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Roundtable: Courts Cut, Teachers Saved, Kreep Elected

June 22, 2012 1:33 p.m.

Guests:

Greg Moran, UT San Diego

Kyla Calvert, Education Reporter, KPBS News

Dave Maass, San Diego CityBeat

Related Story: Roundtable: Courts Get Cut, Teachers Stay Employed, Kreep Becomes Judge

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

PENNER: This is Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner. And today we are going to be discussing a variety of things. Including the whole idea of -- thank you very much -- of the conversation about court cutback, a tentative agreement on teacher layoff, and our brand-new judge who doesn't believe President Obama was born in the United States. With me at the Roundtable is Greg Moran, staff writer at UT San Diego. I'm so glad you can be with us today.

MORAN: Thank you Gloria, good to see you.

PENNER: Kyla Calvert, the education reporter for KPBS news. Good to see you again.

CALVERT: Good to see you too.

PENNER: And Dave Moss, the staff writer for San Diego City beat. Welcome.

MOSS: Howdy.

PENNER: Nothing is sacrosanct when money is tight. This week, we got word that the San Diego superior court faces a historic reduction in services which would eliminate more than 250 jobs, close 30 or perhaps 40 courts, and require two days a month of unpaid work furlough. So Greg, you cover the courts for the UT. Just how severe will the cuts be, and who imposed them?

MORAN: Well, this will be a big bite. The last few years of reductions in the Court budget from the state funding -- I've been able to paper over it, using reserves, freezing positions, not hiring people. But those days are over. And the public is going to notice a diminution of services among the various courts here for at least the next couple of years.

PENNER: What are we talking about in terms of cuts? What percentage of the current budget might disappear?

MORAN: Well, they say they're going to have a 20% budget reduction, from about $190 million budget for the 2011/2012 year down to $150 million for the 13/14 year. Immediately they're going to have to cut $14 million from this budget, and it'll be $26 million next year. That means -- they are beginning to close a number of courtrooms and laying off court staff. The judges in those courtrooms believe reassigned and do other things. They're going to be a significant member of layoffs among court personnel, probably from the administration as well.

PENNER: And I would think that anybody who has been to court and goes through the process probably is going to start feeling this. There are many, many reasons to go to court besides criminal reasons.

MORAN: Well, jury duty comes to mind. But yeah, all sorts of civil matters, family matters.

MORAN: But you're right. Most people deal with the justice system through the civil courts. The media tends to cover the criminal trials more. But most people don't get arrested.

MORAN: You're going to see a reduction in the Court business people need to do in San Diego, taking a lot longer to execute a judgment, to get the paperwork that you need. And that has a ripple effect in the community.

PENNER: Kyle AI was thinking about all the reasons that the City of San Diego, or even the city schools go to court. These are not criminal reasons, necessarily, but they are in our courtrooms.

CALVERT: Yeah, I was just thinking, as you mentioned that it'll ripple out into the community, and I imagine this'll have an impact on small businesses. When you talk about the community, you're not just talking about who -- what is the slowdown out in the community?

MORAN: Well, I think a lot of things. Family court is going to see a real situation there. Most people really contact the justice system through custody dispute, things like that. But there are businesses who have disputes with businesses, corporations, customers. San Diego has been pretty good, very good actually, in processing civil cases in a fairly quick period of time, about a year to a year and a half. That's probably going to double. That adds cost to doing business, that delays things. Dave mentioned jury service. That too. That's going to take a while. But I think if you want a sense of it, a couple of years ago in 2010, the state ordered that -- or the state judicial council ordered that all courthouses be closed for a day, one day a month. This was very controversial within the judicial system but they did that. I think it was on Wednesdays, they would close them one Wednesday a month. If you went to the courthouse the next day on Thursday, and I work in the did the courts but I go a lot to east and south, you would go there, and the line would out the door to pay a fine, to process anything. And I think you're going to see that not as the exception, but as more common.

PENNER: You've given me a really good to reason to turn to our listeners and see what their experience has been with the Courts, especially if they go to some of the outlying courts like Ramona, I think is under consideration.

MORAN: Yeah.

PENNER: For having some closures there. What is it -- asking our listener, do you anticipate is going to happen in terms of your need for court assistance? Dave?

