Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Meet the Judges: Debra Archuleta, candidate for LA Superior Court

by Take Two®

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Debra Archuleta is a candidate for L.A. Superior Court. Dorian Merina/KPCC

This year, eight 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 Debra Archuleta, candidate for Office No. 11:

What work do you currently do and why do you do it?

I've been with the District Attorney's Office as a prosecutor for 26 years and I’ve been with the office 28 years. ... I have spent the majority of my career prosecuting violent felonies. ... After the primary [election], I was transferred over to the charge evaluation division where I review felonies and some other non-violent and non-felony cases for potential review and filing – once the cases are brought in by law enforcement agencies to see if we have a viable criminal prosecution or not. My areas of expertise are domestic violence, domestic violence homicide, child molestation, sexual assault. I was the head of the stalking unit for three years and I’ve also prosecuted gang cases and violent street crimes for the majority, if not the entirety, of my career.

Do you remember a particular case that stands out for you during your career?

I have many cases that stand out for me for a variety of reasons. What I take away from this is the impact that violent crime has had on the victims' families, so it’s hard to just narrow it down to a few cases. But certainly many of these people have altered my life and apparently I’ve altered theirs, hopefully for the better. 

What first drew you to a career in law?

I knew as a young teenager that I wanted to be an attorney and I really wanted to be trial lawyer. … It looked very exciting to me to be a trial lawyer and to be a woman doing that kind of work. I’ve always had a passion for justice so I decided to work my way through college and law school and I’ve committed myself to seeking justice for victims for the last 26 years as a prosecutor. It’s been a very rewarding career and I’ve learned a lot about how people suffer and how they come through the other side of that and carry their experiences with them. 

What makes you the best candidate for the office you're running for?

I think what I would bring to the bench is my knowledge of the law – my experience as a prosecutor on so many different kinds of cases. ... You also have to bring not only your heart and your mind to this endeavor, but you also have to be willing to show toughness, fairness but compassion if need be. And I believe that the kinds of cases that I have tried throughout my career have allowed me to look at the system from the inside out. I think I’m just ready to be able to have a wider sphere of influence beyond the current caseload that I carry for the District Attorney’s office. 

What should the public know about who you are outside the courtroom?

I come from a family that really did not have much of anything. My dad grew up in a house with dirt floors in Southern Colorado. And yet, the idea of hard work and education and compassion for others just sort of flows through my veins. And I take my experience, my life experience, my family history very seriously because I too worked through community college and then U.C. Irvine, and I worked. And then I worked full-time and on the weekend when I went to law school and I’ve been able to take that work ethic and my desire to seek and do justice with me for the last 26 years.

I’m married to a school teacher and we’ve raised two children. And I felt that this was the right time to seek this larger role within the criminal justice system because my children are old enough now and I feel that my husband and I did a good enough job … that I felt that I could go on and have the next professional experience so that I can take my life experiences and hopefully positively impact the criminal justice system because I truly want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

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!)

Related: Meet the LA County judge candidates

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