Union-Tribune: So tell us why you decided to seek this particular office in the first place.
BROWER: I was already aware of Gary Kreep’s lawsuit to, I guess, prohibit Barack Obama from appearing on the ballot due to his doubts about the authenticity of his birth certificate and then last August when I saw that the Commission on Judicial Performance had censured him for essentially over two dozen different violations of the Judicial Cannon of Ethics it kind of confirmed my suspicions of his mindset and I have the opinion that we need to remove him from being in a position of authority in our community and that we need to instead change directions and have a judge who’s going to treat people professionally and with dignity and respect, and we weren’t getting that from Gary Kreep.
I feel like I have the qualifications from my time being a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps, I’m a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, and also from being a prosecutor at the District Attorney’s Office. To be able to win this and to be able to serve with distinction would be my goal on the bench.
Union-Tribune: He says that the charges against him were coming from a handful of people who hated him from the day he took the job, and he says the fact that his supervisory judge has endorsed him says everything you need to know about his behavior in office. These were not arguments we expected going into yesterday afternoon. What is your response?
BROWER: Well his supervisory judge for the majority of his time on the bench was the Honorable Tim Taylor, and he’s endorsed me and he says that Gary Kreep is the same that he’s ever been. His supervisory judge that he has now perhaps endorses him, but it’s difficult to verify who all has endorsed him because he doesn’t have a website, last I checked, and it’s… there’s really no literature that he’s putting out himself on his race. So I’ll have to just trust him at his word that what he says is true. As far…
Union-Tribune: There is actually a website.
BROWER: Is there now? Okay.
Union-Tribune: It was… it’s tough to find.
Union-Tribune: But it is there. He does have a website.
BROWER: All right. I’ve looked…
Union-Tribune: And it lists several judges.
BROWER: Okay, sounds good. Yeah, I’ll have to take another look. I have looked on a number of occasions, didn’t see it previously. So the Commission on Judicial Performance had hearings, and witnesses were called and testimony was given and so I have faith in this system. I believe that when people come and testify under oath and they give statements that the Commission is equipped to be able to evaluate the credibility of those statements that are given, and so I give credence to the findings that they made. He was the… the subject of the investigation, and so it’s no surprise to me that… that he was unhappy with the outcome. Nevertheless, it was based on hard evidence.
Union-Tribune: In 2012, when he ran against Garland Peed, I interviewed Garland Peed and I was shocked to the extent that Garland Peed and Kreep agreed on some things and one of the points that they most talk about was how criminal justice is like… it’s like a production factory with the goal of turning out guilty verdicts and Garland Peed said more critical things about police work than I’ve ever heard from a DA.
He said that the police… get things wrong all the time and people look the other way, that corner cutting is completely common. Now, all this is a theme of like Joseph Wambaugh’s books. He wrote about testalying 40 years ago. Alan Dershowitz testalying about 30 years ago. What do you say to those who worry about DAs becoming judges because DAs have this idea that it’s a process with the goal… the end goal being convictions?
BROWER: Well, I would say that our office has a goal of doing justice. I definitely try to share in that goal and doing justice, I think, requires making sure that we use consistency when a police detective brings the report to our office that we consistently look at the police report, we see whether there are facts contained within it that would permit us to be able to charge somebody with committing a crime… violation of the penal code and… and if we believe that it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt then I think that we’re duty-bound as the representatives of the people in this community to file charges on your behalf and to hold people accountable for violating our laws.
As far as whether I believe that there is an epidemic of police testilying, I don’t believe that that’s the case. I suppose I would distinguish myself from… from Garland Peed and Gary Kreep. I believe that most officers have credibility, that they’re serving our community, as… as I feel I’m serving my community, and that they’re trying to get it right. Human beings are fallible. There are definitely individuals out there who don’t live up to the levels of honesty and integrity that we would hope that they would, but I think that as a community police officers are out there on the frontline every day trying to do their best to help us out in our community and keep us safe.
Union-Tribune: 2014 voters passed [Prop] 47. 2016 voters passed [Prop] 57. Earlier this summer the state Legislature passed a law that gives amazing discretion to judges to let people off if they have mental conditions. Now we have bail reform on the governor’s desk. To me, cumulatively, this is like people saying hey, we don’t like our system, we’ve got to have profound changes. As a person on the inside, how do you feel about this outside judgment?
