OJ Blog Early 2016 Primary Recs, pt 5: The Tempestuous Judicial Office 48 NOW WITH VIDEO

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IN BRIEF: Schatzle.

Karen Schatzle, the challenger.

Karen Schatzle, the challenger.

JUDICIAL OFFICE 48

We conclude our review of the judicial offices with the one that we don’t even want to think about.  We didn’t want to get into Judicial Office 48 back in Part 4 because the issues at hand, and the emotions and debates they stir, are entirely different.  (And damned distracting.)

The candidates for Office 48 are incumbent judge Scott Steiner and Karen Lee Schatzle.  (The links are to their respective web pages.)  Both are Republicans.  Schatzle was a parole officer for about ten years and then after finishing law school became a prosecutor.  Judge Steiner is completing his first six-year term as a Superior Court Judge; prior to that he spent about ten years in the OCDA’s office.

This is the race that will generate most of the fireworks over the next month.  Steiner has taught as an adjunct professor in the Chapman University Law School — and was found by a judicial ethics board to have had sex in his chambers with two former students from there, which became grounds for censure.  One of them was a lawyer practicing in OC Superior Court.  The other was a current intern in whom he had taken a sufficiently inordinate interest, when she applied to OC Superior Court for an intern position, that it became its own separate grounds for censure.  (A third grounds for censure was his being good friends with Rancho Santa Margarita officeholder and attorney Steve Baric — hold on, that itself wasn’t the offense! He was accused of steering those of Baric’s cases from which he recused himself towards specific other judges — instead of just saying “nope, can’t do this one!” and tossing the task of assignment of a new judge back to the court staff.)

Frankly, you readers are not paying OJB’s editors enough to read the charges against him — and the defenses of him, and all of the blog chatter going on — comprehensively and carefully enough to reach a confident and committed conclusion.  Here is a PDF of the censure document, which you can read for yourself.

How serious is this matter?  Enough to disqualify a sitting judge?  Many judges seem to think it isn’t — but for obvious reasons they have a strong bias against lawyers challenging sitting judges in retention elections.  (This came up, you may remember, two years ago with respect to Judge Derek Johnson’s comments on how certain aspects of a given rape might influence judgments on sentencing.  OJB’s legal writer was shamed into opposing him publicly and will now likely have to use his sole automatic opportunity to disqualify him if ever assigned to his courtroom. They don’t teach you about that in blogging school!)

Everyone involved here was an adult.  Was  coercion — or even duress — leading to sex?  We don’t know.  (If there was, why wasn’t it charged?  Well, the DA is a friend of the family and has endorsed Steiner, so maybe that’s not so hard to explain.)  Do judges ever have sex with attorneys who practice before the Superior Court?  (One would guess that they have; but one hopes that they always recuse themselves afterwards if so.)  Do professors ever favor former students with whom they’ve had sexual relationships?  OJB is confident that they do.  So is the scandal here what happened, or where it happened?

Another question that has arisen is, if he should be replaced, is Schatzle the appropriate replacement?  Some conservative blogs have remarked darkly — and if memory serves, anonymously, as is the custom with OC’s online political character assassination — about”people who live in glass houses” not throwing stones.  (Get it?  Get it?)  OJB feels that it must address that head on.  We don’t know if Schatzle is some sort of sexual freak — but we can say that she is attractive and has a little-girl voice (her speaking voice sounds exactly like Kristen Chenowith, though the editorial staff did not hear her sing) — and that those characteristics certain lead some people to make and believe that sort of accusation, whether it’s true or not.

OJB’s position is that, unless she’s proven to be guilty of something heinous, of course she is the appropriate person to replace Steiner in office because she’s the only one who had the guts to run against him.  As a result, anonymous attacks on her sexual history — or Steiner’s beyond what’s in the above PDF report itself — are just not going to be tolerated in comments to this post.  Don’t give us hearsay; trace whatever you have to say back to a percipient witness and have them say what they know.  That or take it to the Register or the Weekly, because you’ll have a story that will capture eyeballs.

Rather than undergo the sort of analysis that we did in the other judicial races, we’re just going to copy the endorsers for each candidate right here, then perhaps discuss them lightly.

Schatzle:

Organization Endorsements

  • The Huntington Beach Police Officers Association
  • Newport Beach Police Association
  • Fullerton Police Officers Association
  • Santa Ana Police Officers’ Association
  • Fountain Valley Police Officers’ Association
  • Los Alamitos Police Officers Association
  • Westminster Police Officers Association
  • Anaheim Police Association
  • Brea Police Association
  • Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County
  • Police Officers Research Association of California
  • National Women’s Political Caucus – Orange County
  • Civil Action Committee – Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys
  • Orange County Superior Court Reporters Association
  • Orange County Republican Party

DDA [Deputy District Attorney] Endorsements

  • Heather Brown, Senior District Attorney
  • Michelle Cipolletti, Deputy District Attorney
  • Jennifer Duke, Deputy District Attorney
  • Susan Laird, Deputy District Attorney
  • Robert Mestman, Senior Deputy District Attorney
  • Elizabeth Molfetta, Senior Deputy District Attorney
  • Peter Pierce, Senior Deputy District Attorney
  • Suzie Price, Senior Deputy District Attorney
  • Vickie Schneider, Deputy District Attorney
  • Joe Williams, Deputy District Attorney
  • Holly Woesner, Deputy District Attorney
  • Larry Yellin, Senior Deputy District Attorney
  • Cyril Yu, Deputy District Attorney

