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Battle for a Judgeship: Looks Like We’ve Got a Race for OC Superior Court

Posted by Chris Nguyen on February 14, 2012

Judge Deborah Chuang and Challenger Eugene JizhakJudicial elections are usually quiet affairs, particularly when it’s an incumbent judge running for re-election.  With only a few exceptions (like the 1986 Supreme Court retention election, the re-election bid of child porn-collecting OC Judge Ronald Kline in 2002, or the re-election bid of San Bernardino County Judge Robert Lemkau who was targeted by KFI’s John & Ken for his role in a ruling that failed to prevent the death of a child), these usually get little attention.  Indeed, rarely are sitting judges challenged, and in recent memory, only Kline in 2002 and Judge John Nho Trong Nguyen in 2008 have been challenged for seats on the OC Superior Court.

In 2002, a write-in campaign by John Adams put him in first place ahead of Kline, Gay Sandoval, and various other attorneys.  The run-off was to be between Adams and Kline, but Kline saw the writing on the wall and withdrew from the run-off, which then pitted the eventually victorious Adams and Sandoval against each other.  In 2007, Kline was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison over the child porgnography.

In 2008, Judge John Nho Trong Nguyen was inexplicably challenged by Timothy Sy Nguyen in a race that Frank Mickadeit at the OC Register dubbed “The Other Nguyen vs. Nguyen” (it was on the ballot at the same time as the supervisorial race between Supervisor Janet Nguyen and Garden Grove Councilwoman Dina Nguyen).  It seemed Tim Nguyen felt Judge Nguyen had discriminated against him because of their common ethnicity, yet Mickadeit found no other Vietnamese-American lawyer who agreed with Tim Nguyen.  Judge Nguyen, endorsed by numerous politicians from both major parties and virtually every judge known to man, went on to stomp Tim Nguyen with an astounding 80.5% of the vote.  (For the record, I am not related to any of the four Nguyens in this blog post.  Nguyen is an exceedingly common last name, encompassing 36% of Vietnamese people.)

This year, Judge Deborah Chuang is being challenged by attorney Eugene Jizhak.  Jizhak is an Irvine attorney who graduated from UCLA for his undergrad and some place called the Newport School of Law, which appears to be defunct.  Judge Chuang graduated from Duke for her undergrad and the UC Berkeley School of Law, was hired as a Deputy Attorney General in 1997 when Dan Lungren was Attorney General and continued there under Attorneys General Bill Lockyer and Jerry Brown until her appointment to the bench in 2009 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As a sitting judge, Chuang’s bar records are not disclosed, per the State Constitution, though her official biography indicates she was admitted to the bar in 1995.  Jizhak’s bar records indicate he was admitted to the bar in 1994 and has been a member in good standing continuously since then, though he did voluntarily go inactive for 3.5 years between December 2003 and June 2007 (that just means he wasn’t practicing law during that period and wanted to pay lower dues; Jerry Brown did the same thing during his first term as Mayor of Oakland).

The disparity between the incumbent Chuang and novice Jizhak is telling.  Jizhak hasn’t formed a campaign committee (which is easy to do: just fill out this short form), and his web site is an embarassingly short one-pager at http://sites.google.com (it’s neither hard nor expensive to buy your own domain name, like jizhak.com: they’re $9.99/year here [on sale for $8.99 for new customers] and $12.99/year here [on sale for $9.99 this month]).  Chuang has already formed the committee (ID# 1343919), has a complete campaign web site, hired eminent campaign treasurer Lysa Ray, has numerous endorsements, and already held a fundraiser.

Judge Chuang’s bevy of endorsements ranges from Republican politicians like Senator Mimi Walters, Assemblyman Don Wagner, Supervisors Bill Campbell and Shawn Nelson, DA Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, and Irvine Councilman Steven Choi to Democrats like Senator Lou Correa, former Senator Joe Dunn, Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, and major donor Wylie Aitken.  She is endorsed by numerous judges, including a number of appointees of governors from both sides of the aisle, Federal Judge Josephine Tucker (who was appointed by  President Obama), and Superior Court Judge Jim Rogan (who you’ll recall is a Republican former Congressman who was one of the House Managers in the impeachment of Bill Clinton and who George W. Bush attempted to appoint to the federal bench but got spiked by Barbara Boxer).