MOSS: All right. So I think when you go to these courthouses, one of the things that I notice there, and I'm not sure if Greg feels the same way. Compared to other government agencies in San Diego, it is not the most innovative government agency. And I think that you look at whether they're streamlining things, whether they're being efficient, and you're just not seeing it for such a huge part of government. And I hope that this conversation as well as the one we have later brings attention to this issue of how much money we're spending on this. There was an audit, you know, last year, about the computer system and almost half a billion dollars being wasted on that. And then everybody gets angry about people who make over $150,000 a year on salaries, and you have judges who are making $178,000, and I think the story says a lot of these judges are just not going to be in courtrooms anymore. And we can't get rid of them. They can't be fired.

PENNER: What are you going to do if you have 30-40 courtrooms closed out of -- how many?

MORAN: 130.

PENNER: So at least 10%. What does the judges do? How do they spend their days?

MORAN: It's interesting. Say if you're a judge in the downtown courts and your courtroom is going to be closed, you're going to float. One day you're going to go upstairs and fill in for judge X who's sick today. The next day, you might go out to Vista and fill in for judge Y. You're going to do settlement conferences -- that the Courts have traditionally used other judicial officers to do, retired judges, referees, commissioners.

PENNER: Are they going to eliminate all those others they've brought in to act as substitutes?

MORAN: Yes, they're going to be gone. In addition to 2013/2014, the Court commissioners, these are the judicial officers who are hired by the Courts and do small claims, civil, unlawful detainer, these are high-volume, high case-load departments, they're all going to be gone. There are 21 of the 24 court commissioners in it San Diego are going to be gone.

PENNER: Are these paid positions?

MORAN: They are paid, they make less than judges, they're appointed by the bench, serve at the pleasure of the bench, but they are not constitutional judicial officers like superior court judges are. They're going to be probably gone. Then we're going to have the specter of judges, making $178,000 sitting in traffic court adjudicating traffic claims. Did the guy run the red light or not?

PENNER: We are talking about cuts in cost. Cuts in the budget. And yet it doesn't sound as though the judges are going to have their salaries cut.

CALVERT: I was just wondering, as with the offices being closed half a day on Fridays, what happens to the pay of the other people running the Court system?

MORAN: Well, are the Court employees are going to get hit. They're losing positions, they're taking furloughs, I think about a 10% pay cut. They haven't had a raise for a while. Judges' salaries are constitutionally protected. They're written into the state constitution, as the number of judicial positions per court are done through statute, through the legislature. So they can frankly fire court employees. You cannot fire a judge.

PENNER: Can't fire a judge.

MORAN: It has to be done by the legislature.

PENNER: Robin from San Diego is with us. Welcome to Midday Edition Roundtable.

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, hi. One small positive thing that might come out of this big mess is that maybe more people will turn to mediation. In San Diego courts, mediation has been part of the civil cases since 1994. And people are able to come up with solutions that meet their own interests pretty efficiently. So that could be one good thing that could come out of this.

PENNER: Dave moss?

MOSS: I agree. I think there's a lot of talk of going to a sort of private judiciary system. If I could just the subject a little bit, I was interested in whether you think this is going to have an impact on the jails.

PENNER: I think that's an important question.

MOSS: Is there going to be a county trickle-down cost? Cases go longer, people sit in jail longer?

MORAN: My guess would be no because the Court -- and the Court leadership has said that the criminal cases are in a different time track than others. You have a constitutional right to a speedy and fair trial. And criminal cases in every courthouse take precedence over civil cases. As a defend in, you're arrested, you don't have to waive time, you don't have to sit in jail until the Courts can get around to hearing your case. I don't see an impact on the jail. The jail has its hands full with realignment, the shifting of incarceration from the state down to the county in the local level. And that is a different kind of thing. Here with the criminal cases, I don't think so. And the presiding judge says he doesn't anticipate they'll be dismissing cases.

PENNER: He said the cuts will reduce or eliminate access to the Court system. But that's what the United States is all about, isn't it, Kyla? I mean that's what it is. That access to a trial, access to the other services that the Courts provide, services such as restraint orders.

