Committed to restorative justice, Songhai has headed citywide efforts focused on removing the homeless, addicted and mentally ill from our court systems and overcrowded jails, diverting them into programs and services. Passionate about serving those who have served us, she has created VALOR, a restorative justice program just for veterans. These innovative programs have reshaped lives, reduced recidivism rates and kept thousands from clogging up the courts and cycling through our jails.
She is a Faculty Lecturer in UCLA’s Department of Chicano Studies teaching Conflict resolution and Mediation. She has also trained Social Work and Public Policy graduate students in the same at USC. Not only does she teach mediation skills, she also runs the City’s award winning Dispute Resolution Program.
Songhai has received a number of awards and recognitions including: Los Angeles Wave's "2013 LA's Most Influential People Under 40 To Watch" (October 2013); Los Angeles Police Commission Distinguished Service Medal, the highest civilian honor awarded (May 2013); Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from the United States Congress, Member of Congress Karen Bass (May 2012); Certificate of Recognition from the Los Angeles Police Department and Chief William J. Bratton (October 2009); Commendation from the Weingart Center Association (October 2009); Certificate of Appreciation from the Office of the City Attorney, Los Angeles (January 2008); Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilmember Herb Wesson (January 2008).
Learn more at www.ArmsteadforJudge.com
What made you decide to apply for the LAAAWPPI?
One of my mentors, former LAPD Police Chief William Bratton, was honored one year by LAAAWPPI. He asked me during that period why I was not yet a part of such a fabulous group of amazing African American women. He suggested that as I grow in my various leadership roles within the City that this group could be key to my continued success. I also had two additional friends USC Law professor Jody Armour and Attorney Brian Williams who were on the LAAAPPI board who also recommended that I go through the program.
What is your role in the City Attorney's office?
I am a Supervising Deputy City Attorney and oversee a number of programs including Homeless Court, HALO (Homeless Alternatives to Living On the Street), VALOR (Veteran Alternative Legal Options and Resources) and DRP (Dispute Resolution Program).
What has been your model for success?
I truly believe that you should always ask for and go after what you want. You had "no" before you asked and "nothing" before you tried. So never limit yourself. There are endless possibilities available to you if you only try. Half of the things that I have accomplished in my life were “hail marys” if I had internalized all the naysayers around I would not have gone very far in life. I have a very strong faith belief and know that even if I don’t get everything that I think I want, I will get what is best for me (even if I can’t see it right away).
How did LAAAWPPI prepare you to run for Superior Court Judge?
LAAAWPPI showed me that I could run and that I should run. There is a huge gap in the number of African American women elected to office and this is especially true on the bench. LA Superior Courts unified in 2000 and since then there has not been a single African American or African American women elected to the bench in a contested race. I am hoping to change this sad fact. LAAAWPPI gave me the overview of what it takes to run a campaign and win an office. It also gave me a new network of friends and supporters as well as a variety of resources right in our community. Since I have been on this campaign run I see my fellow LAAAWPPI sisters everywhere. It makes it so much easier to do this when you are with family.
What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
When I am elected, I plan to bring a fresh perspective to the bench. We have entirely too many judges who’s career focused largely on locking up murderers and gang members. These types of judges begin to see all cases as one of murders and gang members even with non-violent misdemeanors. When I win this election I will be able to bring a variety of perspectives and tools to address cases to the bench just like I have in my career as a prosecutor. I will be extreme tough on violent offenders while using restorative justice principles with low level nonviolent offenders.
I also plan to help other persons with diverse backgrounds get elected to the bench as well. I have learned during this election that if you have access to enough money you can essentially purchase a judicial seat and this should never be the case. We as a community have been very angry with the outcomes of cases but have not done a very good job putting judges in place who can see issues/matters from a variety of perspectives. I hope to work with a team and put systems in place to groom and prepare others to run for judge.