The Book of Judges

Voting on your more obscure, down-ticket races, you need an expert; when it comes to judging the judges, we rely on former prosecutor Wally Wade. Don't remember him? Travel back with us to the 1990s: the Republican Party watches in horror as District Attorney Mike Capizzi, a Republican, violates the local party's Leninist stricture—not just speaking ill of fellow Republicans but actually prosecuting them for political corruption. Most prominent: the case of Scott Baugh, the Huntington Beach Republican whom Capizzi accused of masterminding the campaign of a fake Democrat—Baugh's colleague in an OC law firm—to split the Democratic vote for Assembly and get himself elected. You can see how things turned out: Baugh went on to the Assembly, was later cleared by Republican judges of the most serious crimes and now runs the Orange County Republican Party; Capizzi was run out of town. The Republicans declared such disloyalty would never happen again. Though the post is nonpartisan, they picked Tony Rackauckas to run for DA in 1998. A former judge and prosecutor, and (perhaps more important to local Republicans) a disciplined and reliable party member, Rackauckas promised the few voters paying attention that he'd abandon expensive, arcane political corruption cases in favor of the nuts-and-bolts prosecution of street thugs. Wally Wade, a veteran prosecutor, stepped up to challenge Rackauckas—and was chewed up. He returned to work as a prosecutor for the very man he'd challenged. When Wade had the temerity to make a second run for the job in 2002, he lost again; this time Rackauckas stripped Wade of his prosecutorial role and banished him to the fringes of the empire—a desk job in the newly created Department of Child Support Services where, he says, “advanced trial skills are for the most part unnecessary.” Now retired from the county, he's in the process of establishing a law practice (“I may call it 'Lawyers for Little Guys'”) and always a good man to turn to when you can't figure out why politics trumps justice. Here are a few of his recommendations:

SUPREME COURT:Joyce Kennard. “Conservatives have trashed her, hinting that she has a suspect lifestyle. Although I disagree with some of her decisions, they aren't outside the mainstream of the current state of the law in California.”

SUPREME COURT: Carol Corrigan. “She's relatively new. Was a prosecutor in Northern California—very active in victims' rights, particularly battered women. I've seen nothing that would give me pause.”

COURT OF APPEAL:Kathleen O'Leary. “A good justice,” Wade says, noting that he'll vote for her even though O'Leary is one of the three appellate judges who decided against him when he sued the county for Rackauckas' decision to demote him. “I would have liked for the case to go the other way,” Wade says. “You can always quarrel with an opinion, but she's intellectually honest. She clearly read the briefs, studied the code, and then decided against us.”

COURT OF APPEAL: Raymond Ikola. “Very fair,” Wade says. “Excellent demeanor as a superior court judge. Good reputation on the bench. I wouldn't hesitate to appear before him.”

SUPERIOR COURT: Sheila Hanson. Wade likes Hanson's opponent, Lyle Robertson, too: “They are both good candidates. Sheila has great trial experience; Lyle has bench experience.” It's “the nasty undertone of that race,” that really bothers him, the fact that the Republican Party, backing Robertson, has stepped in to turn another nonpartisan race between “two very good candidates” into a mud-slinging, partisan brawl. “Republicans back Lyle because he's a Republican and Sheila's a Democrat.” Full disclosure: Wade has a Hanson sign on his lawn.

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