CALVERT: Sure. But I think it's sort of every level of government, and every agency run by the government right now, we're talking about issues of access. This morning, we were -- if anyone who was listening to morning edition this morning heard about shifting healthcare for low-income families, low-income children to the Medi-Cal system instead of from the healthy families program, and that raises some issues of access. We're seeing that at every level of government.

PENNER: Bonnie Dumanis is quoted as saying that Sacramento took a meat cleaver to the judicial system. This is somebody within the system who is saying this was a pretty huge cut.

CALVERT: Oh, I mean -- and I again, I think we are seeing this in a lot of areas of government right now. I think we're going to talk about it in just a little bit. When we talk about education, the education community has been saying for years that the state is just really cutting education off at the knees now. And I think that now it's happening to other areas as well. And the Courts are one of them now.

PENNER: Let's go back to the phones. Jessica in San Diego. You're on with our panel.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thank you so much for taking my call. I just had a quick comment in reference to what you said about this possibly limiting access to the Court system. I recently had to file a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend, and it was very difficult. And the hours that they -- that office was open to speak to a lawyer is very limited. And they tried to send me away, and I basically had to say that I was afraid for my life to get a lawyer to sit down with me and help me with the paperwork. So I'm very afraid that for people that need the Courts for quick action that this is going to hurt in the long run.

PENNER: Great, thank you, Jessica. Greg?

MORAN: I think you're going to hear a lot more of that. It's never been easy getting a restraining order. That's going to be kind of the new normal. And it picks up a little bit of what Dave was saying, and what you were, the access to justice question is really important here. One of the cuts that's going to occur here is that they're going to pull court reporters out of civil courtrooms. What does that mean? It means two things. If you want -- if you go to a trial in civil court, if you want a record of it, you're going to have to go out and hire a private court reporter. That adds to your cost, that's expensive. The concern there is twofold. One, it's going to advantage the wealthy litigant over the let's wealthy litigant, somebody who can go out, a corporation, a law firm, go out and hire their own person, and get the record that way. The other thing is -- and I think this will happen more, you'll see more businesses and corporations decide that they want out of the public court system, and they will turn to private judging and private resolution of matters.

PENNER: What Jessica raised there was more than a matter of costliness and access and convenience. It was a matter of danger.

MORAN: Danger, yeah, and public safety. I don't know who to say other than it's going to take a lot longer to process this.

PENNER: Go ahead, Dave.

MOSS: I can't help but think that the county is sitting on enormous reserves. Last time I looked, it was in the excess of $700 million, and it makes me wonder whether the county couldn't step in and use a fraction of that to fill in the gaps here. I mean, are if it's such a public safety issue, if it's such an access issue, and it is the county.

PENNER: Well, we're going to find out, aren't we? We're going to wrap this one up. Will San Diego teachers get back their jobs and how will that happen? This is Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.

[[[NEW SEGMENT]]].

PENNER: I'm Gloria Penner. This is Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm at the Roundtable today with Kyla Calvert, education reporter for KPBS news. And with Dave moss, who is a staff writer for San Diego City beat, and Greg Moran, who is also a staff writer covering the Courts with UT San Diego. Well, this week there was a major breakthrough in the relationship between the San Diego unified school district and the teachers' union. The central questions, hundreds of teachers lose their jobs increasing class sizes and jeopardizing the quality of education in K-12 classes. Would the union that represents those teachers give up promised payraises and accept unpaid furlough days? And the next question is what are they going to do about it? There had been no movement between the union and the district for months. Kyla, what changed?

CALVERT: Well, late last month, the San Diego education association, which is the teachers' union, brought in budget analysts from the California teachers' association to review the district's budget. And the board of trustees of the school district had been, since early December, saying the only way that we're going to avoid massive layoffs and for the bargaining units to come to the negotiating table. And up until the end of May, the teachers' union was saying, you know, we have had years of this, we can't trust the district's budget numbers. The budgeting process in this state is broken. We're not going to concede any of the things that we've gained in this current contract until we know for sure that we really are facing the kind of budget hole that the district says we are. And so the district trustees had said bring in your budget analysts, look at your number, and the union agreed to do that at the end of May. And then June 8th announced that they would indeed sit down at the bargaining table. And at the beginning of -- Tuesday, actually, they announced that they had reached concessions.

