Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, August 24, 2018


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Judge’s Tentative Ruling:

Michael Ribons Can’t Be Listed on Ballot as ‘Arbitrator’

Matter Not Decided, However, Based on Lawyer’s Protest That Client Wasn’t Personally Served; Hearing Put Over to Wednesday, When Michel’s and Hunter’s Petitions Will Be Acted Upon


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court candidate Michael P. Ribons submitted a ballot designation that would be “misleading” to voters, a judge said in a tentative ruling, but yesterday postponed until Wednesday a hearing on a writ petition seeking to require the registrar recorder to excise the word “Arbitrator” from the description of the office-seeker.

The matter was scheduled to be heard yesterday, but Corona attorney Chad D. Morgan specially appeared for Ribons to contest the court’s jurisdiction, declaring that his client had not been personally served, and asking that the matter be dismissed. Instead, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant put it over to Wednesday.

Morgan declined to accept service for his client, and Chalfant instructed that Ribons, a real estate broker and transactional attorney, be personally served, with a proof of  service filed by 9 a.m. Monday.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a lawyer for Ribons’s rival in the race for Superior Court Office No. 113, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez, said later that Ribons, “an officer of the court,” is “playing games with the court.” He noted that through emails and voicemails, Ribons knew of the hearing, and “should be ashamed for claiming lack of jurisdiction of the court.”

Three Petitions

The matter will be heard in Department 86, where Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff sits. That same morning, Beckloff will consider the writ petition filed by Redondo Beach Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sydne Jane Michel, who is challenging Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Patricia Hunter’s designation as “Prosecuting Attorney,” and Hunter’s cross-petition asserting that Michel should not be allowed to use the word “Prosecutor” if she can’t.

Michel and Hunter are in a run-off for Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 16. Each of them yesterday filed opposition to the other’s petition.

At issue is the impact of a new provision in Elections Code §13107 that if a judicial candidate makes reference to his or her status as a government attorney, the “actual office title” must be used.

Hunter insists the “Prosecuting Attorney” is her title, and City Attorney Mike Feuer has executed a declaration under penalty of perjury attesting to that. Bradley W. Hertz and Matthew C. Alvarez of the Sutton Law Firm said in their opposition to Michel’s petition:

“Petitioner’s all-too-transparent strategy is to use this Court to bolster her candidacy  by attempting to ‘downgrade’ Real Party’s designation to ‘Deputy City Attorney, City of  Los Angeles’ and preventing Real Party from using the perennially popular term ‘Prosecutor,’ or a derivation thereof. However, if anyone is ‘taking liberties’ vis-a-vis  her job tile, it is actually Petitioner and not Real Party.”

Fredric D. Woocher of the law firm of Strumwasser & Woocher LLP, argued that Michel’s designation as “Senior Deputy Prosecutor, City of Redondo Beach” is unassailable because it is her actual job title. He noted that Hunter does not contest this, and that her memorandum of points and authorities in support of her cross-petition “curiously, does not cite a single authority,” remarking:

“Hunter relies solely on the ancient proverb that ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,’ evidently believing that it is unnecessary to provide any actual legal argument in support of her cross-petition.”

Use of ‘Arbitrator’

Ribons’s chosen ballot designation is “Arbitrator/ Lawyer.” Cooley and Long Beach practitioner Brentford Ferreira filed a writ petition Aug. 8 seeking an order to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan to snip the word “Arbitrator” from the designation based on what they contend are two disqualifying factors under Elections Code §13107.

Aside from the tendency to “mislead the voter,” forbade by the statute, the lawyers say the designation does not reflect one of the candidate’s “principal professions, vocations, or occupations,” as required by §13107.

Ribons—who used the now-disputed ballot designation in the June 5 primary—sought to justify it in his March 7 “Ballot Designation Worksheet,” filed with Logan’s office, by pointing to service as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge pro tem and as a San Fernando Bar Association (“SFVBA”) volunteer arbitrator.

Perez said, prior to the primary, that he would defer any challenge to the designation to the general election given that, if he were in a run-off, his opponent might not be Ribons.

In the tentative ruling, Chalfant declared:

“Ribons performance of uncompensated volunteer pro tempore judicial work and his negligible performance of arbitrations as a SFVBA attorney’s fee arbitrator does not support a ballot designation of ‘Arbitrator’, which therefore would be misleading.”

The judge also said:

“Ribons’ ballot designation of ‘Arbitrator/Lawyer’ is factually inaccurate because he is not an arbitrator as a primary professional endeavor,” explaining:

“While SFVBA arbitrations could warrant a ballot designation of ‘Arbitrator’ if extensive and based on sufficient compensation, Perez has presented unrebutted evidence that Ribons’ SFVBA arbitration work is negligible. Ribons has only participated in one arbitration in the past 12 months.”

With respect to Ribons’s activities as a judge pro tem, Chalfant observed:

“Ribons performs pro tempore judicial adjudicative services which by their nature do not include arbitration….Ribons cannot accurately designate himself as an ‘Arbitrator’ on the basis of judicial pro tempore work.”


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