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Judicial Elections 2018: Vote for the Public Defender, Obviously

Voting for judges: not good but very important.

Perhaps the most breathtakingly impractical parts of your ballot, where even the most engaged voters find themselves stumbling and grasping in the dark, are the judicial races. Without clear platforms and little in the way of promotion, it can be incredibly difficult to make anything resembling an informed decision. Voters by and large look for the guidance of endorsements and voter guides, most of which were themselves put together by people with no relevant legal experience who honestly have no idea how or why they’re making their endorsements. This is how we’ve decided to do things, because democracy I guess.

May as well put your faith in the KNOCK Voter Guide!

If you’re here, you know what our whole deal is. We’re here to end mass incarceration, stand up to corporate power, and give the little guy a fair platform in the courts. We’re not interested in paeans to “law & order” or where someone went to law school.

The recommendations here were compiled with the input of lefty lawyers — including a number of public defenders — and a helpful tipster who actually went to the judicial debate and directly asked them questions, displaying a level of civic commitment that puts the rest of us to shame. I’m not the endorsing party here, with one clear exception — I’m just the mouthpiece with edit privileges on the KNOCK website.


For Office 4, KNOCK endorses Veronica Sauceda, who has spent her career providing low-income legal services. Her experience and perspective would offer some much-needed diversity, compared to the mass of prosecutors and Biglaw attorneys who normally find their way to the judicial branch.

The race for Office 16 is between two career prosecutors, Sydne Michel and Patti Hunter, both of whom have significant detractors on the other side of the aisle. In the end our endorsement was swung by our Tipster’s debate report: Sydne Michel gave much better answers on the issue of cash bail and showed an interest in expanding the use of non-prison rehabilitative options.

You saw the headline up there. For Office 60, you should obviously vote for Deputy Public Defender Holly Hancock to fill the seat. Don’t need a tipster for this one — I happen to have been Holly’s court partner, and I can attest that she’s a fantastic trial attorney with the determination, compassion, and attention to detail to excel as a judge. Her opponent, prosecutor Tony Cho, is by all accounts a fine fellow with a good reputation, but we need to go further to change the way business is done in the criminal court system. We need people who are willing to challenge the incarceration machine. Holly Hancock deserves your vote.

Michael Ribons is our choice for Office 113. Despite a silly controversy over his ballot designation, the civil trial attorney would provide a useful and different well of knowledge to draw on as a judge. He’s certainly preferable to his opponent, who has spent two and a half decades contributing to mass incarceration.


How in god’s name do they expect laypeople to figure these out? It’s hard enough for lawyers.

Our recommendations as KNOCK are, as mentioned, compiled from the opinions of a variety of lawyers, their personal experiences, and the published decisions of the judges. We didn’t bother listing the “YES” votes; this is about who should go. Some of our “NO” recommendations are based on reports of bias against defendants — Dhanidina and Bigelow, for instance.

A few deserve additional discussion. You might have heard about Justice Corrigan, who has been excoriated for her rulings against gay marriage. While her record as a whole hasn’t been as disastrous as those decisions, those decisions were remarkably out of step with the values of California and the movement of the law.

You should vote No on Elwood Lui because of a few rather unusual moves on his part. First, he previously left the judiciary to make some remarkable amount of cash at Biglaw firm Jones Day, contributing to litigation like helping a power company dodge $55 million in taxes in Redondo Beach. Once he returned to the bench, he ended an otherwise unremarkable decision by referring a prosecutor to the state bar for a disciplinary investigation on extremely shaky grounds. The prosecutor, who was cleared of any wrongdoing, happened to be the more liberal David Berger… who was at that time a candidate in a runoff for judicial office, creating the impression of intentional interference with the election.