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LA Superior Court Judge
Evaluating judicial candidates is notoriously hard, but there are a few pieces of information you can look at to help with your decision.

What does an L.A. Superior Court judge do?

Superior Court judges oversee trials across all of L.A. County. There are more than 400 of them across the court system. These trials cover everything having to do with state and local laws, including family law (such as child custody and divorces), contract disputes, thefts, felony murder, probate (distributing a person’s possessions after they die) and small claims.

Everything you need as you prep for the June 7 Primary Election — study our interactive voter guides, ask questions, print your ballot and more.

A judge’s job is to act as court referee: making sure all sides are abiding by the proper rules, hearing arguments, and handing down rulings based on the evidence and their interpretation of the law. If the law is very clear on a given issue, a judge has to stick to it regardless of how they personally feel. In other cases, laws may be ambiguous, and that’s when a judge has to issue their own interpretation of the law. Judges also have a fair amount of discretion when it comes to handing down penalties, such as the length of a sentence for a criminal conviction or the payment sum for a civil case.

Superior Court judges serve six-year terms, but they don’t always have to face reelection when that time is up. They’ll only appear on your ballot if someone challenges their seat at the end of their term — and even then, sometimes that will result in a dozen or more seats up for election in a given year. Judges who go unchallenged automatically get reelected into their next term and never appear on the ballot at all.

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You might recognize their work from…

Your traffic ticket dispute. Or your child custody case. Or that time you served on a jury. If you’ve never had to interact with the court system before, you’ve definitely heard of a case the L.A. Superior Court has handled: think Britney Spears’ conservatorship, the trial of Soon Ja Du for the killing of Latasha Harlins, or the O.J. Simpson trial.

What should I consider in a candidate?

Evaluating judicial candidates is notoriously hard. There can be dozens of them in a given election, and since many candidates are wary of politicizing judgeships, they don’t spend a lot of money on campaign advertising, which makes it hard to find out who they are or what they stand for. Plus, these are nonpartisan seats, so you don’t have the option of just voting for candidates who identify as a member of the party with whom you’re registered.

This is really not an easy task for the average voter, but there are a few pieces of information you can look at to help with your decision. Here are some tips based on advice we previously received from Judge Stuart Rice, an L.A. Superior Court judge and a past president of the California Judges Association:

Look at the L.A. County Bar Association's ratings. The L.A. County Bar Association (LACBA) is the main professional association for L.A.’s legal community. During every election, LACBA undertakes a lengthy evaluation process for each judicial candidate. Candidates fill out questionnaires and do in-person interviews with an evaluation committee, and have to submit a list of 75 lawyers or judges who can act as personal references. The committee follows up with each one and then gives candidates one of four ratings: Exceptionally Well Qualified, Well Qualified, Qualified, or Not Qualified. If you don’t know where to start when evaluating judicial candidates, start with these ratings.

“The number one quality a judge needs is an ability to work with people,” Judge Rice said. “And you need the ability to stay calm, to listen to all kinds of people, to have what I call a proper judicial demeanor.” This is one reason LACBA ratings can be helpful for evaluating a candidate — they take temperament and personality into account in addition to legal ability.One caveat, however, is that these evaluations don’t tell you exactly why the committee gave a candidate a particular rating. You can see LACBA’s ratings for the 2022 candidates here.

Check out endorsements. These are nonpartisan seats, but you’ll still see endorsements from newspapers, politicians and issue-based organizations, just like any political contest. If there’s an organization you trust, their endorsement might tip the scales for you.

Consider candidates’ experience. The only requirement for being a judge is to be authorized to practice law in California (usually by passing the bar exam), or to have already served as a judge for 10 years in California. That means you might find a wide range of legal experience among candidates. If they were a judge before, or have significant trial experience, that’s a big clue as to how prepared they may be for the job on day one. Having a history as a prosecutor or defense attorney can also tell you they’ve had a lot of experience in court, and give you an idea of their potential approach to criminal justice issues. 

Here are some common job titles you may see on the ballot:

  • Superior Court commissioner: Someone hired by court judges to do lower-level judicial work, such as traffic violation hearings or small claims. “Once chosen as a commissioner, you are already doing the job as a judge,” said Judge Rice (who himself started his career as a Superior Court commissioner).
  • Deputy district attorney: A prosecutor who works for the county district attorney’s office, representing the government in felony and misdemeanor cases.
  • Public defender: A defense attorney employed by the government to represent defendants accused of crimes who can’t afford private lawyers.
  • City attorney: An attorney who handles lawsuits on behalf of a city government. In places like L.A., deputy city attorneys also act as prosecutors for misdemeanors.
  • Attorney, attorney at law, counselor at law, or lawyer: These are general titles used to describe anyone authorized to practice law, whether they’re a law professor, private defense attorney, in-house counsel at a company, or someone who’s passed the bar exam but isn’t actually working as a lawyer. You’ll likely have to dig a bit more to find out the candidate’s actual work experience. 

Fun fact: Until recently, judicial candidates would frequently use their job titles on the ballot as a campaign marketing tool. Candidates would list themselves as “violent crimes prosecutor,” “child molestation prosecutor,” or “domestic violence attorney” to catch voters’ eye — and the tactic largely worked. A reform bill passed in 2017 put an end to that practice, so now you see much more neutral titles like the ones above. (That doesn’t necessarily stop candidates from finding other ways to finesse their appearance on the ballot — one legally changed his first name to “Judge” in the 2020 elections, despite not being an actual sitting judge.)

