Thursday, August 9, 2018
Perez Brings Challenge to Ribons’ Nov. 6 Ballot Designation
Writ of Mandate Sought Ordering That Superior Court Candidate Not Be Identified as an ‘Arbitrator’
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Deputy District Attorney
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez yesterday filed a petition for a writ of mandate seeking to bar his rival in a Superior Court run-off on the Nov. 6 ballot from being designated an “arbitrator.”
The opponent, Michael Ribons, was listed on the June 5 ballot as “Arbitrator/Attorney” and did not seek by the July 31 deadline to change the designation for the general election. Perez’s writ petition says that Ribons “is a real estate attorney.”
Under Elections Code §13107(c), the words “ ‘Attorney’ and ‘Lawyer’ may be used in combination with one other current principal profession, vocation, or occupation of the candidate.” It was held in the 1994 Court of Appeal decision in Andal v. Miller that “a principal profession, vocation, or occupation” is “the primary job or work one does which is the means of livelihood or production of income, as opposed to a hobby or avocation.”
Perez’s writ petition—crafted by former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and Long Beach attorney Brentford J. Ferreira—asserts that Ribons’s occasional volunteer work as an arbitrator does not meet that standard.
Cooley remarked yesterday:
“Mr. Perez’s writ petition is well taken, according to the law as it exists and the facts we have ascertained about Mr. Ribons.”
The case was assigned to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant.
In a “Ballot Designation Worksheet,” filed with the Registrar-Recorder’s Office on March 7, Ribons sought to justify his chosen ballot designation by declaring:
“Currently appointed as a Judge pro tem for both Los Angeles and Ventura County Superior Courts; Fee Arbitrator for SFV Bar Assoc and California Bar.”
The petition says of Ribons’s participation in the San Fernando Valley Bar Association (“SFVBA”) program:
“Mr. Ribons spends at least part of his free time as a volunteer fee arbitrator for the SFVBA. Mr. Ribons is a volunteer arbitrator with the Mandatory Fee Arbitration…program of the SFVBA. The arbitrators are volunteers and only receive a fee if an arbitration exceeds four hours….The SFVBA typically opens 30 to 40 fee arbitrations per year, sometimes more. There are two to three dozen arbitrators that are active at any one time. They act as sole arbitrators or on a three attorney panel. In the twelve months preceding August 6, 2018, Mr. Ribons handled one arbitration.”
The petition cites a declaration by SFVBA Executive Director Liz Post.
(Post informed the MetNews in a March 28 email, in response to an inquiry: “Michael has chaired or sat as second attorney arbitrator in four fee arbitration cases since last year.”)
Perez’s petition does not address Ribons’s claim that he serves as a State Bar arbitrator. However, the State Bar only conducts fee arbitrations in counties where local bar groups do not provide that service, and in Southern California, only one county—Imperial—lacks such a program.
The writ petition questions the relevance of Ribons’s stints as a volunteer pro tem. It says:
“It is unclear just what Mr. Ribons means by listing his pro tern appointments in support of the designation ‘Arbitrator/Lawyer.’ All judges settle cases but that does not make them arbitrators.”
It also notes that the post “is an unpaid voluntary position” and asserts that it is “a civic avocation not a principal occupation.”
Perez said during the primary:
“I’ve consulted with an attorney and spoken to my advisers regarding challenging the ballot designation.
“After careful consideration I decided that if Mr. Ribons makes it to a runoff to then challenge the designation.”
Perez was the highest vote-getter in the primary among the three candidates for Office No. 113. He drew 289,931; 233,812 ballots were cast for Ribons; Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner was favored by 178,466 voters.
Ribons has declined to respond to inquiries from the MetNews this year. One inquiry concerned an apparent discrepancy between a statement he made in an interview when he ran unsuccessfully two years ago and a campaign representation this year.
In 2016, he said that since becoming a member of the State Bar on June 11, 1996, he had handled “a handful” of jury trials and “between 15 and 20 bench trials.” In the primary, his campaign website proclaimed:
“Currently a civil litigator with over two decades of experience in state and federal courts, Michael has conducted hundreds of trials….”
Ribons would not provide information as to where he tried cases over the past two years. The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s online register of civil cases, connected to the Superior Court’s computer system, reflects two cases in 2016 in which Ribons was an attorney—neither of which went to trial—and no cases in 2017 or this year.
The claim to having handled “hundreds of trials has been removed from Ribons’s website. It now says:
“Michael is a civil litigator with over two decades of experience in state and federal courts,”
Ribons, whose law degree is from Whittier College School of Law, is a real estate broker and is president of Monterey Real Estate Investments, Inc.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company