Monday, August 20, 2018
Michel to File Writ Petition Today Contesting Hunter’s New Ballot Designation
Judge Will Be Asked to Bar Listing of Deputy City Attorney, In Race for Superior Court Seat, as a ‘Prosecutor’
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney
Redondo Beach Senior Deputy Prosecutor
Redondo Beach Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sydne Jane Michel said Friday she will file a writ petition in Los Angeles Superior Court today challenging a newly claimed ballot designation by her rival in the Nov. 6 runoff for a judicial post.
The opponent, Patricia “Patti” Hunter, ran for Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 16 in the primary as “Deputy City Attorney, City of Los Angeles.” The Office of Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan has approved a new designation for the general election: “Prosecuting Attorney, City of Los Angeles.”
Under legislation enacted last year, effective Jan. 1 of this year, a judicial candidate “who is an active member of the State Bar employed by a city,…” must either use “[w]ords designating the actual job title, as defined by statute, charter, or other governing instrument” or the word “Attorney,” “Attorney at Law,” “Lawyer,” or “Counselor at Law” in conjunction with some other pursuit.
Los Angeles City Attorney Michael N. Feuer has vouched for the legitimacy of Hunter’s designation, while former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who has endorsed Michel, remarked Friday:
“I do not know if the Registrar-Recorder is easily deceived or just does not understand the law that governs this arena. In any event, these egregious errors re allowing misleading and deceptive ballot titles can cost the opposing candidate several tens of thousands of dollars for the court to fix wrong administrative decisions. It also can affect an election outcome. “
Art. II of the Los Angeles City Charter enumerates the city’s officers. Among them is a “City Attorney.”
Sec. 271(c) specifies:
“The City Attorney shall prosecute on behalf of the people all criminal cases and related proceedings arising from violation of the provisions of the Charter and City ordinances, and all misdemeanor offenses arising from violation of the laws of the state occurring in the City.”
Sec. 274 says the city attorney “may appoint… deputies.”
Under the Administrative Code sets forth “classes of positions” and “salaries or salary ranges” for employees, including “Deputy City Attorney I,” “Deputy City Attorney II,” “Deputy City Attorney III,” and “Deputy City Attorney IV.”
On the “Ballot Designation Worksheet” Hunter filed with the Registrar-Recorder’s Office in the primary, she listed “Deputy City Attorney IV” as her “Current or Most Recent Job Title.”
Hunter—who made a change in her chosen designation on July 31, the last day for doing so—asserted Friday:
“The documents I filed with the Registrar’s office, including the declaration from Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer, fully support my ballot designation under the new legislation. My designation accurately reflects my actual job title as defined by charter, statute or other governing instrument.”
Feuer’s declaration says (with paragraph numbering omitted):
“The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Conflict of Interest Code, adopted by the Los Angeles City Council, lists Ms., Hunter’s actual job title as ‘Prosecuting Attorney’.
“Pursuant to the California Political Reform Ac (‘the Act’), every state and local government agency is required to adopt and promulgate a conflict of interest code pursuant to Article 3 of the Act. Under the Act, a conflicts of interest code ‘shall have the force of law.’ Sec Government Code Section 87300.
“The City Attorney’s current Conflict of Interest Code was adopted by Resolution of the Los Angeles City Council….
“The City Attorney’s Conflict of Interest Code includes the title “Prosecuting Attorney”, a designated position that is unique to the Criminal Branch of my office. Under this Code, Ms. Hunter’s actual title is ‘Prosecuting Attorney’. There is no other title or designation for Ms. Hunter’s position under the Code.”
Feuer also notes in the declaration that Hunter has a city badge with the word “Prosecutor” on it, which members of the office’s civil section do not have.
Michel’s use of the word “Prosecutor” in her ballot designation—which is “Senior Deputy City Prosecutor, City of Redondo Beach”—was disputed in the primary, but resolved, at the administrative level, in her favor.
A spokesperson for the Michel campaign pointed out Friday that in Redondo Beach, there is a post of “city prosecutor,” and attorneys working under that office-holder are “deputy city prosecutors.” There is, in the City of Los Angeles, the representative noted, no post of “city prosecutor”; there is a city attorney and “deputy city attorneys.”
The spokesperson commented that the title Hunter has chosen “sounds like the city prosecutor for the City of Los Angeles.”
Elections Code §13107(e)(1) bars any designation that “would mislead the voter.”
It was that provision that retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin, sitting on assignment, applied in 2012 in barring then-Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich from being listed on the ballot as “Los Angeles Chief Prosecutor,” in the race for district attorney. Voters could mistake Trutanich for being chief prosecutor for the County of Los Angeles—that is, the incumbent district attorney—the judge found.
Kalin required that the word “City” be included in Trutanich’s designation. (Trutanich lost and is presently in private practice.)
One of the features of SB 235, last year’s reform bill that amended §13107, was to require that the geographical entity be included with an office title.
Results in Primary
In the race for Office No. 16, Michel received 430,548 votes in the primary (39 percent), Hunter drew 418,634 votes (38 percent), and Deputy District Attorney Hubert Yun garnered 254,191 votes (23 percent).
There are three other races for Los Angeles Superior Court open seats on the Nov. 6 ballot. Pitted against each other are Deputy District Attorney Alfred A. Coletta and Superior Court Commissioner Veronica Sauceda (Office No. 4); Deputy District Attorney Tony J. Cho and Deputy Public Defender Holly L. Hancock. (Office No. 60); and Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez and attorney/arbitrator Michael P. Ribons (Office No. 113).
Perez has filed a writ petition contesting Ribons’s use of the word ‘Arbitrator’ in his ballot designation, and Ribons has filed no opposition. A hearing on the petition is slated for Thursday.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company