(3/7/00) QUOTES OF THE DAY: "If democracy begins at home, isn't it more important that we elect judges that do not lie while seeking that office?" Virginia McCullough.
False Alameda County judicial campaign literature? Kliszewski's folly? Click.
Today is March 7, 2000 and on this day Americans will go to the polls and vote for the candidates and issues of their choice. It is a Presidential Primary in the State of California. Californians will turn out in greater numbers than usual because they feel more is at stake when the Presidency is the issue. When only local candidates and local issues are on the ballot, voters are lazy and often abdicate their right to vote. That reality raises the question of whether or not the preservation of democracy begins with local or national issues.
Americans are a cynical bunch and look at all politicians with a jaundiced eye. United States bureaucrats, like politicians world wide, give those that elect them good reason to be skeptical. Multi-millionaire contributors, special interests and graft abound in the world of politics. Candidates for public office often twist the truth until the truth is no longer recognizable.
If lies are the norm in politics, is there a particular branch of government where the voter should demand absolute truthfulness from the candidates? Is there a segment of government where it is more important that those holding public office tell the truth? The executive and legislative branches of government certainly have less direct impact on the average citizen than does the judiciary. When voters leave the voting booth and resume their normal lives, it is likely that they will have more interaction with a judge than they would with a member of Congress or the President of the United States. If democracy begins at home, isn't it more important that we elect judges that do not lie while seeking that office?
Alameda County has a three-way race for Superior Court judge on the ballot today. All registered voters received the sample ballot and voter information pamphlet in the mail to use as a guide in voting. In that sample ballot all three candidates identify their current occupation accurately. Candidate Michael S. Strimling is a Civil Litigation Attorney; David Matthew Krasna is a Superior Court Commissioner; [and] Mark A. Kliszewski is also a Superior Court Commissioner.
In the final week of this campaign, Mark A. Kliszewski mailed out an expensive, multi-page pamphlet to voters throughout the East Bay. This promotional literature repeatedly identified Commissioner Kliszewski as "Judge" and carried many personal endorsements from law enforcement, elected judges, politicians and attorneys. The web site advertised for "Mark Kliszewski - Superior Court Judge is www.judgemark.com". These constant references to "Judge" instead of "Commissioner" gives the mistaken impression that Kliszewski is already an elected judge running for re-election. Incumbents have a distinct advantage over challengers at the polls.
It should also be pointed out that the voters and their family members should be aware that if they ever appear in court, they have the right to reject a commissioner or judge pro-tem and request that only an elected judge hear their case.
However, that misrepresentation by Commissioner Kliszewski pales in comparison to a second lie contained in his advertisement for the office. Included in the pamphlet is the following alleged quote, attributed to "Principal Thompson, Parker School, Oakland:
Judge Kliszewski really cares about children. Because of his efforts, 100 computers have been donated to our school"
When contacted yesterday for confirmation that this was an accurate quote, Principal Janis Thompson, said she never said that her school received 100 computers. If fact, the school never received even 1 computer. Principal Thompson was gracious but had to cut the interview short "because I am on my way to `legal'."
The Police Chiefs of virtually every East Bay city were listed on Kliszewki's campaign literature as having endorsed "Judge" Kliszewski. When interviewed, two of the police chiefs stated that if they had known the candidate had lied, they would not have endorsed him. Those interviewed acknowledged that they knew the candidate was a commissioner and not a judge. None had reviewed the political flyer before allowing their names to be used; they had simply talked to other police chiefs and signed a solicitation letter sent to them on behalf of the candidate. The only police chief of a major East Bay city who did not endorse the Commissioner was Pleasanton Police Chief Neal, whose office said he does not believe it is his job to make political endorsements.
If a candidate deliberately lies in his campaign literature, should she/he be able to sit in judgment on citizens who might come before them as a judge? Can a person who lies to attain a political office dispense fair and objective justice? Will those who signed to endorse Commissioner Kliszewski receive better treatment if they appear before him in a court case than those who did not? Does democracy begin at the local level?
Virginia McCullough © 3/7/00