Friday, January 23, 2004
Ipsen Ad Misleading, but Oki Opponents Not at Fault, Report by County Bar Election Practices Panel Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An advertisement soliciting election opposition to several Los Angeles Superior Court judges, including Dan T. Oki, was misleading, but none of Oki’s opponents were at fault, a County Bar panel has determined.
The ad “was misleading as alleged in [Oki’s] complaint, in that it appeared to be an advertisement placed by the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys,” the Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee said.
ADDA President Steven Ipsen has acknowledged, since the ad appeared just prior to the deadline for candidates to file declarations of intent to run for judicial office this past November, that he and not the association placed the ad. The committee found that the three candidates running against Oki—Deputy District Attorneys Marc Debbaudt and Hilary Anne Rhonan and Encino lawyer Eugene M. Salute—“were not responsible for the formulation, placement or dissemination of the misleading advertisement.”
Those findings were reported in a letter dated Jan. 15 and addressed to Ipsen and the four candidates. The letter was signed by the committee chair, Los Angeles attorney Barbara Yanow Johnson, and a copy was obtained by the MetNews.
The letter said the committee had acted on the recommendation of a subcommittee made up of Johnson, attorneys Stephen R. English and Howard Cohen, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Philip Saeta and screenwriter/producer David W. Rintels.
The proceedings, the letter explained, included appearances before the subcommittee by Oki and Ipsen and consideration of a signed, joint statement by the challengers.
The ad in question urged potential candidates to “PICK A BAD JUDGE...WE HAVE FIVE TO CHOOSE FROM.”
The five were Judges Gilbert Lopez, William Ryan, Oki, David Wesley, and Richard Van Dusen. According to the ad, a “survey sent to over 900 prosecutors in the L.A. District Attorney’s Office” resulted in a finding that prosecutors “OPPOSE” Lopez and Ryan and “STRONGLY OPPOSE” Wesley, Oki, and Van Dusen.
The ad, which urged candidates to file first and call the ADDA for endorsements later, gave no explanation for opposition to Lopez, Ryan, or Van Dusen. It repeated previous criticism of Oki and Wesley, saying they were responsible for the release of several suspects whose arraignments had not taken place by court closing time on May 28, the Wednesday following the Memorial Day weekend.
Many of the suspects were charged with violent crimes, and one of them is now accused of a subsequent murder. Oki was supervising judge of the criminal courts at the time; Wesley was assistant supervising judge, and later replaced Oki as supervising judge.
Oki, Wesley, and Van Dusen were the only ones out of the five to draw opposition.
Oki pronounced himself satisfied with the committee’s decision. Debbaudt declined comment, citing the committee’s confidentiality rule, which states in its entirety that “[t]he Committee members, the candidates and their authorized or designated representatives shall at all times hold confidential the filing of a complaint, subcommittee hearings, investigations and deliberations, subject to the need for investigation.”
Salute also declined comment, other than to say that Oki “never called to find out whether we were involved....I had nothing to do with that ad.” Rhonan did not return a phone call.
Ipsen said he had not seen the letter, which may have gone to an old address, and said would not comment, if at all, until he has had a chance to read it.
Ipsen, who is also a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, faces a re-election challenge for his ADDA post tomorrow from Deputy District Attorney John Nantroup, who himself almost became a judicial candidate. Nantroup filed for the seat of Judge John Harris, who was out of town when Nantroup turned in his declaration of intent to run, but pulled out after Harris returned and officially entered the race.
The election outcome is unlikely to affect efforts to unseat the targeted judges, Debbaudt said. Ipsen and Nantroup “are both supporting what the candidates are doing and [ADDA members] will strongly support the candidates no matter who is president,” he commented.
Nantroup did not return a call seeking comment.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company