40 questions – Interviews with the candidates for Superior Court Office No. 2

Interviews with judicial candidates Catherine Voelker and Martin Zaehringer – Tuesday, February 11th.

To paraphrase Dr. McCoy from Star Trek, “Damn it, Jim! We’re political activists, not trained journalists!” (Much kudos here to all real journalists. They have a very hard job.) Read these interviews with these caveats in mind…

  • It’s tricky: Interviewing judicial candidates isn’t a straightforward process. Because of “Canon 5” issues, you can’t just ask them if they are future Ruth Bader Ginsbergs, or Brett Kavanaughs or what their opinions are on abortion, civil or LGBTQ rights or on protecting the environment.
  • “Not journalists” – part 1: We are not lawyers either. We consulted lawyers and various Bar sources for acceptable questions and we ended up learning a lot from both interviewees about Ventura County’s court system.
  • “Not journalists” – part 2: Not all questions were asked in the same way to each candidate, and some questions had extensive “cross talk” or additional comments, as we followed the flow of conversation. See above – “not journalists.”
  • Why didn’t you ask…: Assuredly, some great questions were not asked. However, these interviews took over 90 minutes each and we were grateful that the candidates were willing to sit that long for self-admitted partisan activists.
  • Yes, we edited…: Both questions and answers were lightly edited for grammar and brevity. We also added links for information and definitions of legal terms and issues.
  • Yes, they edited…: These interviews were not a “gotcha!” activity. Both candidates were given drafts of their answers to edit for clarity and conformance to Canon 5 requirements. We really want to understand who these people are before we vote on them.
  • Who’s on first?: Mr. Zaehringer’s comments were placed first, because Ms. Voelker was asked to address additional issues at the end of her interview.
  • What did the pros say?: The Ventura County Bar Association released their 2020 Judicial Candidates Ratings and we’ve graphed the results below the interviews.
  • Are you doing interviews for Office 8?: No. We recommend that you vote for Paul W. Baelly (endorsements here). His opponent, Steve Pell, is not considered qualified by the Ventura County Bar Association.
  • Candidate Bios: These two newspapers give good short overviews of the candidates’ demographic information: VC Star interviews here. VC Reporter blurbs here. Quick facts:
    •  G. Martin Zaehringer is an 38-year trial attorney who’s worked on all the types of cases that appear before a Superior Court. Endorsements here. His campaign contributions are here.
    • Catherine Voelker has worked for 15 years in the District Attorney’s office. Her list of endorsements is here.
  • A  moment to say “Thank you!”: These candidates had no idea how long the interviews were going to be, and that afterwards, that they would have to fit editing 18+ page documents into their busy schedules. They were both very good sports and we enjoyed working with them.

Before you start reading the interviews with both candidates, do you know what a “superior court” is? This will be important for making your choice.

Superior courts have trial jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases. Special departments of the courts handle family, probate, mental health, juvenile, small claims, and traffic cases. Many superior courts also have specialty departments for nonviolent drug offenses and domestic violence cases. Superior courts handle cases in which parties ask for special relief, such as an injunction or a declaratory order.

Superior court judges serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election. Vacancies are filled through appointment by the Governor. A superior court judge (with the exception of former municipal court judges in now unified courts) must have been an attorney admitted to practice law in California or have served as a judge of a court of record in this state for at least 10 years immediately preceding election or appointment.” (Article on “The Qualities of a Good Judge“)

The Interviews – 40 questions.

  • Our questions and comments are in RED.
  • Martin Zaehringer’s comments are in BLACK.
  • Catherine Voelker’s comments are in BLUE.

Before we started the interviews with both candidates, we read them the following statement. We understand you are subject to Canon 5, (Oct. 10th, 2018), “a judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.“ Section 5A(3)(d) prohibits a candidate for judicial office from making statements that commit the candidate regarding cases, controversies or issues likely to come before the court. As a corollary, a candidate should emphasize in any public statement the candidate’s duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views.

Q1: Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a case and wishing you had handled something differently? Continue reading “40 questions – Interviews with the candidates for Superior Court Office No. 2”

Tues 2/11: Judges matter. Call your senators! Brasher is up today!

