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San Diego’s Great Judge Boycott

Audio

Aired 2/22/10

The SD County District Attorney has issued what seems to be a threat of boycott against a sitting superior court judge, the third in five months. Why is this happening, and what is the DA's goal?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has been called by some the most powerful political figure in the county but critics now say Dumanis may be stretching that power to its limits. For the third time in the last five months, the District Attorney's office is reportedly involved in an attempt to boycott a Superior Court judge. Joining me to discuss what such a boycott means and why the District Attorney is doing this are my guests. Kelly Thornton is a freelance writer who recently wrote a three-part series on District Attorney Dumanis for the Voice of San Diego. Kelly, welcome back.

KELLY THORNTON (Freelance writer): Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: And Jan Stiglitz is a professor at the Cal Western School of Law. Jan, welcome.

JAN STIGLITZ (Professor, Cal Western School of Law): Good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And we’d like to invite our audience to join the conversation. What do you think about the county DA getting involved in boycotting judges? If you have a question or comment, give us a call, 1-888-895-5727. Kelly, I want to ask you, and then also Jan, if you would comment as well, what does it mean to boycott a judge?

THORNTON: Well, there is such a thing as a preemptory challenge in which a DA or a defense attorney can basically insinuate that challenge and they don’t have to give a reason for alleging bias. They can just bypass that judge and get another judge.

CAVANAUGH: And would you like to add something, Jan, to that?

STIGLITZ: Yeah, we calling papering a judge. And you get one freebie. You can paper any judge who’s assigned to your case. If you do that, you’re stuck with the next judge that comes along.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, so the DA’s office is doing that to certain judges. Let’s start out with the first boycott judge that I’m aware of, Judge John Einhorn. He presided over a number of high profile cases, including the Cynthia Sommer’s trial and the Bird Rock Bandit cases. Kelly, tell us about the situation with Judge Einhorn.

THORNTON: Well, it looks like Bonnie Dumanis decided in and around September or October to issue a blanket challenge against Judge Einhorn for reasons she has not explained. And that means that every time a criminal case came before him, the District Attorney would put forth its preemptory challenge and, therefore, he would not be assigned to any more criminal cases. And, you know, there’s been a lot of speculation as to why and she hasn’t been saying why. And from what I hear, it may have to do with either the Sommer case or a number of different cases and rulings that Einhorn has made.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit about Judge Einhorn. Is he respected by his colleagues?

THORNTON: Very much so. He’s been on the bench for a very long time and he did have some judges rally to his defense. In fact, the defense bar, I think in response to what Dumanis did, gave him a big award, the Trial Attorney of the Year Award after this all came down. I assume to make a statement for what has been happening to him.

CAVANAUGH: And is it also true that in addition to maybe some rulings that the County Prosecutor’s office doesn’t really like, that there was also – Judge Einhorn said something from the bench that perhaps the DA’s office didn’t like either?

THORNTON: Well, I think that was more in the second judge case, Judge Elias. But in Einhorn’s case, from what I hear it may be about the Sommer case. Sommer was convicted of murdering her Marine husband by arsenic poisoning. It was later determined that he did not have arsenic in his body and this was after she’d already spent time in prison. And the debate was whether the case was being dismissed with or without prejudice, meaning it could come back based on new evidence, they could charge her again. And it was, I guess, annoying to the DA that Judge Einhorn was entertaining this motion to dismiss meaning that, you know, without giving them a chance to come back should there be more evidence later.

CAVANAUGH: Now this boycott of the judge by the DA’s office started last fall and it’s over now.

THORNTON: It’s over. It ended in January. Not quite sure why, you know, what the timing was about. So…

CAVANAUGH: So no reason given for it, no reason given to withdraw that.

THORNTON: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s move on to Judge Harry Elias, presiding in Vista. The District Attorney accuses him – he (sic) does actually give some sort of reason for the boycott.

THORNTON: Right. And just to be clear, he has not actually been the victim of a boycott. He has not been challenged on cases. He basically has been targeted by them as far as they asked him to recuse himself in a case. He made some comments which they, the District Attorney's office, found distasteful regarding their willingness to turn over evidence to the defense in a particular case, and so it’s – the reason he kind of came into this group is because it was just another feud between the DA and a judge.

CAVANAUGH: So to be clear, the District Attorney's office is not steering cases away from Judge Elias?

