A day after Fresno politico Chuck Poochigian was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, the blogosphere heated up with chatter that judicial evaluators had slapped the Republican with a “not qualified” label.
The Web site Calitics picked up on an Aug. 17 column by Metropolitan News editor in chief Roger Grace that stated flat out that the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, or JNE, had given Poochigian its lowest rating of “not qualified.” The column didn’t source the allegation.
JNE is supposed to keep its evaluation of would-be appellate justices under wraps until the Commission on Judicial Appointments meets to consider the nomination. (That meeting hasn’t been scheduled yet). There is one exception to that rule: The commission does give a heads up to candidates who receive the dreaded “not qualified” label.
Grace reports that when asked about the poor review, Poochigian said only that he had to “respect the confidentiality of the process.”
We spoke with the ex-senator and 2006 GOP attorney general candidate on Thursday evening, and he didn’t want to talk much about his nomination, saying only that he was “so looking forward” to serving on the bench and having the chance to really study legal issues presented to the court.
Poochigian served 12 years in the Legislature and before that worked for Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. He’s a policy wonk who worked in private legal practice for several years but never served as a trial court judge, a fact that could have hurt him in JNE’s eyes.
One thing’s for sure: The Commission on Judicial Appointments hearing should be interesting, and not just because Poochigian’s victorious opponent in the 2006 AG race, Jerry Brown, will serve on the panel.
— Cheryl Miller
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