Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, June 22, 2015


Page 7



Did Lamar W. Baker Lie About Working in the White House?





If you do an “attorney search” on the State Bar website for “Lamar W. Baker”—the 37-year-old “special assistant to the president and associate counsel to the president” who has been nominated as a Court of Appeal associate justice for this district’s Div. Five—you’ll see on the screen what appears above.

Well, that looks pretty impressive. Young Mr. Baker is right there in the same edifice as the president, himself.

…Or so it would seem.

The telephone number Baker provided the State Bar is (202) 456-1414. That’s the number of the White House switchboard.

However, if you phone that number and ask for Lamar Baker, you’ll be told: “I have no listing.”

Does he…or did he…have an office in the White House?

The May 22 press release from the Governor’s Office, announcing the nomination of Baker, implies that he left his post in the Obama Administration earlier this year. It says he “served”—past tense—“at the White House from 2014 to 2015.”

I sent three e-mails to the White House public information office seeking confirmation that Baker had worked in the White House. No response. Sometimes, silence constitutes a loud statement.

I tweeted the press secretary. No reply.

E-mails went to persons in the office. No return e-mail.

The answer was found at the Los Angeles County Law Library. At Page 6 of the Spring 2015, “Federal Yellow Pages,” is a listing for the Office of White House Counsel.

That office is not located within the White House. Rather, it is in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 1650 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Baker is listed as having his office in that building in Room 149.

It is to be hoped that at least two of the three members of the Commission on Judicial Appointments—Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Senior Second District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Paul Arthur Turner—will find it disquieting that the nominee has apparently falsified his address, using the glamorous one next door, rather than that of the building where he actually worked.

The third member of the panel is Attorney General Kamala Harris. Like the president and the governor, she’s a Democrat; she’s ambitious. Currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate, she’s possibly a future president or U.S. Supreme Court member. Harris is far too political to buck the appointment of Baker, no matter what.

Perhaps Cantil-Sakauye is, also.

The fact remains, Baker’s credentials for the office to which he has been nominated are meager. He practiced California law for only two years. He has no bench experience. And his listing of the White House as his address when he did not work there casts doubt on his integrity.

The confirmation hearing is set for July 23, two days after Baker turns 38.

By the way, Rules of the State Bar of California, rule 2.3(A) provides:

“A member must inform the State Bar of a change of address, telephone number, or e-mail address no later than thirty days after making the change.”

Implied in that is a requirement that an accurate address be provided.

A STRANGE LITIGATOR: His name is Joseph Lawrence Dunn. While in the state Senate (1999-2006), as an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for state controller (2006), as CEO of the California Medical Association (2006-2009), and as executive director of the State Bar of California (2009-2014), he was known as “Joe Dunn.”

He now refers to himself as “Senator Joseph Dunn (Ret.).” It’s in that name that he’s suing the State Bar for firing him as E.D.

All too often, persons are permitted to sue using a pseudonym such as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.” Here we find an abnormal instance of a litigant, quite pretentiously, including his erstwhile office title in the title of the case.

Code of Civil Procedure §422.40 provides: “In the complaint, the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties….”

“Senator” is not a “name”; it’s a title.

Sometimes a title will appear after a name to indicate the capacity in which a person is suing or being sued. Dunn is not suing in the capacity of an ex-senator.

If Dunn—founding partner of “The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP” in Orange County—really wants to litigate as “Senator Dunn,” he could do what another ex-lawmaker did: go to court to get a name-change, with “Senator” added as his first name. (Or, he could exercise the common law right to change his name simply by adopting another one.)

In 1987, former state Sen. Omer L. Rains filed an application in the Placer Superior Court to become recognized as “Senator Omer L. Rains.”

He “generally signed his name” that way, not only while in the Senate (1974-82) but afterward, according to the petition, as quoted in a UPI dispatch, published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 15.

(Before becoming a lawyer, did he sign his name as “Mr. Omer L. Rains”? As a lawyer, did he affix his signature as “Omer L. Rains, Esq.”?)

The UPI story says Rains’ lawyer advised him to get the name-change, according to the petition, “to avoid the potential for unnecessary legal complications in the future.”

The judge gave tentative approval, subject to receipt of opposition.