BROWER: Yeah, I think that the only constant that we’ve had in the criminal justice system for all of our lifetimes has been change. If you look back to the ‘90s there were reforms to the criminal justice taking place. However, the pendulum was swinging in the opposite direction at that time. Those changes… you can call them reforms if you want… were in the other direction, and they were to place laws that were more punitive perhaps.
You know, we had the three-strikes law come into existence back in the early ‘90s through the ballot initiative through a proposition, and then the Legislature in Sacramento, at that time, added a lot of allegations and enhancements to make the sanction for committing crimes more punitive. In recent years we’ve had the pendulum swing in the other direction, and we continue to see changes in the criminal justice system. I think that, you know, Prop 36… you could go back to 2010 when we established the drug court system.
It was probably heralding in the new era in criminal justice reform in… in California. My thoughts on… my personal thoughts on whether this is a good thing is… is yeah. I do. I think that it’s important to make sure that our criminal justice system is one that works for us and our community, that it’s a reflection of our values and so if our values now… and this is certainly my values… are that we try to find ways to address the underlying cause of criminality and we try to… to do what we can to prevent recidivism… and that requires a recognition that often times substance abuse is the cause of a lot of follow on criminology… then perhaps what we should try to do in… in gearing our criminal justice system is to address the underlying cause of that substance abuse and try to treat it.
I think that there is a role for punishment in our system. I do believe that there are people out there who are dangerous and who would seek to do us harm, and so we need to make sure we have law enforcement and the criminal justice system in place to keep us safe. There’s horrid financial crimes that take place every day in the news… reported in this paper… and we need to make sure we don’t allow the fraudsters to embezzle funds and to… and to make us financial victims. But… yeah, I think that the more we can do to try to cater our criminal justice system to address our current needs that we have in California in 2018 the better.
Union-Tribune: Can you tell us a little about your current tour of duty and what it is you actually do and how that would dovetail into this new position?
BROWER: Sure. So I work in the Insurance Fraud Division in the… the Hall of Justice with the District Attorney’s Office. Up until a year ago, I was the team leader of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force. It’s an inner agency task force that has a number of participants from the different police officer organizations throughout the county and so what I do now… and I continue to take cases from that task force… is I work on insurance crimes.
I work on large-scale auto theft crimes and the way that that would dovetail into being a judge is that it’s allowed me to gain a lot of experience with the criminal justice system. I feel as though I’m proficient in the rules that exist and so I would be able to… to sit in a position of being the arbitrator of disputes and try to… when these cases come to me from the District Attorney’s Office to… to do justice, to listen to both sides, to be open-minded and to try to get it right to make sure that we’re upholding public safety, but also at the same time guaranteeing that people’s constitutional rights are upheld.
I’ve served as a preliminary hearing officer in the United States Marine Corps on a lot of occasions, and these are serious cases. You sit on the bench in military court at the preliminary hearing stage before it goes to trial and the prosecution comes into court and presents their case and the testimony of their witnesses and you listen to that testimony and you see the exhibits that are presented and you make a determination about whether probably cause exists for the case to go forward to a… to a jury trial and that’s indistinguishable from what our judges do here in the California Superior Court at the criminal… at the preliminary hearing stage.
I feel I’m well-equipped to be able to carry out those duties and the distinction between me and the incumbent is that I would do it while treating people professionally, upholding rights, treating people with dignity and respect, not using hurtful and meaning comments toward people and not holding things against people based on person biases. So I feel I’d be a better choice for this community.
Union-Tribune: What do you feel about the bail reform proposal on the governor’s desk which would give judges considerable discretion on the middle category of risk assessments?
BROWER: You know, bail was a new concept to me when I joined the District Attorney’s Office. We didn’t really use that in the military justice system. It was a completely different system and I know that there are communities in different parts of the country that are able to successfully carry out their criminal justice functions without the need for bail.
My understanding is that the most recent amendment to that Assembly bill was that they were going to give more discretion and authority to the judges to determine that, in certain instances, bail will be needed and now it’s going to go to the Senate and it’s pending legislation. You know…
Union-Tribune: Actually, it passed the Senate. It passed the Senate.
BROWER: Did it already?
BROWER: Okay. Well you know, I am somebody who is running on a platform of not promoting policy positions. This is not a legislative office that I’m running for. These are questions that are meaningful for our community and that make a big difference in our lives.
That being said, often times when people like Tim Nader and I would go around to these different clubs and speak about the criminal justice system and why we’re running for judge, we would get these questions about new laws and changes in the laws and my answer is that I support the law and I would uphold the law to the best of my abilities and where I can seek to do justice within the bounds of the law I would.
