STANTON, Calif.—The City of Stanton provided a rare glimpse of judicial candidates running for nine open Orange County Superior Court seats on April 22, in front of an audience of about 50.
The forum moderated by Stanton Mayor David Shawver featured 14 candidates, including prosecutors, trial attorneys, and other lawyers, who shared their qualifications, experience, and political leanings.
“I think it's important that we have [the candidates] here because usually, people don't know anything about a judge and they don't know who they are or what they really represent,” Shawver said.
Candidates were given four minutes to introduce themselves and explain why they are running. Shawver then queried them on their legal views, and the candidates then answered questions from the audience.
During the three-hour event, which was held at the Northwest Orange County Republican Headquarters, the candidates agreed often, despite their various political parties: Republican, Democratic, and no party preference.
“You're not going to hear anybody who's going to stand up and say, ‘I'm not going to be fair. I'm not going to listen. I'm going to throw everybody in jail.’ Nobody is going to say that. So there's not much room for any of us to move beyond fairness, equality, dignity, justice for all and to listen,” Daniel Espinosa, an attorney who is running for Seat 5, said in his opening statement.
Candidates unanimously agreed that Americans have the right to bear arms under the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
“Yes ... I can read English,” quipped candidate Shawn Nelson, a former Orange County Supervisor who is running for seat 11.
They also agreed that the U.S. Constitution is not a “living” document subject to a variety of interpretations.
“There's an original intent there,” said candidate Benjamin Stauffer, a former police officer and current attorney, running for seat 30. “I defy you to find a document that survives as well as the Constitution has over the length of time that it has, and there's no document that survives like that, short of the Bible. And I think that when you look at those things, you've got to follow [the original intent.]"
Twenty-six-year Deputy District Attorney Erin Beltran Rowe, who is running for seat 21, agreed, noting that judges need to follow the law according to what it says, and not commit judicial activism.
“You look at the law, and you don't go off-book,” Rowe said. “Being a judge is not an opportunity to craft your own laws. You absolutely follow the law. That is your job and that is your sacred duty is to uphold the Constitution, not rewrite it.”