Tara Flanagan: best of the bunch
I love Democracy (it deserves a big “D”, in my opinion) as much as the next person, hey, I’d venture to say even more – but I believe California takes it to its logical but dangerous extreme. We can see this by the mess the state has gotten into by having its major legislation all be passed by initiatives – which can not be easily or even practically undone once they’ve proven themselves to be harmful. And we can also see it vis a vis the election of judges. Like it or not, elections cost money, and money seldom comes without strings attached.
That said, judges are still elected and we still need to vote on them. This year, the election to watch is the one between Tara Flanagan, Catherine Haley and Andrew Weiner. Flanagan, Haley and a representative for Weiner came before the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, of which I’m a member, to seek our endorsement. After a brief presentation, each answered a few questions.
Tara Flanagan seemed to be the favorite going in. As a lesbian, she had the support of those members of the Committee who want to see greater diversity in the judiciary. If elected, Flanagan will only be the second lesbian judge in Alameda County. Vicky Kolakowski, who is both transgendered and a lesbian, was elected to the judiciary in 2010, one of the first transgendered judge in the nation.
Flanagan’s strength does not come from her sexual identity. Her resume is impressive and her focus on domestic violence commendable. Flanagan started as an assistant DA in LA, prosecuting domestic violence cases. She went on to open her own family law practice, also dealing with domestic violence issues among others. She’s worked as a legal aid attorney, helping people navigate the legal system and serves as a temporary judge overseeing family, traffic and small claims cases.
Catherine Haley‘s background is a little different. She also has served as a temporary judge and has experienced in legal aid, but she started her career as a flight attendant, went on to work as a law clerk before becoming a lawyer. She’s worked as a solo practitioner since, dealing with all sorts of cases.
Andrew Weiner, meanwhile, is a mediator/arbitrator which focuses on alternative resolution, apparently in particular in employment cases. It’s not clear to me why someone with that background would want to be a judge, and as he didn’t go to the endorsement meeting I was unable to ask him. I will e-mail him and find out.
Of the two women running for judge, I was most impressed by Flanagan. Indeed, I was very impressed by Flanagan. She was the only of the two who knew she wasn’t allowed by law to comment on any legal issue that may come before her in the future. She was thus unable to directly answer my question about whether she believes minors should be tried as adults. However, she made it clear that she understood all the issues at play. Haley, who answered after her, seemed much less prepared. I don’t usually vote for prosecutors or former prosecutors, but I think Flanagan’s experience as an assistant DA actually gives her a deeper understanding of criminal law issues. Plus I like the way she thinks.
I voted to endorse Flanagan and she did, indeed, get the endorsement of the party. I am fairly certain I will vote for her in June. Though I recognize that alternative conflict resolution is essential – our justice system is just not equipped to deal with the enormity of legal cases – I also think it most often leads to unfair results for the public. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of having an arbitrator as a judge.