So I’m supportive of new laws that come into place, and I would seek to try to make sure that those new laws are executed equitability so that all stakeholders are… feel as though they… they’re being treated fairly. You know, often times… you gave the example of Gary Kreep not being satisfied with the outcome of the commission. Often times criminal defendants aren’t going to be satisfied with the, you know, the fact that they’re going to have to pay a large amount of bail in order to be released.
That just kind of goes with being the target of an investigation or an inquiry or a criminal case. These questions should continue to be asked to people who are running for legislative office. I feel like they are reserved for when the judge candidate comes along and… and gives an interview, but you know, we’re not the ones that passed the laws. We’re the ones that carry out the laws. So the next time you have somebody that’s running for the California State Assembly make sure you’re asking them these questions, too.
Union-Tribune: How would you carry it out, though, because judges will have discretion? So you will be the one deciding bail, no bail, lots of bail, little bail. What goes into your thought process?
BROWER: Well, right now in the current… so my familiarity is with the process that exists right now and there’s a bail schedule, and the bail schedule different penal code, health and safety code, vehicle code sections all have a specific amount of bail that’s allocated.
You look at the prior history of the… of the defendant, and if you see that there is a prior history, depending on what’s in there, you can have additional amounts that get tacked on and then that’s the recommended bail amount. In addition to that, there is an opportunity to argue for greater or lesser bail and the things that we typically look at are whether this person is a risk to the society and whether he’s a flight risk. Those are kind of the two competing interests that we look at.
So my understanding is that there are other alternatives that can be used such as using an ankle bracelet to be able to track people’s location and bail is very disruptive if it can’t be afforded. There is an argument to be made that it does treat people who are otherwise similarly situated differently, if one can afford bail and the other can’t.
Often times the person who can’t afford bail is the person who’s in more dire financial straits with needing to make sure that they are able to pay the bills and get their kids to school… daycare, work, things like that and so the things that I would look at… to answer your question… are what the risk to society is and you’d look at the nature of the crime and what the person’s priors include and whether the person is a flight risk and you would look and see if there’s been prior instances of failures to appear in court and if I see there’s not and this proposal passes then I think that, you know, that person would likely be able to… I’m not going to prejudge any case, but that person would be able to leave on their own recognizant with a promise to… to reappear and if they don’t they’re probably going to go into custody, unless they have a good reason.
Union-Tribune: The the single most consistent finding from criminology is that crime is a young man’s game… that the vast majority of crime is committed by 15- to 30-year-olds. So why do we have 45-year-olds locked up so much? It seems to me like if you have a moneyball kind of approach where you look at statistics and try to crunch the numbers, objectively speaking, why do we have so many old prisoners when they cost so much more than young prisoners? And other countries don’t lock up people and they have the same and lower crime rates.
BROWER: Yeah, you know, the apparatus of our criminal justice system that we have in this county and in this country, I think, is large. It’s larger than a lot of our allies overseas. I think there was a documentary that was done about the criminal justice system in Norway, and it was found to be a lot smaller.
I think that, you know, we’re going to be… we’re going to be investing in certain communities regardless, and that can come in the form of investing in ways that are punitive or investing in ways that are providing people with their essential services that they need to be able to have… to have hope and find their way in the world and get a job and support their family and so a lot of times the decisions that have been made have been to take the former route… road rather than the latter road, and that’s unfortunate, in my opinion.
That being said, you know, again, I’m not running for an office in which I’m attempting to convey some policy position that I’m trying to advance. I’m just recognizing the world in which I feel we live in and… and so I think that explains the difference between the two different systems that we see in Western Europe and… and here in the United States, specifically here in San Diego. Why is it that we have people in their 40s that are incarcerated? I don’t know what the statistics are off the top of my head concerning what the percentage of all inmates…
Union-Tribune: We have by far the oldest prison population in the world.
BROWER: Yeah. Well, you know, recidivism… once you get into the system… is definitely a factor. I can’t tell you how high the percentages of cases I have are that come across my desk and when I look and see what the… the defendant’s rap sheet is it’s very lengthy and goes back decades in time. It’s unfortunate, but you know, we do see that a lot of repeat offenders start very young.
One of the most rewarding positions I had in working at the District Attorney’s Office was in our Juvenile Division and I felt like that was rewarding because when you have a juvenile delinquency case come you are able to bring stakeholders from the Probation Department and different children services and the Public Offender’s Office and… and our office… and we’re able to hopefully make a correction that is less likely to work when they become adults.