There’s struggle on this one – call now!

“This is an unacceptable threat to our democracy as we know it,” said Lisa Rovinsky, who serves as advocacy chairwoman for the Atlanta branch of the National Council of Jewish Women…

…The groups opposing Brasher point to a brief he wrote as part of a lawsuit that ultimately led to a rollback of the Voting Rights Act, and they say that in another case he defended an Arizona law that required people to submit proof of citizenship before registering to vote.”

If they can get him through, Senate will turn to the these nominations, which include at least two Federalist Society members, and one, Joshua Kindred, who has a terrible environmental record. 

Andrew Brasher, a rightwing extremist, is up for a lifetime judicial seat in the 11th Circuit Court. Call your senators!

Senator Kamala Harris’ video statement here.

The non-trial is over and McConnell isn’t wasting any time.  He’s only guaranteed until November to turn the judicial branch into a extremist right-wing rubber-stamp for Trump’s policies.  At the beginning of Trump’s reign, lawyers told us that we shouldn’t worry about young extremist Trump-udges, that essentially they would fall in line with the years of precedent that was slowly moving America towards a more just nation. Um, no. Even before Trump, there were huge setbacks, such as 2010’s Citizens United v. FEC, and in 2013, parts of the Voting Right Act (Shelby v. Holder). Now the march back to the 1950’s has accelerated, as these new judges are pushing off the guardrails and starting to deliver on their destructive potential. (See “Deep Dive” below)

Per the Hill, the Senate is expected to take its first procedural vote on the slate Monday evening, on Andrew Brasher’s nomination to be a judge on the 11th Circuit, the court that oversees federal cases originating in the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. 

Andrew Brasher is so disturbingly extreme that his confirmation has been opposed by the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human rights. Alliance for Justice, The National Council of Jewish Women, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The League of Conservation Voters, People for the American Way, Lamba Legal, National Urban League, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Call your senators and contact your family/friends groups to contact theirs, especially those with GOP senators.

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Sen [___] for opposing the confirmation of Andrew Brasher, whose extremist views are in direct conflict with the interests and rights of the population he serves. Also thanks for opposing the nomination of Joshua Kindred. Continue reading “Tues 2/11: Judges matter. Call your senators! Brasher is up today!”

Fri 2/7: Judges matter. Call your senators!

Andrew Brasher, a rightwing extremist, is up for a lifetime judicial seat in the 11th Circuit Court. Call your senators!

Senator Kamala Harris’ video statement here.

The non-trial is over and McConnell isn’t wasting any time.  He’s only guaranteed until November to turn the judicial branch into a extremist right-wing rubber-stamp for Trump’s policies.  At the beginning of Trump’s reign, lawyers told us that we shouldn’t worry about young extremist Trump-udges, that essentially they would fall in line with the years of precedent that was slowly moving America towards a more just nation. Um, no. Even before Trump, there were huge setbacks, such as 2010’s Citizens United v. FEC, and in 2013, parts of the Voting Right Act (Shelby v. Holder). Now the march back to the 1950’s has accelerated, as these new judges are pushing off the guardrails and starting to deliver on their destructive potential. (See “Deep Dive” below)

Per the Hill, the Senate is expected to take its first procedural vote on the slate Monday evening, on Andrew Brasher’s nomination to be a judge on the 11th Circuit, the court that oversees federal cases originating in the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. 

Andrew Brasher is so disturbingly extreme that his confirmation has been opposed by the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human rights. Alliance for Justice, The National Council of Jewish Women, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The League of Conservation Voters, People for the American Way, Lamba Legal, National Urban League, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Call your senators and contact your family/friends groups to contact theirs, especially those with GOP senators.

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Sen [___] for opposing the confirmation of Andrew Brasher, whose extremist views are in direct conflict with the interests and rights of the population he serves. Continue reading “Fri 2/7: Judges matter. Call your senators!”

Mon- 12/02: Trump has been tearing down the wall between church and state. Say “NO” to Sarah Pitlyk.

