred one lawmaker to try to beef up qualifications for would-be judges. Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, introduced legislation this week that would require judicial candidates to have at least 10 years of active State Bar membership. Current law requires a minimum 10-year Bar membership to take the bench, but it doesn’t distinguish between an attorney’s active or inactive status. That qualified Lynn Diane Olson, a Manhattan Beach bagel shop owner who hasn’t practiced law in nine out of the last 10 1/2 years, to campaign for and win a Superior Court seat now held by 20-year veteran Dzintra Janavs. Olson secured endorsements from Southern California Democrats and ran a well-financed campaign. But some judges were troubled that Janavs lost to an opponent with comparatively little legal experience and a rating of “unqualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. “We’ve always believed the intent of the current law was that you have 10 years of active membership,” said Michael Belote, a lobbyist for the California Judges Association, which is backing Umberg’s bill. “We never envisioned a scenario where someone could pass the bar, immediately go on inactive status, and then 10 years later run for judge.” Olson did not return messages left at her business on Wednesday. Umberg stripped the provisions of an existing bill, AB 2519, and replaced it with the new judicial requirement language � a procedure known as gut-and-amend that lawmakers often use in the final days of a session to push through hastily crafted legislation. But the bill hit an immediate roadblock Tuesday when Senate Judiciary Committee staffers raised concerns that the new requirements would have unintended consequences. “Indeed, AB 2519, threatens to create its own injustices and could disqualify from judicial service many qualified candidates,” the committee analysis said. “An esteemed professor of law who has less than 10 years of active status in California but years of legal experience would not be eligible for appointment or election.” Military attorneys, federal court lawyers and California attorneys who practice out-of-state might also be unfairly excluded from the bench under the new rules, the committee warned. Umberg said he can address those concerns through amendments. “It’s our hope and expectation that there will be another hearing to consider the bill,” he said. “I haven’t heard anybody else raise any other concerns,” he added. Another bill that seemed to draw new life after Olson’s election appeared to die this week: SCA 16, legislation that would require Los Angeles County voters to elect judges by district instead of at-large, was abandoned by its authors amid criticism from the Judicial Council, judges and a major labor union. Supporters argued that Los Angeles’ current trial court system is too big and unwieldy for voters to actually know anything meaningful about judges on a ballot. The Judicial Council, however, said the district-election proposal was too vague and would potentially dilute ethnic minorities’ voting power. The Service Employees International Union, which represents Los Angeles court workers, complained that new districts could involuntarily reassign long-time employees to far-flung courthouse locations. SCA 16, author, Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, called some council claims “factually incorrect” and said he wanted to talk to union representatives about their concerns. “I intend to fight this fight again next year,” he said.

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