If you catch them early and you’re able to address what it is that’s causing the… the antisocial behavior young in life, I felt as though we had a good chance of being able to redirect these young people’s lives. You’re right. You know, we do have older people who are caught up in the system and are inmates in our CDCR and I… you know, I think it’s just the way that we’re using our public resources. There is definitely some individual responsibility at the… at the bottom line, but we’re talking about the big picture right now and we’re not talking about specific individuals.
You know, every specific individual that finds themselves in the criminal justice system because they’ve committed a crime is responsible for his or her actions. That being said, when we’re having a conversation like this and we’re talking about our community at large, you know, you start to see trends and those trends can be affected by the policies that are… that our office holders carry out.
Union-Tribune: One of the complaints facing your opponent was what he termed as possibly being a little too familiar with the people before him calling people… greeting them with señor and señorita and things like that and offering advice to defendants about how they should change their lives and not continue down the path of crime or what have you. Do you think that’s the role of a judge? Should a judge play that kind of role in a courtroom where he intervenes in the lives of the defendants that come before him?
BROWER: You know, I actually do, and I don’t fault Superior Court judges for doing that one bit. I know one judge in particular who worked in the Juvenile Division and this particular judge would… would participate in beach functions with the youths… with the… with the juvenile who had gone through the system trying to form relationships.
I just got a call the other night from another judge letting me know that a defendant who… well I won’t talk about any specific cases, but there are graduations from drug court when people successfully are able to make it through the process, when we take a chance on people and we allow their cases to be diverted away from punishment and toward rehabilitation and… and they have graduations that take place, you know, at restaurants here in town, and… and we participate in those.
Our office does and the judiciary does and… and so there’s a certain amount of socializing there, but the purpose behind it is to show the support from the… from the court system, from law enforcement to show that we’re supporting the person who successfully made it through the… the rehabilitative process and to hopefully direct them on a… on a positive way going forward. So my answer is yes. I do think that judges should take a role and be present in the lives of the people that come before them where appropriate.
I think it needs to be from a position of professionalism. I don’t believe that we should be calling people demeaning names or treating them in a way that is biased based on their gender or their race and I do believe that when judges are able to participate in a positive way in the lives of the people that… that come before them they’re able to make a positive change and affect the trajectory of people’s lives. So…
Union-Tribune: When we talked to the judge yesterday, he talked about how some in the legal establishment don’t like him and that’s why they’re not supporting him, but specifically I want to ask you about the Bar Association which ranks you as qualified and him as lacking qualification. How much weight should voters give that? What should that mean to them?
BROWER: Well, this is the second time that our county’s Bar Association has rated Gary Kreep lacking in qualifications. The first time was back in 2012 when he initially ran and so I think that… you know, I wasn’t a member of that conversation that took place about his rating that he received from… from our Bar Association, but my guess would be that they probably looked at the rating they gave him previously, looked at his service on the court between then and now and decided whether they felt as though it… that rating had been justified or whether he had… had worked such that they should give him a higher rating this time around and, ultimately concluded that their initial rating was, in fact, the appropriate rating to give him and so that’s the reason why they gave it to him a second time around. That would be my guess.
I think that’s a reasonable inference to draw based on what we’re all aware of has been his tenure on the bench so far these past nearly six years and so voters should look, I think, to the rating of the Bar because this is the type of position where you have professionals who are carrying out a very specialized form of work and most people are not that familiar with the intricacies of what takes place in the courts and in the law and so although it’s ultimately going to be up to the people to vote and decide who should be in this position of authority in our community… this officeholder, this judge who’s going to sit and weigh in and affect people’s lives… that affect all of us and that’s the reason why in our democracy there should be a forum for people to make a change if they feel as though a change is necessary.
So while that remains the case, I do believe that they should look toward and take guidance from people who are subject matter experts, leaders in the Bar Association here and have that weigh heavily and be factored highly in their decision making process.
Union-Tribune: In the primary, the Bar Association said Victor Torres was extremely qualified and said you were qualified. I guess a follow-up question, were you disappointed? Did you think that would jeopardize your candidacy in any way? Walk me through your perspective on that.
BROWER: Well, I think that the ratings kind of stand for themselves. They found me qualified, you know, and the tiered system is you can be exceptionally qualified, highly qualified, you can be found qualified, or you can be found to be lacking in qualifications to serve as a judge.
