Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Page 8



Registrar-Recorder’s Office Fouls Up—Yet Again



lection year after election year, the Office of Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder displays utter incompetence in determining what proposed ballot designations comply with the law. This year is no exception.

La Shae Henderson—a member of a trio of judicial candidates known as the “Defenders of Justice”—is a criminal defense lawyer. She was, until Dec. 31, a deputy public defender.

Her ballot designation, as it stands, is “Deputy Public Defender.” That’s a falsehood.

Henderson is running for Office No. 97 on the March 5 ballot, an open seat. Also running are Deputy District Attorneys Sam Abourched and Sharon Ransom.

Although there were indications that Abourched would be filing a writ petition, instead, his campaign consultant, Crystal M. Litz, protested to the Registrar-Recorder’s Office the initial acceptance of Henderson’s proposed ballot designation. She received this emailed response on Monday afternoon from Laticia McCorkle Amador, assistant division manager of the office’s Election Information & Preparation Division:

“We have completed our Administrative Review of La Shae Henderson’s ballot designation of ‘Deputy Public Defender.’ The law allows a candidate to use ‘Deputy Public Defender’ as their ballot designation if it was their principal occupation within 12 months of filing their nomination papers, and the designation accurately informs voters of their recent work experience.”


rong. “Deputy Public Defender” is an impermissible designation. The law is unmistakable on the point.

If Henderson were still a deputy public defender, the ballot designation would have to be “Deputy Public Defender, County of Los Angeles.” That’s dictated by statute: Elections Code §13107.

Subd. (b)(3)(B) says:

“If the candidate is an official or employee of a county, the name of the county shall appear preceded by the words ‘County of.’ ”

Judicial candidates Kimberly Repecka and Ericka J. Wiley—who actually are deputy public defenders—have ballot designations of “Deputy Public Defender,” through faulty advisements by the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, in disobedience to the statutory command. On the other hand, Henderson has that description in derogation of the California Code of Regulations (“CCR”) which has the force of law.

 In particular, 2 CCR §20714(d) says:

“If the candidate is engaged in a profession, vocation or occupation at the time he or she files his or her nomination documents, the candidate’s proposed ballot designation is entitled to consist of the candidate’s current principal professions, vocations and occupations. In the event the candidate does not have a current principal profession, vocation or occupation at the time he or she files his or her nomination documents, the candidate may use a ballot designation consisting of his or her principal professions, vocations or occupations, which the candidate was principally engaged in during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of the candidate’s nomination papers.”

Henderson is now in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer. She has a current occupation. There cannot be reliance on a provision that applies only if “the candidate does not have a current…occupation.”


pplicable to Henderson is §13107(c) which provides: “A candidate for superior court judge who is an active member of the State Bar and practices law as one of his or her principal professions shall  use one of the following ballot designations as his or her ballot designation: ‘Attorney,’ ‘Attorney at Law,’ ‘Lawyer,’ or ‘Counselor at Law.’ The designations ‘Attorney’ and ‘Lawyer’ may be used in combination with one other current principal profession, vocation, or occupation of the candidate, or the principal profession, vocation, or occupation of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents.”

In light of CCR §20714(d), taken in combination with Elections Code §13107(c), Henderson’s only permissible ballot designations would be  “Attorney,” “Attorney at Law,” “Lawyer,” or “Counselor at Law” or the words, “Attorney” or “Lawyer” in combination with some other pursuit.

As a side note: §13107 does not make references to the 12-month period preceding the filing of nomination papers as erroneously assumed by Amador; it makes specific reference to the previous calendar year—that is, in this instance, 2022, whether within, or beyond, the 12 months preceding the filing of nomination papers.


mador, in her email to Litz, continued:

“In a recent case, the court noted that while the candidate is no longer with, for example, the Public Defender’s office, the ballot designation is nonetheless not misleading to voters nor unfair, as the candidate was, until very recently, a ‘Deputy Public Defender’, and in this case, for 18 years, and the “Deputy Public Defender” designation is acceptable and permissible under the law.”

The “recent case” refers to last year’s March 29 ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant in a challenge to the designation of Gloria Huerta (more prevalently known as Gloria Sullivan) as a “Deputy District Attorney.” She had left that post in March 2021.

 While it is by no means unreasonable for a county office to take a cue from a recent Superior Court decision, it remains that a trial court ruling has no precedential value. Chalfant, to his discredit, failed to discuss §20714(d) although it was cited by the writ petitioner, then-Deputy District Attorney (now Judge) Malissa Hammond. And deference to §20714(d) by the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, unlike Chalfant’s ruling, is compulsory.


 distinction might be drawn between the case before Chalfant, in order to legitimate it, and a writ proceeding that might be brought challenging Henderson’s ballot designation, to distinguish it. This could be predicated on Huerta, after leaving the District Attorney’s Office, not having engaged in the practice of law in a non-prosecutorial capacity—that is, not gaining a new “occupation”—while Henderson, by contrast, has become a private practitioner, taking on a new “occupation.”

The drawing of any such distinction, however, would be inapt.

Huerta’s “occupation” in 2021 is irrelevant. The salient fact, which escaped Chalfant, is that before Huerta  left the District Attorney’s Office, she had a “profession”—that of an attorney—and in the aftermath, she retained that profession. Sec. 20714(a)(1) spells out that “[e]xamples of an acceptable designation of a ‘profession’…include, but are not limited to, ‘attorney.’ ”

If Elections Code §13107 and CCR §20714(d) had been faithfully applied by Chalfant, the conclusion would have been inevitable that Huerta, who had no new occupation after resigning from the District Attorney’s Office, nonetheless retained her existing profession as an active member of the State Bar and could not run by invoking a former occupation.

(Huerta is running this year as “Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles” which is now a proper ballot designation inasmuch as she has returned to her former post.)


halfant’s balmy ruling last year cannot possibly justify the action by the Office of Registrar Recorder in allowing a ballot designation proposed by Henderson which plainly runs afoul of statutory commands.

When there is a protest to a ballot designation that was permitted by an inadequately trained clerk in Norwalk, that protest should be acted upon only after consultation with the Office of County Counsel, and not be relegated to a non-attorney bureaucrat incapable of interpreting statutes and regulations.

The word “snafu,” which originated in the Army, is an acronym for “situation normal, all fouled up” (though that might be a sanitized version). Lamentably, being fouled up is all too frequent in the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, an explanation for which might well be the matter of who heads that office, one Dean Logan.


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