Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Hearing Set as Aceves Challenges ‘Domestic Violence’ Ballot Title
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Deputy District Attorney
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge yesterday set a hearing for next week on a judicial candidate’s petition for a writ of mandate that would bar his opponent, an immigration attorney, from being designated a “Domestic Violence Attorney” on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Judge Mary Strobel set Sept. 1 as the court date for the petition by Deputy District Attorney Efrain Aceves. He contends in his petition that Alicia Molina “was simply not a ‘Domestic Violence Attorney’ for the year preceding the filing of her nomination papers for Los Angeles Superior Court.”
The designation “is misleading and must be stricken” under the Elections Code, Aceves and his attorney, Brentford Ferreira, argued in the petition.
Molina and Aceves emerged from a tight race on the June 7 primary ballot to claim the two runoff spots. Molina received 33 percent of the vote, Aceves 30 percent, Superior Court Commissioner Cynthia Zuzga 27 percent, and sole practitioner Michael Ribons 10 percent.
In the ballot designation worksheet she submitted to election officials, Molina explained the designation this way:
“I have represented many clients who are victims of Domestic Violence and have helped them obtain legal status and benefits under the Violence Against Women’s Act, U-Visas, as well as assisted them in getting restraining orders against their abusers.”
Her opponent argues in his petition:
“Domestic Violence Attorney implies that Ms. Molina’s practice involves both criminal and civil law on behalf of victims of domestic violence. A Public Records Act request resulted in a letter stating that she has not participated in any criminal cases in Los Angeles County since 2004 when she was admitted to the bar....Almost all of her litigation experience has occurred in Federal Immigration Court…Therefore her designation is both false and misleading.”
Aceves contends that “Domestic Violence Prosecutor is a designation that deputy district attorneys have used in their ballot designations,” and that Molina is trying to mislead voters into thinking that she’s a prosecutor.
In a memorandum of points and authorities, Ferreira argued that the designation should be stricken as both factually misleading and inaccurate. He cited the signage at her Huntington Park law office, describing Molina as providing “Immigration Legal Services,” with no mention of any other area of practice.
He also noted a MetNews interview in which the candidate said she volunteered two days a month at the Harriet Buhai Family Law Center, discussing “domestic violence and immigration issues” with clients there.
Public records show that she has litigated only three divorce cases, Ferreira said, and whatever time Molina does devote to domestic violence matters, Ferreira said, is insufficient to make that one of the “principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents,” as required by the Elections Code.
Ferreira also took aim at the alternative designations Molina submitted to election officials, “Victims Rights Attorney” and “Crime Victims Attorney.” Any of the three designations, he said, “would…mislead the reasonable voter into believing she is a prosecutor and that she has long term experience in litigating state law violations in superior court.”
Molina, he said, “is an immigration attorney and nothing else.”
Molina’s attorney, Don Bartell, told the MetNews “the majority of Ms. Molina’s clients are victims of domestic violence” and said the hearing would establish that she is using her designation properly.
Former District Attorney Steve Cooley, an Aceves supporter, said of the matter:
“Misleading ballot designations for judicial candidates have become the ‘name of the game’ for many. Lots of lilies being gilded in this arena. Ms. Molina’s requested ballot designation as a ‘Domestic Violence Attorney’ should be rejected as it is palpably and provably false. Should be an interesting day in court.”
Fred Huebscher, a campaign consultant who has not worked for any candidate for the seat but listed Zuzga on slate mailers, said the ballot designation was one of the primary reasons Molina ran strongly in the primary and that “her chances will be greatly diminished” if it is stricken. He also opined that Zuzga would likely have made the runoff if she had “done what Aceves is doing now.”
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company