Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Opponent Challenges Candidate’s ‘Professor’ Designation
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A deputy district attorney running for Los Angeles Superior Court judge in the March 2 primary yesterday challenged an opponent’s plan to be designated as “Criminal Prosecutor/Professor” on the ballot.
In a letter faxed to Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Conny B. McCormack, Daniel Feldstern complained that fellow prosecutor Pat Campbell, who teaches once a week at an unaccredited law school, is trying to “create for voters a an inflated and misleading impression of [his] academic statute.”
Campbell “holds no formal professorial credentials and, to my knowledge, is not a regular member of any college or university faculty,” Feldstern wrote.
“To my knowledge, his only academic teaching is limited to recent, part-time instruction of basic fundamentals of criminal procedure, taught on Saturdays at a private law school in Anaheim, California,” Feldstern continued. “According to school personnel, Mr. Campbell has taught one 16-week session at American College of Law from January to May 2003; and later commenced a similar session in September 2003....”
Feldstern also commented that his opponent “has received minimal compensation, commensurate with his temporary, part-time teaching status and reflective of the relatively insubstantial time commitment” and did not report income from the law school on the statement of economic interests that state candidates must file with the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Citing a leading dictionary, Feldstern suggested that the term “professor” is limited to a college or university teacher “of the highest academic rank.”
The two prosecutors are seeking the seat being vacated by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marcus Tucker. The other candidates for the open seat are Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo and Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Miguel A. Dager.
Feldstern’s designation complaint is the second made in the race. Campbell had earlier objected to Escobedo being described as “Judicial Officer,” based on a Court of Appeal ruling prohibiting non-judges from using the word “judge” or a derivative thereof.
That challenge is under review along with the one just made by Feldstern, a spokesperson for McCormack said late yesterday.
Campbell’s campaign consultant, Fred Huebscher, defended his candidate’s designation. “Anyone teaching at an institution of higher learning is a professor,” Huebscher said, citing a ruling three years ago by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe.
The judge allowed then-South Bay Municipal Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan† to be listed as a “Court Commissioner/Professor” in his bid for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Carnahan’s five-to-eight-hour-per-week position, teaching a course for aspiring paralegals at El Camino Community College in Torrance for which he was paid $4,000 annually, represented “substantial and significant” involvement with the college, Yaffe said. The term “professor,” he concluded, was properly used in its general sense, even if it was not Carnahan’s† official title.
Carnahan later lost the election to then-Deputy District Attorney Katherine Mader, a Huebscher client.
While Yaffe’s ruling was not appealed, and therefore does not constitute precedent in the legal sense, several other judicial candidates who teach law-related courses have called themselves “professor” or “law professor.” Another Huebscher client, Craig Renetzky—a deputy district attorney who lost a runoff to fellow deputy Richard Naranjo—ran as “Prosecutor/Law Professor” last year, shortly after commencing a position teaching a law class at a community college.
Renetzky is running again this year—for the seat left open by Judge Rosemary Shumsky—but has designated himself a “Criminal Trial Prosecutor” and is no longer using Huebscher’s services.
Huebscher did acknowledge that Campbell did not list his teaching income on the FPPC form. That was due to a misunderstanding regarding the reporting requirements, the consultant said, adding that the form is being amended.
In other election developments:
•The registrar’s spokesperson said that one other ballot designation is under review. P. Michael Erwin, an attorney for the state Department of Industrial Relations, wants to run as “California State Attorney.”
Erwin is seeking the seat being vacated by Judge James Wright.
•A Los Angeles Superior Court judge, as expected, sent fellow Judge Dan Oki’s challenge to opponent Eugene Salute’s ballot designation to an assigned judge out of the county.
Attorneys for Oki and Salute are to appear before Orange Superior Court Judge John Watson this morning. Watson is expected to set a hearing date and a briefing schedule, Oki attorney Bradley Hertz told the MetNews.
Oki filed for a writ of mandate after the registrar accepted “Attorney/Temporary Judge” as Salute’s ballot designation.
In points and authorities filed yesterday, Hertz argued that the designation is “misleading and overly creative.” Salute’s “principal profession, vocation and occupation is that of an attorney,” while serving as a temporary judge is an “occasional and volunteer avocation and pro forma position” for the Encino business lawyer and Superior Court mediator, Hertz argued.
The registrar questioned the designation, but accepted it after Salute provided proof that he has consistently sat as a judge pro tem for several years, and cited the state constitutional provision authorizing assignment of attorneys to serve as temporary judges in civil cases in the trial courts.
The other challengers to Oki are Deputy District Attorneys Hilary Anne Rhonan and Mark Debbaudt.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company