THORNTON: Not at this point, no.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, so what were they displeased with?

THORNTON: Well, they didn’t like comments he made regarding the District Attorney's office and he said that there had been a pattern in which District Attorney – deputies had been withholding evidence from dist – from defense lawyers. And he was pretty critical in his comments in open court and the DA didn’t like it and felt that he was biased and shouldn’t be handling the case at hand.

CAVANAUGH: And then we come to perhaps the most curious case of all and that is Judge Sarah (sic) Parsky, who’s been on the bench a relatively short time, four years. What are the circumstances here? How did we find out that there might be something brewing in the County DA’s office against Judge Parsky.

THORNTON: Well, just – it’s Laura Parsky. And she basically was sitting on the bench down in South Bay on a domestic violence case and a supervisor from the DA’s office went to her boss, the supervising judge who is the one who hands out case assignments, and complained that she was making decisions that were not according to the law. They didn’t like some of the decisions she made. And that there was – it depends on who you talk to whether that was characterized as a threat or just a heads up that, look, we’re going to be potentially challenging her on various cases. If you’re going to give her complicated, complex cases, we don’t want them to go to her because she’s making mistakes. And so what resulted in that was – or what was resulting from that is Laura Parsky, Judge Parsky, decided she was so concerned that when this information was passed along to her that this was a ex parte communication outside the presence of the defense attorneys, which is frowned upon and considered unethical, that she would consult a judicial body about the ethics of that and she was advised to put that on the record in that hearing, which she did. So we have a court transcript of exactly what happened.

CAVANAUGH: So she, from the bench, actually told both parties involved in this case that she was involved in, that this – she had, by word of mouth, received some sort of information that she’d better watch her step?

THORNTON: Exactly. Yeah, or otherwise she was going to be challenged. Now there’s a question of whether that would be a blanket challenge, basically a boycott, or a case by case challenge.

CAVANAUGH: And is the idea that perhaps this is being blown out of proportion, this is the kind of thing that a lot of rookie judges hear from their superiors but in the context of what’s been going on it – she felt that she had to actually mention it from the bench?

THORNTON: Yes, and I think the distinction here is that the communication was, in her view, about a pending case, which is the most important point because a pending case is kind of sacred. You don’t go and complain about a pending case because it looks as if you’re trying to influence a decision in that case. And, you know, something I learned from this is that apparently in talking to DAs and judges, that this type of communication regarding the performance of judges goes on pretty frequently. If a judge is maybe making some questionable rulings, the DA and defense attorneys may approach a supervising or presiding judge and say, look, this judge has got to get it together. But that communication, according to a lot of people I talked to, ought to take place not on a pending case but perhaps later.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with freelance writer Kelly Thornton who – she recently wrote a three-part series on District Attorney Dumanis for the Voice of San Diego. And my other guest is Jan Stiglitz, professor of Cal State Western School of Law. And we’re talking about judge boycotts in San Diego. The number is 1-888-895-5727, if you’d like to join the conversation. And Jan Stiglitz, I’m wondering, you’ve been listening patiently while we’ve been giving the background of what we’re talking about here. And I wonder, do you find this disturbing?

STIGLITZ: A couple of things are disturbing. I thought the issue with regard to Judge Elias was a little on the disturbing side. Judge Elias was pointing out that from his perspective prosecutors were not complying with the constitutional obligation to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. And part of my work involves directing the California Innocence Project and one of the reasons innocent people are convicted is because prosecutors don’t turn over exculpatory evidence that they’re supposed to. So it’s a serious obligation. Judge Elias is a former prosecutor. If he is criticizing the District Attorney's office I would have assumed that the DA’s reaction would be do we have a problem here? Instead, her reaction was to attack the judge. And that I found particularly disturbing. With regard to the Parsky issue, I think Kelly’s correct. One of the big problems is that we had this backroom communication that was done while the case was going on. And the second problem with it is I would have preferred if you, a representative of the District Attorney's office, have a problem with a judge and you want to speak to the presiding judge to see if you can work it out informally, I think it would be incumbent upon you to let the public defenders’ office know that you’re going to have this contact and so that you and the public defender can sit down with the presiding judge and give both sides of the story. And then let the presiding judge informally speak with the judge in question or not.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take it one step back to the whole notion of a District Attorney's office boycotting certain judges. Jan, tell us, do you – is this a good exercise of power in general?