Attorney Endorsements

  • Daryl Anthony, Esq.
  • Kaveh Ardelon, Esq.
  • Ms. Polly Arnoldus
  • Fred Ascari, Esq.
  • David Brent, Esq.
  • Steven Brewer, Esq.
  • Travis Burch, Esq.
  • Salvatore Ciulla, Esq.
  • Walter Cole, Esq.
  • Taylor Dudley, Esq.
  • Edward Dunn, Esq.
  • William Elliott, Esq.
  • Jim Gains, Esq.
  • Robert Gibson, Esq.
  • Steve Hittleman, Esq.
  • John Jenkins, Esq.
  • L. Scott Karlin, Esq.
  • Gil May, Esq.
  • Robert Miller, Esq.
  • Meldie Moore, Esq.
  • Steve Nordhoff, Esq.
  • Christine Oh, Esq.
  • Gary Pohlson, Esq.
  • Jerry Schaffer, Esq.
  • Eileen Solis, Esq.
  • Judy Steffy, Esq.
  • Charles K. Stoddard, Esq.
  • Vu Trinh, Esq.
  • Kimberly Valentine, Esq.
  • Douglas Vanderpool, Esq.
  • Lesley D. Young, Esq.

Judicial Endorsements [skipping her other “other” endorsements]

  • Hon. John Adams, Judge of the Orange County Superior Court
  • Hon. John D. Conley, Judge of the Orange County Superior Court

Steiner

  • Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
  • State Senator Janet Nguyen

Orange County Superior Court

  • Judge Margaret Anderson
  • Judge Jacki Brown
  • Judge Debra Carrillo
  • Judge Deborah Servino
  • Judge Jeffrey Ferguson
  • Judge Jonathan Fish
  • Judge Donald Gaffney
  • Judge Beatriz Gordon
  • Judge Sheila Hanson
  • Judge Kevin Haskins
  • Judge Derek Hunt
  • Judge Lance Jensen
  • Judge Richard Lee
  • Judge Michael Leversen
  • Judge Glenn Mahler
  • Judge Kirk Nakamura
  • Judge Frank Ospino
  • Judge James Poole
  • Judge Roger Robbins
  • Judge Daphne Scott
  • Judge Yvette Verastegui  (Los Angeles)

Orange County Board of Supervisors

  • Supervisor Shawn Nelson                                                                                                            
  • Supervisor Lisa Bartlett
  • Supervisor Michelle Steel
  • Former Supervisor and Senator Marian Bergeson
  • Former Supervisor Don Saltarelli
  • Former Supervisor Jim Silva

Law Enforcement

  • Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs

City Officials

  • Tom Tait, Anaheim Mayor
  • John Collins, Fountain Valley Mayor pro tem
  • Jerry McCloskey Laguna Niguel Councilman
  • Fred Whitaker, Orange Councilman
  • Mark Murphy, Orange Mayor pro tem and former Mayor
  • Mike Spurgeon, former Orange Councilmember
  • Joanne Coontz, former Orange Mayor 

Orange County Water District

  • Denis Bilodeau, Director

Municipal Water District of Orange County

  • Larry Dick

Community Leaders

  • Wylie Aitken
  • Doy Henley, Chapman University Board of Trustees
  • General William Lyon
  • Al Stokke
  • Kate Corrigan
  • Brett and Denise Bittel
  • Alfredo Amezcua 

What’s most interesting about Judge Steiner’s website is not what’s there: wrapping himself in the mantle of Tony Rackauckas and Janet Nguyen and Ronald Reagan and his father the former Supervisor.  It is what’s not there: any acknowledgment of his having faced censure on three grounds in his first term of office, or any indication of contrition.

On the one hand, how could it BE there?  It’s a campaign site, for crying out loud!  On the other hand, how could it NOT BE there?  There’s a video on “The Importance of Family” featuring his wife and “two beautiful children”; isn’t the problem, though, that he needs to address the sense of his having an “arrogance of power”?

Conclusion:  Yes, we saw Tony Rackauckas’s name there, but we discount it this time: That only weighs into electing a person to the bench, not the more drastic matter of removing a person from it.  Yes, we saw Tom Tait’s name there endorsing Steiner, but we discount that as well.  (We have a hard time believing that he’s pleased about what Steiner did.)  And we highlighted Larry Yellin’s name as an endorser of Schatzle — because that tells us more about the man than anything on his website.  It reinforces our view that Yellin deserves your vote — and it helps to sway us to our own verdict.

Steiner’s endorsers are the OCDA, the Board of Supervisors, a passel of Republican politicians, one law enforcement organization, and 21 judges (including one of the judges on the bench that the attorney among us most admires.)

Schatzle’s endorsers include nine police organizations (not normally the guiding star we follow, but they have extra credibility when endorsing against a criminal court judge who trumpets his actions against gangs and his devotion to “victims’ rights,” five other relevant concerned organizations, and only two sitting judges — but 13 Deputy District Attorneys (endorsing against their boss’s choice) and 31 attorneys who may have to appear in the courtrooms of Judge Steiner and his endorsers.

Maybe it’s some sort of dark and nasty conspiracy against him — but it doesn’t look that way to us.  It looks like an insurrection, with people motivated enough to put their career safety and success on the line — and we are inclined to respect it.

More could come out regarding this case — such as a judicial ratings report from the OC Bar Association — that could conceivably change our minds.  If you’re on the fence about where you stand, and if this race is that important to you, then we suggest that you NOT turn in your absentee ballot now — wait a couple of weeks and see if anything more develops.  But if you’re intent on filling out your ballot soon, we’re posting our tentative judgment.   OJB Recommendation: if you must vote soon, then it’s Schatzle.

UPDATE:

The Orange County Bar Association rankings are out.  Schatzle was rated “Well-Qualified.”  Steiner was rated “NOT Qualified.”  As turning out a sitting judge is a big deal, the settles Orange Juice Blog’s stomach considerably.


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