The three candidates for Inyo County Superior Court Judge met to speak at the Owens River Democratic Club meeting Tuesday night at the Pizza Factory in Bishop.
Not scheduled as a debate, the format gave each candidate 20 minutes to tell the club about themselves and answer a few questions. Tom Hardy started off the evening by explaining that he has lived in the Owens Valley since he was a child, and returned to the area when he graduated from UCLA Law School. Hardy has worked in the Inyo DA’s office, but also as a contract public defender and in private practice. He volunteers with Mule Days, and Sunrise Rotary as well.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Johnson, a former general contractor turned lawyer, prosecuted cases for the state Attorney Generals Office and spent five years with a corporate law firm in San Francisco after graduating from Stanford Law School.
In this cordial event, Johnson came closer to laying out why he chose to run against sitting Judge Brian Lamb. He said that Lamb was elected to be the Juvenile Judge, but presiding Judge Dean Stout has taken over that role, leaving Judge Lamb to hear adult criminal cases. “We need changes in the adult criminal courts,” Johnson said.
Perhaps sensing the unspoken attack on his effectiveness as a judge, current superior court judge Brian Lamb explained that ensuring people get a fair hearing in court is a tough job, in a county where a judge can hear cases ranging from parking violations to the death penalty. One aspect of the job as judge that he didn’t anticipate when he took over in 2002, Lamb said, is the ability of people to get access to lawyers. A simple divorce can be astoundingly expensive, he said, a situation he found “heartbreaking.”
The event was more of a meet and greet session than a serious debate.