(June 24, 2007) -- Signature gathering began on Saturday June 23 in Bixby Knolls in a recall launched against Superior Court Judge Gibson W. Lee, who adjudicated the cases of ten juveniles accused in the Halloween night beating of three women.
Setting up a small table with red, white and blue decorations and signs saying "Recall Judge Lee," Assembly candidate Michael A. Jackson offered petitions on clipboards to shoppers outside the Ralphs market on LB Blvd. at San Antonio Rd.
The recall petition, recently certified for circulation, alleges in part that "Judge Lee is well known in the Long Beach Court system for a pattern of weak sentencing of criminals, including allowing nine juveniles convicted of a brutal black-on-white hate crime, where three women were beaten within inches of their lives, to go home the day of sentencing with the most lenient sentence possible; ignoring District Attorney and Probation Department recommendations for harsher punishment."
The petition alleges in part that "Judge Lee threatens our public safety...sending the wrong message to gangs and potential criminals. Judge Leeís job is to rehabilitate the criminals while protecting the public safety. He has failed."
In his formal answer to the Notice of Intention to circulate the recall petition, Judge Lee responded, "The stated reasons for the recall petition are untrue. All of the courtís decisions have been based upon evidence and arguments officially presented to the court, and upon the courtís understanding of the law. I have consistently upheld and enforced the law. I am fair and impartial to all who appear before me. Iím over 21 years on the bench, and I have never been accused of a pattern of weak sentencing of criminals. Quite the contrary, I enjoy a reputation of being a fair, impartial, and even tempered judge of this court."
Recall supporters say they'll be present at the Sunday June 24 Bixby Knolls Street Fair...and are using the internet to expand their signature gathering 24/7, on-demand. A website -- www.recalljudgelee.com -- has webposted the petitions in downloadable, printable form...which can be completed by voters whose lawful voter registration residence address is within L.A. County (anywhere from Long Beach to Lancaster, Pomona to Malibu).
"We also have [radio] talk show appearances planned which should help us spread the word," said Mr. Jackson. The 42-yr old ELB homeowner made Republican runs for the State Senate in 2004 and Assembly in 2006...and plans a 2008 Assembly run in which his Democrat opponent could be LB Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal or Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga.
During his 2004 State Senate run, Mr. Jackson says he heard voters complain that they didn't know which judges/judicial candidates and ballot measures to support or oppose...which led him to launch www.governmentforthepeople.us. His website offers information on judges and Mr. Jackson's assessments...and is adding a link to the recall petitions...and Mr. Jackson told LBReport.com that he has a large database of email addresses to which he'll send an advisory on the recall drive.
In January 2007, Judge Lee ruled true D.A.-petitions that charged felony assaults by nine of ten teens (including hate crime and/or great bodily injury sentencing enhancements for some of the teens). Prior to disposition (juvenile sentencing) he heard emotionally wrenching victim impact statements from the three women who were beaten. These were followed by statements from the nine youths Judge Lee adjudicated responsible but who didn't acknowledge guilt; the teens' families and supporters maintain that the youths were misidentified and wrongly convicted.
Judge Lee then issued identical dispositions (juvenile sentences) for eight of the nine teens, giving them home probation with conditions, community service, restitution, anger management/racial tolerance classes, not juvenile camp recommended by the D.A.'s office and the L.A. County Probation Dept. for some of the teens.
From the bench, Judge Lee referred to the juvenile legal principle of applying the least restrictive sentence consistent with rehabilitation. Outside the courthouse, Deputy D.A. Brian Schirn told reporters, "[E]veryone's getting the exact same thing and that's not what the juvenile justice system is about." [Note: The D.A.'s office and Mr. Schirn aren't part of the recall drive.]
The mother of the woman hit in the head with a skateboard was more blunt: she urged Judge Lee's recall on the courthouse steps...and she was present with her daughter in Bixby Knolls for the Saturday signature gathering kick-off.
The ten then-minors, held in custody for nearly three months prior to and during the trial, are appealing their juvenile convictions. All ten of the then-minors have submitted legal claims alleging civil rights violations by the City of LB, L.A. County and the state.
A subsequent adjudication of two other male juveniles (arrested after the ten-minors) was heard by an Inglewood Superior Court judge after Judge Lee recused himself (having heard evidence related to the Halloween night events). In a plea bargain avoiding trial, the D.A. dropped hate crime allegations and the two youths (who were not incarcerated pending trial) are now serving 90 days in a youth camp, will attend anger management/racial tolerance classes...and have acknowledged their role in what took place.
According to the L.A. County Registrar/Recorder's office, Judge Lee was reelected to the bench without opposition in 2002 and is up for reelection in 2008 (his current six year term of office will end on Jan. 5, 2009). He served on the Superior Court of L.A. County from 1989 to the present, elevated to the post in August 1989 by Governor George Deukmejian after serving on the LB Municipal Court (1985-1989), also appointed by Gov. Deukmejian.
Among recall supporters assisting in the June 23 kick off was VerNon Van, a Republican candidate for the 37th district Congressional seat in 2000 and 2004.
Using the internet to amplify their signature gathering avoids a pitfall proponents encountered within minutes of their kick-off.
Store management directed them (and another individual seeking donations for a charity) to move their tables further away from the store's front door, claiming they were obstructing an ADA required passage-way. Management then called LBPD; the officer agreed with store management; and parties moved their tables.