Children of Top DA Officials Get Coveted Jobs

Senior Assistant District Attorney Jim Tanizaki speaks during a preliminary hearing for the death of Kelly Thomas, on May 7, 2012 in Santa Ana, California. (Photo by Joshua Sudock-Pool/Getty Images)

Senior Assistant District Attorney Jim Tanizaki speaks during a preliminary hearing for the death of Kelly Thomas, on May 7, 2012 in Santa Ana, California. (Photo by Joshua Sudock-Pool/Getty Images)

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Every year, Jim Tanizaki, one of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ chief deputies, visits the Chapman University Fowler School of Law to brief students on what it takes to get a job as a prosecutor at the DA’s office.

He makes it clear that the competition is fierce.

Within two or three days of opening the application process, the DA’s office will receive around 500 applications. Less than a quarter of those will be called back for an interview, which includes a performance test judged by two assistant district attorneys.

The 30 to 40 candidates who move on will be interviewed by a panel that usually includes four senior assistant district attorneys, including Tanizaki and Michael Lubinksi, who supervises “special projects” at the DA’s office, including corruption investigations. The panel will make the final decision to hire only a handful as prosecutors.

Tanizaki swears there’s no favoritism, regardless of who you know.

“Let me say something many of our lawyers will not want me to say, but I’m going to tell you the honest truth — they cannot get you a job in our office,” Tanizaki said at a talk he gave at Chapman in September. “No matter how popular they are, no matter how great a trial lawyer they think you are, they cannot get you a job.”

Except that his son, Stephen Tanizaki, and Lubinski’s daughter, Katherine Lubinski — both 2014 Chapman Law graduates — were hired at the DA’s office in September.

Chapman is the DA’s top feeder school for new graduate hires, and the hirings did not violate the county’s nepotism policy, which allows for relatives of officials to get jobs at the county as long as they don’t directly report to them. And there are no indications that Stephen Tanizaki or Michael Lubinski subverted the normal hiring process in order to get their children jobs.

Michael Lubinski. Photo from Orange County DA website.

Michael Lubinski. Photo from Orange County DA website.

“I had no involvement whatsoever in the hiring of my daughter or Jim Tanizaki’s son. So no comment,” Michael Lubinski said.

Jim Tanizaki said the same thing regarding his son’s hiring. When asked whether his colleagues could render an objective decision on hiring his son, he said that’s a question for them. “I’m not the one to ask,” he said, and declined to comment further.

However, during his talk at Chapman, Jim Tanizaki acknowledged his son was hired at the DA’s office but claimed that he was “walled off” from the hiring process altogether the year his son applied.

“Some how, some people in our office liked him and hired him,” Tanizaki said.

News of the hirings caused eye rolls among some Chapman law students, who otherwise didn’t want to be quoted for fear of harming their job prospects. Meanwhile, an ethicist said they raise concerns.

Jessica Levinson — a clinical professor of law at Loyola Law School and president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission – said candidates shouldn’t be disqualified just because their parents are high-ranking officials.

But it did give her pause that, of the handful hired out of a pool of 500, two happened to be children of top DA officials.

“You can definitely look at the numbers and ask would they have otherwise been hired?” said Levinson, whose husband works in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. “And that’s very difficult to answer.”

Ironically, Michael Lubinski is supervising an investigation into nepotism scandals that have roiled Garden Grove City Hall in recent years.

The DA’s office initiated an investigation last December into the hiring of former mayor Bruce Broadwater’s son Jeremy as a city firefighter, among a pool of 500 candidates and despite several misdemeanors on his record and allegedly failing a crucial oral exam.

Jeremy Broadwater also reportedly made life-threatening mistakes on the job, although some firefighters have told independent investigators that they believe Broadwater has been subject to harassment and unnecessary scrutiny.

To be sure, neither Stephen Tanizaki nor Katherine Lubinski can be compared to Jeremy Broadwater. Both graduated from Chapman on time and were admitted to the state bar late last year. They also made the law school’s mock trial team, which the DA’s office holds in high regard.

But they didn’t graduate at the top of their class. Neither were members of the school’s Law Review, which admits the students with the highest GPA, nor did they graduate with honors or a special emphasis, according to information released for Chapman’s 2014 commencement.

It’s unclear how many open positions there were the year Stephen Tanizaki and Katherine Lubinski were hired. The DA’s office didn’t return a phone call seeking that information.

But during his talk this year, Jim Tanizaki said there might be between six and eight open positions during this year’s enrollment period. He will be at Chapman Tuesday to talk about fellowship opportunities.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek.

  • Jacki Livingston

    *snicker* Hey, at least they got degrees. You want to know how many idiots work at SSA only because they are related to someone? One family had eight sisters, and all of them are supervisors. You want the statistical odds of that? That would never happen in the private sector. Oh, and most of the time, these nimrods are dumber than a box of hair.

  • Randy

    The good DA also hired the son of extreme right-wing OC Board of Education Trustee Kenneth Williams after Williams called to complain after the son’s application didn’t make the cut.

  • jcbl

    Is there anything surprising here? The DAs office has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted. Why would one think that the hiring process would be any different?

  • LFOldTimer

    You are witnessing the decline of an empire, my friends. This is just blatant “in your face” stuff by the ones who make the rules. ha. Never would have flown 25 years ago. As the moral code goes, so goes the nation. Welcome to the 3rd world. Damn glad I’m as old as I am. EEO my foot! ha.

  • the714

    In other news: water remains wet.

    • bbogz777

      And the corrupt remain evil.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Too funny. And damn you, too true.

      Which is what public serpents reliably count on …

      Look the other way, while we play. At your expense.

    • Jacki Livingston

      LOL…yes, but some of these promoted kiddies couldn’t find that same water if they fell out of a boat. I had one of them look at their pencil when I told them to erase an entry in the computer. No…I am not kidding.

  • octaxpayer

    The whole County works the same way . Family get the jobs even if they are a poor choice..

  • Junk Dismal

    It’s also interesting to point out— October 5th, someone in the “Broadwater” camp did a records request through the city,

    “…requesting under the Freedom of Information Act, a complete list of all employees (current and former) that have relatives working for the City. I would like that ASAP. Thank you very much.”

    Sounds like he’s trying to get loaded for bear.

    The Broadwater request, and the list he asked for, is available online at the City of Garden Grove website and here is the direct link…

    https://ch.ci.garden-grove.ca.us/records_request/requests/1348

  • Carol

    Even some lowly HR person can get their kid (daughter) hired over everyone else at the Sheriff’s Dept…..and then illegally promote here 3 weeks later to a position that required 6 months of previous experience at the lower job title. Nothing at the County surprises me anymore.

  • Bob Brock

    Nepotism is alive and well at the DA’s office. Does Susan Kang get the job without the last name “Schroeder”? Those under Rackauckas see that favoritism is acceptable and have a “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Sad for the more qualified graduates that they never stood a chance.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    DA investigating Garden Grove for the exact same thing. Mayor’s son, city manager’s kids, kids’ girlfriends, nieces. Everyone else’s high school buddies, kids, relatives. On and on and on. Nepotism Hall in GG. This is what happens when Public Servants choose to become Public Serpents and have leaders that allow, are part of it, doing the same. At taxpayers expense, but of course. GG is one of top ten cities in California with high non safety pensions, at 88K average. That is because people who knew in city hall about malfeasance were then paid off in just that way, more money to keep shut and retire, over the years. Ethics, be damned. Taxpayers, be damned. Or rather, serfs, be damned. Sad.State.of.Affairs. Literally.

  • Paul Lucas

    Top to bottom corruption.