Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, December 15, 2003


Page 1


Candidate Will Fight to Retain ‘Temporary Judge’ Designation

Salute Says Ballot Language, Allowed by Elections Officials, Is Being Challenged


By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts


A challenger to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dan Oki, notified Friday that his ballot designation will be the subject of a court challenge, said he will fight to be listed as “Attorney/Temporary Judge.”

Elections officials notified Encino lawyer Eugene Salute late last week that they would allow the designation, after Salute provided them with documents showing that he has been sitting as a judge pro tem for seven years, with several assignments upcoming.

But Salute told the MetNews he received ex parte telephone notice Friday from West Hills attorney Bradley W. Hertz that Hertz will seek a writ disallowing the designation. The matter was set for this morning, but Salute said he expected the matter to be continued for assignment to an out-of-county judge, as has typically been the case for election disputes when one of the candidates is a current Superior Court judge in the county where the case is filed.

Election Law Specialist

Hertz, who specializes in election law and has litigated a number of ballot designation cases, could not be reached for comment. But Salute said he was told that the claim will be based upon the holding in Luke v. Superior Court (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 1360 and the allegation that his use of “temporary judge” is “misleading, false and against the election laws.”

Salute said he will present evidence that he sat as a judge pro tem “50 or 60 days out of the [past] year” and “hundreds and hundreds” of days since he joined the temporary judge program of the then-Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1996.

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

In Luke, the court held there that it would be misleading to list a court commissioner as “Judge, Los Angeles County (Acting).” Salute, in a letter to the registrar and in an interview with the MetNews, insisted that his situation differs from that in Luke.

The “temporary judge” designation, he noted, appears in the state Constitution.

Courtroom Assignments

Salute said 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.

Court officials, he acknowledged, have told him that his proposed use of the designation is “inappropriate,” and have threatened to terminate him from the temporary judge program, Salute said.

Another candidate whose designation was questioned, Department of Industrial Relations attorney Stella Owens-Murrell, said she expected to resolve matters with the registrar’s office this week. Owens-Murrell wishes to be listed as “State Attorney.”

One other candidate, Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo, had her proposed designation of “Judicial Officer’ rejected after an opponent, Deputy District Attorney Patrick David Campbell, complained.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company