By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Creative Commons via Bing
February 10, 2020 (San Diego) – The San Diego County Bar Association has issued its ratings of candidates in local Superior Court judicial races. All but two were rated “well qualified” or “exceptionally well qualified.” But two ranked the lowest possible “lacking qualifications” rating: Steve Miller and Shawn McMillan.
Lacking Qualifications is defined by the SDCBA as “Presently not possessing professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and/or temperament indicating ability to perform the judicial function.”
McMillan, a plaintiff’s civil rights attorney, is running in district 36 against Michelle Ialeggio, a deputy district attorney.
Miller, a criminal prosecutor, is in a 3-way race against Alana Wong Robinson, a federal prosecutor, and Mark Skeels, senior chief deputy attorney for San Diego, in district 22.
The ABA previously rated Judge Gary Kreep as “lacking qualifications” in 2018; Kreep was censured by the state’s commission on judicial performance and subsequently lost his reelection bid.
The SDCBA, a professional group representing local lawyers, is nonpartisan in its ratings system.
In seat 36, the Republican party endorsed neither candidate; Democrats endorsed Ialeggio. Oddly, McMillan’s campaign site lists no endorsements from anyone.
Ialeggio’s site has a long list of bipartisan endorsements and endorsements from both progressive and conservative organizations including District Attorney Summer Stephan, Public Defender Randy Mize, Sheriff Bill Gore, Congressman Juan Vargas, Crime Victims United, numerous police officers’ association, the Lincoln Club, La Raza Lawyers and Run Women Run.
In seat 22, Republicans endorsed Skeels. Democrats endorsed Robinson. Although Mller is a Democrat, he is not endorsed by the party.
Skeels and Robinson each received “Exceptionally qualified” ratings from the SDCBA. Skeels is endorsed by numerous judges and several political leaders Robinson is also endorsed by many judges and politicians but has a far longer list of endorsements that includes the Calif. Police Chiefs Association, many local police officers’ organizations, probation officers, lawyers, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay nation and more. Miller also lists endorsements of judges, attorneys and others.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has interviewed candidates running for seats in districts 36 and 22. Here are links to their interview
Below is the SDCBA’s press release and full list of ratings:
SAN DIEGO COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION ISSUES EVALUATIONS FOR JUDICIAL CANDIDATES IN MARCH 3, 2020 PRIMARY ELECTION
SAN DIEGO (February 7, 2020) —The San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) announced its evaluations for eleven candidates vying for four San Diego Superior Court judicial seats in the March 3, 2020 primary election.
For more than 40 years, the SDCBA has evaluated candidates in contested judicial elections as a public service because there is very little information on judicial candidates that is readily available to the public. The SDCBA’s evaluations do not compare opposing candidates nor do they endorse or oppose the election of particular candidates or imply the SDCBA’s support of a particular candidate. In accordance with the SDCBA’s Judicial Election Evaluation Committee (JEEC) Rules, each candidate was evaluated on that candidate’s individual merit and given one of five evaluations:
“Exceptionally Qualified”: Presently possessing exceptional professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and/or temperament indicating an exceptional ability to perform the judicial function.
“Well Qualified”: Presently possessing a high-level professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and/or temperament indicating high-level ability to perform the judicial function.
"Qualified": Presently possessing professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and/or temperament indicating ability to perform the judicial function.
"Lacking Qualifications": Presently not possessing professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and/or temperament indicating ability to perform the judicial function.
“Unable to Evaluate”: If the Committee does not receive sufficient information from persons who know a candidate to fairly and adequately evaluate a candidate's ability to perform the judicial function, the candidate may be deemed Unable to Evaluate.
Here are the SDCBA JEEC evaluations for the candidates in contested judicial elections for 2020:
San Diego County Superior Court Judge – Office No. 18
CJ Mody WELL QUALIFIED
Roberta Winston EXCEPTIONALLY QUALIFIED
San Diego County Superior Court Judge – Office No. 22
Steve Miller LACKING QUALIFICATIONS
Alana Wong Robinson EXCEPTIONALLY QUALIFIED
Mark Skeels EXCEPTIONALLY QUALIFIED
San Diego County Superior Court Judge – Office No. 30
Mike Murphy WELL QUALIFIED
Pete Murray WELL QUALIFIED
Tim Nader WELL QUALIFIED
Paul Starita EXCEPTIONALLY QUALIFIED
San Diego County Superior Court Judge – Office No. 36
Michelle Ialeggio EXCEPTIONALLY QUALIFIED
Shawn McMillan LACKING QUALIFICATIONS
State court judges in California serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election, and vacancies are filled through appointment by the Governor. At the end of each term, judges must seek re-election, and attorneys seeking judgeships are able to run for one of the positions up for re-election.
The JEEC prepares its evaluations by actively gathering information on each candidate from a wide variety of sources, including broad feedback from the community and information received from each candidate. The JEEC follows a detailed and confidential process in determining its evaluations, modeled after the California State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation process used when candidates are appointed by the Governor. Judicial candidates may choose not to participate in the evaluation process, however, the JEEC will provide an evaluation if there is enough information available.
Judicial candidates are evaluated on 15 different factors including fairness and objectivity; integrity and honesty; decisiveness; judgment and common sense; judicial temperament; knowledge of the law;professional reputation; trial experience; intellect and ability; tolerance and lack of bias; caseload management; courtesy and patience; writing and research skills; and compassion and understanding.
Factors that are not part of the evaluation process: religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, gender, disability, nor type of law practiced.
“Our goal in providing evaluations of judicial candidates is to help San Diegans make informed decisions when voting for candidates running to be a judge,” said Johanna Schiavoni, 2020 SDCBA President. “As the largest law-related organization in San Diego County, we seek to assist voters by providing neutral evaluations of judicial candidates based on a rigorous vetting process. The JEEC, which prepares the evaluations, includes attorneys from broadly diverse backgrounds and professional experiences, to reflect a wide set of viewpoints in evaluating candidates running for judicial office.”
The JEEC was first established in 1978 and is comprised of 21 SDCBA members who represent a diverse cross‐section of San Diego’s legal community and come from a variety of practice areas, including lawyers from the public and private sectors, civil and criminal law practitioners, in-house counsel, sole practitioners and members of small, medium and large law firms. For more on the SDCBA’s judicial candidate evaluation process, please visit www.sdcba.org/judicialevaluations.
The San Diego County Bar Association is the region’s largest law-related organization, dedicated to serving the needs of all attorneys and the legal community in San Diego County.