So they found me qualified. I just turned 40. I… all the other fellows got about 20 years on me. I’m confident that if I were in my late 60s that I would also be getting a much higher rating and then also in addition to that, I haven’t always been practicing law necessarily here in the local community. I’ve been practicing around the country and even overseas. I was just mentioned… I think to Andrew… that I was just in Germany earlier this week and I’m a judge advocate in the Marine Corps.
I practice law outside of this community and a lot of these things, I think, are based on relationships that are built and… and I’m confident that when I spend more time and years and decades in this community that I’d be able to merit a highly qualified or even exceptionally qualified rating, but I think that the point… the bottom line is that they did find me qualified and that’s what I’m going to be conveying to the public, and I… and I have so far and they found my opponent lacking in qualifications, and I think that is equally important to convey.
Union-Tribune: You have endorsements from all the other challengers from the primary?
BROWER: Yeah. So after I made it to the top two after the June 5th primary, I made a point to sit down with each of the other challengers and talk about the primary, just share thoughts and then, ultimately, to seek their support and endorsement and all of them did.
I subsequently was contacted by Victor Torres who told me that he still supports me, but he’s just asking for me to not necessarily display that on my website because he is… he’s been tapped for commissioner position and that’s going to go to a vote to all of the Superior Court judges here in San Diego County and he really wants to be able to get this and he does not want his name to be seen as being controversial in any way. So yes, I am supported and endorsed by all of the other challengers, and I’ve been asked by one of them in particular to not necessarily be overly outspoken about his name and to take it off of my website. So… but he continues to support me.
Union-Tribune: Got it.
BROWER: And rightfully so. He’s very high… highly qualified, exceptionally qualified according to the Bar and that’s heartening to see that he’s going to be in a position of… of trust and authority in our community, and rightly so.
Union-Tribune: They talked about this as a numbers game. The voters will weigh in. Gary Kreep had 30 percent of the vote, the rest of you, obviously, 70 percent. Are you confident you’re going to win? Are you over… I mean is this… are you a shoo-in? For an incumbent to get 30 percent is a pretty low number in any election.
BROWER: I wrote an article about this and I haven’t submitted it to any publication, but maybe I can… I can email it to you later and you can take a look at it and… I go into some detail just analyzing the outcome of the primary. I think we’re going to have a different electorate, as we typically do, in November to the one that we have in June.
You know, there are 22 judges who are challenged across our state, two here in our county and of those 22, 21 of them were able to end those challenging bids right then and there, most of them handily so getting well above 50 percent. This remains as the sole judge challenge that’s advancing to November in the state of California. There was one other judge in Santa Clara County who had a recall election, Judge Persky for the sentence he gave in the Brock Turner rape case and he was recalled.
He received 35 percent of the vote… it was a recall… and Judge Kreep got 30.5 percent and he lives to fight another day. Am I a shoe in? I don’t believe so. I’m not counting chickens. I’m fighting hard for this every day. I have an event tonight down in Chula Vista. I have this. I’m very much hoping to get the endorsement of your paper. I believe, if… if my understanding is correct, that in 2012 that this paper did show some support to Gary Kreep’s election and…
Union-Tribune: Previous election.
BROWER: And… and I understand that and in a very close result like we had in 2012, I think that that may very well have been what tipped the scales. I believe this is going to be a very close race as well and it can be won or lost and I need all of the help I can get from like-minded people in this community that care about the outcome of this community and that share my values and… and so I am working hard.
It’s been expensive and it’s going to continue to be a very spirited campaign on my part. I’m reaching out to Democrats. I’ve been endorsed by my party. I’m reaching out to Republicans. I was endorsed by Greg Cox yesterday. I have an appointment to meet with other Republican leaders in the future. I think it’s really the type of thing where regardless of what your political affiliation is that you just recognize the need to kind of raise the bar in in our justice system and so is it a shoo-in? No. Is it likely going to be a very close outcome? I think that it will be, but I can assure you that I’ll be fighting very hard for it between now and June 6th.
Union-Tribune: The point that Peed made to me back in 2012 about his skepticism about the quality of some of the police work was amplified in 2015 by then Appellate Judge Alex Kozinski who wrote a piece for The Georgetown Law Review that says we need to be way more honest in the criminal justice system about some of the things we do and he… among the things he cited was eyewitness testimony.
Eyewitness testimony reliability is not good and yet routinely we have a legal system that treats it as perfect as DNA. So to me, that gets back to the point I made before. Do you think there’s a problem with best practices in the criminal justice system or are you satisfied that people are, in fact, striving day in and day out to make sure that they’re using best practices?
