Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Better Late Than Never: Judge Candidate and County Counsel Attorney Kevin Ready Responds on Marijuana Issues

People are often frustrated when they ask judicial candidates straightforward questions and they don’t get straightforward answers. A judge candidate is limited in what they can say by the Canons of Judicial Ethics, we cannot pre-judge an issue we might be called on to rule on in court. We are also limited in the ways we can propose changes to laws and what the proper place for a judge is in the formation of changes to laws.

The Voters of California have voted in favor of allowing medical marijuana use, and in doing so they left untouched the penalties associated with non-medical use. A California trial court judge’s duty is to apply the law of the state to the cases before him or her. I consider it my duty as a judge to apply the law as set out by the voters acting under their power of initiative and by the Legislature. The current problem with medical marijuana laws is the confrontation between California law and federal law, one allowing medical marijuana usage and one which does not. A state trial judge has no power to intervene to affect the outcome of such a conflict of laws. It is up to the People to get the federal government to change its approach, or else the current impasse will remain. As far as the state law issue, I consider the state of the law settled as to the general law, the local implementation, such as clinic location, may have more to be resolved, but a judge should not get involved for reasons discussed above.

I think any observer looking at our drug problems objectively will recognize that the core problems we face are not centered around marijuana. The meth culture, designer drugs and trafficking of imported drugs are where the focus of our efforts to improve our society needs to be. However, even with this recognition, there is not a lot a trial judge can do, nor should you want your judges to be engaged in the politics of changing our laws. What a judge can do is make sure the emphasis in court is on dealing with real problems. We need to expand the scope of usefulness of our drug courts to give people assistance in correcting their problems and not mere punishment. Society is coming around to a different dialectic on marijuana use and differentiating its use from the debilitation effects of meth and other drugs. Our courts are reflecting that change. I think it is healthy for our system of justice.

Another thing a judge can do is recognize the effect on individuals that drug use may have in the other matters that come before the courts. While some attorneys (and judicial candidates) focus solely on the criminal aspect of the situation, I think it is necessary that other areas, like juvenile law, family law and possibly others areas of civil law need to recognize the change in people’s perception of drug use and the problems, or non-problems, associated with it.

What people need to recognize in the choice of a judge is the sum total of the experience, attitude, character and life accomplishments of the judge. Will the background of a judge allow them to provide justice? Do they have the breadth of experience to be able to provide both a prosecutorial and defense perspective to the problem? From the perspective of drug related issues, simply advocating a presumably progressive campaign spiel is not enough, is there any substance, represented by experience and commitment over the years? A limited set of experience for a few years in prosecuting crimes does not provide the wisdom and insight into the human condition that a judge needs. In my case, the entirety of my life experience, and the perspective I have advocated over many years is the basis of my understanding and position. While I cannot give a full recounting of my past political position on these issues within this judicial camapign, I have a track record as a Democratic Candidate for Congress on two occasions that stands for itself. Look at the record and past positions, not mere jargon.

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Anonymous Judge the Judge said...

Judges should be appointed and not do this dance for votes without committing to any particular position.

However, Kevin Ready does indeed seem to have more practical life experience instead of just putting away criminals as a career public Prosecutor only does.

5/20/2008 10:20 AM  
Blogger kevin said...

*YES*, one of my pet projects is the adoption of a California Constitution optional provision that lets the voters of a County vote on every judge in order to give them another term in office. Initial appointments would be by the Governor, and then after the first two years every judge would get an up or down vote of the People. Then every six years the People would have the right to vote again on EVERY judge. We have judges on the bench, you, the People, have never had the opportunity to vote on. I believe in democracy, let the people vote on their judges and get being a judge out of demeaning business as usual politics. All it takes is the Board of Supervisors to give the People the right to vote on it at the next election. Write me for more details,

Make sure you vote on June 3rd, ajudgeship deserves your attention.

Kevin Ready
Candidate for Superior Court Judge

5/21/2008 12:06 AM  
Anonymous democracy said...

Kevin, how does requiring every judge to campaign every six years take them out of politics? I have seen judges get into the demeaning competition of who can be harsher and less sympathetic to criminal defendants, and who could honestly resist the blandishments of the wealthy class of businesses in a county if members of that class were generous donors during a campaign? (Or for that matter, if the local newspaper or media endorsed [or did not endorse] the judge and then appeared in his/her court?) Should the Supreme Court justices have been subject to recall in 1986 because of their (at least in some cases incorrectly) perceived unwillingness to enforce the death penalty? There are dangers in judges having no political accountability, but most of those can be resolved through a careful appellate system. Having judges "accountable" to the public makes them look over their shoulders, and worry about second-guessing results that, in a difficult case, might be correct but unpopular.

5/21/2008 6:23 AM  
Anonymous Visual Blight said...

The campaign signs by Kevin Ready are not big enough, so that is I will vote for the other guy.

5/21/2008 2:07 PM  
Anonymous democracy said...

visual blight, you've made my point. Thanks.

5/21/2008 9:53 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

I had to deny a comment for not using a Name/User ID -- please remember. Simply check the note at the bottom of each post for directions.

5/29/2008 5:56 AM  

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