Editorial: Johnson recommended for Alameda bench

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday February 7, 2024
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Alameda judicial candidate Michael Johnson. Photo: Courtesy the candidate<br>
Alameda judicial candidate Michael Johnson. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

We were strongly considering endorsing Alameda County Superior Court Commissioner Mark Fickes, a gay man running a second time for an open judicial seat. But last month, Fickes displayed a shocking lack of judicial temperament that forced us to reconsider. As we have reported, Fickes answered a question from members of the Alameda County Democratic County Central Committee about who he voted for in the district attorney's race in 2022 and said it was current District Attorney Pamela Price. While that was bad enough, in that it could be a conflict of interest and possibly violate the Canons of Judicial Ethics, Price, who also is an elected member of the central committee, voted to endorse Fickes, who did get the local Democratic Party's nod. But in our opinion that endorsement came at the high cost of appearing to cozy up to someone whose prosecutors would appear in front of him every day if he were to be elected and assigned to a criminal court.

That leaves us with the decision to endorse the other candidate in the race, Michael Johnson, a Black man and straight ally who, to his credit, declined to answer the "Who did you vote for in the DA's race" question posed at that central committee meeting. "The judicial canons prohibit that kind of response," Johnson told us shortly after that central committee meeting. He's right about that.

Johnson already serves as a temporary judge, so he would be able to hit the ground running. While he stated in his questionnaire that he does not have experience or exposure to discrimination against LGBTQ individuals or people living with HIV/AIDS, he did note his personal experiences with discrimination. "As an African American male, in my lifetime I certainly have experienced discrimination against me and against other African Americans in the courtroom, administrative proceedings, criminal system, and in the legal profession," he stated. He added that in general, his practice is to call out such conduct "immediately to the person(s) who have engaged in that conduct; and address it in a professional manner making certain that the person(s) committing the discriminatory behavior clearly understand that their behavior is unacceptable to me/others, will not be tolerated, and must be immediately corrected."

Due to the judicial canons, Johnson declined to answer some of our questions. But he did state that if elected, he would do his part "as a judicial officer to always ensure fair and equal access to justice for all."

Johnson has the support of more than 20 Alameda County judges as well as many other community leaders. He would be a strong addition to the bench, and we recommend him to Alameda County voters.

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