Primary in 1 Week: Judicial Spending Record, 'Gang' Lawyers

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 28, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With one week left until the primaries, the race for Superior Court judgeships is getting expensive, and heated. In one race, a candidate is on the verge of setting a spending record. Despite the hundreds of thousands expended, however, the race is expected to be close.

Meanwhile, a prosecutor, a city attorney, and a defense attorney all enter a race for a judicial seat. What do they all have in common? They've all labeled themselves "gang" attorneys, a designation that all three argue is a bit of a stretch.

And The Record Is ...

Two years ago, now-Judge, then-Deputy District Attorney Sean Coen spent a record $450,000 on the primary race. This year? Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim is inching closer, with $415,000 spent as of May 17. Primary Day is Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

Will she capture the record? It seems likely at this point. According to the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, she's already raised more than $853,000, though much of that is personally funded or loans from herself and family, which can be repaid if not spent. Her opponent, fellow Deputy District Attorney Alison Matsumoto Estrada, has raised only $144,000, but has the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times.

If you're curious, the starting salary for a Superior Court judge is $181,292.

Gang of 'Gang' Attorneys

Three men. One spot on the bench. One adjective: "gang."

According to the News-Enterprise, the primary ballot is set to list:

  • Steven P. Schreiner, a "Gang Homicide Prosecutor"
  • Tom Griego, a "Criminal Gang Prosecutor"
  • Andrew M. Stein, a "Gang Homicide Attorney"

What are their real-life professions? Schreiner, who is calling out his opponents, is a Deputy District Attorney who actually prosecutes gang members, though Stein argues that Schreiner "tried one or two gang homicides in the previous [calendar year]. So it is very questionable that his ballot designation is accurate."

Griego is a Deputy City Attorney, who controversially used the designation in the 2010 election, and reportedly began to prosecute violations of civil gang injunctions after that election.

Stein is a criminal defense attorney. Schreiner called his designation "another blatant attempt to mislead the public into thinking he is a prosecutor" and noted that "beyond that, Mr. Stein has no demonstrable specialty in defending gang murderers."

Stein told the News-Enterprise that "[m]y position was, if Mr. Schreiner is going to call himself a 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor,' then I can call myself a 'Gang/Homicide Attorney' because I'm now on the opposite side of the table. And if he's a prosecutor, I'm the attorney.'"

The News-Enterprise has more on the candidates, their past controversies, and their not-so-subtle digs at each other.

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