This year, 8 candidates are running for four spots on 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 David Berger, candidate for Office No. 158:
What work do you currently do and why do you do it?
I'm currently a Deputy District Attorney, prosecuting violent crimes. I've been doing that for about 20 years, the last 7 years of which have been spent almost exclusively in Judge Fox's court. He's the judge that is retiring and I'm running to replace him. When I first started out in law, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be in the courtroom. People told me that the best way to get trial experience is with the District Attorney's Office so I started there thinking I'll have a couple of years with them and then move on but honestly, I fell in love with the job. There's a tremendous sense of camaraderie. Our mission to seek justice. This is very rewarding and I've been there ever since.
What do you find the most interesting part of your day?
Probably one of the most interesting part of the day is in the courtroom first thing when all the attorneys are gathering before the judge takes the bench and we have a general discussion, one-on-one about the cases that are coming up, how we are going to present them and what sort of outcome we would like to achieve. One of the things I try to do as a Deputy D.A. and what I would continue to do as a judge, is to engender a spirit of cooperation where we can try to find common ground and reach settlements.
How did you first get into the law profession and why were you drawn to this career course?
I was very much influenced by television shows. In England, there was Rumpole of the Bailey who I much aspired to be and in America of course, you had Perry Mason. Those are both individuals who fought for justice for their clients and that's what I felt I wanted to do. I wanted to be a lawyer who would seek justice and obtain justice, and do so honorably and ethically.
In your view, what makes a good judge?
I think that the most important thing for a judge is that he or she should have read everything in the file, particularly the motions that have been filed and should have some experience of dealing with these issues before. The judge must give the attorneys a chance to state their positions succinctly and clearly and must flesh out any additional details. But it's also important that a judge not become an advocate. A judge must remain neutral and impartial, but must create the environment where cases can be settled, or if they cannot be settled, they can go to trial. I think another thing a judge has to have – and it's very important in today's climate – is a full knowledge of all the various sentencing options that are available to a defendant. If you accept that a person has committed a crime, the important issue now is how to do you deal with it? Do you send them to prison? Or do you seek alternate sentencing options? ... We've had real success with the alternate sentencing courts and that's something I hope to continue to do.
What should the public know about who you are outside the courtroom?
One of the things I have often admired about Judge Fox was the way that he would treat people with respect and dignity even if they were accused of terrible crimes and I often wondered why he did that, even after they'd been convicted. And he said to me, the people who are in this courtroom are already in a bad place. No one is happy to be here on either side. And there is nothing to be gained by making people feel bad by treating them in a bad way. Treat people with respect. That's what I do in my everyday life and that's what I would do if I were elected judge of the Superior Court.
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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