Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Registrar-Recorder Refuses to Accede to a Judge’s Determination
By ROGER M. GRACE
A March 13, 2008 Court of Appeal opinion, dealing with term limits, notes:
“Defendant and respondent Dean Logan is the Acting Registrar–Recorder/County Clerk in Los Angeles County. Logan takes no position on the issues in this case and ‘will abide by the laws of the State as written or as finally determined by the Courts.’ ”
Adhering to the law, as determined by the courts, is, of course, precisely what would be expected of any government official. But Logan, appointed by the Board of Supervisors as registrar-recorder on July 8, 2008, appears to be no longer disposed to subordinate his own legal determinations to those of a court.
Notwithstanding a ruling Wednesday that unemployed lawyer Onica Valle Cole, a candidate in the June 5 primary for Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 67, is not entitled to use the word “Attorney” in her ballot designation, the description Logan insists will be printed on ballots is “Attorney/Mother.”
This is sheer impudence.
In an email late Friday, he explains:
“A review of our records and the proceedings shows that the Judge denied the use of the three proposed designations Ms. Cole had requested; however the judge’s order did not deny use of specific words. Further review of the record showed that Ms. Cole was, in fact, an active member of the Bar at the time of filing; therefore the designation “Attorney/Mother” was approved.
“My understanding is that counsel for the other parties in the writ action were informed of that determination after the hearing and had the opportunity to file further action if desired.”
Taking that point-by-point….
“A review of our records and the proceedings shows that the Judge denied the use of the three proposed designations Ms. Cole had requested; however the judge’s order did not deny use of specific words.”
It’s true that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue’s action Wednesday was to deny the relief specifically sought by Cole’s petition. Cole’s first choice was to be described on the ballot as “Consumer Protection Prosecutor”; her proposed alternatives were “Consumer Prosecutor/Attorney” and “Los Angeles Prosecutor/Attorney.” She asked the judge to order Logan to accept one of those designations, based on her prior position as a deputy Los Angeles city attorney—a post from which she was fired Jan. 3 (after a period when her status was in limbo).
Hogue denied relief because Cole, who was on inactive State Bar status when she filed her nomination documents, was, under a regulation, disqualified from representing herself on the ballot as a lawyer.
In his opposition, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Dennis P. Vincent, one of three candidates in the race, requested that the judge disallow the designation for Cole which was ultimately accepted by Logan’s office of “Attorney/Mother.” He contested use of either word. Hogue declined to address that precise designation, having no petition before her requesting relief in connection with it.
However, for Logan to say that “the judge’s order did not deny use of specific words” is inaccurate.
Hogue said in the order:
“Petitioner cannot use any designation that includes the term prosecutor, attorney, or lawyer.”
The order did deny use of specific words. What is in point is that it explicitly condemned use of the word “Attorney.”
The judge did not address permissibility of the use of the word “Mother.” That wasn’t properly before her.
Logan ought to be able to figure out that “Attorney/Mother” includes a word which a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court has adjudged to be improperly included in describing Cole.
Logan also declares:
“Further review of the record showed that Ms. Cole was, in fact, an active member of the Bar at the time of filing; therefore the designation ‘Attorney/Mother’ was approved.”
Not in dispute by anyone is that what matters in determining the legitimacy of a ballot designation is the candidate’s status as of the time of filing nomination documents. Cole filed hers on March 9 (the last day for doing so, and within the last hour).
At the time of that filing, the State Bar website showed Cole as an active member, and subsequent actions by Logan’s office were predicated on that impression—reasonably so…up to the time when it became clear that what had previously appeared to be so wasn’t.
Logan’s office initially accepted Cole’s proposed designation as “Consumer Protection Prosecutor,” but quickly bounced it, properly, based on noncompliance with requirements of Elections Code §13107, as amended effective Jan. 1 by last year’s SB 235. Amendments preclude an attorney on active status who is employed by a governmental entity from using anything other than the actual office title or the word “Attorney” or “Lawyer” in conjunction with some other profession, occupation or vocation.
After Cole brought her writ petition, Logan’s office approved the designation Cole offered, among several others, of “Attorney/Mother.” It knew at that point that the candidate had applied for inactive bar status, but was still under the impression—based on what was on the State Bar website—that the request had not yet been processed, and, in any event, it did seem that Cole had been on active status as of March 9.
However, Logan’s assertion on Friday that “Ms. Cole was, in fact, an active member of the Bar at the time of filing”—that is, March 9—is based on stale information. He’s wrong.
The State Bar has changed the information on its website. As of Monday of last week, possibly earlier, it showed that from March 1 through March 25, Cole was on inactive status (reverting to active status on March 26).
Whether the State Bar did, on March 1, place Cole on inactive status and merely failed to immediately update information on its website, or whether it later processed the request and backdated the effective date to March 1 is not of significance. What matters is that according to State Bar records, Cole was, on March 9, the date she filed nomination documents, on inactive status.
As recited by Hogue on her order, a provision of the Code of Regulations sets forth:
“A candidate who holds a professional, vocational or occupational license issued by the State of California may not claim such profession, vocation or occupation as one of his or her ‘principal’ professions, vocations or occupations of…the candidate’s licensure status is ‘inactive’ at the time the candidate files his or her nomination document….”
That, according to Hogue, means that Cole “cannot use any designation that includes the term…attorney….”
But Logan thinks he knows better. And what law school did he attend? None.
In any event, even if he had a law degree from Harvard, had served as a justice of the California Supreme Court, and Hogue’s ruling were patently asinine (which it was not), it is not within the province of a department head to disregard a judicial determination of what the law is.
Logan also explains:
“My understanding is that counsel for the other parties in the writ action were informed of that determination after the hearing”—that is, that the designation of “Attorney/Mother” would stand— and had the opportunity to file further action if desired.”
That a new petition could conceivably have been filed stands as no arguable justification for Logan’s defiance of the judge’s determination that Cole is not entitled to have the word “Attorney” in her ballot designation.
As to how much of an opportunity there was, Vincent advises:
“It is my understanding that the deadline for ballot designation actions was March 29th. We received the court’s ruling on the 28th when there was too little time to prepare, file and serve a writ. Additionally, given the court’s decision, I was expecting the Registrar’s Office to follow the court’s ruling and strike the word ‘Attorney’ from Cole’s proposed designation.”
The registrar-recorder oversees multiple functions. That person has the duties once handled by three officials: the registrar of voters, county recorder, and county clerk. For all I know, Logan is doing a stellar job in all that he supervises other than scrutinizing ballot designations.
With regard to that one task, however, his office has made multiple blunders through the years.
But here we have something beyond simple bungling.
We have a cavalier disregard of a judicial ruling. That’s misfeasance.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company