PENNER: Dave, was this inevitable? Considering the fact that you had a situation out there that was not going to be resolved, was it a matter of maybe finding the right excuse to come together?

MOSS: You know, I don't think -- it's fascinating how many of these union labor disputes always go to the 11th hour. There are always people late up at night discussing this. Of and it's funny. I think everybody has been yelling about this for months and months, the voice of San Diego has had somebody on this almost full-time. We've run cover stories on it. The UT has done it. I don't know why it took so long. It seems like everybody knew this was coming.

PENNER: From your perspective, Greg, looking at it as a longtime journalist, why does the responsibility lie for this impasse?

MORAN: Oh, I think I'm a parent of two kids in the district, and like a lot of parents, the some point during this whole runup as Dave has been saying, you just say a pox on both their houses. It seemed the solution here was there. It's not easy. Give up raises or take furlough days. I work in an industry where that has been the norm for a number of years now as people in the car business and everything else are. So where's the responsibility lie? It lies in the longer term, that there has been it seems to me, Kyla, a real significant level of distrust between the union and the School Board. Let's face it. Like Dave said, we've been having a sabre-rattling, there are going to be layoff, almost every year, every contract year, and then suddenly like magic, money appears, and there are no layoffs.

PENNER: Let me just ask our listens about that. What do you think is at the basis of this protracted standoff between the two sides? The district itself and its leadership, the union leadership. Kyla?

CALVERT: Prior to the last couple of years under the CFO that just left the district, there was some sort of -- not the greatest math going on at the district, so there was some reason to be skeptical of the numbers that they were coming up with themselves. And then just the way that the school districts are forced --

PENNER: I want to make sure I'm clear. You're saying that the math that the district, the professionals that are hired by the district to put together were suspicious?

CALVERT: My understanding was that several -- I've only been covering this beat for the last year. The understanding that I have is that several years ago, there was sort of this realization that the budget numbers were not incredibly accurate at the district. And so that sort of created the sense of, well, why should we trust you now if years ago you found this money that we didn't know about? So I think that that created a basis for this distrust, and just the way the state requires districts to do their budgeting, the governor comes out with his proposal in January, which is meant to be sort of -- something to argue about, and school districts have to base their budget on that proposal, then he revises it in May, and they have to make revisions based on that, then they have to put it out in June. In past years, they have had to come up with a final budget before the state legislators have really wrangled over what they are going to do for education finally. So that creates a lot of the back and forth of, well, we're taking this worst case scenario, and building our budget on it, then at the last minute, the legislature finds money to give to schools that they were saying for months oh, no, we don't want have it.

PENNER: Kyla raises a really interesting point there too. There is a history, and the history goes beyond just the math. There's been a history of disagreements with personnel, and suspicion with personnel. It goes back to the days of Allen Bursor.

MORAN: Exactly. There was a strike at one point. So labor relations have not been a model in the San Diego unified school district. That's trickled down a lot to the school sites. I got a sense several months ago that this seems to be an annual conversation, that the district was not messing around here, that this was not going to be a magic pot of money on June 1st. That this was the really deal.

CALVERT: I totally agree. The story has been from the district the entire time, these are the numbers, it's not going to get better. When the union did finally agree to bring in the budget analysts, are the analysts said these are the number, it's not going to get better. The membership has had this history of -- you have to also convince the members.

PENNER: The bottom line on all this, will any teachers get laid off, and how will it be decided which teachers will get laid off?

CALVERT: The agreement they've reached will recall 1,481 of the layed off teachers nurse, counselors, librarians.

PENNER: Is that all of them?

CALVERT: It's all but about 40. And those 40 or so are early childhood education specialisteds. So they work in preschools that are run by the district. They've said that they are going to try to sort of grab spots that are funded by the state for early childhood slots from agencies that are dropping them sort of. So the district wants to rehire those people by picking up slots that other agencies aren't going to have next year.

PENNER: At this point, if you're a parent whose kid goes to school, a preschool through 12, can you be assured that there's going to be a teacher in the classroom, and the classroom is going to be the same size?

CALVERT: The teachers' union members are voting on this agreement next week. So if a majority of those members agree to this --

PENNER: That's everybody, isn't it?

