Endorsements: Stracener for El Dorado County Judge
California's system of selecting judges works, as it did when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Warren C. Stracener to serve on the El Dorado County Superior Court.
Stracener has the credentials to serve on the El Dorado County bench, and ought to be retained by voters in that county.
Stracener is facing a rough retention election against Folsom attorney Joseph Hoffman. Hoffman seems like a perfectly fine individual and attorney. He might even make a good judge one day.
But like other lawyers who aspire to wear the robes, Hoffman should apply for a judgeship, and submit himself to the rigorous vetting process before the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation that goes along with that application – something he has not done.
As The Bee's Loretta Kalb reported on Monday, the race between Stracener and Hoffman has split the El Dorado legal community. El Dorado County judges are divided about which candidate to support and oppose.
But there are no allegations of financial improprieties or malfeasance against Stracener. Rather, there seems to be a unexplained rift or personality conflict between Stracener and at least one other judge on the El Dorado County Superior Court, Doug Phimister.
Stracener clearly is not among the El Dorado County insiders.
Perhaps that has rubbed some lawyers and judges wrong, and may help explain why they have mounted a strident campaign against him.
Stracener is a 15-year resident of the county, and handles juvenile delinquency and dependency matters. By state law, those proceedings are closed to the public, making it extremely difficult for the public to determine how Stracener operates in his courtroom.
California governors traditionally take their judicial appointments seriously. Schwarzenegger was no exception. Stracener had spent 20 years as a Department of Personnel Administration attorney representing the state in labor disputes. He was the second-ranked litigator in the department when Schwarzenegger appointed him to the bench, just before the end of his gubernatorial term in December 2010.
For the most part, California has been spared the rancor that afflicts judicial races in many other states, and rightly so. The vast majority of judges in California are competent and conscientious.
California has a mechanism for disciplining and removing judges who are not fit to wear the robes. The default in California should not be to dump judges for nebulous reasons, or because they don't get along with another member of the bench.
The last thing we want is judges constantly looking over their shoulders, worried they could face an opposition campaign for issuing rulings that ruffle other judges, district attorneys and others who have business before the court.