Look at a candidate’s website. If a candidate doesn’t even bother having a website or online presence where you can learn more about them, that’s a signal they may not be running a serious campaign, Judge Rice said. Campaign websites can also give you more detailed information about a candidate’s background, mission and experience.

Why do we vote for judges?

In short, because we have for a long time and because proposals to stop electing judges haven’t succeeded.

If you’re not totally comfortable with the idea of electing judges, you’re not alone. Lots of people have questioned whether it’s a good idea to elect our judiciary — does it cause judges to worry more about being popular instead of making the right decisions in cases? Some critics also point to L.A.’s 2006 judicial elections, in which a well-respected sitting judge who had served on the court for over 20 years unexpectedly lost her seat to a bagel shop owner with much less legal experience who spent way more money on campaign advertising.

More reading


The Candidates

How Local Primaries Work
  • If any one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the June primary, they will win the office outright. Otherwise, the two candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the November runoff.

With all the above in mind, here is our judges guide. It includes all 35 candidates vying for nine seats. Each profile has the candidate's job, campaign website, a link to their full list of endorsements, and the L.A. County Bar Association ratings (read about LACBA's methodology here).

Office No. 3

Frank Amador, Attorney
Website: none found
Endorsements: none listed
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified

Hon. Sherilyn Peace Garnett, Superior Court Judge
Website: none found
Endorsements: See endorsement list on Voter’s Edge
LACBA Rating: Exceptionally Well Qualified
More resources: See Garnett’s full profile on Voter’s Edge
(Note: The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Judge Garnett to a federal judgeship. She remains on the ballot, but if she wins the election the governor will appoint her replacement.)

Tim Reuben, Attorney at Law
Website: none found
Endorsements: See endorsement list on Voter’s Edge
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Reuben’s full profile on Voter’s Edge


Office No. 60

Abby Baron, Deputy District Attorney
Website: baronforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: Baron’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Sharon Ransom, Deputy District Attorney
Website: sharonransomforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Ransom’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Anna Slotky Reitano, Deputy Public Defender
Website: reitanoforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Reitano’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Mark Rosenfeld, Attorney at Law
Website: markrosenfeldforjudge.com
Endorsements: none listed
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified

Troy Slaten, Administrative Law Judge
Website: troyslatenforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Qualified

Craig Sturm, Attorney at Law

Website: none found
Endorsements: none listed
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified


Office No. 67

Fernanda Maria Barreto, Deputy District Attorney

Website: fernandabarreto4judge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Barreto’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Ryan Dibble, Deputy District Attorney
Website: dibbleforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Dibble’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes, Deputy Public Defender
Website: https://www.lashley-haynesforjudge2022.com/
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Lashley-Haynes’ full profile on Voter’s Edge


Office No. 70

Renee Yolande Chang, Deputy District Attorney
Website: reneechangforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Chang’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Randy Fudge, Assistant City Prosecutor
Website: fudgeforjudge.com
Endorsements: none listed
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified

Holly L. Hancock, Deputy Public Defender
Website: hancock4judge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Hancock’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Eric Alfonso Torices
Website: toricesforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified

Matthew Vodnoy
Website: vodnoyforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Vodnoy's full profile on Voter’s Edge


Office No. 90

Leslie Gutierrez, Deputy District Attorney
Website: lesliegutierrezforjudge2022.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements here
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Gutierrez’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Naser (Nas) Khoury, Attorney at Law
Website: Twitter profile
Endorsements: See featured endorsements on Voter’s Edge
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified
More resources: See Khoury’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Melissa Lyons, Deputy District Attorney
Website: melissalyons4judge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Lyons’ full profile on Voter’s Edge

Kevin Thomas McGurk, Deputy Public Defender
Website: mcgurkforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See McGurk’s full profile on Voter’s Edge


Office No. 116

Hon. David B. Gelfound, Judge of the Superior Court
Website: reelectjudgegelfound.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Exceptionally Well Qualified
More resources: See Gelfound’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Lloyd E. Handler, Deputy Public Defender
Website: handlerforjudge2022.com
Endorsements: none listed
LACBA Rating: Qualified


Office No. 118

Melissa Hammond, Deputy District Attorney
Website: melissahammondforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Hammond’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Georgia Huerta, Deputy District Attorney
Website: georgiahuertaforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Huerta’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Keith Koyano, Deputy District Attorney
Website: keithkoyanoforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified

Klint McKay, Supervising Administrative Law Judge
Website: klintmckayforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See McKay’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, Attorney at Law
Website: parkforjudge2022.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified
More resources: See Park’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

S. (Shawn) Thever, Deputy County Counsel
Website: shantheverforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified


Office No. 151

Thomas D. Allison, Attorney/Legal Professor
Website: thomasallisonforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Allison’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Karen A. Brako, Deputy District Attorney
Website: brakoforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Qualified
More resources: See Brako’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Patrick Hare, Deputy Public Defender
Website: patrickhareforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Well Qualified
More resources: See Hare’s full profile on Voter’s Edge

Richard Quiñones, Deputy District Attorney IV
Website: quinonesforjudge.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Qualified


Office No. 156

Hon. Carol Elswick, Superior Court Judge
Website: judgecarolelswick.com
Endorsements: See full list of endorsements
LACBA Rating: Qualified

Albert Robles, Attorney/Educator
Website: none found
Endorsements: none listed
LACBA Rating: Not Qualified
More resources: See Robles' full profile on Voter’s Edge

More reading about this race:

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