Robert Price

Robert Price

Another week, another round of allegations about Brandon Martin's fitness-slash-eligibility for the Kern County Superior Court bench.

When we last checked on this down-ballot race, which of late seems to be using up all the oxygen this election season, he was defending his use of "judge pro tem" in campaign literature and his candidate's statement.

The Judicial Council of California says candidates for judgeships may not use the title "judge pro tem;" Martin says he simply listed the job among his qualifications for the office — even if, as it turns out, Martin had served as a pro tem (a temporary, fill-in judge) for a grand total of an hour and 18 minutes at the time he filed his candidate's papers. Martin points out that Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles Brehmer, ruling on a complaint from a supporter of his opponent, said he could "find no evidence of judicial misconduct on the part of Mr. Brandon Martin" for citing his pro tem experience.

That little controversy hadn't yet blown over when opponents introduced a new, potentially more serious allegation: That a 21-day lapse in Martin's eligibility to practice law almost eight years ago means he has not fulfilled perhaps the single most important qualification to seek the bench: That he has been "a member of the State Bar for 10 years ... immediately preceding the election."

If Martin's failure to pay his licensee fees in a timely fashion even temporarily severed his State Bar membership, legally speaking, he might be in trouble.

Martin says the charge is bunk.

"I was ineligible to practice for 21 days as a result of my missed payment," he said. "They sent the notices to the wrong address and when I found out about it later I immediately paid.

"I never lost my membership," Martin told me. "You're still on the roster of attorneys. In order to be removed (from the roster) you have to be disbarred and then reinstated. In my case it's ticky-tack beyond what I would have expected from anyone" working in support of his opponent, Deputy District Attorney Chad Louie.

"There's no merit to any of this," Martin said.

Teri Goldner, the former county counsel, federal magistrate and, awkwardly, one of Martin's fellow instructors at the tiny Kern County College of Law, disagrees. She looked at the candidacy papers Martin filed with the county elections divisions and came away "genuinely concerned and troubled."

"It’s all there, in black and white, and it leads me to the opinion that Brandon Martin is not eligible to be a Kern County Superior Court Judge, and if he had simply told the whole truth and disclosed his State Bar membership history to the Elections Office, the public would not be misled into assuming that his name is properly on the ballot," she wrote in an email.

And in a social media post, Clayton Campbell, a partner at Campbell Whitten PC, piled on, casting doubt on Martin's excuse for having failed to pay his State Bar dues.

"When you have a license to practice law in California, the bar doesn't let you forget about your dues," he wrote. "You get emails and actual letters about it, and you get these well in advance of the due date. You get a generous grace period during which you get even more reminders. Only people who don't really care about their bar status ignore these notices. And the only people who don't care about their bar status are people who don't practice law."

Which leads to another charge that opponents have made against Martin: That precious little of his 14 years as a member of the State Bar has been spent actually practicing law. He has been working full-time in an administrative capacity for County Supervisor David Couch.

Who's right? Both sides make reasonable cases based on their interpretation of the legal impact of Martin's 21-day suspension relative to his candidacy.

State Bar spokesman Jonah Lamb confirmed that Martin had been suspended but couldn't say what that meant for his eligibility for office. Blaine Corren, a spokesman for the Judicial Council of California, confirmed the 10-year standard but couldn't say what it means here, either.

The only party that can apparently say with final, ultimate authority is the Commission on Judicial Performance, and it's not talking. Yet.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(13) comments

FJackson

What I find most disheartening is the fact one of these candidates will be sitting as a judge in the courtroom, be it hearing criminal cases, family matters, disputes between parties, juvenile issues or traffic cases. With so much said and done by or on behalf of the judicial candidates, how can we respect them on the bench? Not certain I’d want them deciding my case no matter what it’s for after all is said and done. Yet, we may not have a choice there.

Cassie Daniel

1. Parents have every right to contribute to their children's campaigns.
2. The Ca Bar is a state agency,. It is reasonable that they are back logged like any other agency and sent to the prior address.
3. The law school that Mr. Martin teaches at has no bar pass record yet, as their first class just graduated and have not even taken the State bar.