STIGLITZ: I don’t know what you mean by good. It is a legitimate exercise of power that should be used sparingly and in extreme circumstances. I mean, I could see a situation where you have a judge that seems to have a particular bias against either the prosecution or the defense and the District Attorney's office or the Defense Bar says we need to do something about this. The only way we can do it is to paper the judge every time this judge gets a criminal case. So I don’t think it’s inappropriate but, you know, this conglomeration of these three incidents all in a relatively short period of time and one involving a very well respected judge, Judge Einhorn, in a case where it appears as if the prosecution screwed up, now I don’t know whether it was the District Attorney’s fault or whether the crime lab screwed up, but it looked as if there was a wrongful conviction. This wrongful conviction gets brought to the attention of the judge, the judge does the right thing, and the consequence is that the District Attorney's office papers the judge.

CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s hear from Michael calling from Carlsbad. Good morning, Michael. Welcome to These Days.

MICHAEL (Caller, Carlsbad): Hi, how are you?

CAVANAUGH: Just fine. Thank you.

MICHAEL: Good. Anyway, I happen to be an attorney and I always thought that justice was blind, in other words you can’t pick a judge. I go into federal court, it’s the luck of the draw. Either I get a good judge or a bad judge but it’s selected randomly. How can they now pick and choose which judge they want? That’s my point on this thing.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I appreciate the phone call. Now actually, technically speaking, the defense also has the right to a preemptory challenge of a judge, too, right?

STIGLITZ: Any attorney in any case, civil or criminal, has the right to file a challenge. You get one challenge without explanation and then after that you’re stuck with the judge or you have to go on the record and specifically explain and justify why you’re challenging a judge.

CAVANAUGH: And is there a difference with what the District Attorney's office is doing from that? Is there any difference?

STIGLITZ: No, what they’re doing is, they’re doing it as a group, it’s a group boycott. They’re saying every single deputy district attorney in every single criminal case will challenge this judge. And it essentially takes the judge off of all criminal cases and if the judge is assigned to criminal cases then the judge is either sitting around doing nothing or gets forced to the civil side.

THORNTON: And, Kelly, as we speak, just to be crystal clear, as we speak right here, we don’t know of any particular judge who is being papered, to use your terminology, in the way that we’re talking about that, was Judge Eliason (sic), Einhorn, I’m sorry, Judge Elias is not technically being boycotted, and Judge Parsky just communicated something that she’d heard about a possible boycott.

THORNTON: Absolutely right.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Let’s take a break. When we return, we will continue our conversation on KPBS. You’re listening to KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Kelly Thornton, a freelance writer who wrote a three-part series on District Attorney Dumanis for the Voice of San Diego, and Jan Stiglitz, a professor at California Western School of Law. We’re talking about the actuality and threat of possibly boycotting judges by the San Diego County District Attorney's office. We did contact the DA’s office to see if they’d like to comment but they did not get back to us. But we are taking you calls at 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Let’s take a call right now from Steve calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Steve. Welcome to These Days.

STEVE (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. I think there’s a huge disparity in power in the difference between a defense lawyer papering a judge and the DA’s office doing it en masse. I mean, not only the potential to hurt the judge’s career or force the judge to twiddle his thumbs or send her over to the civil side but it also has the potential to be very politically popular. And whereas a lot of judges who want to style themselves as tough on crime can wear a defense lawyers’ boycott as a badge of honor, if the DA does this to the judge, it has to have a huge influence on that judge’s decision-making and a chilling effect on the other judges. I used to practice law in a state where this kind of thing had really gotten out of hand and there’s no limit to it. The political inflationary pressure on judges to look tough on crime just never, never stops. And now they’ve degenerated to the point where they have judges that have taped defendants’ mouths shut, they have ordered defendants paraded through town streets so that they can be subject to public ridicule, you know, wearing signs on them and so forth. They’ve had judges putting lawyers in jail generally once a year just so that the public will see them making headlines and actively being biased against the Defense Bar…

CAVANAUGH: Steve, thank you.

STEVE: …which is politically popular.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. I want to get a reaction to what you’ve been saying. Jan, first of all, how would a challenge like this actually affect a judge’s career?

