The five candidates for the Nevada County Superior Court judge seat being vacated by Judge Sean Dowling — Angela Bradrick, Anna Ferguson, Jeff Ingram, Jeffrey Lake and Robert Tice-Raskin — fielded questions on topics ranging from plea bargaining to the Americans for Disabilities Act at a forum hosted Thursday night by the Nevada County League of Women Voters.
Questions came both from the audience and from a media panel.
Some of the key answers:
On how to handle the revolving door for “frequent flyers,” especially in regard to the bail schedule:
Anna Ferguson: The bail schedule in our county is something I’ve addressed repeatedly — it’s up for review every January. Many bail amounts in this county, in my opinion, are too low. When I compare them to other counties, some of the bails are simply not adequate to protect the public. The other issue is that we have limited resources and bed space. Most people who used to go to state prison are not eligible to go there any more. It’s frustrating to see the same criminals in and out of custody. But unfortunately, there’s no quick fix or easy solution.
Jeff Ingram: The solution is really one that needs to be determined by you, the voters, and the legislators. There are not enough prisons to hold all the prisoners. Society needs to address the problem.
Robert Tice-Raskin: The purpose of bail is simply this: Trying to come up with conditions to reasonably assure a defendant will make their court appearances. The bail schedule is enacted by a majority of the judges. I would follow the bail schedule the other judges and I have agreed is appropriate for the crimes, but I wouldn’t do that automatically. A defendant who is a flight risk or safety risk needs to be brought to attention of court.
Jeff Ingram: This is a broad question we could debate for hours. The issue here is public safety. When the schedule is set, there’s no discretion for the judge ... Where there is discretion, the judge needs to look at all factors. There is the issue of budget; we don’t have enough jail space, so we have to make a choice with every single case.
Angela Bradrick: With frequent flyers, or repeat offenders, there are two ways to try to get a handle on this. One is early intervention with the alternative courts, so you can resolve the problem at an early stage. We need to get to source of problem. We can also bundle cases.
On whether any candidate is financially supported by any political action committee or partisan organization:
Ingram: No. I am 100 percent financing this campaign and I intend to keep it that way, at least through the primary,
Tice-Raskin: No. This is a nonpartisan position and I am a nonpartisan candidate.
Lake: No. I have not accepted any PAC money or any endorsement from any pol organization. This is not a political race, it’s a judicial race.
Bradrick: No. My contributions have come from my family, my friends, attorneys and judges ... I wouldn’t want any potential conflict of interest.
Ferguson: I took the judicial ethics course and learned it’s not inappropriate to maintain your political views.
I did accept one PAC donation, from an organization whose beliefs are consistent with my own, which is a small portion of my campaign donations. I have not accepted any confidential donations.
On whether medical marijuana should be adjudicated according to state law or federal law:
Ferguson: If I’m seated (as a judge), it doesn’t matter what my personal viewpoints are. I have to follow the law. But it’s super-hard to tell if marijuana is legal or not; judges need a brighter line to follow.
I think Sheriff Royal’s concerns about limiting growth (of medical marijuana) are important to consider. It’s a difficult balancing act.
Ingram: I would follow the law — but which law do you follow?
Tice-Raskin: It’s presently a crime to possess or use or distribute marijuana unless it’s being used under the medical marijuana law. I would follow the law as written.
Lake: I may know more about medical marijuana law than anyone in the state and I’m perfectly happy to talk about it.
Lake distinguished between local, state and federal laws, noting they are apples and oranges. You can’t allow the state courts to adjudicate based on federal law.
Bradrick: I can’t make statements about cases that might come before court — but I am very familiar with the medical marijuana law.
On what can be done to lower the number of people in prison:
Tice-Raskin: This is something that has to be decided by legislation or he higher court. It’s not my job as judge to engage in policy-making. We do have problem-solving courts.
Lake: A judge has discretion when it comes to sentencing. It comes back to public safety. There are diversion programs, probation. The people who belong in prison are the ones who are dangerous.
Bradrick: There are two ways to try to fix the problem; alternative courts is one — programs to help line up appropriate social services or rehab so as to avoid jail or prison time. The second thing is simply education.
Ferguson: We cant solve all societal issues. The legislature has intervened — we now only send very violent criminals or recidivists to prison, so the problem has been somewhat mitigated.
Program space is limited, though. There is not enough room for everyone who needs it — and frankly, some people are not ready.
We can’t save every single person who is not ready for Treatment. Some people still need community service or jail.
Ingram: That’s a question we should ask ourselves every single day. Nevada County leads the state in (diversion) programs. The success rate is very high.
The quintet vying for votes in the June primary also touted their qualifications, their experience, and about what prompted them to toss their hats into a crowded field.
Bradrick told the audience she was the first in her family to go to college, and said she had dreamed of being a judge since she was 10 years old. She added that she has focused almost her entire career on working with judges.
Ferguson said she would bring “balanced experience” to the bench and said she was ready to hit the ground running. She added that she has fulfilled her life career goals at this point and wants a new direction and a new challenge.
Ingram referenced Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” saying he feels he has become that type of attorney.
He said his passions are community service and the law, and that becoming a judge is a logical progression for him.
Tice-Raskin told the audience that his dream at the beginning of his career was to serve the community as faithfully and wisely as the judges he worked for. He pledged to “be a gentleman to all” and to listen with an open mind and an open heart.
Lake said after having been in so many courtrooms over years, it drives him crazy when people are not treated fairly.
He said he wanted those who were in his court to feel like they were going to get a fair shake and get the justice they deserve.
Lake acknowledged that all five candidates were very qualified, and predicted that ultimately it will come down to personality on June 3.
“Who (are you going to) feel most comfortable being in front of?” he asked.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.