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 our conversation with Efrain Matthew Aceves, candidate for Office No. 42:
What work do you currently do and why do you do it?
I am currently a Deputy District Attorney. I've been at the office for about 19 years. I've been assigned to the Family Violence Division. That's one of our elite units. I've tried over 100 jury trial cases. Currently, I primarily focus on domestic violence cases of a very serious nature and also child molestation cases.
What first drew you to a career in law?
I was born in Mexico and my mother came to the United States when I was 5 years old....When she was living in Mexico, my father had filed for divorce. He was already living in the United States. One of my uncles was an attorney in Mexico, and he basically told my mother that his perception was that she would get a fair shake if she came to the United States. Even though the L.A. County courts didn't have any jurisdiction over her, she decided to come. That's how I ended up coming, and so that was my first experience. It's a full circle to be able to be here. To come to this country for that reason...I want to be a part of that. I want to be part of a system that finds it important that people feel that they have their day in court, that are respectful of people, and frankly, I think that's what the public wants. We've seen a lot of concerns that are brought up lately regarding our criminal justice system and I think someone with my experience, my background, and my personal story really has a lot to bring to the table. When it comes to being highly qualified, but also having that personal experience, that's going to set me apart. I'm hoping to be at the table with the other judges to help them come together, and ultimately, make sure that communities that we serve, are served well.
Why in your view is it important for the public to choose who sits on the L.A. Superior Court?
Judges have a direct impact on our lives. Obviously, the president is very important. We have a senatorial race that's very important. But you're likely not going to be running into [those] individuals and they may never have a very direct impact on your life, whereas a judge may be able to do that should you, or anyone that you know, appear before this person. So, it's very important that we have good judges that are people that understand the law, people who have experience, and who have compassion, and are there for the right reasons.
What makes a good and effective judge?
Throughout the course of my career I've been before hundreds of judges. You quickly learn the judges who are most effective in the courtroom are those that first of all, take the time to read all the filings that are provided for them, who keep up on the law. And most important...who treat people with dignity and respect when they're in the courtroom. You want someone who is actually thinking about every case, who is being respectful of the parties, because at the end of the day, the defendant has a constitutional right to fair trial. You want that to happen because if you have...all your facts lined up and you know what you're presenting as a D.A., then you should expect that you're going to hopefully be able to prevail. If that person was treated fairly, as well, then the system worked. Ultimately, that's what we're here for: for the system to work and for justice to be brought.
What makes you the best candidate for the office you're seeking?
Given the fact that I'm involved with so many different things, I've had the opportunity to work with different people from different backgrounds. Whether they be Democrats, Republicans, Independents, I rise to the challenge. I'm both respected by all of them and they know that I'm someone who can collaborate with them. Ultimately, if I'm a judge, they know that I'm someone who is going to be fair to everyone and anyone who comes in my courtroom.
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