January 27, 2020

Editorial: Elect Elena Condes for Alameda Superior Court judge


Alameda County currently has 70 Superior Court judges. To retain their office, they must run every six years. But they’re seldom opposed. Which helps explain why there’s only one contested race this year — for a seat Judge Carol Brosnahan plans to retire from after four decades on the bench.

The message for voters: Pay attention. This is a rare opportunity to cast a ballot for judge.

Elena Condes (Dylan Bouscher/Bay Area News Group)

Our recommendation — and it’s not an easy decision — is veteran criminal defense attorney Elena Condes, who has run a solo practice in Berkeley since 1993.

Of the three candidates, she stands out as the best experienced and most familiar with the workings of Alameda County courts. Condes’ practice focuses on courtroom advocacy that’s a key part of the day-to-day operations of the local judicial system.

While endorsements usually don’t count much for our recommendations, Condes’ support from 21 current and two retired Alameda County judges says a lot. These are the jurists who have seen her work, who can perhaps best judge whether she’s cut out to be a judge.

She faces two well-credentialed challengers, civil and criminal litigator Mark Fickes and Lilla Szelenyi, a workers’ compensation judge for the state of California.

Fickes was a Santa Clara County prosecutor early in his career and went on to become an attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Now in private practice, it’s his work with the SEC that he touts on his resume and professional web page; his practice now includes defending clients accused by the agency.

But neither his resume nor professional web page make mention of work as a civil rights attorney, which is how he identifies himself on the ballot. And his explanation — that criminal cases generally involve civil rights — is weak. The use of a label of civil rights attorney on the ballot is a troubling deception unbecoming a judicial candidate.

As for Szelenyi, she has lots of judicial experience and likely would be a fine judge. Her drawback is that her experience, both as a judge and attorney, is focused almost entirely on workers’ compensation cases.

Which brings us back to Condes, a former president of the East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association, who stresses the importance of judicial temperament, of ensuring that those who walk into a courtroom are spoken to in a way that they feel heard. That resonates with us.

Of three qualified candidates, Condes stands out as the best choice.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

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