By Alisa Roberts
Office 61 is one of the LA County Superior Court Judge seats being fought over in the upcoming elections. Three candidates are running for election: B. Otis Felder, Dayan Mathai, and Jacqueline H. Lewis.
All three candidates have long careers in law, but they vary widely in their specialties.
*Lewis has focused on domestic violence, working for the Department of Children and Family Services and serving for the past 17 years as first a Juvenile Court Referee then a Superior Court Commissioner.
*Mathai’s focus has been prosecution. He is a Deputy District Attorney who has spent his career prosecuting difficult cases, including more than six years in the Hardcore Gangs Division.
*Felder spent 20 years focused on civil litigation while practicing maritime law, but has also worked as a prosecutor and spent years volunteering as a temporary judge.
Each of the candidates hopes to make an impact on the court system.
*Felder wants to make sure that everyone has equal opportunity to seek justice, something he is already working on by volunteering on the Los Angeles Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee. He also wants to ease the overburdened court system. “In the small claims area, I think we can help access to justice by encouraging people to explore arbitration before coming to small claims,” he says. “Right now we have mediation. But if we had a process of arbitration, like a beis din, it would help cut down on the workload.”
*Mathai is concerned with these same issues, but he sees the solution more in terms of efficiency. “Our courts are congested, and that really takes away from access to the courts by all people in our community,” he explained. “I think the number one thing I want to bring to the bench is the ability to handle a very busy courtroom.” Lewis is also focused on allowing everyone the opportunity to be heard in court, with a special emphasis on children and families.
Their motivations for seeking this seat also differ, but the common denominator is public service. “When I decided to be a lawyer I wanted to be helpful to the community in which I lived,” says Mathai. “[As a DDA] I get to argue cases in front of juries, but also work closely with law enforcement and help the community be safe.” Mathai, who is currently trying a capital murder case, has nothing but positive things to say about his experience in the DA’s office. He feels that the experience of working with many judges in a variety of cases has prepared him to best handle a courtroom.
Felder credits his high school founder, Holocaust survivor George Roeper, with some of his motivation for public service. “Roeper actually wrote in my yearbook, ‘Make the world safe for peace.’ I always had the idea that one day I would be able to do public service work, and meet George’s challenge to make this world safer. I’m pursuing that now as a candidate for judge.” He feels his wide experience, including resolving disputes in civil litigation, being a prosecutor, and volunteering as a temporary judge, makes him an ideal candidate. “I want to give back. Ultimately what we’re here for and what gives us joy is being able to help other people.”
To find out more about the candidates, you can visit http://www.smartvoter.org/2014/06/03/ca/la/race/13/