CALVERT: Between seven and eight thousand people that are members of the union. So if they approve the measure, then the class sizes will remain where they were, in K-3 which is the area where -- or the age range where there's the most uproar about class sizes generally, it's 24 students to a classroom. This year it was going to go to 31. If they approve this agreement, it'll stay at 24.

PENNER: To our listeners, are you satisfied now? Do you feel comfortable about what's going to happen?

CALVERT: I would just say that we've been talking about how it's this annual conversation, it's the same rigamarole every single time, and today the board is going to hear about its projected budget for next year, where there is already a $100 million budget shortfall. And they're looking at all the same "budget solutions" to close that gap that this agreement has sort of done away with this year. They're looking at layoffs again, looking at doing away with at least half of the visual and performing arts program. It's sort of the same -- it's not even a sequel, it's like part 10 or whatever.

MORAN: Groundhog day.

[ LAUGHTER ]

PENNER: Dave moss, at this point, there's concern that this current school budget depends on the temporary tax increase that the governor has put on the November ballot. And if that passes, then there will be enough to allow all this to happen. But that means that the voters have to go for it. Is this almost a lobbying effort? Yes, you can keep your teachers if indeed you vote for Governor Brown's initiative.

MOSS: And sometimes I wonder whether we could just skip it, and how much money is going to be plugged into this can just be donated to the school. But yeah--s going to be a hard fight at the campaign box. And I think people are starting to get fatigued at how much legislating is done going direct to the voters. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's not. But I think people are getting tired of how it's binding people's hands.

PENNER: Are the voters capable of dealing with this kind of thing? The voters are going to have to decide on whether they want to temporarily increase their sales tax, they're going to have to decide whether they want to have an extra tax on people who earn over $250,000 a year. Where are the voters now in terms of doing this?

MOSS: Oh, I couldn't tell you. I'm not a pollster.

PENNER: You don't have to be a pollster.

[ LAUGHTER ]

MORAN: I think it's sort of ahead, but it's a long way out kind of a thing. The poll I'd be interested in is the teachers' union. Is there a sense that this will get 50%?

MOSS: There's probably 1,500 people who are going to vote for it.

MORAN: Yeah, yeah.

CALVERT: I've mostly spoken with teachers who are laid off. They clearly are hoping that people will vote for it. The deal also includes a 1-time retirement incentive for the first 3 hundred union members that retire this year or next year, it's a $25,000.01-time payment, then there's also a 1% pay increase for the most senior teachers who -- part of the deal is that they deferred this pay increase that was meant to go into effect for teachers next year. And then there's something called step in column, which teachers get a raise for --

PENNER: The longer you're there.

CALVERT: And the more education you have. So people at the top step will get a 1% increase over this deal. So they're hoping they brings in more votes for it.

PENNER: Well, money talks, doesn't it? There's a golden parachute being offered to teachers with more than 25 years experience who are over 55. But before we get into that, let's hear from Becky in San Diego.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for having me. I just wanted to see what your panelists' thinking was, it looks like we just narrowly avoided charter schools getting an additional $100 per pupil cut in the upcoming school year. But what is your thought about cutting even more money from charter schools besides just the regular district public schools?

PENNER: Okay. Go ahead, David.

MOSS: Oh, I -- can I pass on this one?

[ LAUGHTER ]

PENNER: No, we don't pass on this program

MOSS: On charter schools? That's way out of my -- I know nothing about charter schools. I apologize.

MORAN: I would think that's more of a political issue than it is a policy issue. Charter schools are very, very popular with educational reformists, with some sets of parents, and I believe that the whole charter school system is legislatively mandated, or at least started. So I don't know if that's --

PENNER: Well, they're popular for a reason, aren't they, Greg?

MORAN: They're popular because people don't feel they're getting what they need or want from the public education system. That's a motivator. The other is that people want a certain type of education for their child, whether it's spiritually or religiously based, or a certain concentration in academics, technology, and things like that. Of the kinds of things that they don't think the 1-size-fits-all public school environment provides them. And more people are going to charters because they're seeing class size, even without these cuts, ballooning, and services being reduced, and older textbooks.

PENNER: So there is a political aspect to it.

