March 2, 2024 Your Source for Brentwood News

Dirty Campaigning: Not Welcome in CD11

I know I said a while back I wouldn’t comment on the Traci Park/Erin Darling race. But once again, we’ve hit a new low, and residents of CD11 deserve to be informed. Some who know better are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s impossible to not say anything. 

I’m not a lawyer – thank goodness – but I happen to know lots of lawyers. I have come to learn, there are many aspects of lawyering many don’t understand. Though I’ve learned a lot from my lawyer friends, there are still many things about the legal profession I don’t understand.

One of these sometimes-misunderstood items is a person’s right to a defense. 

If someone is completely despicable – Charlie Manson comes to mind – why should we waste time and money finding the guy a lawyer, paid for by the taxpayers? 

Why not just fry the guy or lock him up forever, avoiding the predictable and expensive circus?

Our system – embodied by our Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution – doesn’t work that way, that’s why. 

The right to an attorney is considered one of our most sacred rights. It’s right there in the Bill of Rights, the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. 

We hear it all the time on television: When the cops arrest someone, one of the first things they say to the person being arrested is that he or she has the right to an attorney.

In a court proceeding, plaintiffs and prosecutors make their charges or file their complaints. Defendants get to defend themselves. Judges try and keep it all fair. Impartial juries (in a jury trial) decide. 

If only the prosecutors and plaintiffs had representation, and the defendant did not, the prosecutors and plaintiffs would win nearly every case. Our system is complex; if you are on the receiving end of a criminal charge or civil complaint, you’d be wise to hire an attorney – or take the one the court is willing to assign to you, for free.

One of the reasons this right is so sacred is that poor people – often people of color – can’t afford an attorney. Many think our judicial system is prejudiced against the poor and people of color, so if these individuals couldn’t get a free attorney, they’d really be in trouble.

Our legal system is messy, time-consuming and expensive. Surely there are ways to streamline all this. But the way the system works, everyone is entitled to a lawyer. Nobody in the legal system questions this. It’s built into their code of ethics. Lawyers take the cases that are assigned to them – whether by the courts, the D.A., the public defender’s office or by the private law firm they work for. You don’t always get to represent the good guys; you take the good with the bad. 

Ask any lawyer, and almost every one of them will tell you they had to represent an unsavory character now and then. Some – especially public defenders — do it all the time. But the right to an attorney is as sacred to our system as freedom of speech – or the right to vote. 

Some would like to overturn all these rights, to be sure – but then we’d be living in a dictatorship, not a democracy. Too often, prosecutors and plaintiffs file bad cases. Or the defendants are proven innocent – sometimes after years unjustly spent in jail. The “right to an attorney” has been a life-saver – literally – for many falsely charged. 

So I found it very disturbing when I got a mailer at home from the Erin Darling people implying Traci Park is a racist because her law firm’s client, the City of Anaheim, represented one particular employee. This employee, white, was accused of using the N-word in front of a Black employee. The Black employee, not surprisingly, filed a complaint. 

As awful as that sounds, isn’t the white guy entitled to a defense? Maybe he had a different view of events. Maybe the City of Anaheim wanted to come up with a settlement all could live with. Or maybe the guy was guilty as hell. But he still deserved a defense, right? That’s how our system works.  

Traci Park was assigned, by her law firm (which specializes in municipal law), to represent the City of Anaheim in this matter. She did what attorneys in law firms are expected to do: She took the case. The City of Anaheim was her client, so of course she took the case. 

Does it make her a racist because she defended someone who used the N-word? 

Of course not. She was doing her job, following standard protocol. 

Being branded as a racist in today’s touchy climate is about the worst thing that can happen to someone – especially someone running for office – and especially if the charge is completely false. 

What is the proof behind this incendiary charge Erin Darling has made? That Traci Park defended her client? 

That this “racist” complaint came from Erin Darling – also an attorney, a public defender – was particularly odd. 

Didn’t he anticipate Traci Park would immediately counter by pointing out Erin Darling had represented rapists, drug-dealers, human traffickers, pedophiles and violent gang members? 

If he represents such clients, does that mean he is sympathetic to these people – or that he thinks they are all innocent? No, that doesn’t necessarily follow. He was just doing his job. His clients – like Traci Park’s – are also entitled to a defense. 