BROWER: So eyewitness testimony is… is typically going to be admissible. That being said, on cross-examination the… the criminal defense attorney has an opportunity to test the credibility of the witness whose identified the defendant in court and it may very well be that it’s not a lie, that it just is a misunderstanding.
However, these criminal defense attorneys that we work with day in and day out… they’re smart, they’re very educated and they’re very experienced in what they do typically and… and I’ve seen them be able to represent the interests of their clients such to cast a doubt on eyewitness testimony from time to time and when that does take place, you know, we adjust accordingly and if it means that the case is no longer viable then that case will go away if there’s nothing else that can be used to support the charges that have been brought.
So that’s the difference, I think, between the type of evidence that comes from the testimony of percipient witnesses… witnesses who perceive the world around them and hard documentation that does not have fading memories and does not have a bias and does not have… does not, I guess, wilt under the cross-examination that comes from the defense attorney. I understand that some forms of evidence are more credible than others. An eyewitness testimony is often times not the most credible form of testimony. Sometimes it is however.
So I think that the rules of evidence, as they exist now, allow it to be admissible, and I believe that it should be admissible and the rules of evidence also permit the opposing counsel on cross-examination to test the credibility of that opinion that’s being given… the opinion of the witness that the defendant sitting over there is the person that was seen doing the criminal act.
So do we sometimes get it wrong? You know, there are examples out there of when the criminal justice system has failed to reach the correct outcome and when that happens, to the detriment of the defendant, we can have some very sad situations where the life of that defendant and his or her family is… is often times really wasted, you know, because that person will end up spending a lot time in prison when perhaps that person didn’t do it … in the situation that we’re discussing… that scenario and that happens from time to time.
It can also happen on the other side, too. I mean often times people are able to be able to get off and the evidence isn’t sufficient to prove that they did the thing that they’re alleged to have done, and the system just factors that in and we have a guarantee of a fair trial and if that guarantee of a fair trial is not upheld then on appeal it will be reversed and there will need to be a new trial if possible, but we don’t have a guarantee of a perfect trial.
Now, we’re always… and this is the reason for the constant change in the criminal justice system and I know the pendulum goes back and forth, and it has over the… over the decades, but we’re constantly trying to refine and improve the system that we have and it’s not a perfect system and it’s not really a science, but is there a need for further changes to make it more equitable and fair? Yeah, there definitely are and we’re seeing those. You know, we talked about the bail reform system and Prop 47 and 57 and 64 and some of these other things that we see… Prop 36 and also some would also argue three-strikes, you know, for the people… for the overwhelming majority of Californians that voted for that back in the ‘90s.
They would argue that that was an improvement to the criminal justice system as things existed at that time in our state and it was reformed in 2012 with the reform to the three-strikes law and through the second Prop 36 that dealt with criminal justice in the last 20 years. So… so yeah, there is a need for change, and we’re going to continue to see change and that’s because the people want their criminal justice system to be better. Eyewitness testimony specifically needs to remain admissible.
You often times can’t prove cases without it. We have to be able to say that that’s the person who did these things, but if it’s a stranger and that person, you know, doesn’t… has never seen the defendant before sometimes it’s ripe for some cross-examination questions by the defendant’s attorney.
Union-Tribune: Your… tell us a little about your… as you pointed out judge races are not usually this high profile and (unintelligible). So tell us about your process in the primary. How do you think you got the second slot? And tell us about your path now. Is there a lot of knocking doors, campaigning?
BROWER: Yeah, sure. I spoke to a leader in the San Diego and Imperial County Labor Council and asked for that person’s advice, and he said… and he was a fellow Marine who’d been in for a long time and got out, and so we kinda used the same jargon and he said Matt, what you need to do is shoot in every direction and… and so that’s the advice that I’ve tried to take to heart and I have been asking the support of groups that are progressive and groups that are conservative. I’ve been going before all of the different police officer associations.
I’ve gone before the San Diego Public Defenders Association on the other side and lots of different identity groups as well. I’ve gone before different groups that are in the legal associations outside of criminal law specifically, even though I don’t practice those civil types of practices and I also have been advertising. I’ve put signs all over the place and I have advertised online. I’ve also paid to have my name appear on different slates that recommend candidates, and I am hoping to be able to do billboards. It’s expensive to be able to advertise in a county that has nearly 3.5 million people. It used to be in the early ‘90s that we had municipal court judges, and the municipalities were smaller and more manageable. We don’t have that anymore.