CALVERT: Sure. Of the way that schools are funded, they get a dollar amount per pupil, then school districts get what are called categorical funds for specific programs. And because that budget money is paid out to charter schools on an individual basis to simplify it, they just get a block grant instead of these categorical funds to fund one program at one school site. It would be crazy to sort of try to figure out how to distribute those funds. And so charter schools have a lot more flexibility in how they spend that block grant money than traditional schools am

PENNER: And they are getting more popular.

CALVERT: They are. That's definitely school choice is a really big issue. People in San Diego are especially -- you can choice into different schools. And so people feel very strongly about being able to choose the schools that their child goes to. And there's a push at the federal level too. Charter schools are very popular. The school choice thing is very popular on both parties.

PENNER: I want to get into that golden parachute before we end the segment. For teachers who are over 55 who have been in the system more than 25 years, there's some kind of a bonus if they retire early. And that's rather interesting. The question at the heart of this is can the district really afford to lose all that experience for the sake of compared to the whole budget relatively few thousand dollars?

CALVERT: Well, again, when you talk about losing that experience, there's a push across the country to have not seniority-based layoffs. So I don't know. The whole idea that there's an inherent -- that there's the inherent value in the years of service is really being challenged on a lot of different fronts.

PENNER: It is being challenged?

CALVERT: Yeah.

MORAN: And in a lot of different industries too. You're seeing that. Of the older worker is seen as a cost center rather than a resource to be tapped. And there's the sense that, well, we can train these younger workers who want to do it. And full disclosure, I am an older worker.

PENNER: No, this is really the case? I am unfamiliar with that. I thought there was an attempt to bring in the older worker, and you're saying that's not --

MORAN: You know, I don't mean to generalize across the entire economy. But I think in many industries, in many businesses, if you're a worker that's 50-plus, maybe even 45-plus, you feel somewhat under -- not under seem, but a little bit threatened.

PENNER: Well, this is a whole different topic I think.

MORAN: It is!

[ LAUGHTER ]

PENNER: And that sort of limits your work years if you final leget educated.

MORAN: Don't say that. I won't. I got two kids I got to put through college.

[ LAUGHTER ]

PENNER: Well, we're going to wrap this one up and go onto our next topic right after the break. San Diegans elected an acknowledged conservative judge who believes the president was not born in the United States.

[[[NEW SEGMENT]]].

PENNER: I'm Gloria Penner. This is Midday Edition Roundtable. We have at the Roundtable with us today Dave Moss from San Diego City beat, I'm glad you could be with us. And happy also to greet Greg Moran from UT San Diego. And from KPBS news, I see her often, Kyla Calvert. Well, the June primary included several candidates for judge. It's often called a down-ballot kind of candidacy because you have to go through the whole ballot and then at the very end, there's the judge. Well, the presumptive winner of San Diego conspire court office No. 34 has drawn national attention and raises questions about who is qualified for judicial office, and even whether judges should be elected at all. Dave Moss, we're talking about Gary Kreep who will seen be judge Gary Kreep. Tell us about him briefly, what caused his election to become national news.

MOSS: So Gary Kreep works for the United States justice foundation. And he has several pet projects. And one of them is challenging President Obama's birth certificate to the extent that not only has he sued in court, but he actually recorded this infamous Birther-mercial, where he's just talking about this, and it ran on TV in Texas. He's also defended the minutemen, and serves as their general council. He's launched websites to defend Glen Beck from boycotts, run strange pro-life initiatives in Nevada. This is somebody who makes a lot of conservatives uncomfortable, in the same way that if there was a judicial candidate who worked for earth-first, and was a 911 truth, would make progressives uncomfortable. And this is a -- to get the word out is exceptionally expensive. There's not a lot of races that are county-wide. I honestly think it came down to randomize. Closing their eyes and picking. I don't think that there was really any of these concerted efforts in that people were really choosing one thing or another. I think people looked at the ballot and said we've got two funny name, Kreep, Peed, and they picked based on that.

PENNER: Okay, I'm going to check this out with our listeners and see. Did you vote for the office on judge -- on what did you base your vote? Was it on the name? Or did you have another reason for choosing Gary Kreep, because a lot of people went ahead and chose him. Do call us. Let us know. Very, very interested in your response. Greg, CityBeat's recent editorial told voters of the county that the election of Gary Kreep made him a national joke. Has it gone that far?

