Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, December 9, 2003


Page 1


Superior Court Candidate Patrick David Campbell Challenges Opponent’s Ballot Designation


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A Los Angeles Superior Court candidate yesterday asked the registrar’s office to cancel the ballot designation of one of his opponents in the March 2 primary.

Deputy District Attorney Patrick David Campbell, one of four candidates for the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus O. Tucker, questioned whether Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo can describe herself as “Judicial Officer.”

In his letter to the registrar, Campbell said the designation was “misleading and inaccurate.” He cited the “clearly defined rules” of Luke v. Superior Court (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 1360. The court held there that it would be misleading to list a court commissioner as “Judge, Los Angeles County (Acting).”

The Luke court held that “neither a court commissioner, nor any other individual who is not a ‘judge,’ as that term is defined in the constitution and statutes of this state, may utilize a ballot designation containing the word ‘judge’ or a derivative thereof.”

Campbell suggested that “judicial officer” is a derivative of “judge” and thus precluded under Luke. He also noted that referees are limited by the state Constitution and by statute to performing  “subordinate judicial duties.”

Escobedo could not be reached for comment. A court employee said she was out sick for the day.

 The other candidates in the race are Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldstern and Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Miguel A. Dager.

In other election news, the registrar’s office said it had erred Friday in saying that Kevin Burke, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and former Whittier attorney, had not returned his nominating papers.

In a statement e-mailed to the MetNews, Burke—who had equivocated earlier as to whether he would follow through on his declared challenge to Judge David Wesley, said he had decided to go forward because he believes Wesley bears some responsibility for the decision to close an arraignment court on May 28. Several defendants were released, and one of them was later charged with murder.

Wesley, in a recent interview with the MetNews, said the decision to close Commissioner Jeffrey Harkavy’s arraignment court at the end of the normal court day, even though dozens of defendants had to be ordered to return the next day, was made entirely by Judge Dan Oki.

Oki was the supervising judge of the criminal courts at the time; Wesley was the assistant supervising judge. Oki has since moved to a civil department, while Wesley is now the supervising judge.

Wesley said his role in the whole process was limited to communicating Oki’s order to Harkavy. At the time, Wesley said, he was on his way out of the courthouse to preside over a Teen Court session at a local high school, which he does every other Wednesday afternoon.

Burke said in his statement:

“[Wesley] had a responsibility to the public, to the Court, and to Judge Oki, to challenge the order as irresponsible, and not participate in what the transcripts bear out as a shameful spectacle.  Instead, he asserts that he simply delivered the order and left for the day.  The order, on its face, clearly recognized that public safety was a concern because it drew the line at cases for which the defendant was facing life in prison.  Why make such a distinction, to arraign life cases, unless it was recognized by all who participated, that there are some defendants that ought to be arraigned, and kept in custody.  Judge Wesley had to have known that defendants not arraigned with the statutory time period would have been released, unless there were other grounds to hold them, as that is well established law.  Unfortunately, the order drew the line in a very bad place, allowing accused domestic violence defendants, robbery defendants, and carjacking defendants to be released.  It is less than compelling to claim that, as a supervising judge, he was simply following orders, and was otherwise completely in the dark.”

Also in the race for Wesley’s seat are Deputy District Attorney Daniel Bershin and retired Deputy District Attorney Herbert Lapin.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company