Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, December 16, 2019


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Hearing Set for Tomorrow on ‘Judge Mike Cummins’ Controversy

Judge Chalfant Hears Arguments on Bid to Bar Registrar Recorder From Including ‘Judge’ As First Name of Candidate Who Obtained Name-Change to Benefit Chances in Elections


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A Los Angeles Superior Court judge will be asked at a hearing tomorrow to bar the use on the ballot of the first name of “Judge” by a retired attorney who is competing in the March 3 for a judicial open seat.

Candidate “Judge Mike Cummins”—who resigned from the Stanislaus Superior Court in 2006 and was in law practice from that time until 2017—obtained a name change from the San Luis Obispo Superior Court in 2017. His name had been Michael Richard Cummins.

The bases stated on his name-change petition are “personal preference,” that the new name would reflect his past service on the bench, and that it “might help to advance business and professional opportunities now or which might arise in the future.”

Cummins used his new moniker on the 2018 ballot in San Luis Obispo where he ran, unsuccessfully, for district attorney.

Pitted Against Prosecutor

Cummins is vying with Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Emily Cole for election to Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 76.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant on Friday set a hearing for tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. on a writ petition filed on behalf of David Gould, Cole’s campaign consultant. Under Elections Code §13314(a)(1), any “elector” may file such a petition to prevent “an error or omission” on the ballot.

Gould is seeking attorney fees under the private attorney general statute.

The petition and accompanying memorandum of points and authorities were prepared by Stephen J. Kaufman, Gary S. Winuk, and George M. Yin of the downtown Los Angeles law firm of Kaufman Legal Group, APC.

The petition seeks to bar the word “Judge” as part of Cummins’s name and that the word “Retired” not appear as the ballot designation.

Elections Code Section

Elections Code §13106 is relied upon by the memorandum of points and authorities. It reads:

“No title or degree shall appear on the same line on a ballot as a candidate’s name, either before or after the candidate’s name, in the case of any election to any office.”

The memorandum says:

“Judge Mike Cummins legally, but intentionally, changed his name from ‘Michael Richard Cummins’ in 2017 in order to circumvent the prohibition on having the title ‘Judge’ appear on the ballot along with his name. He has acknowledged this publicly both during his unsuccessful race for San Luis Obispo County District Attorney and during his current race for judicial office in Los Angeles County. Changing one’s name to avoid the requirements of section 13106 by adding an impermissible title is itself a circumvention of the law governing the placement of candidate names on the ballot. Were he not running for Superior Court Judge, the circumstances might be different. But under the circumstances here, where the purpose is to mislead voters, he is violating section 13106. Cummins is not entitled to use the title ‘Judge’ next to or as part of his name.”

Ballot Designation

Cummins originally chose the ballot designation of “Retired Judge” but voluntarily changed it to “Retired.” Apparently as a fallback position if the word “Judge” is not deleted, the petition asks that the word “Retired” be eliminated as a ballot designation.

This would imply that Cummins is a “Retired Judge,” it is contended, That designation could not appear on the ballot under Code of Regulations §20716(h)(4), which says:

“A candidate may not use the word ‘retired’ in his or her ballot designation if that candidate possesses another more recent, intervening principal profession, vocation, or occupation.”

The prospect of Cummins being identified as a “Retired Attorney” is not discussed.

Cummins was admitted to law practice in California in 1983; was appointed to the Stanislaus Municipal Court in 1984 and became Superior Court judge in 1998 through unification; ran for district attorney of Stanislaus County  in 2006 and lost; returned to the court briefly after a year’s leave of absence, returned to law practice; went on inactive status in 2017; and renewed active bar membership in 2018 after becoming a candidate for district attorney.


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