Friday, January 22, 2010
No Election to Be Held for Nguyen Superior Court Seat, Officials Say
Holtz, Who Took Out Papers to Run, Says He Will Not Oppose Salkin or Schneider
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
There will not be an election this year for the Los Angeles Superior Court seat formerly held by Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, now of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, officials said yesterday.
The office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk acknowledged that the seat, which it had designated as Office No. 56, should have been removed from the list of positions for which candidates may seek election once Nguyen left the court last month.
That result appears compelled by Proposition 220, the 1998 ballot measure that amended the state Constitution to permit unification of superior and municipal courts.
The measure included a provision, little noticed at the time, that altered the timing of some judicial elections. It amended Art. VI, Sec. 16 to provide that “[a] vacancy shall be filled by election to a full term at the next general election after the second January 1 following the vacancy, but the Governor shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy temporarily until the elected judge’s term begins.”
In other words, because Nguyen’s seat was vacated in 2009, an election to fill it could not take place until 2012.
Deputy District Attorney Lou Holtz, who on Wednesday had taken out papers to run for the seat, told the MetNews that an elections official called him yesterday and “profusely apologized” for erroneously allowing him to do so. Holtz must now decide which seat, if any, to run for.
He explained that, before yesterday, “everyone I talked to”—including judges and campaign professionals, in addition to the registrar’s staff—was under the impression that Nguyen’s departure from the court would not alter the timing of the election for her seat, at least in the absence of an appointment by the governor prior to the filing period.
The constitutional language above, however, makes no mention of the timing of an appointment, only of the vacancy.
A state Supreme Court decision, Stanton v. Panish (1980) 28 Cal.3d 107, recognizes an exception to the strict application of the constitutional language in cases where a candidate has already filed nomination documents before the vacancy occurs. But Nguyen’s December departure rendered that exception moot as to her seat.
Holtz said he would not run against Deputy District Attorneys Valerie Salkin and Alan Schneider. He said he had too much admiration and loyalty towards the pair, who have been coordinating some of their activities—their websites use a virtually identical design—although he would not hesitate to run against a prosecutor for a different seat.
The only confirmed open seats are those now held by Judge William Pounders, who said he plans to serve out his term, and Judge William Weisman, who has slated his retirement for May. Besides Holtz, Salkin, and Schneider, announced candidates for the court include Administrative Law Judge Nora Quinn, Calabasas solo practitioner William M. Margolin, Deputy District Attorney Laurie Trammell Castaneda, Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Thomas Griego, Beverly Hills attorney Mark K. Ameli, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Garcia, Pasadena personal injury attorney Anthony de los Reyes, Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Randolph M. Hammock, and West Los Angeles attorney and mediator Elizabeth A. Moreno.
Contenders must file declarations of intent to run between Feb. 1 and Feb. 10, with an extension to Feb. 16 for open seats. Those who have filed declarations must then file nomination documents between Feb. 16 and March 12 in order to officially become candidates.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company