Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, December 29, 2003


Page 1


Ruling Bars Oki Opponent From Running as ‘Temporary Judge’




Encino attorney Eugene M. Salute, who is challenging Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel T. Oki in the March 2 primary, may not be designated on the ballot as “Attorney/Temporary Judge,” an Orange Superior Court judge has ruled.

“By using the phrase ‘Temporary Judge’, [Salute] would mislead the voters into believing that he already is a Judge and currently holds and is properly holding the office he seeks, albeit temporarily,” Judge John M. Watson wrote. “This is untrue. He is not a Superior Court Judge. He has been neither elected nor appointed to such a position, nor does he have the powers attendant to such a position.”

Watson, who held a hearing in his Santa Ana courtroom on Tuesday, was specially assigned to the case so that none of Oki’s colleagues would have to rule on it. Judge Dzintra Janavs, to whom the case was originally assigned, noted in recusing herself that Oki also sits in the Mosk Courthouse and that she had donated to his campaign.

Watson cited Andal v. Miller (1994) 28 Cal. App. 4th 358, in which the Third District Court of Appeal barred then-state Sen. Robert Presley, D-Riverside, from using “Peace Officer” as part of his ballot designation in his bid for election to the State Board of Equalization,

Presley claimed the designation on the basis of his having been recently named a reserve deputy sheriff. But the court noted that his service in that position was unpaid and occasional.

Elections Code Sec. 13107, on which Andal was based, requires that the designation state the candidate’s “principal professions, vocations, or occupations,” Watson noted in his ruling Wednesday.

The jurist also noted that the statutory terms have now been further defined by regulations issued by the secretary of state.

Watson reasoned:

“‘Profession’ is defined in Section 20714(a)(1) of the Secretary of State’s Regulations and includes the example of ‘law’ which would seem to fit Mr. Salute rather than ‘Temporary Judge’.

“‘Vocation’ is defined at Section 20714(a)(2) to include a reliance in most cases for a livelihood and the spending of a major portion of one’s time not shown in this case.

“‘Occupation’ at Section 20714(a)(3) also requires frequent (meaning regular) engagement in or the means of making a livelihood not demonstrated here.”

Salute, who under Watson’s order will be listed solely as “Attorney,”  argued that the designation was accurate in that he has been sitting as a judge 50 days or more each year since he joined the temporary judge program of the then-Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1996.

Salute previously told the MetNews he serves one to two times a month and has received regular assignments to courtrooms in San Fernando, Van Nuys, and Beverly Hills, and has also sat in Newhall.

Salute is one of three challengers to Oki. The others are Deputy District Attorneys Hilary Anne Rhonan and Mark Debbaudt.

Neither Salute nor his attorney, Douglas Gray, could be reached for comment on the ruling. Oki’s lawyer, Bradley Hertz, said he and the judge were “quite pleased” and “were confident the words ‘temporary judge’ would be deleted” once the judge reviewed the case authority and the regulations.

As of now, the only “Temporary Judge” on the ballot will be Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo. The registrar’s office last week accepted the designation, after initially rejecting it.

That prompted a legal challenge by Deputy District Attorney Patrick David Campbell, one of three candidates running against Escobedo for the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker. Attorneys—Campbell is represented by Hertz, Escobedo by Moises Vasquez—were expected to obtain a hearing date on Friday.

Escobedo is challenging the “Professor” part of Campbell’s “Criminal Prosecutor/Professor” designation. Campbell teaches part of the time at an unaccredited law school in Anaheim.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company