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”