Today we’d like to introduce you to Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park.
Hi Carolyn “Jiyoung”, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am a daughter of Korean immigrants, and I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I grew up in Los Feliz in what was then a sleepy middle-class area that had kids playing in the streets. Like so many immigrants, my parents worked 7 days a week to make a life here in the US and provide for my family. I graduated from John Marshall High School, which had a very diverse student body. Then I went to college at Tulane University where I majored in History and Africa and Diaspora Studies. I earned my law degree at Loyola Law School. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good education and become the first person in my family to become an attorney.
I’ve been a practicing attorney for over 18 years, and a third of my career was spent at SEIU Local 1000 as a staff attorney, representing about 9,000 state workers throughout LA County in administrative hearings and in civil court. I represented people from all walks of life from custodians to healthcare workers to tax auditors. I’ve worked with unaccompanied minors who crossed the border without a parent or guardian. I have taken on a number of pro bono cases representing people who were peacefully exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest. I currently have a private law practice working in civil rights, labor, and small business matters.
As a Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Governing Board Member, I’m very engaged in my community hyper-locally. I helped establish a food scrap drop off site at the Silver Lake Farmers Market that is run by LA Compost. I volunteer with produce box distribution that is funded by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and Councilmember Nithya Raman’s office. I have advocated for safer streets and protected bike lanes for pedestrians and cyclists.
I stepped up to run for Judge of the Superior Court in LA County because I want to be the change I want to see. I’ve had cases in which I felt the judges were biased against my client or made the wrong decisions. The bench of judges needs to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles County, and we need more judges with experience representing community members – not more prosecutors or corporate defense attorneys – in the various courts of LA County, which are civil, criminal, juvenile, family, probate, mental health, small claims, traffic and appellate courts. Judges make life-changing decisions in all of these different courts, and I want to be a judge who will make those decisions as fairly and equitably as possible.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
When compared to the life that my grandparents and parents had, one could say I had it relatively easy. My grandparents and parents survived wars, colonization, and then emigrating to a new country. Yet I had my own set of struggles. There was and still is a cultural gap and generational gap between me and my parents. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to be successful financially, and the ways they knew to do that were to be a doctor or a lawyer. I rejected that pressure for a long time, but I was later drawn to the ability of attorneys to advocate for people in ways that change people’s lives.
As far as running for a judicial seat, it’s a very intense experience to run in a countywide race, which is much larger than a citywide race. It’s really tested my endurance because there have been so many questionnaires, meetings, interviews, and constant fundraising. Asking people for money is not something I have a lot of experience doing, and that’s been quite a challenge for me. Fortunately, my campaign and the campaign of the slate that I’m on, The Defenders of Justice 2022, has quite a bit of community support. It makes up for the lack of matching funds that political candidates can receive, and the large donations that some of the other judicial candidates are receiving. Unlike political races in LA County, there are no limits to the contributions that LA County judicial candidates can receive. One candidate in my race received one donation of $100,000.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m currently a candidate for Los Angeles County Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 118. I’m one of The Defenders of Justice 2022 judicial candidates who are campaigning for four different judge seats. We’re running to provide LA County voters with real options in these races. People complain that candidates are out of touch, and many people are turned off of voting altogether. I’m someone who has deep roots in my community, so I’m a candidate that will bring a community perspective to the bench if I’m elected.
The Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson confirmation highlighted the need for diversity of legal background in our judges, as well as the need for more women of the global majority with values that are aligned with the wider public. Prosecutors and corporate defense attorneys are overrepresented on the bench, which is why it was a big deal that a former public defender on the U.S. Supreme Court who is also African American and a woman was nominated and then confirmed. That shouldn’t be the case though. There should be many more judges who are women, people of the global majority and have perspectives informed by working all kinds of people, including those who are impacted most by our systems.
I chose a career representing regular working people, immigrants, students, and others seeking justice. Throughout my over 18 years of practicing law, I tried to pay it forward by serving regular working people throughout Los Angeles County. For many years, I worked at a public-sector union and represented state workers from all walks of life from custodians to healthcare workers to tax auditors. I’ve worked with children without a parent or guardian who are in immigration detention. I’ve taken on a number of pro bono cases representing people who were peacefully exercising their constitutional right to protest. I currently have a private law practice working in civil rights, labor, and social impact business matters. I am a Sustainable Economies Legal Fellow and a member of the first cohort of the Just Transition Lawyering Institute. The Sustainable Economies Legal Center provides legal support for people who want to form worker cooperatives, community land trusts, and other means of creating a sustainable economy.
There is one case I handled which illustrates how people who are touched by the criminal justice system can also be adversely affected in the workplace. I represented a registered nurse who was fired for failing to disclose that her husband was on parole, even though she wasn’t aware of her husband’s parole status at the time. She had been a stellar employee of the state for seven years before a manager dug up a reason to fire her. I was able to win her job back by getting the state’s personnel board decision overturned by a LA Superior Court judge.
I’m proud to have the support of so many people and organizations who share a vision of a justice system that is more just. I’m endorsed by several unions – Unite Here Local 11, IATSE Local B-192, Teamsters Joint Council 42, California Federation of Interpreters Local 39000, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 36. I’m also endorsed by many elected officials who work on issues of equity in our justice system like Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, and so many more. I’m backed by grassroots organizations like La Defensx, Ground Game LA, and California Working Families Party, while other candidates in my race are endorsed by law enforcement associations, former LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, or real estate developers. There are pretty stark differences between me and the other candidates in the race for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 118. I’m probably the only candidate who campaigns on my bike. As I’m riding, I’ll stop to speak to people along the way about electing more community lawyers like The Defenders of Justice candidates.
We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
Running for Judge of the Superior Court in Los Angeles County is one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken. The LA County judicial races are countywide elections, and there are about 6 million eligible voters in the county. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to run a race that has more eligible voters that the mayoral race for the City of Los Angeles. By being under a spotlight and the rigors of campaigning can take a toll on one’s psyche, body, and even relationships. Those are the risks I’m taking to have a shot at being the change that I want to see, which is to have more judges with values that are aligned with the majority of Angelenos. That is a high reward in my book, so I’m willing to take the higher risk.
- Website: parkforjudge2022.com
- Instagram: parkforjudge
- Facebook: jiyoungforjudge
- Twitter: parkforjudge
Julie Hotz for the main photo. Nalani H. Melo for the black and white photo. Chris Gutierrez for the photo with four women.