In LA County, judges are either elected or appointed, and little information is publicly available related to their backgrounds in law, ideology, or other affiliations. The reality is that many judges in LASC courthouses do not represent the communities that they serve. Judges hold immense power, yet have limited mechanisms for accountability when the decisions they make have life changing policy implications.
We know that Los Angeles County maintains the largest jail system in the world. Even more bleak is the reality that thousands of these individuals locked up in cages are there pretrial, meaning that they have been accused, but not convicted of a crime. Every day there are judges using their discretion to uphold the status quo.
What is most alarming is what judges are prepared to do if anyone runs against one of their own. Incumbent judges in the LASC have a judge-funded PAC, the Los Angeles Judges Election Protection Committee (“LAJ-PAC”) with over $300,000 on hand in case anyone runs against an incumbent judge. Their support almost exclusively goes to judges who are former prosecutors or district attorneys.
Our Solution: 2022 Road Map
La Defensa is launching a political arm in California: the La Defensa Justice PAC, to deepen our support of progressive candidates who demonstrate a commitment to reducing the size and scope of punitive systems.
Through our C4 work, we have found that judicial elections remain the most opaque form of civic engagement. The inaccessibility of judicial track records has left voters ill-informed, and the lack of education around their elections has allowed these seats to go largely unchallenged.
The Justice PAC by La Defensa is the first of its kind and the only PAC dedicated to supporting truly progressive candidates for judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. The PAC focuses on culturally-informed political education for varying demographics, especially first time voters, under-funded communities, and the LGBTGI+ community.