MORAN: Well, it's certainly a national source of humor because of the names. And I think more than that, people are somewhat troubled that somebody who has arch conservative, even extremist view, and has done that kind of advocacy got elected to the bench. I don't quite buy into the name theory, that people chose a less offensive name or disquieting name than the other guy. I think that might have been part of it. But I think there are some other things that to me were kind of interesting. I think -- there was information on the ballot, Kreep described himself as a constitutional lawyer, and Peed described himself as a prosecutor. I think that resonates with people. There's an antigovernment sentiment among the electorate, and I think Kreep played that up quite a bit.

PENNER: How did he get the word out?

MORAN: He spent a lot of money -- Dave know, he spent a lot of money on slave-mailers.

MOSS: It was about $40,000. But it was on par with what Peed sent. I'm being a little facetious when I say the name thing. And Greg and I have talked about this. There was judicial challengers the last election. And what happened is the sort of bar came together, headed by Bonnie Dumanis and her campaign team to really campaign for these incumbent judges. I don't think you saw that this time. Bonnie was out doing other things, and I don't feel like I saw any concerted effort to defend or promote these establish candidates.

PENNER: Let me clarify. By the way, every single phone line in our studio is lit up. And we've got a lot of them.

MOSS: Not surprised.

[ LAUGHTER ]

PENNER: There are people who really want to let us know.

MOSS: Be careful!

[ LAUGHTER ]

PENNER: Well, I'm just waiting for our producers to get some of the names up and we'll talk to them. The incumbent, you're saying that a few years ago, there was a move to keep those judges in office who were already in office, and not let other ones come in

MOSS: Yeah, you saw Bonnie Dumanis, the presiding judge having fundraisers and raising money, and making sure everybody was donating and getting the word out. This time you didn't see that.

MORAN: And I think that might have been because this was an open seat, there was no incumbent being challenged, and the winning formula in San Diego as long as I've been here has been if you're a prosecutor with the backing of the establishment judges and the law enforcement unions, you're a virtual lock to win. So I think people were asleep at the switch.

PENNER: Let's start with Jacky in San Diego.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. You know, I didn't vote for Kreep. But it was difficult to decide. I normally make decisions about my votes based on the ballot. But there wasn't enough information about this office. So I did some extra research. And it took quite a bit of work. And then when I found out he was a birther, I didn't vote for them on that basis. But I believe he misrepresented himself on the ballot, and I don't think he's qualified for this office on that basis alone.

PENNER: Thank you very much, Jacky. Appreciate it. Let's talk about the qualification. He was -- decided to be unqualified by the bar association

MOSS: Well, lacking in qualifications is the term.

PENNER: Yeah? So obviously there are people who didn't pay any attention to what the bar association has to say.

MOSS: That is true. He's representing himself as a constitutional lawyer, and the words U.S. justice foundation sound really good. But another problem is that I think there are rules with judicial races and what you say on the ballot that you can't attack your opponent. You can't even refer to your opponent. So that ties your hands on how you portray the other person in the race.

PENNER: Let me go to you, Kyla, before we pick up anymore calls. And we will. Kreep has said he'd like to be assigned to family court. So here we have this acknowledged conservative, birther, what have you, in family court. How might his views influence the rulings of family court?

CALVERT: Well, it's hard to say. He said himself oh, that these beliefs of his won't affect his rulings. In an area like family court where what you believe about child/parent relationship, it's sort of a leap from what you believe about birther -- whether or not President Obama was born in this country or the place of the minutemen movement in public safety. But -- all we can do is wait and see.

PENNER: Family court is a very sensitive area. And many judges say a year in family court is enough. It's exhausting. You're dealing with emotional situations, like adoptions and divorces and things to do with intimate family. That's the reason I asked you the question.

MORAN: That could be a problem for him. Sorry to -- going forward, the birther stuff is getting a lot of attention but I doubt he's going to deal with a birther case. And if you're going to watch this, you need to see what happens to him -- this is a man who has advocated about same-sex marriage, gay right, things like that. If he is in family court, and there is a same-sex couple that comes in that's assigned to him. Even though he has said, those are the cases I advocate, I'll rule on the law, in the Court system or for judges, it's not just any actual bias or conflict or impropriety. It is the appearance of bias or conflict or impropriety that can be just as corrosive. And I think that's going to be an issue. Of if you are a same-sex person, and you go into his courtroom, do you think you're going to get a fair shake from him? I don't know.

