Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Ballot Designations of Three Judicial Candidates Are Stricken
Matsumoto, Mednick Can’t Be Listed as ‘Administrative Law Judges,’ Kim Isn’t a ‘Violent Crimes Prosecutor,’ Under Rulings
By a MetNews Staff Writer
ARNOLD WILLIAM MEDNICK
‘Retired Court Commissioner’
Ballot designations of three candidates for judgeships were ordered scrapped yesterday after being held to be misleading.
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O’Brien, sitting on assignment, ordered Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan to delete the designation of “Administrative Law Judge,” chosen by both Pamela Matsumoto and Arnold William Mednick. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ordered that Helen Kim not be labeled a “Violent Crimes Prosecutor.”
The judges interpreted Elections Code §13107(a)(3) which says that ballot designations may be comprised of “[n]o more than three words designating either the current principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate, or the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents.”
Matsumoto and Mednick each served as an administrative law judge in the state Department of Social Services after losing their jobs in 2012 as Juvenile Court referees. Matsumoto was denied the ballot title she wanted because her current job is as a private practitioner and Mednick, who has been unemployed since leaving the DSS on Jan. 16, 2013, because he did not devote substantial efforts to the job during the preceding calendar year.
Kim, a part-time filing deputy in the District Attorney’s Office, was not allowed to use the word “violent” because it did not appear that the majority of cases she processed involved felonies that were classed as “violent” for sentencing purposes.
By stipulation of the parties, Matsumoto will be termed a “Litigation Attorney” and Kim will be labeled a “Criminal Prosecutor.” The Office of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder determined yesterday that Mednick’s designation will be “Retired Court Commissioner,” over the protest of Cooper’s attorney, Bradley W. Hertz of The Sutton Law Firm.
Hertz acknowledged in the writ petition that such a designation would be appropriate but contradicted that in his reply to the opposition, citing California Code of Regulations §20716(h)(4). That provision says a retiree may not state his or her former job in a ballot designation “if that candidate possesses another more recent, intervening principal profession, vocation, or occupation.”
All three candidates are opposed by deputy district attorneys. Matsumoto is competing with Amy Carter (whose ballot designation is “Sex Crimes Prosecutor”), Mednick’s rival is Andrew Cooper (“Gang Homicide Prosecutor”), and Kim is pitted against Alison Matsumoto Estrada (“Government Corruption Prosecutor.”)
Validity of Regulation
Stuart L. Leviton of Reed and Davidson LLP told O’Brien at yesterday’s hearing that he should disregard California Code of Regulations §20714, which requires that a candidate, if currently employed, use a designation reflecting the present job, insisting:
“There is no question that the regulation is in conflict with the Elections Code.”
Sec. 13107(a)(3) gives the candidate an “either-or” choice between listing the present job or a past one, he argued, saying that a regulation denying the choice contravenes the statute.
O’Brien responded that the regulation “embellishes a little” on the Elections Code section, “but it doesn’t conflict.”
The purpose of the provisions, he said, is to “inform the voters and not mislead them.”
If Matsumoto’s chosen ballot designation were to stand, he observed, voters “would determine she is working as an administrative law judge.”
Leviton also argued, without success, that Matsumoto “doesn’t have a current occupation” because the position she has in a law office is a “temporary job.”
Mednick was represented by attorney Steven Bryson, who contended that the “Administrative Law Judge” designation was appropriate because it was “full-time work” and was “the only occupation that he did in 2013.”
Bryson pressed the point that the designation had been approved by the Registrar-Recorder’s Office.
“Am I supposed to defer to that?” O’Brien asked.
Bryson said that he should do so unless the determination is outside the realm of reason.
The judge also queried Bryson as to whether the designation would be proper if Mednick “worked one day as an ALJ” in 2013.
“My answer would be yes,” the lawyer said.
He commented that if that had been Mednick’s only occupation since Jan. 1, 2013, “that would be absolutely not misleading.”
O’Brien recited that from the papers, it appeared that Mednick had completed in 2012 all of the hearings he was assigned to conduct, but six matters “needed additional work.” He said his concern was whether that work was just a “tail-end chore.”
The judge took the matter under submission. Soon after, he ruled:
“The petition is granted. The court does not find that the carry over work respondent did during January, 2013, was his principal vocation or occupation and warrants his use of the title of Administrative Law Judge. To allow that title to be used for this 2014 election would be misleading to the voters.”
Carter, as well as Cooper, was represented by Hertz. After his double victory, Hertz went on to suffer a loss in another courtroom, arguing on behalf of Kim.
There, he again jousted with Leviton, who acted for Matsumoto Estrada. Representing Logan at all three hearings, but saying little, was Deputy County Counsel Vicki Kozikoujekian.
Chalfant declared that there “isn’t any evidence” that Kim “spends a substantial amount of time” prosecuting perpetrators of violent crimes.
He said that in her papers, in listing cases she has processed, Kim failed to distinguish between “serious” crimes and “violent” ones.
Hertz suggested that “Criminal Prosecutor” would be “the most generic, appropriate designation.” Leviton protested that O’Brien had declined to pass on the validity of any designations other than those before him, and said that all parties to ballot designation disputes should be treated alike.
He commented that he could argue that since Kim did not put down alternative designations on the form she filed in the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, she should have none.
“Good luck with that argument,” Chalfant scoffed.
He told the attorneys to confer, and then come back in and tell his clerk that they had settled on “Criminal Prosecutor.”
This morning, Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai will ask Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin to disallow the ballot designation of one of his two opponents, Otis Felder, who is listed as “Los Angeles Prosecutor.” He is a maritime attorney who recently participated as an extern in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Volunteer Attorney Program.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company