Just about every job has its nasty side. Doctors sew up the bleeding patient, even if that person is a criminal. Those who work in retail stores or restaurants have to endure the occasionally rude customer; the janitor who takes out the garbage has to deal with nastier-than-usual messes once in a while. Every so often, newspaper reporters have to listen to people they know aren’t telling the full truth, hoping they can spin a particular situation to their advantage. 

We don’t always like our jobs. But we still do our jobs. That’s our responsibility. That’s why we call it work. 

Here’s where my lawyer friends jump in, livid.

Erin Darling is an attorney – a public defender. So, according to my attorney friends, he knows – better than most – that people are entitled to a defense. 

So does Mike Bonin, who is also promoting this “Traci Park is a racist” smear tactic. 

If Erin Darling is saying the guy who used the N-word isn’t entitled to a defense — and that lawyers should not represent people with whom they disagree – then what about all his clients? Does anyone else smell a boatload of hypocrisy here?

I think it’s fair to assess how a candidate will govern, once elected, by his or her behavior while on the campaign trail. This campaign isn’t over. I hope, in the remaining days of this campaign, Erin Darling and Mike Bonin will stop all this “Traci Park is a racist” nonsense and find it within themselves to apologize to Traci Park and the rest of CD11.

in Opinion
Related Posts

If You Have a Loved One Experiencing Severe Mental Illness, We Can Help

February 15, 2024

February 15, 2024

By Lisa H. Wong, Psy. D Many families across Los Angeles County know what it’s like to watch a loved...

Brentwood Beat: Mike Feuer vs. Nick Melvoin: a Really Tough Choice

February 15, 2024

February 15, 2024

By Jeff Hall As we enter the political season, many in Brentwood will have their eyes on both Mike Feuer...

Brentwood Beat: From Brentwood News to OUR NATIONAL CONVERSATION

November 16, 2023

November 16, 2023

Back in 1991, when I started the Brentwood News, I wrote that Brentwood’s new community newspaper would remain politically neutral...

A Hopeful Future

May 25, 2023

May 25, 2023

A Hopeful Future I attended two events this last month that made me feel better about the state of the...

New Program Can Help Protect Southern California Homes in the Event of an Earthquake

May 13, 2023

May 13, 2023

Residents Have Until May 31 To Apply For Seismic Retrofit Grants By Janiele Maffei, Chief Mitigation Officer for the California...

Column: Tired OF Declinists? Some Enduring New California Positives

April 18, 2023

April 18, 2023

By Thomas D. Elias California has taken a beating lately, with (mostly Republican) governors of other states blasting many aspects...

Brentwood Beat: New Leadership – and an Old Question

March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023

I attended the recent Brentwood Homeowners Association annual meeting. Like all BHA meetings, this one didn’t disappoint. One reason for...

Column: SB 9 Ended R-1 Zoning, but It’s Not Meeting Goals

March 11, 2023

March 11, 2023

By Tom Elias More than a year after it took effect, the landmark housing density law known as SB 9...

Column: The Inevitable Conversions Begin Multiplying

February 25, 2023

February 25, 2023

By Tom Elias It’s a phenomenon from New York to Dallas to Fresno and Los Angeles, one that seemed inevitable...

Brentwood Beat – Westside Urban Forum: Small Can Be Good

February 24, 2023

February 24, 2023

I was invited by fellow Brentwood resident Josh Stephens to moderate a recent panel conversation conducted by the Westside Urban...

Column: The Fantasy World of California Housing Policy

February 20, 2023

February 20, 2023

By Tom Elias If you’re looking for sure things among bills under consideration in the state Legislature, think of one...

Column: State Usurping Key Powers From Cities

January 28, 2023

January 28, 2023

By Tom Elias All over California last fall, hundreds of the civic minded spent thousands of hours and millions of...

Column – A California Positive: Kids Swarm Extra Classes

January 24, 2023

January 24, 2023

By Tom Elias It’s become a cliché, the shibboleth that California has lousy public schools and most of the kids...

BrentwoodMeet: What a Great Idea!

December 23, 2022

December 23, 2022

I started seeing signs pop up around Brentwood about an upcoming gathering of something called “BrentwoodMeet” (see BrentwoodMeet.com).   It sounded...

​​Column: No One Very Pleased as New Rooftop Solar Rules Improve

December 9, 2022

December 9, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Only rarely does the California Public Utilities Commission, long known as the least responsive agency in...