The Bar Association of San Francisco held the first candidate forum Thursday in the S.F. Superior Court judge race. Our sister publication Cal Law today brings you a news account of the event. Meanwhile, here are Legal Pad's random and purely subjective observations:
Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval must be the only politician in the United States who can do an hour-long campaign event without cracking a single smile. Facially, Sandoval seems to be in a perpetual slow burn. But his delivery is smooth and steady: When briefly interrupted by the panel moderator, Sandoval stops, listens, then replays his last few words before continuing with his thought. It's like human TiVo -- and probably a good skill to have if he does wind up presiding over a noisy courtroom some day.
Conversely, Judge Thomas Mellon -- the guy with the reputation as a judicial ogre -- is relaxed, avuncular and smiling constantly. Either his reputation is undeserved or he knows how to put on a campaign face. Judge Mellon says the word "experience" at least 10 times during the hour. A big part of his platform seems to be that because he's the only candidate who's been a judge, he's the most qualified to be a judge.
Asked to name judicial role models, Mellon, Sandoval and challenger Mary Mallen tick off a total of at least six without naming a single current member of the S.F. Superior Court bench.
Mellon was inspired by Earl Warren, whom he met as a boy; James Warren, the recently retired superior court judge who was Earl's grandson; and Albert Wollenberg, for whom Mellon clerked. Sandoval also names Earl Warren, because (among other he things) he showed that a politician can become an effective jurist. Mallen invokes her father, former S.F. Superior Court Judge William Mallen; James Madison; William Brennan; and, needless to say, Earl Warren.
"Demeanor" is invoked repeatedly throughout the forum. The word "diversity" is not mentioned until closing statements -- surprising given that it's a substantial part of Sandoval's platform.
The biggest surprise, though: The forum is scheduled to run two hours, but ends in less than one. ("We're already done?" says Mallen when told it's time for closings.) Credit each candidate for being economical with words, and moderator Fredric White -- the outgoing dean of Golden Gate University School of Law -- for being a strong presence as a moderator.
— Scott Graham