STIGLITZ: Well, the judge would – there are two potential impacts. One is being moved to the civil side, the other, as the caller mentions correctly, is that the judge who’s sitting for retention election may not be reelected. We have seen, in California, historically that the public is very susceptible to challenges that judges are – or claims that judges are soft on crime. So the caller’s absolutely correct that this could intimidate judges. And what’s so scary now is that our bench is populated solely with civil practitioners and former prosecutors. We haven’t had a criminal defense attorney or public defender appointed to the bench in California in my memory.

CAVANAUGH: And what about the caller’s point about the chilling effect, that such perhaps challenges blanket papering the judge, the idea of boycotting judges, what does that do to the rest of the judiciary?

STIGLITZ: It sends a message. It sends a message that if you don’t toe the line, you can be challenged by the District Attorney's office and if you’re challenged by the District Attorney's office, it may affect your ability to stay either in the criminal side or stay on the bench if you’re up for reelection.

CAVANAUGH: Kelly, I’m interested in your reporting on this. What have you heard from other judges? Have you heard anything from them? And if so, what’s their response to the DA’s tactics?

THORNTON: Well, it’s been a quite interesting response. It’s sort of two different camps, and very different responses from judges and district attorney – deputy district attorneys and defense attorneys. But on one hand, the – there are judges who think that it’s basically a threat to judicial independence and that it’s really an outrageous attempt by the DA to threaten the bench and send a message and influence rulings. And then on the other hand, I heard from judges who say, look, this goes on all the time behind the scenes, though not necessarily in pending cases where there is a dialogue between attorneys and judges or at least supervising judges about the behavior of other judges and that it’s not such a nefarious thing, it’s actually a good thing for educating judges and teaching them the ropes.

CAVANAUGH: Going back to that idea of that pending case with Judge Laura Parsky, she announced from the bench that, you know, she had been sort of warned to watch her step in the way she was presiding over that case, how did the defense attorney react to the judge’s disclosure?

THORNTON: Well, the defense attorney then took the transcript and attached it to a motion to recuse the DA’s office, saying that the DA’s office could not be fair in that case.

CAVANAUGH: And, therefore, what would happen? Would the case be moved to another dist – to another area?

THORNTON: The Attorney General’s office is weighing – State Attorney General is weighing in on that. That motion is going to be heard, I believe, in the next few weeks. So, yes, it would then be turned over to the Attorney General’s office in all likelihood.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another phone call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And Alex is calling us from Hillcrest. Good morning, Alex, and welcome to These Days.

ALEX (Caller, Hillcrest): Good morning. My question is for Professor Stiglitz. And I want to know – my understanding was that if the decision to, you know, paper a judge should belong to that specific District Attorney, right? And it seemed – I don’t know ethically how it works that, you know, the District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, can order all prosecutors to paper a judge. I mean, shouldn’t that be the individual prosecutor’s choice? It seems to me that if the Defense Bar tried to do the same thing and all defense lawyers started – or all defense public defenders started boycotting, that would interfere with the defendant’s constitutional rights because his attorney gets to choose, you know, with his discretion.

STIGLITZ: Well, theoretically, it’s the individual deputy who’s going to sign the piece of paper but if your superior says to you we are having a problem with a judge and we don’t think this judge can be fair in a criminal case, we are asking you to sign the paper, I think the deputies are going to go along with it. The same thing can happen on the public defenders’ side. The Public Defender’s office does have some clout. It’s a large organization and it represents a significant percentage of all criminal defendants so they can exercise the same type of blanket challenge but as the caller earlier suggested, it doesn’t have the same clout. A judge may view a blanket challenge by the Public Defender’s office as a badge of honor and something to be touted come next election.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

THORNTON: And I am under the impression that the Public Defender’s office has a policy for the last two or three public defenders that they do not do blanket challenges because that would do a disservice to their individual clients because one judge might be considered not so good for one client but good for another. And not to say that it has never happened—I believe it has happened maybe once that, in recent memory—but there is a policy against it at the Public Defender’s office.

CAVANAUGH: And it’s my understanding that there’s a precedent for this in the District Attorney's office. Paul Pfingst, when he was District Attorney, issued a blanket challenge against Judge Herbert Hoffman. Is that similar? Would you say that the circumstances were similar?