Action  – Call your senators (both Dems and GOP!) and tell them to vote “NO” on “NOT QUALIFIED” forced-birther radical  Sarah Pitlyk for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The word is that she’s up for a full vote of the Senate this week.

Planned Parenthood alert:  The bipartisan American Bar Association has unanimously rated Sarah Pitlyk, another extremist Federalist Society member, “not qualified” for this important position, due to her lack of trial experience. She opposes reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act and the legal right to abortion. She fought to allow businesses and landlords the right to discriminate against women whose private health histories include abortion or birth control. Through her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, her writings, and legal actions she participated in at forced-birther advocacy firm Thomas Moore Society (TMS), she’s demonstrated that she will impose her own religious beliefs over the lives of women and their families if she gets into a position of power. While the concept of the the Handmaid’s Tale’s Aunt Lydia becoming an judge might make a great Hollywood script, in real life, true-believer Sarah Pitlyk cannot be trusted to apply the law and legal precedents fairly and impartially to everyone who might come before the court.

Update: Oct. 31st – “In a party-line vote on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of a St. Louis County anti-abortion and religious rights lawyer in line to become St. Louis’ next federal judge.”

Continue reading “Mon- 12/02: Trump has been tearing down the wall between church and state. Say “NO” to Sarah Pitlyk.”

Wednesday – 10/30: It’s Halloween tomorrow in the Senate! – Horrifying judicial candidates that will haunt us for a lifetime. VOTE THURSDAY!

Corrupt Judiciary on the Bench, artist – Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, Jan. 27, 1872 

Action : Call your senators and tell them to vote “NO” on these four nominees!

Minimal script for Democratic Senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to vote “NO” on the following judicial nominees.

  • Sarah Pitlyk: Not only has she been judged unqualified by the American Bar Association, but this religious ideologue has already proven that she can’t be an impartial judge.
  • Steven Menashi: His nomination is a threat to the civil rights of women, POC, students, the LGBTQ community, immigrants as well as to the environment.
  • Halil S. Ozerden: – we do not need another corporatist judge, who ignores the rights of consumers and workers, and who sides with police abuse.
  • Lawrence VanDyke: The ABA states he “is arrogant, lazy, and an ideologue.”
  • Federalist Society: Also, please stop voting for any judicial nominations who are members of the Federalist Society, an extremist far-right group. Their members, who are just 4% of the legal community but more than 80% of Trumps’ nominees, do not reflect those views of most Americans.

Minimal script for GOP senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to vote “NO” to Sarah Pitlyk, Steven Menashi, Lawrence VanDyke and Halil S. Ozerden.  That your party destroyed the “blue slip” system, and no longer seems to care if candidates are qualified or even marginally impartial, will result in rulings that will harm your own constituents. Your support for these candidates implicates you in a corrupt system that will need to be cleaned out at the ballot box.  Do the right thing.

Continue reading “Wednesday – 10/30: It’s Halloween tomorrow in the Senate! – Horrifying judicial candidates that will haunt us for a lifetime. VOTE THURSDAY!”

Tues – 10/22: This Halloween: Dress as a “NOT QUALIFIED” extremist judicial nominee! Or as a free-range uterus! Then say “NO” to Sarah Pitlyk.

Action #1 – Call your senators and tell them to vote “NO” on “NOT QUALIFIED” forced-birther radical  Sarah Pitlyk for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Planned Parenthood alert:  The bipartisan American Bar Association has unanimously rated Sarah Pitlyk, another extremist Federalist Society member, “not qualified” for this important position, due to her lack of trial experience. She opposes reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act and the legal right to abortion. She fought to allow businesses and landlords the right to discriminate against women whose private health histories include abortion or birth control. Through her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, her writings, and legal actions she participated in at forced-birther advocacy firm Thomas Moore Society (TMS), she’s demonstrated that she will impose her own religious beliefs over the lives of women and their families if she gets into a position of power. While the concept of the the Handmaid’s Tale’s Aunt Lydia becoming an judge might make a great Hollywood script, in real life, true-believer Sarah Pitlyk cannot be trusted to apply the law and legal precedents fairly and impartially to everyone who might come before the court.

