Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, November 6, 2003


Page 1


Civil Litigator Files Challenge to Judge Richard W. Van Dusen




Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard W. Van Dusen drew a challenger yesterday, one day after being derided by a prosecution group in a newspaper ad.

Daniel Dik, a civil litigator with the Century City firm of Fonda & Fraser, said he was motivated to run by the ad in Tuesday’s Daily Journal.

The ad, placed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, described Van Dusen as a “bad judge” and encouraged candidates to file against him, then call the ADDA for support. The ad declared that prosecutors who responded to a poll “strongly oppose” Van Dusen and Judges Dan Oki and David Wesley, and “oppose” Judges Gilbert Lopez and William Ryan.

Oki has drawn six opponents, including four who filed yesterday. Wesley has four opponents, one of whom filed yesterday.

Lopez and Ryan went unchallenged. Also running unopposed was Judge Alexander Williams III, as attorney James Gustafson, who took out papers to run against him, did not file a declaration of intention by yesterday’s deadline.

Gustafson could not be reached for comment.

Dik said he was unaware of Van Dusen until he saw the ad, but concluded after reviewing a newspaper profile of the judge that Van Dusen is “not very popular with a lot of the people who appear before him” and has a tendency to “spring traps on counsel who are wet behind the ears.”

 Dik said he does not know how much money he will have to spend on the race.

Van Dusen did not return a METNEWS phone call.

Among those filing to challenge Oki was Eugene Salute, a business litigator from Encino. Salute said he was also attracted by the newspaper ad and called ADDA President Steven Ipsen.

“What [Oki] did was outrageous,” he said, referring to the events of May 28 cited in the ADDA ad. The ad said Oki and Wesley were responsible for the release of several suspects whose arraignments had not taken place by court closing time on that day.

Many of the suspects were charged with violent crimes, and one of them is now accused of murder.

Oki was supervising judge of the criminal courts at the time. Wesley was assistant supervising judge, and later replaced Oki as supervising judge.

Salut said he realized the race would be expensive, but said he was ready.

“I am not a poor man,” he said. “I’ve been practicing law for 38 years. I can afford to run any kind of election that would be necessary.”

But Salut said that he does not know whether he will hire a consultant, or whether he will spend the $65,000 needed to place a candidate statement in the official ballot pamphlet.

Also filing against Oki late yesterday were Deputy District Attorneys Mark Debbaudt and Bradford Stone, and Superior Court Research Attorney Kevin Notre.

Notre had originally taken out papers to run for the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker. But the emergence of multiple challengers to Oki, he said, presents a unique opportunity.

Notre, an officer of the union that represents research attorneys and law clerks, said he felt that support from organized labor might be enough to propel him into a runoff in a large field.

He said he would be talking to other union activists this week in an effort to gain backing, including campaign funds.

Funding is important, he said, because Oki has raised over $60,000. “And he has the king of slates,” Notre said, referring to campaign consultant Fred Huebscher.

Joining the race against Wesley yesterday was former ADDA president Herb Lapin. Lapin, a retired prosecutor, is “going to come in off the golf course,” Ipsen, who filed Lapin’s papers, said.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company