The two candidates in one of the county’s two contested judicial races may have different views on criminal justice matters but they do agree on one thing — each believes they are the one voters should choose for the bench.
Defense attorney and Daly City Councilman Ray Buenaventura and court Commissioner Stephanie Garratt are seeking the judicial seat to be vacated by the upcoming retirement of Judge Craig Parsons. Judicial candidates are limited in state specific opinions about how they would rule in upcoming matters but can offer more general perspectives.
Buenaventura and Garratt sat down individually with the Daily Journal for an in-office interview and also provided answers to the following five questions to allow each candidate a forum for sharing their own words prior to the June 3 election. Each was asked to keep the answers to approximately 50 words and were only edited for grammar or length.
Do you favor options to pre-trial incarceration such as electronic monitoring? Why or why not?
Buenaventura: Electronic monitoring is an option to have but only under the right circumstances.
Public safety is of paramount concern. The Sheriff decides which of those defendants are ﬁt to be allowed pre-trial release by electronic monitoring. I trust in the Sheriff’s Department to make that decision as they are in charge of securing inmates prior to trial.
Garratt: In certain situations, yes. The safety of the community must always be the main priority. However, if a situation arises that allows us to save space in the jail, preserve county resources, while keeping the community safe, a judge should always look at options other than incarceration, to include electronic monitoring.
How can the court calendars be more efficient to keep cases on track in a timely manner?
Buenaventura: Offer more diversionary programs for ﬁrst time, lower level, nonviolent misdemeanor cases. Expanding diversionary programs could lessen the criminal calendar and free up more access for civil cases. Also, converting to paperless system and developing APPS that would allow easier access to justice and information. I’m also in favor of e-ﬁling and doing more business online.
Garratt: Personnel and technology. Ensuring we have strong and experienced judicial officers will allow calendars to be efficient and effective, which increases access to courts and helps bring justice to all involved parties. Also, it is imperative to use technology and learn the “best practices” of other counties to assist the courts in growing in the digital age.
How do you view a judge’s discretion to discount a defendant’s prior criminal strikes during sentencing?
Buenaventura: People vs. Romero gives the trial court discretion to decide this issue of a defendant’s strikes. I would follow the law and criteria in this regard. It is uniquely a case-by-case decision and I would listen to everything that is presented. Sentencing is one of the most important responsibilities a judge has to decide.
Garratt: The law requires a judge to consider a defendant’s prior criminal strikes as a factor. A judge should look at all factors including prior strikes, the age of the strikes, the nature of the strikes and the facts of the current case. This allows a judge to protect the community and be fair to the defendant and bring justice to victims.
What role do mitigating circumstances like immigration or potential loss of a professional license play in sentencing?
Buenaventura: Neither issues are factors the court can use. These collateral consequences involve discussions between the district attorney and the defense attorney regarding negotiating a charge. It is the defense attorney’s obligation to try negotiating a charge that may negate any adverse immigration consequences. The loss of a professional license will stem from the charged crime, not the sentence, and thus subject to negotiations between the parties.
Garratt: Everybody must be treated fairly and the same in a court of law. One should not be given a break because of social status, personal connections or professional standings. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a judge should consider, as a factor, potential immigration consequences. However, it is one of many and the protection of the community must always be of paramount importance.
How have the courts responded to realignment?
Buenaventura: The courts have responded well to realignment. The courts have accepted the responsibility to ensure that the new sentencing schemes are followed and that their discretion is used widely. Realignment has left the court with room to fashion sentences to both punish and rehabilitate a defendant.
Garratt: Courts are adapting to the new sentencing schemes. Judges need to be cognizant of how realignment affects the local community, especially the expenditure of resources and protecting the public. Courts need to work with law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys; it is imperative that felons are properly supervised. Courts are actively trying to balance public safety with the new sentencing guidelines.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102
Name: Ray Buenaventura
Occupation: Criminal attorney, Daly City councilman
Education: BA, legal studies, University of California at Berkeley; Law degree, Whittier College
Experience: Trial attorney; law professor; founding director of the Peer Court Program for youth offenders
Residence: San Mateo County
Name: Stephanie Garratt
Occupation: San Mateo County Court Commissioner
Education: Syracuse University; Law degree, Santa Clara University
Experience: Former private defender, former; court commissioner nine years
Residence: San Mateo County