STIGLITZ: Yeah, this has happened in the past.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

STIGLITZ: But it – What’s unfortunate now is you have this confluence of these three different cases and it just appears as if the District Attorney's getting pretty heavy-handed. I thought she overreacted to the Harry Elias case and I thought she was heavy-handed in the Parsky situation.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Kate is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Kate, and welcome to These Days.

KATE (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thank you for taking my comment. And I cannot comment on the two cases you’re talking about, the specifics, but I do want to say as a lawyer practicing in front of both of those judges and many, many judges throughout all of the courts in San Diego County, I have to say I support papering judges and I know that the DA doesn’t do it easily. I have worked for government agencies before in this county and they’re – when you’re working in front of a particular judge on a daily basis, bringing hundreds of cases forward and you’ve got judges that essentially get aggressive towards the agency or any of the parties that they’re going in front of and they do do it, then sometimes your back is against the wall and you don’t have a choice. And as an attorney who has been I’m going to say the victim of some very inappropriate bench conduct, and lawyers talk, we talk amongst ourselves, should we paper this person? Should we elevate it to administration? And that’s a very tough thing to do because you risk, of course, tanking your own reputation. So it’s a really delicate balance but I have to say sometimes your back’s against the wall. You don’t have a choice.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Kate. And Jan Stiglitz, would you comment on that?

STIGLITZ: Yeah, I think she’s absolutely correct. There are times when you have to do it. And I’ve been involved in cases, you know, where we sat down, we looked at the judge we were assigned, and we said, okay, we’ve got a serious problem with this judge but maybe better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

CAVANAUGH: And I’m wondering, the District Attorney has said that her office’s decisions in these cases, whether boycotting judges or giving them warnings, were made solely in the interest of justice. Have you, Jan, seen anything that would cause you to doubt that?

STIGLITZ: No, I don’t in any way doubt the sincerity and integrity of District Attorney Dumanis. I think she made a decision that she believed was appropriate. It’s the way she did it, and my – my real concern with the Harry Elias one because from my perspective, District Attorneys have an obligation—I know they have a constitutional obligation to turn over potentially exculpatory information. It is the source of many wrongful convictions. And when a respected former prosecutor suggests that there is a chronic problem in the office, I would have hoped that her reaction was I need to look into this, not that was an inappropriate by the deputy – by the judge.

THORNTON: Well, and getting back to what Kate, I believe was her name, the lawyer said, that’s certainly a – she made some really valid points. But I have spoken to some former DAs and DAs and lawyers who say, look, this – the system works as far as if you get a judge who makes a bad decision, you take it up on appeal, you, you know, go through the system. The challenge is not necessarily for stupidity or because a judge doesn’t like you, the challenge is that the judge can’t be fair for the party, which is the People of the State of California. It’s not an IQ test, it’s not a good judge versus bad judge test, it’s that they’re biased. And, you know, it’s kind of, I don’t know, audacious, some would say, for one elected official to tell another elected official how to rule.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Frank is calling us from City Heights. Good morning, Frank, and welcome to These Days.

FRANK (Caller, City Heights): Morning. Thanks a lot. I’m really fascinated by this conversation and I just first want to comment that I come from education so, well, I did take American civics and government, there are just a few questions I had about that sort of stuff.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

FRANK: So, I mean, I don’t know much about the District Attorney but I do know that publicly, being from education, she does have a heavy-handed image so if a district attorney were perhaps behaving unethically, is there an ethics commission or a board or an individual that someone could raise complaints to?

CAVANAUGH: Very good question, Frank. Thank you so much.

STIGLITZ: Well, any attorney is subject to a complaint to the California State Bar. And if an attorney is unethical and commits misconduct, they could be suspended or disbarred.

CAVANAUGH: Has such a complaint been made?

STIGLITZ: With regard to…?

CAVANAUGH: The judge issues?

STIGLITZ: Not that I know of but there was a – There’s a case up in Santa Clara that got a lot of publicity where a Deputy District Attorney was withholding exculpatory information. It happened in a number of cases. This attorney was just recently disbarred. And to this day, the District Attorney in Santa Clara is saying that this deputy did nothing wrong. And it’s a pretty outrageous situation.

THORNTON: Well, of course, the ultimate decision belongs to voters because the District Attorney is an elected position and Bonnie is up for reelection in 2010. She’s seeking her third term and she has no challenger.