4. I think the people that are making the allegations agaist Martin are actually doing a disservice to Mr. Louie a disservice. I doubt Mr. Louie would approvae of such behavior in a local municipal race. People like that did the same i11th hour low class digs to Judge Staley and it cost Bob Barton the race.

Cassie Daniel

1. Parents have every right to contribute to their children's campaigns.
2. The Ca Bar is a state agency,. It is reasonable that they are back logged like any other agency and sent to the prior address.
3. The law school that Mr. Martin teaches at has no bar pass record yet, as their first class just graduated and have not even taken the State bar.

4. I think the people that are making the allegations agaist Martin are actually doing a disservice to Mr. Louie a disservice. I doubt Mr. Louie would approvae of such behavior in a local municipal race. People like that did the same i11th hour low class digs to Judge Staley and it cost Bob Barton the race.

Concerncitizen

I encourage readers to do your research. Another disturbing part of this election is George Martin his father has already given over 200,000 towards Brandon's campaign. The campaign finance limits do not apply to Superior Court Judge. This rule needs to change! Look for yourself. Cal-access.sos.ca.gov
Choose- Candidates and Elected Officials
Search - Martin, George B
George Martin For Judge
I encourage you to explore away, his father has made multiple large donations that should be alarming to voters.

Konradmoore

Brandon Martin is one of the brightest lawyers I've met. Is it really newsworthy that, years ago, Mr. Martin neglected to timely pay his bar dues. Really? Is that the level at which the conversation occurs, in which case why not drag up Mr. Louie's prior DUI, which I believe I read about. Regarding the fact that Mr. Martin worked or reportedly worked for seventy-eight minutes as a judge pro tem, incidentally seventy-eight minutes more than some others, amounts to a distraction. Respectfully, intelligence, integrity and a demonstrated work ethic -- which Mr. Martin possesses, it seems to me, represent the most important qualities in a judge. Mr. Louie is a good person, but in an election for a judicial officer, Mr. Martin -- in my judgment, represents the far wiser choice.

This is like saying that this dog poop I stepped in is the best smelling yet...it is still dog S...and speaking of dog S, thank goodness this former county worker moved 5 counties away from Kern...

GaryJohns

I couldn't figure out which way to go on this one...until I figured out who Mr. Price was shilling for....

Randall Dickow

I would add that there is a requirement by the State Bar of California that members (attorneys) must report any change of address to the Bar, so there is no valid excuse for not receiving the multiple notices about annual dues that the Bar sends out.

Concerncitizen

A few thoughts on this:
1- When he filed his paperwork did he intentionally mislead County Elections? And if not did his Boss David Couch intervene to circumvent the process?

2- If the answer is Yes to number 1 why would anyone want a Superior Court Judge willing to use lies and deception to be in such an important office?

Randall Dickow

The eligibility requirements to be a judge are spelled out in the CA Constitution. There is an Attorney General opinion directly on point for this very situation ruling in that case that the person was not eligible because of a lapse in their membership in the State Bar for failure to pay dues. It does not matter how long, a suspension is a suspension that breaks the ten years continuous practice requirement. Martin is ineligible. The lack of ethics he has consistently exhibited in this campaign is also of great concern to all who value our judiciary.

Concerncitizen

This is a great article that came out to assist voters that are undecided.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/brandon-martin-legally-ineligible-merely-unqualified-serve-campbell

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

It is truly hard to imagine a more sleazy, unqualified POS than this non practicing, law school “professor” (uh, this “school” is also known as Upstairs On The Left” correspondence “law school” (check the bar passage rate last year -0.00!) character Brandon Martin...a failure at real law firms in LA, a failure at paying the most basic fee - state bar dues, and a failure at chief of staff for David Couch (nice work ending up in Dictrict 2 now where this gavacho stands no chance of winning)...

Thirtysomething

The school is CA accredited and the first class just finished their first year, so which bar passage rate are you referring to?

I think you're confusing it with the Lady of Justice school where all of the first years didn't pass the baby bar. That is an unaccredited school. Kern County College of Law is a branch of Monterrey College of Law that has the highest bar passage rate among the California Accredited schools.

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