Every trial judge race… every Superior Court judge race is countywide now. So you know, there are some limits on what I’m able to do, but I feel as though I’ve run a very spirited campaign. As far as going door to door, I have done that in the past in a county the size of ours. That’s challenging. I do have a team of volunteers of about 40 people, and that team of volunteers goes to events. So for example, we marched in the Pride Parade up in Hillcrest a couple months ago and we… and we’ve done street fairs in different towns around the county. I’ve also gotten the support of the Go Team… the Get Out the Vote team that’s put on by the Democratic Party, and they go door to door in each of their different communities and I used to be a community coordinator for my community with the Go Team in Carmel Valley.
They knock on doors and they hand out the slate of endorsed Democratic Party candidates and so that is going to feature my name and it did prominently in the primary. It had my name right up there with the other endorsed candidates with my photograph. So I have to find the way to be… to use the most efficient amount of my time that I can. I’m asking my volunteers to do events that get public recognition, I think, like street fairs and parades and things like that going door to door. I think we’re going to be counting on the Go Team to help us out and I’ll be advertising as much as I can. I’ll continue to also try to seek the support of different individuals and organizations. My focus now is going to be on different unions and fire fighters associations.
Union-Tribune: We met with the chief of police last week, and he said that Prop 47 must be changed, that maybe if you can’t lock somebody up for $950 or less maybe on the second or third time somebody does that within a short span there should be changes. He depicts 47 as backfiring in kind of a grand way. What’s your take on 47 to the extent you’re comfortable talking about it?
BROWER: Yeah. Well, he’s an executive officeholder. He’s the… he’s our chief of police for this city and he is somebody who is able to affect policy. I’m running for a… for a judicial position, you know, the third branch of government, and so for so long as Prop 47 exists in its current form it’s going to be upheld in any courtroom that I’m presiding in and the language is very clear.
You know, if the amount of money that’s taken is less than $950 that’s going to be a misdemeanor. If there’s a need for changes, that needs to either go to the Legislature… legislative branch up in Sacramento, and they can debate that and decide whether in our democratic super majority that we have in the Assembly whether they’re going to make a change to make some of these reforms that the voters passed not that long ago in 2014 go away or… or be modified in some way and I… as far as being able to gauge what the prospects of being able to revamp that and… and bring it back are, I don’t know what those prospects are.
It seems as though it would be an exception to the trend that we’ve started to see, that we’ve been discussing in recent years of the way in which our criminal justice system seems to be headed for us to… to go in and make Proposition 47 have those types of exceptions to it. So we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with that, but I’d be surprised.
Union-Tribune: But as an officer of the court… I mean obviously, you are going to uphold the law, but if you’re presiding and you see the same person coming back in front of you every week and they were caught $900 dollars, $925 dollars’ worth… they come back to you again and again and again, you don’t have a position on whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea?
BROWER: Well this isn’t some hypothetical situation. This is what the law was before the voters passed Prop 47. I mean this is… it’s not far-fetched to envision what that would look like. That’s what our criminal justice system looked like before Prop 47 was passed. I mean it wasn’t that long ago. It passed in November of 2014 and so we can all think back to what it was like in the earlier part of 2014, and that’s what the law was. So do I support the very recent change in the law?
I pledged to carry out the law and to try to remain as consistent to the law as I can, but you know, the people of the state of California had the situation that you’re… that you’re describing right now as the one that existed in our state for a very long time and very recently they looked at that situation and they said we don’t believe that it’s just, we don’t believe that it’s fair, we’re going to make a change to it through Proposition 47 and so they got away with… with those more serious sanctions for recidivists.
So… and so as a judge, it’s not my role to weigh in and say whether I think that that very recent change the voters just passed in 2014 was a good thing or a bad thing, just like it’s not really my role to do that as a… deputy district attorney. You know, I… when I get these cases as a DA, I just live with what the law is and I… and I try to do justice within the box, within the scope of what the law is to the best of my abilities and I’ve continued to do that as a judge and work to try to address people’s needs.
Now, small business owners that have people continuing to… to steal and shoplift from them are very likely not supportive of the changes that took place in Prop 47. They aren’t… they aren’t happy about that and Prop 47 didn’t just change the petty theft or the prior law that used to exist making, you know, a number of… I think it was three petty thefts with a prior a felony. It also changed the drug laws.
