Three Mammoth lawyers want the job as Superior Court Judge. Voters will choose in June. Tuesday night, the Mammot
Lakes Chamber of Commerce presented a forum of county candidates, including those in the race for judge – Therese Hankel, Mark Magit, and Randy Gephart.
Moderator Jack Copeland asked the three about a controversial court decision in a sex crime case in Mammoth. Although he wasn’t named, it was clear the case in question involved Ricardo Munoz, who pled to lewd conduct in public. Some Mammoth citizens felt the judge’s sentence was too light. A controversy followed. How do the candidates feel about judicial decisions?
Therese Hankel said a whole series of factors are involved – the District Attorney, the Defense, the protection of the public, the character of the defendant, the gravity of the offense. Hankel said a judge has to weigh all of these things, including a probation report and victims’ statements.
Mark Magit pointed to issues of punishment, deterrents, rehabilitation and restitution. Magit said the judiciary is independent of the the District Attorney, but he also said he never second guesses a judge. He said there are separations of powers and checks. “At every level is a safeguard,” said Magit. He said it takes courage to be a judge and to stand up to people who don’t have all of the facts.
Randy Gephart said the voters have to trust that a judicial candidate will exercise discretion in a fair way. Gephart disagreed with Hankel on the issue of endorsements. Copeland stopped him with a reminder it was not a debate. Gephart said that people who know him – school officials, Judge Denton – support his temperament to make decisions. “Ultimately,” said Gephart, “voters have to know candidates.” He apologized for breaking the ground rules.
All three candidates have handled jury trials, some appellate court appearances and have practiced as lawyers for more than 20 years.