Thursday, October 11, 2012
A prominent pro-business political club reversed its endorsement of attorney, Jim Miller Jr., for a seat on the Superior Court bench after it discovered Miller had not been forthright about his credentials.
The group’s Wednesday night decision is the latest twist in the only judicial election on the ballot next month. Campaigns for judge are usually low-key races, but the race for seat 25 has attracted endorsements from local tea parties, been the subject of a lawsuit and sparked debate on illegal immigration.
The issue of qualifications has been front and center: the San Diego County Bar Association rated Miller “lacking qualifications” and Amador “well-qualified.”
The Lincoln Club revoked its endorsement of Miller, an attorney in private practice in El Cajon, after it discovered Miller had misled the club about being removed from the county’s list of pro-tem, or fill-in, judges.
In a statement, the club said, “Mr. Miller failed to mention the adverse action on the club’s questionnaire and later misrepresented the facts when asked to comment on the allegations in private. Such conduct does not meet the high ethical standards that Lincoln Club members believe are required for judicial officers.”
Miller was quoted in an I-Newsource/KBPS story last month, saying he was removed from the pro-tem list in the spring, but that the court did not provide him with a reason for the dismissal.
Miller, who has been endorsed by the San Diego County Republican Party and local tea parties, e-mailed a comment.
“I am attempting to discuss the matter directly with the club,” he said. “I hold the Lincoln Club in high respect but think, without hesitation, they are working off of incorrect information. No one should consider this issue over for now.”
Miller’s campaign for judge highlights his “outsider” status and is critical of the large number of former prosecutors on the bench. He ran for Superior Court in 2010 on essentially the same platform and only narrowly lost.
The Lincoln Club, a political organization that supports business-friendly candidates, had originally endorsed Miller in March after interviews with both candidates. Though Superior Court races are nonpartisan, it is common for political groups to make endorsements.
Larry Stirling, a club member and retired Superior Court judge, said revoking an endorsement is unusual but not unprecedented. He could not recall specifics.
“We were presented with additional information after the initial endorsement,” he said.“We checked at great length and we became concerned that the initial endorsement needed to be changed.”
The club received confirmation of Miller’s removal from the Superior Court, but the court would not reveal the reason behind the removal.
The Lincoln Club donated $2,500 to Miller’s campaign on Sept. 27, according to campaign finance filings. Stirling said the club would not ask Miller to return the money.
“We made a contribution in due course, and that was before we were able to confirm the information that caused us to reverse,” Stirling said.
As far as the endorsement, however, Stirling said the Lincoln Club had no choice once they determined Miller had misrepresented facts.
“We could have let it go and just crossed our fingers, but we felt that we had a responsibility to the voting public to tell them what we knew about it and urge them to change their vote,” Stirling said.
Reached by phone on Thursday, Amador was pleased with the club’s decision. Amador is also a Republican, but has the support of people on both sides of the political aisle, as well as much of the legal community’s establishment.
“A judge or judicial candidate’s ethics should be beyond question,” Amador said. “Apparently the Lincoln Club was misled by Mr. Miller, but they followed up and had the courage to change their endorsement. I thank them for the support and endorsement.”
On Oct. 9, Miller wrote a post on his campaign’s Facebook page, thanking the Lincoln Club for their support. The post was removed on Thursday.
Amador, a 29-year veteran of the county district attorney’s office, has raised nearly $115,000 in outside contributions this election, about $53,000 more than Miller. Amador sued Miller in the primary over ballot language. And though immigration is not a subject within the purview of Superior Court judges, it has played a part in Miller’s campaign. Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, primary sponsor of SB 1070, the state’s strict anti-illegal immigration bill, appeared at a fundraiser for Miller in April.
There are more than 110 active Superior Court judges in San Diego County. Some are appointed by the governor and then subject to election by the voters. Others, like Amador and Miller, run for an open seat outright. Judges serve six-year terms.