Prop 47 made, you know, the personal use of… or the possession of personal use quantities of meth amphetamine and heroine and other drugs… it used to be a wobbler where it could be either a felony or a misdemeanor, and it mandated that now it has to be a misdemeanor. So it did a number of different things.
So like I said earlier, you know, from a position of a judicial candidate, I’m going to support the laws that exist currently and from the position of somebody who’s … the chief of police who is definitely trying to affect policy and make changes in a way that he believes is best for his community, he’s going to have to just go through that process. He’s going to have to take that either to the voters of the state through a ballot imitative again very recently after Proposition 47 just passed or he’s going to have to try to convince the super majority of Democrats in Sacramento to see it his way. So we’ll see if he’s successful in that and… and if he is successful, I’ll carry out the new laws that are passed, which won’t be that new or unrecognizable because we just had those laws very recently.
Union-Tribune: What do you think about broadly having to campaign to be a judge? When we had the sheriff candidates in here… the sheriff and his opponent… we asked them, should sheriffs have to go through this gauntlet and be voted in rather than some other process? Is there a better way to pick a judge? Is this the best way?
BROWER: So having… so let me hold off on directly responding to your question and just mention the sheriff thing. That’s as old as our republic, so it’s not a foreign concept for us, as Americans, to vote for our county sheriff, okay? That’s about as… it goes back about as far as we’ve had our United States of America.
In the state of California, the vast majority… over 95 percent, I believe, of the Superior Court judges that we have are appointed by the governor. They go through the JNE Commission and a recommendation is given to a division in the Governor’s Office that then receives those recommendations and… and looks at them and then gives advice to the governor on how to fill vacancies.
From time to time a vacancy will exist in a time period that prevents the governor from being able to fill that vacancy through the appointment process like what took place with Seat 37 back in 2012, and candidates from the Bar… lawyers in the community will be able to run to fill that vacancy themselves. So that’s the way the process works. Every six years… these terms are six year terms.
So now we’re in 2018. It’s the end of his term that… Judge Kreep’s term that started in 2012. Every six years every judge can be challenged and we had an example. Judge Exharos was… who was a Governor Deukmejian appointee from the 1980s… I think ‘86… he was challenged by a member of the local Bar, a lawyer here in our community.
She ended up getting more votes than Gary Kreep got and so I think that it’s an opportunity for… in this democracy that we live in for the people who live and work and raise their kids in our county to be able to say that they need a change in an office holder who… who exercises authority over their lives and that’s done through a judicial capacity, but nevertheless that’s still the authority of the state coming through the judicial branch and that’s exercised over their lives and a lot of times that comes in the form of criminal decisions that are made, a lot of times it comes in the or of civil decisions that are made, but judges are human just like police officers are and often times we find that… or not often times, but every once in a while we’ll find that a… that a judge is not carrying out that duty of authority in our community in a way that we believe is consistent with our values of how we should be treating one another and so it’s a mechanism that exists at the ballot to be able to make a change in an… in an office that does hold authority and so that’s, I think, an important process. It’s the exception. It’s not the rule.
The rule is the governor appoints judges after a lengthy vetting process takes place, and then typically we see those judges remain on the bench for a lifetime of good service to their community and then they retire and they’re never challenged once. Occasionally there will be a challenge, but it’s typically… like we saw in June of this year when 22 judges around the state were challenged and only one of them… Gary Kreep has to go to a runoff. Typically those are unsuccessful challenges, but… no, I think it’s a good thing that we have an ability to oust judges who are not… who are not carrying out their duties in a way that is ethical.
Union-Tribune: Any other questions? I think I’m good. Give us your 30-second elevator pitch.
BROWER: Okay. I… I’m running because I want to make sure that we treat people professionally and with dignity and respect. I come to this position after having gone through a lengthy vetting process myself. I was rated qualified by the San Diego County Bar Association. I’m challenging Gary Kreep.
The reason why I’m doing that is because I initially learned he was a birther when he participated in a lawsuit to disqualify our nation’s first black president from being able to run, and then my suspicions about his world view were confirmed when I saw that the Commission on Judicial Performance censured him for 29 different ethical violations. He was rated by the County Bar as being lacking in qualifications.
The people of this county need to make sure that their judges are reflections of their own values, and I know that it’s not the values of the… of the people of San Diego County to continue on with a judge who’s committed so many different ethics violations, specifically ones in which he’s been treating women and minorities in a very derogatory and disrespectful way. My name is Matt Brower and I am a veteran, a Marine and a member of the District Attorney’s Office. I’m committed to treating people fairly and with respect and I would love to get your vote.
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