How To Vote For Judges In LA County

Published Oct 7, 2020

By Brianna Lee & Mike Roe

Figuring out how to vote for a judge is often one of the most baffling tasks in any election year because there's just so little information about them. Now, out of the whopping 12 judicial seats in the L.A. County Superior Court that were up for a vote in the March primary, three seats remain to be decided.

These judicial positions are important.

Elected judges handle trials that run the gamut from family law, to felony murder, to small claims, to civil cases. And, of course, you or someone you know might end up having to face one of these judges someday in court.

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So how do you judge a judge and figure out how to vote? Judge Stuart Rice, who serves on the L.A. Superior Court and is a past president of the California Judges Association, gave us some tips:

  1. Look at the L.A. County Bar Association's ratings. LACBA evaluates all candidates based on interviews, references, and insider information within the law community. Candidates are then rated as Well Qualified, Qualified, or Not Qualified. (There's also a rating for Exceptionally Well Qualified, but nobody seems to have earned that distinction this year.) Here are all the ratings for the 2020 election.
  2. Check out candidates' work experience. Consider who might be prepared for the role, and who might be able to learn quickly.
  3. Look at endorsements. These are nonpartisan seats, but an endorsement from a political party or group you align with might tip the scales for you. Keep in mind that the Republican Party of Los Angeles County declined to endorse any judges in this year's primary "because all candidates are democrats." (It is a nonpartisan race, but all of the candidates have been endorsed by Democratic or other liberal groups.)
  4. Check out a candidate's website. It can tell you a little more about the candidate's background and mission, as well as how seriously they approach their campaign.

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With all this in mind, below is our judges guide. It includes all six candidates vying for the three seats. Each profile has the candidate's job, campaign website, four selected endorsements (where applicable), a link to their full list of endorsements, and the L.A. County Bar Association ratings (read about LACBA's methodology).

And, if at this point you're wondering why we elect judges at all instead of appointing them, here's a good primer on the subject.

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OFFICE 72

Myanna Dellinger, law professor/attorney
Website: dellingerforjudge.com
Select Endorsements: Rep. Maxine Waters, Democratic Socialists of America L.A., National Women's Political Caucus, Sunrise Movement L.A. (see full list)
LACBA rating: Not Qualified

Steve Morgan, L.A. County deputy district attorney
Website: morgan4judge.com
Select Endorsements: L.A. County Democratic Party, L.A. Times, L.A. County Federation of Labor, Stonewall Democratic Club (see full list)
LACBA rating: Well Qualified

OFFICE 80

David Berger, L.A. County deputy district attorney
Website: bergerforjudge.com
Select Endorsements: L.A. County Democratic Party, L.A. County Federation of Labor, Stonewall Democratic Club, L.A. Times (see full list)
LACBA rating: Qualified

Klint James McKay, administrative law judge, California Department of Social Services
Website: klintmckayforjudge.com
Select Endorsements: L.A. Progressive Majority, SEIU Local 721, Superior Court Judge Robert P. Applegate, Malibu Times (see full list)
LACBA rating: Well Qualified

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OFFICE 162

David Diamond, attorney/adjunct professor
Website: diamondforjudge.com
Select Endorsements: L.A. County Public Defenders Union Local 148, L.A. Times, L.A. Progressive, L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson (see full list)
LACBA rating: Well Qualified

Scott Andrew Yang, L.A. County deputy district attorney
Website: scottyangforjudge2020.com
Select Endorsements: Judge William Sterling (current occupant of Seat 162), L.A. County Democratic Party, L.A. County Federation of Labor, Stonewall Democratic Club (see full list)
LACBA rating: Well Qualified

Clarification: An earlier version of this guide included an incorrect endorsement supplied by candidate Klint James McKay. We have corrected the error and updated the story.

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