Friday, January 9. 2004
Yaffe Rejects ‘Temporary Judge,’ ‘Professor’ in Ballot Disputes
Judge Rules Campbell Cannot Use Acedemic Designation, Escobedo Must Appear as Superior Court Referee
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court Referee running for judge cannot be listed on the ballot as “Temporary Judge” or “Judicial Officer,” and a deputy district attorney who is an adjunct law professor cannot be listed as “Criminal Prosecutor/Professor,” a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled yesterday.
Judge David Yaffe, hearing arguments on consolidated writ petitions, concluded that it would be misleading for Mildred Escobedo to use either of her requested designations “because she is not a judge.”
He added that there was no meaningful distinction between “Temporary Judge” and “Acting Judge” or “Judge Pro Tempore,” terms that subordinate judicial officers have been denied the right to use under Court of Appeal precedent. Escobedo, he held, will be listed on the ballot as “Superior Court Referee,” a designation she submitted as an alternative after her first two preferences were initially rejected by the registrar.
The registrar later reversed herself and accepted “Judicial Officer,” prompting Deputy District Attorney Patrick David Campbell to seek a writ. Escobedo, in turn, challenged Campbell’s designation of “Criminal Prosecutor/Professor,” which the registrar had accepted over the objections of a third candidate, fellow Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldstern.
The fourth candidate in the March 2 contest, which is to succeed Judge Marcus Tucker, is Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Miguel Dager. All four candidates attended the hearing yesterday.
Yaffe suggested that Escobedo might be legitimately described as “Subordinate Judicial Officer” because commissioners and referees are referred to as such in the California Rules of Court. But he ultimately declined to allow her to use that title because it was not submitted to the registrar.
Yaffe also concluded that Campbell will have to limit himself to the designation “Criminal Prosecutor.” Campbell cannot refer to himself as a “Professor,” when the school at which he teaches—American College of Law in Anaheim—describes him as an adjunct professor, the judge said.
That ruling followed an evidentiary hearing—unusual in ballot-designation writ proceedings—at which Janice Cowan, the administrator of the law school, explained that the school uses the title “professor” to refer to its two full-time teachers, while the dozen or so lawyers who teach part-time are referred to as adjunct professors.
Campbell’s lawyer, Bradley W. Hertz, protested that Campbell’s use of the word “professor” was no different than the use of the phrase by Douglas Carnahan, a Los ssAngeles Municipal Court commissioner when he filed to run for Superior Court judge in 1999.
Carnahan was listed on the 2000 ballot as “Court Commissioner/Professor,” the latter part of the title referring to the fact that he taught a course for aspiring paralegals at El Camino Community College in Torrance.
His opponent—then-Deputy District Attorney Katherine Mader, who eventually won the seat—challenged the designation, noting that the college reserved the title for full-time tenured faculty members and usually referred to part-time teaching employees such as Carnahan as instructors.
Yaffe ruled at the time that Carnahan could use the title because he had “substantial and significant” involvement with the college, devoting five to eight hours a week to the $4,000-a-year position.
While it is the “custom and practice” of colleges to establish a “pecking order of teachers,” Yaffe reasoned then, the average voter thinks of a professor simply as “someone who teaches at an institution of higher learning.”
Resort to Dictionary
But when Hertz—who represented Carnahan—made the same argument yesterday, Yaffe added a moment of drama to the proceedings by asking his clerk to “bring out the dictionary.” The jurist then read from the unabridged dictionary that the clerk produced from his chambers, defining “adjunct professor” as a college or university educator “ranking next below a professor.”
Yaffe also noted that the words were separated by a space, not a hyphen, precluding the phrase from being considered a single word for purposes of the three-word limitation on most ballot designations. That prevented Campbell from being listed as “Criminal Prosecutor/Adjunct-Professor,” which Hertz suggested as an alternative, the judge said.
Escobedo’s attorney, Moises Vazquez, suggested a compromise in which his client would be listed as “Superior Court, Subordinate Judicial Officer” or “Superior Court/Subordinate Judicial Officer” and Campbell as “Prosecutor/Adjunct Professor.”
But Yaffe said any such agreement would violate the rights of the other candidates and the public. “This is not ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’” the judge explained.
Hertz then said his client would be willing to accept “Prosecutor/Adjunct Professor,” but the judge disallowed it because it was never submitted to the registrar. Hertz protested, to no avail, that his client had no opportunity to suggest alternatives, since his first choice of designation was accepted by the registrar.
Vazquez and Hertz both declined comment on whether they would seek relief from the Court of Appeal. Any such effort might have to come today, because the ballot is set to go to the printer tomorrow, the registrar’s attorney, Deputy County Counsel Judy W. Whitehurst, told the court.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company