Thursday, April 5, 2012

Carpetbagger judge?

A story in the Sacramento Bee this week reported that two men are challenging El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Warren Stracener in his bid for re-election. A couple of angles on the story attracted my attention. The first is the rural vs. urban angle. That is, Stracener was appointed to the judgeship by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, and that apparently leaves him with an urban "taint" of sorts. The story states that Stracener, who previously worked for the Department of Personnel Administration, had a role in the "furlough fights under Schwarzenegger," implying that the judgeship was a politcal favor of sorts. Stracener believes that this has "marked him as something of an outsider."

People assume that because you're appointed by someone from Sacramento, you must be in lock step with those values.

Stracener does not specify what values are Sacramento values and what values might be representative of neighboring El Dorado County. He does say, however, that he's "a true conservative and has lived in the county since 1996." (Photo above is of a campaign sign for an El Dorado County Commissioner spot, with the candidate also claiming what might be called the "rural high ground." Again, the "rural values" go unenumerated.)

Later, the story features comments from the two candidates opposing Stracener, Joseph Hoffman and Stephen Valentine.

Hoffman cites the problem of inconsistent rulings from the bench, which diminish the efficiency with which the court operates because attorneys don't know what to expect.

Valentine, who has been a solo practitioner in Cameron Park since 1995, says he has handled a variety of cases, in addition to having served as a Commissioner, "a kind of court arbiter lower than a judge." Valentine is quoted:
I think a judge needs to be well rounded in all areas of the law in a rural county.
Maybe so, but El Dorado County is arguably not rural. It's part of the Sacramento MSA and boasts a population of 181,058, and a population density of 106/square mile.

I suppose alternative titles for this post might have been "Trying to out-rural one another" or "The rural generalist."

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