Continue reading “Tues – 10/22: This Halloween: Dress as a “NOT QUALIFIED” extremist judicial nominee! Or as a free-range uterus! Then say “NO” to Sarah Pitlyk.”

Fri – 10/18: “Not qualified”… That should be enough in normal times. Note: We are no longer in normal times. Say “NO” to Justin Walker.

Quote from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Action #1 – Call your senators and tell them to vote “NO” on Justin Walker.

While we’ve been transfixed in horror by the clown car of Ukraine corruption, and now the bloody results of using Syria as a deliberate distraction from the impeachment inquiry, Mitch McConnell has been laser-focused on the prize. Instead of dealing with the huge stack of legislation piling up from the House, he has been locking in hard-right ideologues for the judicial bench who will pervert American justice far into the future, no matter who becomes president. Since Trump has come to power, McConnell has managed to ram through a least four LIFETIME federal judges who were rated “not qualified by the non-partisan American Bar Association (ABA) Continue reading “Fri – 10/18: “Not qualified”… That should be enough in normal times. Note: We are no longer in normal times. Say “NO” to Justin Walker.”

Wed. 9/25: Vote “NO” on “pay-no-attention-to-anything-I-wrote-or-did” guy. Vote may be tomorrow!

Action: Tell your senators that Steven Menashi is not welcome on our highest courts.

President Trump announced his intent to nominate Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for the seat previously held by Thurgood Marshall, and most immediately held by Judge Dennis Jacobs. He was unpopular inside and outside his nomination hearing. This guy was not even supported by his home-state senators from NY.

Continue reading “Wed. 9/25: Vote “NO” on “pay-no-attention-to-anything-I-wrote-or-did” guy. Vote may be tomorrow!”

Mon 5/20: Urgent – Remind your senators that Daniel P. Collins should not be a judge.

Action – Trump really wants to destroy OUR court, the Ninth Circuit. Thank our senators for their dissent and get people with other senators to call!

The Senate is in at 3 PM with a 5:30 PM vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Daniel P. Collins to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.

Collins’ bio on the Munger, Tolles & Olson website highlights his history representing Big Oil in climate cases: “Mr. Collins also successfully argued two major cases in the Fifth and Ninth Circuits that effectively brought an end (for the time being) to efforts to hold the energy industry liable in tort for injuries allegedly caused by global warming.”

image.pngDaniel P. Collins, a former associate deputy U.S. attorney general specializes in defending the oil industry in high-profile climate and environmental cases, including the current crop of climate liability lawsuits. One of his clients Royal Dutch Shell, is among the companies being sued by a group of California communities trying to hold oil companies accountable for climate change-related damages. Certain aspects of those lawsuits are already being appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which covers California, the Pacific Northwest as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

We think we’ve already bagged our limit on corporate shills. Continue reading “Mon 5/20: Urgent – Remind your senators that Daniel P. Collins should not be a judge.”

Mon 4/1: No, this is not a joke! The GOP wants to make fools into judges in two hours or less.

What’s old is new again…!

Action: Tell your senators to vote “NO” on S.Res. 50. 

The full title of the GOP’s S.Res.50 – “A resolution improving procedures for the consideration of nominations in the Senate.” is almost longer than the resolution itself, In the GOP’s haste to pack our courts, they want to truncate nomination deliberations from 30 hours to two. This is certainly more convenient for senators, but they get paid to protect us, so bring a cushion, snowflakes! The bill’s text doesn’t even bother to justify how rushing through inappropriate candidates for extremely powerful positions would be an improvement for us, the people.

Actually, after reading the short bios of the three nominees below, an actual improvement might be to expand hearings from 30 to 40 hours, – better to root out and expose the extremists, the ideologues, the unqualified and the incompetents that clog the GOP’s wish lists.

Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to vote “NO” on S.Res. 50 and strenously object to this disintegration of our court system. I also want her to vote “NO” on nominees Collins, Bress and Lee as being inappropriate additions to our justice system. Continue reading “Mon 4/1: No, this is not a joke! The GOP wants to make fools into judges in two hours or less.”