Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Cooley Scores Challengers for ‘Dishonest’ Ballot Designations
Says He Is Prepared to Litigate Claims That Harman Is ‘Prosecutor’ and Eastman Is ‘Assistant Attorney General’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley yesterday criticized his opponents in the Republican primary for California attorney general for using ballot designations he says are designed to mislead voters.
“This goes to the core of being A.G.: Are you honest?” Cooley told the METNEWS. “This is dishonest.”
He was referring to state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Costa Mesa, seeking to be listed on the ballot as “Prosecutor/Attorney/Senator,” and conservative legal scholar John Eastman, who wishes to be listed as “Assistant Attorney General.” Cooley said he will seek a writ of mandate to block those designations if Secretary of State Debra Bowen approves them.
A spokesperson for Bowen explained that the office will, by Friday, review all designations submitted by state and federal candidates to determine whether they comply with the statutory requirement that they identify the candidate’s current elected office or “principal professions, vocations, or occupations.”
If the secretary of state disapproves a designation, the candidate must provide an alternative or challenge the secretary’s decision in a mandamus proceeding. If the designation is approved, “any elector” may bring a court challenge under Elections Code Sec. 13314(a)(1).
Harman is claiming that he is a “prosecutor” because he belongs to the Orange County Trial Attorney Partnership Program, under which attorneys serve as unpaid deputy district attorneys by appointment of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Orange County’s top prosecutor has endorsed Harman for attorney general, and named him a deputy on Feb. 10.
Harman explained in the ballot designation worksheet accompanying his nominating documents that he works for the district attorney on Thursdays and Fridays, “and can greatly increase my hours during [legislative] recesses.”
A request for comment by Harman yesterday was referred to his campaign consultant, Wayne Johnson, who was not available.
Eastman, who stepped down Jan. 1 as dean of Chapman University School of Law, is claiming the assistant attorney general designation based on his appointment as a special assistant attorney general of South Dakota.
He said in his worksheet that he was named to that position Feb. 23 so that he can represent the state before the U.S. Supreme Court in Reisch v. Sisney, a U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with prisoners’ rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
He said he will be paid at least $20,000 for his work on the case, and anticipates being paid an additional $100,000 or more if the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari.
Eastman spokesman Jeff Flint took umbrage at Cooley’s description, saying “we’re not calling him dishonest,” even though Cooley is listing himself as “District Attorney” without saying where.
“I wonder if he thinks that being consistent in application of law is consistent with the position he is seeking,” Flint said. “I would ask him why he didn’t list L.A. County in his ballot designation.”
The spokesman also noted that Eastman could not call himself a “special assistant attorney general,” although that is the full title of the position, because the statute limits the description to three words. Although a past candidate for the office was allowed to hyphenate “attorney-general,” that option was subsequently foreclosed by the Legislature, he explained.
The ballot designation flaps are reminiscent of the case of Andal v. Miller (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th, dealing with an effort by then-state Sen. Robert Presley, a candidate in the 1994 general election for a seat on the State Board of Equalization, to list himself as “Senator/Peace Officer.”
The last part of the designation was based on his then-recent appointment as a reserve deputy sheriff. The Third District Court of Appeal rejected the designation because Presley had not actually performed any law enforcement duties, the sheriff acknowledged that there were no plans to actually utilize his services before the election, and the position was unpaid.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company