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Orange County’s judicial circus has abruptly expanded to five, count ‘em, five rings under the big top. You can already hear the calliope music playing. Let’s do the countdown:
Retiring Judge Gail Andler’s seat #3 opened with three candidates: Andler’s anointed choice Deputy District Attorney Scott Zidbeck, fellow Deputy District Attorney Megan Wagner (wife of termed-out Assemblyman Don Wagner) and trial attorney Frederick Fascenelli. Then the clowns came tumbling into the ring at the last minute with their horns and noisemakers: civil rights and criminal defense lawyer and former Los Angeles judicial candidate who lost Andrew Stein and attorney Wayne Phillips who ran against OC incumbent Judge Joanne Motoike in 2014 and also was a loser. At the time the buzz was Phillips chose Judge Motoike because she had a profoundly ethnic name. More on all of these candidates and their background soon.
A last-minute filing challenged incumbent judge Derek Hunt for his Seat #23. Judge Hunt was appointed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson in 1997. For most of that time he presided over civil litigation cases. His surprise opponent is litigation attorney Emily Wehbe-Sturgeon. She is a partner in the complex civil litigation and business firm Sturgeon & Wehbe LLC down in Laguna Niguel or parts south. I guess that means she’s a partner two ways.
Next is retiring Judge Steven Perk’s seat #40. Perk anointed Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin, a homicide prosecutor who is also a very visible spokesman for the OC’s public attorney union that represents defense lawyers as well as prosecutors. Trial attorney Frederick Fascenelli entered this race too, hedging his bet but word is this is the race he will stay in. The melodrama increased dramatically with the entrance of OC Board of Supervisors board member Shawn Nelson. He is a private business attorney, but has become either worshiped or reviled as a very visible politician.
What makes the race for seat #40 so interesting is the public enmity Yellin and Nelson have for each other. Nelson was Chairman of the OC Board of Supervisors when the union Yellin represents sued the county for bad faith in negotiating contracts with OC’s public lawyers. This race could get personal. Cue the high notes on that calliope.
Next is Deputy District Attorney Karen Schaztle’s challenge to sitting Judge Scott Steiner for Seat # 48. This race has all the makings of headline-making lurid scandals. Judge Steiner, married and the father of two children, was disciplined for unauthorized sexual romps in his government chambers with at least two women. The story went viral when investigators actually removed a chunk of carpet to test for Steiner’s semen DNA to corroborate the allegations. But this may not be the end of that story. Already some interesting details about Karen Schatzle’s personal reputation are beginning to surface in the courthouse hallways from attorneys and judges. More, much more on all this later.
Next is Seat #49 up for election by the retirement of Judge Elaine Streger. Senior homicide prosecutor Mike Murray staked his claim early, building his campaign into a formidable presence in Orange County. He is challenged by civil litigator Thomas E. Martin, who also ran for judge in 2014 and was a loser.
So altogether these races now include two incumbent judges, five Deputy District Attorneys, one general trial attorney, one complex civil litigation specialist, and three previous losers.
More on these races… but for now
Keep it on the QT!