Consider All Angles When Voting for a Judge

Tom Manzo
President, Timely Prefinished Steel Door Frames and President and Chairman of the Board at California Business and Industrial Alliance

I am an outsider looking in and brand new to the political scene in our great state. I recently formed a non-profit, the California Business & Industrial Alliance (CABIA), to focus on labor law reform. My experience has always been running and growing businesses, and recently the company I run was hit with a PAGA (private Attorney General Act) lawsuit and cost us over one million dollars. Our violation? “Late” lunches that were requested by employees, and miscalculated safety incentives.

There were over 8,000 PAGA lawsuits filed last year and the number continues to grow. The incentive for trial attorneys to take advantage of the law is overwhelming, and they’ve done so with great gusto. Minor workplace violations have become a big payday for the plaintiffs bar and one of the more-lucrative types of labor-related lawsuits.

California does not need PAGA or a 1,060 page rule book, the trial attorneys need it. It’s with this in mind that CABIA is taking a careful look at the judicial race in Kern County.

The race pits Chad Louie, who is Deputy District Attorney for Kern County, against political insider Brandon Martin. Martin’s campaign has received a financial boost from his trial lawyer father. Also contributing is the former Mayor of Lancaster and one of the state’s most-powerful trial attorneys.

The trial attorneys clearly have a favored candidate in Bakersfield. Voters should proceed with caution.

When I realized Brandon Martin was being funded by some of the same attorneys who have sued good employers with PAGA lawsuits, I questioned whether he could truly be an impartial judge. (Some businesses in Bakersfield closed their doors or moved out of the state after a PAGA suit.)

CABIA has an ad this week in the Bakersfield Californian that asks a simple question: Can Brandon Martin be an impartial judge? I’m skeptical, although voters can make up their own minds. My worry is that if trial attorneys can install a favored ally on the bench in Kern County, what’s to stop them from doing it elsewhere.

Brandon Martin may work very hard for his father and fellow trial attorneys who have funded his efforts. But will he work hard to represent Bakersfield small businesses? I cannot imagine PAGA lawsuits getting worse, and I suspect voters in Bakersfield share my concerns.

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