PENNER: We'll talk about what you do if you get a judge that you think won't be fair. But first, I want to pick up Steve from San Diego with us now. We're on with the panel.

NEW SPEAKER: I voted for judge Peed, and it was an easy choice, based on the materials that were available in the voter publications, and also in the local publications. Easy choice.

PENNER: So did you have a hard time, you know, accessing this material?

NEW SPEAKER: I did not.

PENNER: Well, that's the whole point. Thank you much, Steve. If you want to vote, you need to vote with some information.

MOSS: Well, yes. All I did was Google him. And that was enough. But as you got closer to the race and you went online and Googled San Diego judicial races, the first thing that came up was -- or at least one of the top-two results was somebody that said San Diego judicial voter guide or something like that. And you opened it up, and it's this page that's warning against activist judgings. Then you scroll down and Gary Kreep, amazing judge! It's like top score in the entire state! You know? These are the sort of things that confuse people. It looks like a great site. And nobody wants an activist judge, right? But you've got someone here who may be an activist judge!

PENNER: Buyer beware. Michele in Encinitas. Go ahead. Nope. We lost her. Sorry about that. Well, there's so much to talk about. I raised the question with Kyla before, what do you do, Dave, if you get a judge that you really don't want?

MOSS: I think you can just easily move to get another judge. That's just a standard practice. Of the Bonnie Dumanis does it all the time.

MORAN: Under California law, you have one chance, you can disqualify a judge. It's called a preemptory challenge. You don't have to say why.

PENNER: In a lifetime?

MORAN: No, no. Per case. And if you get assigned to another judge, you're either stuck with that person or you have to make a second kind of challenge, and you have to prove why that person can't be fair to you. The first one is just a 1-page form, you fill it out, and away you go.

PENNER: Greg, what happens if this occurs frequently? If a judge has many people who say I don't want this judge on my case?

MORAN: Well, that's an interesting question. It tends to be a closely guarded secret among the judiciary. They don't want to know that there is a judge that is unpopular with lawyers and litigants. A couple things happen. One, is that judge can end up being buried in an assignment that is either a high-volume type department, when you're not dealing with individual cases one at a time.

PENNER: Such as?

MORAN: You could go to misdemeanor probation revcasions or something like that. There are actual cases and people, but you're not sitting there weighing great issues of laugh and fact. So the system tends to move these folks around and kind of hide them, frankly. One thing that's interesting in this race is that I think Kreep got about -- 200,000 votes per candidate, about 400,000 total. If you look at the 2010 race, with the three candidates that Dave mentioned, each one of them got between 145 and 165,000 votes. I'm not saying there was an exact 1-to-one transfer, but to me, that shows that there was a constituency out there who were trying to vote for somebody who would sound the changes that Kreep did.

PENNER: I think that's worth talking about a little bit. The voter turnout was relatively small this year. What role does that play in who gets elected in the so-called down-ballot races?

MOSS: Well, it was a very conservative year. It was a small voter turnout, but it was a turnout that was very motivated by Carl DeMaio, by prop B, and I think you get a lot of conservative voters coming out this election. They were really energized all around. So maybe that -- I'm not sure. Peed is a Republican as well, I believe.

MORAN: Right. Didn't get the endorsement, though, but yeah.

MOSS: Either of them did.

MORAN: Yeah.

PENNER: There's a difference between a conservative Republican, and a moderate Republican. You don't know. We have time for one very brief call. Hector, what would you like to say to us?

NEW SPEAKER: Hi. I just wanted to say that the media always cocainizes people as bitterers as a way to credit them based on nothing. The fact that this guy is a quote birther doesn't mean anything. What has Obama done to convince anyone that he was born here? Arpio in Arizona has a full-on investigation.

PENNER: Hector, I don't mean to interrupt, but believe it or not we are almost off the air. You did get the last word. And I thank you very much. I want to thank Kyla Calvert. Greg Moran, and Dave moss. I thank our listener, and certainly our callers.