What ensued was widespread ridicule. For example, the Aug. 25 edition of the Orange County Register, in its editorial column, under the heading, “Needle Points,” observes:

“From the ‘You can take the man out of the Senate, but you can’t take the Senate out of the man’ file: Omer L. Rains, a former Democratic state senator from Santa Barbara has officially changed his name to ‘Senator Omer L. Rains.’ ”

No, his name had not yet been changed; the comment period was still open.

There were objections from the Senate Rules Committee, a Sept. 23 story in the Los Angeles Times notes. It reports that Rains had withdrawn his petition, remarking that he was “a bit shellshocked” at the opposition.

The San Francisco Chronicle that day quotes from a letter Rains sent to the judge, saying:

“At the time, the petition seemed like an innocuous enough matter. Clearly, however, and for whatever reason, the press has not portrayed the matter in the spirit it was intended.”

There is a case, involving no privacy interests, which the trial court tossed out because the plaintiff used a name other than his own, and which the appellate court reinstated. The case did not involve a bogus name of the “Doe” variety; rather, the plaintiff used the name of his brother and, under an unusual fact situation, had, for general purposes, adopted that name as his own.

In Cabrera v. McMullen (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 1, the Third District Court of Appeal held that a person could sue under an assumed name where the person actually goes by that moniker.

The plaintiff, born in Mexico, was christened Luis Cabrera. He came to work in California as Bonfilio Cabrera. A footnote explains:

“Apparently, plaintiff did not have the necessary documentation to work in the United States but his brother Bonfilio did possess such papers.”

(There is no consideration in the opinion as to whether the plaintiff unlawfully impersonated his brother in order to gain fraudulent entry into the United States, and remained here illegally.)

The opinion reverses summary judgment for the defendant based on the plaintiff’s use of a false name. Justice Frances Newell Carr (since deceased) explains:

“Under California law, a person may change his or her name at any time without any legal formalities….More importantly, a person may sue or be sued in any name in which he or she is known and recognized….The record here discloses no dispute that plaintiff adopted ‘Bonfilio’ as his alias. No law prevents a person from adopting a sibling’s name as his or her own. Accordingly, under longstanding law, plaintiff had the right to sue under his assumed name.”

Carr’s opinion cites the California Supreme Court’s 1908 opinion in Emery v. Kipp (1908) which points to “the principle of common law that a man may change his name at will and sue or be sued in any name in which he is known and recognized.”

If this is being read by political consultant Fred Huebscher—who bases judicial campaigns he guides largely on the candidates’ respective names (targeting judges with foreign-sounding names, running attorneys with Anglo-Saxon names)—his mental wheels are no doubt turning.

Why not have a client who wants to run for an open seat change his or her first name to “Judge,” and thus appear to be an incumbent?

Would this work? I would hope not.

There is the rule that a name cannot be changed for a fraudulent purpose. But if a name were changed before any such purpose became evident, could use by a candidate of his or her actual name on a ballot possibly be challenged?

What if Rains had obtained a change of name, then later ran again for a state Senate seat? He’d appear to be an incumbent.

I wouldn’t put it past Huebscher to pull a name-change stunt to benefit a judicial candidate.

There was a time a few years back when he engineered the campaign of a deputy DA named Dave Campbell. The candidate—who did not generally use his first name of Patrick—ran as Pat Campbell, with the notion being that women might vote for him thinking that “Pat” was a female.

There’s nothing wrong with using a middle name, or even a nickname, on the ballot, if the name is one that the candidate goes by. Among recent governors of this state is one whose first name is Courken and one whose given name is Joseph. I’m referring to Courken George Deukmejian and Joseph Graham “Gray” Davis.

But Campbell was not known as “Pat” Campbell. It was a sly (and unsuccessful) maneuver. However, playing games with names does sometimes succeed, and will no doubt continue.

Anyway, the path is open to Dunn to seek a name-change, if he wants to be “Senator Dunn.” Unlike Rains, he obviously would not be daunted by ridicule.

He’s received plenty over his action against the State Bar in which he contests his firing, though an at-will employee, on the ground that he was a “whistleblower.”

If he detected improper actions on the part of the State Bar president and a State Bar employee, I would think it would have been his duty to bring the matters to the Board of Trustees, forthrightly, subjecting himself to questioning. Instead, he sent an anonymous note, and by that cowardly act seeks to contest his discharge, claiming that his identity was detected and he enjoys protected “whistleblower” status.

Even the listing of himself in the title of the case as “Senator Joseph Dunn (Ret.)” cannot lend credence to a facially frivolous action.


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