CAVANAUGH: I want to talk, Kelly, if I may, about an article you have today on Voice of San Diego. It’s about a conservative group that’s launching a campaign to unseat several—I think it’s five—incumbent judges. First of all, who are the judges targeted, do we know?

THORNTON: Well, they’re – I don’t know them off the top of my head. I haven’t memorized them…

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

THORNTON: …but they are in the story. There are five judges out of, I believe, 35 seats that are up for reelection this election cycle. And it’s not very clear at this point how many of those five are being targeted by this group. The group has been kind of keeping things under wraps and they’re – I didn’t get a lot of these folks to call me back and discuss it.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

THORNTON: So they’re – my information is that there are probably four out of the five candidates who have some affiliation with this website called bettercourtsnow.

CAVANAUGH: But they’re not the judges that we’ve been talking about?

THORNTON: No.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Now what is the group that you’re talking about who is targeting these judges, the – challenging them, basically.

THORNTON: Well, it’s a website. It’s called bettercourtsnow.com. And, you know, I tried to find out from the domain registration who is behind it. I’ve been trying to interview folks about who is behind it. But there are videos posted to the website featuring pastors and business owners and politicians. The vice-mayor of Santee is part of that. And these folks put up videos basically describing their frustrations and urging voters to support their cause, which is to put into office judges who won’t legislate from the bench and who are of high moral character.

CAVANAUGH: Now you say this is a conservative group that’s basically looking to challenge these judges.

THORNTON: Right.

CAVANAUGH: And, Jan, but you say that there are no conservative judges.

STIGLITZ: No, there are…

CAVANAUGH: There are no liberal judges.

STIGLITZ: There are no former defense attorneys on the bench.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

THORNTON: Well, I think there have been a handful appointed versus elected. I think the last time a criminal defense attorney who is purely criminal defense without any prosecutorial background was elected in – about 20 years ago and that was Judge Link.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let me put it this way, is – do you see that there is any leaning towards the left in our judiciary here in San Diego County, Jan?

STIGLITZ: Not even close. Statewide, we do not have a liberal judiciary. But we did have. You know, you go back to the eighties when Rose Bird was unseated. She was perceived by many and perhaps correctly as a liberal judge. She was not a supporter of the death penalty. She was vigilant in terms of ensuring that constitutional rights that were invoked by criminal defendants were taken seriously. And she was tossed out of office.

THORNTON: Well, I think one of the aims of this group is to start at the local level so that these judges are usually the ones who rise through the system and ultimately, you know, get on the bigger, the higher courts who could make big decisions on things that matter to them.

CAVANAUGH: Is there any connection that you’ve been able to find between this conservative group and the judges that have been targeted by the DA’s office?

THORNTON: None whatsoever.

CAVANAUGH: Now let me ask you, let’s go back then to the whole concept that we’ve been talking about during our time together about the attempted boycott of certain judges in San Diego County. What does this say about Bonnie Dumanis’ power in San Diego?

THORNTON: Hmm. Well, I just did this five-part series on Bonnie, and that was, of course, what emerged as the biggest topic of conversation was about Bonnie and her level of power, which she has just become ultra-powerful in terms of endorsements. Her endorsement is the most sought after one. It really makes an impact on voters. She’s also very powerful statewide on – she sits on these commissions that get judges appointed. So in that sense, she’s extremely powerful.

CAVANAUGH: Let me give you a final word, Jan.

STIGLITZ: You know, I – for – You know, we’ve been talking about District Attorney Dumanis and somewhat critically a little bit but I do have to say she was a breath of fresh air when she came in, supported by the Defense Bar, respected by the Defense Bar. And I think over time she’s done an outstanding job.

CAVANAUGH: And so how do you explain this recent turn with the judges?

STIGLITZ: I don’t know. It was – it was very surprising.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. We’ll have to leave it there and wait for the next chapter. I want to thank you both so much for speaking with me. Kelly Thornton, freelance writer who wrote that series on District Attorney Dumanis for the Voice of San Diego. Thank you for being here.

THORNTON: My pleasure. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And Jan Stiglitz, a professor at California Western School of Law. Coming up, we’ll learn about the Navy’s plan to expand training on the Silver Strand. You can comment on this segment and anything you hear on These Days. Go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

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