7 attorneys vying for 3 judgeships at San Diego Superior Court

Six attorneys are vying for two San Diego County judicial seats in next month’s primary election, while a current Superior Court commissioner is running unopposed for a third seat.

An assistant attorney general, an assistant public defender and an assistant U.S. attorney are reporting to San Diego County Superior Court Judge’s Office No. 35 to replace Judge Jinsook Ohta, who was confirmed in December as judge of district in the United States.

An assistant district attorney, a commissioner of the Superior Court, and a trial attorney in private practice report to office #36 to replace outgoing judge Joseph Brannigan.

California state court judges are elected in countywide votes and serve six-year terms with no limit on the number of times they can seek re-election. Judges’ names do not appear on the ballot if they are running for re-election unopposed.

If a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the primary election on June 7, he wins outright and does not stand for re-election in November. Judging contests are unique in this sense – in all other races, the top two voters advance to the general election.

The following is a brief overview of each race, with the contestants listed alphabetically by last name.

Office no. 32

Pennie McLaughlina San Diego Superior Court Commissioner, is the only candidate on the ballot to replace outgoing Judge Tamila Ipema, and the only candidate the the local bar association gave it its highest rating of “exceptionally qualified”. This means that the organization believes that it “possesses exceptional professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and/or temperament to perform the judicial function”.

McLaughlin is one of 19 county commissioners, who are attorneys chosen by court judges and empowered to hear and make decisions in certain family and juvenile court matters, as well as criminal, circulation, small claims and unlawful possession. She has been a curator since 2004.

McLaughlin did not respond to a request for comment through her campaign website, but according to the site’s information, she is a graduate of Boston University School of Law. After graduating, she worked 13 years in the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, then four years as an assistant U.S. Attorney before assuming her role as commissioner.

Office no. 35

Michael J. Flemming is running for Judge of the Superior Court, Office 35


Michael Flemming39, of Vista, is an assistant public defender for San Diego County.

Flemming said his top three priorities, if elected, are protecting public safety, justice reform and access to justice. “We need to move from being ‘tough on crime’ to being ‘smart on crime,'” Flemming told the Union-Tribune in an email, adding that being ‘tough on crime’ does not does not work.

Flemming advocates the use of collaborative courts, or diversion courts, to “supervise and rehabilitate” nonviolent offenders with the goal of reducing recidivism. He is also in favor of encouraging San Diego County to continue using virtual court appearances. “It would help reduce our huge backlog and allow access to justice for a greater number of litigants by eliminating travel costs and missing work.”

The county bar association called Flemming “well qualified,” his second highest rating.

Faculty of Law: Thomas Jefferson, 2008
Legal Practice: Lawyer in the offices of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Barbara Boxer, 2008; civilian labor and employment counsel for the United States Marine Corps Commandant’s Counsel, West Area, from 2009 to 2013; San Diego County Deputy Public Defender, 2014–present.

Rebecca Kanter

Rebecca Kanter

(courtesy photo)

Rebecca Kanter44, of Pacific Beach, is an assistant US attorney.

“The justice system impacts real people in our community, whether they are defendants charged with a crime, victims, families going through a divorce, or someone in a mental health crisis” , Kanter wrote in an email to the Union-Tribune. “As a longtime federal prosecutor and active community volunteer, I have demonstrated not only my commitment to community safety and justice, but also to the betterment of society by shaping a more just, equitable and sustainable future.

The county bar association called Kanter “well qualified,” its second highest rating.

Faculty of Law: UCLA, 2003
Legal Practice: Clerk of the United States District Court in the Central District of California, 2003-2004; partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLC, 2004 to 2006; adjunct professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, 2016-2021; Assistant United States Attorney, 2006 to present.

Mike Murphy is running for Judge of the Superior Court, Suite 35.

Mike Murphy is running for Judge of the Superior Court, Suite 35.


mike murphy52, from Bonita, is an assistant attorney general.

Murphy has worked as a prosecutor for the California Department of Justice since 1996 and touts his experience, integrity and fairness.

“I have prosecuted violent criminals in superior court and defended convictions in the California Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court,” wrote Murphy, who did not respond to emails from the Union-Tribune. , on his campaign website. “My experience managing cases at all levels of the California courts has given me the knowledge and skills necessary to be an effective superior court judge.”

The county bar association called Murphy “qualified,” its third-highest rating.

Law School: University of San Diego, 1995
Legal Practice: Assistant Attorney General of California, 1996 to present.

Office no. 36

Chris Lawson is a candidate for judge of the Superior Court, office 36.

Chris Lawson is a candidate for judge of the Superior Court, office 36.


Chris Lawson, 42, of Del Cerro, is an assistant district attorney. After graduating from law school, he volunteered for the California Innocence Project, helping to free a wrongfully convicted man who served 20 years in prison. As county prosecutor, he said he conducted 70 jury trials to verdicts and led gang prosecution units in San Diego and East County. As an adjunct professor at his alma mater, he teaches two essay-based courses.

“As an assistant district attorney who previously volunteered for the California Innocence Project, I understand how complicated our criminal justice system can be,” Lawson wrote in an email to the Union-Tribune. . “If elected as a judge, my promise to the public is to seek truth, justice and fairness in every case I hear.”

The county bar association called Lawson “qualified,” his third-highest rating.

Law School: California Western, 2005.
Legal Practice: Volunteer with the California Innocence Project, 2005-2006; Assistant District Attorney, 2006 to present.

Peter Murray, 2020 San Diego Superior Court Judicial Nominee, Office No. 30.

Peter Murray, 2020 San Diego Superior Court Judicial Nominee, Office No. 30.

Peter Murray, of Poway, is lead trial counsel at Cage & Miles, LLP. Murray has held various positions in private and public practice, including more than a decade in the San Diego County Attorney’s Office and the State Attorney General’s Office. Murray is also a former naval aviator.

“As the highest rated and only ‘well qualified’ candidate in this race as assessed by the San Diego County Bar (association), and with the support of a wide range of magistrates, bar associations and law enforcement, I stand ready to bring my unparalleled depth and experience to the enormous backlog of cases before the San Diego Superior Court,” Murray wrote in an email to the Union-Tribune.

The county bar association rated him “well qualified”, its second highest rating.

Faculty of Law: Duke University, 1990
Legal practice: Partner at Sheppard Mullin, LLC, 1990 to 1992; assistant district attorney for San Diego County, 1992-2003; law offices of Peter F. Murray, from 2003 to 2011; California Assistant Attorney General, 2011 to 2022; lead trial counsel for Cage & Miles, LLP, February 2022 to present.

Peter Singer is running for Judge of the Superior Court, Office 36.

Peter Singer is running for Judge of the Superior Court, Office 36.

Peter Singer, of Scripps Ranch, is a commissioner in the Superior Court of San Diego.

“I am the only candidate in my race already on the San Diego Superior Court bench,” Singer wrote in an email to the Union-Tribune, referring to his role as commissioner. He added that he previously operated a private practice for 28 years, during which time he also served over 22 years as temporary judge — a court-appointed attorney to hear small claims, traffic, probate, and other types of cases.

“I serve as president of the California Court Commissioners Association and instruct new judges as a faculty member at BE Witkin California Judicial College,” Singer said, adding that he has lived in San Diego for 40 years.

The county bar association listed him as “qualified”, its third highest rating.

Law School: Western State, 1986
Legal practice: private practice focused on civil law, 1987 to 2015; Commissioner of the Superior Court of San Diego, 2015 to present.

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