Held at the home of former Senator Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), Chuang’s January 25th fundraiser weirdly had on the invitation the headline: “‘SOLIDARITY’ is back.” The host committee included Dunn, former Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman, DA Rackauckas, Sheriff Hutchens, Aitken, Frank Barbaro, and Ben De Mayo, among others.  Oddly, two labor unions, the Orange County Professional Firefighters and the Orange County Employees Association, were also listed as members of the host committee.

2010’s Judge Deborah Chuang v. Eugene Jizhak looks like it’ll be another stomping reminscient of 2008’s Judge John Nguyen v. Tim Nguyen.

9 Responses to “Battle for a Judgeship: Looks Like We’ve Got a Race for OC Superior Court”

  1. Lisa said

    It seems from my web search that EugeneJizhak is the better candidate. He is not simply an appointed judge by default but rather a real attorney with no fundraising by special interest groups as compared to his challenger
    He should win the race by popular vote

    • Allan said

      If there are enough ignorant people like you who can’t even appreciate the fact that to get appointed as a judge, you have to be more than just an attorney but an attorney respected by other attorneys, then perhaps Jizhak will prevail.

  2. Lester said

    Why would you need a campaign to run as a judge? Judges do not have platforms and are not partisan to political parties.
    My vote is for Eugene Jizhak a working attorney, and not the lady who was simply appointed by a governor
    Let’s see how this one rolls

    • Allan said

      Lester, to become appointed by the governor as a judge, you need to be an attorney who has practiced law for ten years or more AND be well respected in the legal community. To get elected as a judge as Jizhak is trying to do, you don’t even need to graduate from an existing law school. You just need enough money to advertise and enough ignorant voters like you to vote for you.

  3. [...] http://ocpolitical.com/2012/02/14/battle-for-a-judgeship-looks-like-weve-got-… Share this:StumbleUponEmailLinkedInPrintDiggFacebookRedditTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  4. Stephen Penn said

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/candidates-351403-different-voter.html?appSession=80494562638825&RecordID=121&PageID=3&PrevPageID=2&cpipage=1&CPIsortType=&CPIorderBy=&cbCurrentRecordPosition=2

    Jizhak has answered a few questions regarding his campain

  5. [...] of our readers last week mentioned that I never made any prediction in the race for Orange County Judge between Eugene Jizhak and Deborah Chuang. Better late than [...]

  6. Bruce Spallino said

    Somehow I cannot get past the fact that neither the incumbent, nor the challenger has provided us with personal party preferences. This is similar to the Republicans who refuse to identify which party they represent when they send flyers to our homes. Last election I received bogus flyers that were inaccurate and designed by republicans to reduce the opposition to their endorsed candidates. For this reason I cannot, at this date, select whom to endorse. Pride in a party is an important factor in determining political views. I see none from either candidate to help me decide. Are Republicans ashamed to fly their own colors? Or is it subterfuge?

    • The reason they have not provided party affiliations or preferences on their official websites would be that these are “nonpartisan” offices, and providing them would be illegal. Generally you can distinguish by party based on endorsements, but in this case Chuang is endorsed by leading lights in both parties, and Jizhak is endorsed by his friends and clients who don’t cite or imply their affiliations. Often their statements rhetoric contains keywords or dog whistles that give it away: they seem similar in political outlook although there isn’t much to go on from Chuang on this.

      For me the first criteria is rating by a pertinent bar association. The OC Register shows Chuang rated Well Qualfied by the OCBA, and Jizhak NOT QUALIFIED, which is a big red flag. Worse, Jizhak states he is “well qualified” without saying who is rating him other than “peers and community leaders”, which apparently means his friends. This statement on his web site is deceptive and misleading, and to me should be disqualifying.

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