This year, eight candidates are running for four spots in L.A. Superior Court. The court serves nearly 10 million people spread out across the county, and judges oversee both criminal and civil matters – everything from contract disputes to homicide trials.
Take Two spoke to all eight of the candidates running for the bench. Here are highlights from our conversation with Susan Jung Townsend, candidate for Office No. 84.
What work do you currently do and why do you do it?
I have been working in the L.A. County District Attorney's Office now for over 18 years. I am currently assigned to the Bureau of Fraud and Corruption. I'm running as a criminal fraud prosecutor. I've been in this unit for about nine years. Prior to that, however, I was assigned to downtown central trials, which is essentially the busiest hub of criminal prosecution in L.A. County.
Why did you first get into law and why did you become an attorney?
I was extremely interested from a very young age in law. My very first memory is when my parents first came to this country in the mid-1960s. I was actually born here, but as early as the age of 3 or 4, my father was involved in a lawsuit for suing a car dealership for selling him a car that didn't work well. And my first experience was going to court with my parents... I just remember as a child looking at the legal process for the first time and how this judge presided over all these parties that were present, with interpreters and jurors. It just made for such a vivid memory of the kind of legal agent I would want to be.
What makes you the best candidate for the office you're seeking?
When you really think about what a courtroom is, it is really a venue for conflict resolution and the judge is really the most important person to make sure that legal process is a fair one... I believe that with my experience with the broad range of law that I've had experience with in the last 20 years in the DA's office, it has primed me for that role. I am ready to take on a more impactful role in the legal community by presiding over these cases as well as serving the public need.
What should the public know about who you are outside the courtroom?
Something tremendous happened to me halfway through my career, which is that I started my own family. I think when you become a parent and you see what your contribution to society is and how you can make this a better world for your child, I really started changing gears... So from about eight years ago, I started volunteering at a lot of public schools in which truancy was an issue, in which low performance was an issue, and it's something that I have gotten so much personal satisfaction out of.
You spoke a little of your family background – why is that important to you and how has that shaped you?
[I was] born and raised in L.A. County, which is a terrific community with tremendous diversity. For me that has been one of the best things about working in the public sector and prosecuting crimes on behalf of the people of the state of California. I'm one of them. And as I seek this position to become a judicial officer, I think it's important that all branches of government reflect the members of their community. It's important to have public trust and confidence in these positions, and you're only going to get there if the people who make up that community vote for people who they believe come from their community. That to me has always been important.
This series is a part of our voter game plan, in which we make it easier for you to vote. To read more about the L.A. County Superior Court Judge candidates, and for a digital version of your personalized ballot, visit kpcc.org/votergameplan. (Don't see all of the judicial candidates at that link? They'll be on Take Two now through the election, so check back for more!)
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