Column: Public Service Is Her Calling!

Judicial Candidate Melissa Renee Hammond spent her life planning for this moment, to serve as a Judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles, #118. Garners 29.50% of the June 7th Primary Vote, now faces progressive/union activist Carolyn Park in November General Election!

By Nick Antonicello 

Judicial hopeful Melissa Renee Hammond knew she wanted to be a judge early on in life when her Dad, a criminal defense attorney would take her to court with him and observe the wheels of justice first-hand. 

“The focus of my life was to contribute to my community,” noted Hammond, who finished first in the June 7th Primary with 29.50% or 377,672 votes. She is now facing Carolyn Park, a labor attorney and progressive activist who was a surprise, second-place finisher with 22.52% or 288,424 votes. 

In a competitive and crowded June 7th Primary that included Keith Koyano (16.95%), Georgia Huerta (15.11%) and Klint McKay (13.82%), Hammond is relying on friends and family to win the general election. 

But Hammond believes her record of proven experience is the difference between her and Park. 

And none of the eliminated candidates mentioned have made an endorsement of Hammond or Park to date.

In the June Primary Hammond spent about $40,000 in this countywide race for a seat on the bench and is committed to running a positive campaign about her record and resume and why she was deemed “qualified” to serve in this judicial post that is a six-year term of office. 

I asked the candidate how much this position paid and was shocked by the reply. 

“I don’t really know. I’m not running for the money, I’m running because I have a passion for public service.” 

Park has been endorsed by outgoing and retiring LA Councilmember Mike Bonin, who currently represents Venice on the City Council. 

Park was rated “unqualified” for this judicial post according to Hammond. 

In clear contrast, Hammond believes her resume and credentials make her the obvious choice in this non-partisan contest that she believes should be about qualifications and not partisan politics. 

Given Hammond’s long record of public service, is it safe to say she is truly capable, qualified and ready-to-serve? 

“I want to apply the law fairly,” as Hammond stressed a “common sense” approach to judicial service should the voters select her come the general election. 

The November general election will once again be driven by vote-by-mail participation. Some 1.3 million voters casted votes by mail and about 250,000 in-person on June 7th.

The South Bay resident, who is married with three children is running a “grass roots” effort with her husband, also a lawyer as her guide on the side while she remains the sage on the proverbial stage. 

Hammond is relying on a personal Rolodex of friends, colleagues and relatives to raise dollars on a shoe-string budget while making appearances at bar association events and other venues where voters populate. 

Hammond has a simple campaign message. 

“I believe I am experienced, fair and compassionate. I care about people and community,”  

Hammond is a member of the New York (2010) and California Bar (2004) and earned her B.A., Magna Cum Laude from the University of California, San Diego in 2001 majoring in Economics and minoring in Theatre. 

She received her law degree in 2004 from the UCLA School of Law where she served as a teaching assistant and represented the unemployed seeking unemployment benefits and lost wages. 

In 2008 Hammond graduated from the NYU School of Law in Manhattan where she received her LL.M with an emphasis in Criminal Law and Procedure. 

Hammond also worked in the film industry during college and her credits include Bowfinger, starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy. She also worked on The Third Wheel, with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. 

An admitted LA Dodger fan, Hammond says the campaign has prevented her from making her way out to the stadium so far this season. 

Hammond began her legal career as a summer associate and later as a Civil litigant with Brown, Winfield & Canzoneri, Inc. where she drafted motions for summary judgement as well as specializing in municipal and real estate law. Many of her clients saw business before the LA City Council where represented them at public meetings. 

Hammond joined the LA County Public Defender’s Office in 2005 where she tried numerous misdemeanor cases on behalf of criminal defendants and argued motions to suppress evidence attained in illegal search and seizures. Hammond argued for “bail reductions and own recognizance release as well as investigated cases, interviewed witnesses and consulted with experts” according to her impressive resume.

Hammond joined the LA County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney in 2008 where she serves under current DA George Gascon. 

Hammond handles a high-volume of felony cases and has tried several cases to verdict. Hammond has conducted probation and parole revocation hearings as well as responses to petitions for writs of habeas corpus in several murder cases. Hammond has handled violent sex crimes, child abuse and domestic violence cases too. 

She has prosecuted attempted murder and murder cases as well. 

Hammond stressed the need for “jury diversity” and believes while “no one is safe from COVID-19,” but admitted  the court system needs to remain cautious with the uptick in cases moving forward. 

With some two decades of public service, Hammond believes she is the right choice for voters to serve responsibly in this judicial capacity. 

“I believe I’m ready and my record and resume demonstrate that desire to continue to serve.”  

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the 2022 political campaigns as they effect Venice Beach. Antonicello can be reached by e-mailing him at nantoni@mindspring.com

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