Monday, June 16, 2003
Compton Election Dispute May Go to U.S. High Court, Attorney for Ousted Mayor Omar Bradley Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The contest over the outcome of Compton’s 2001 mayoral election may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after California’s highest court declined to hear former Mayor Omar Bradley’s appeal, an attorney for Bradley said Friday.
“We think he was denied equal protection,” Los Angeles lawyer Milton Grimes told the MetNews. “We’ll make a decision on whether we’re going to go federal on it.”
No justice of the state Supreme Court voted at Wednesday’s conference to grant review in Bradley v. Perrodin. This district’s Court of Appeal ruled in March that Deputy District Attorney Eric Perrodin was lawfully elected in June 2001 and should never have been bounced from office by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, and Perrodin has been sitting ever since.
Judge Judith Chirlin erred when she reversed the results of the city election that ousted two-term mayor Omar Bradley in favor of Perrodin, the appeals court ruled.
Chirlin sparked civic chaos in Compton with her ruling a year earlier that in effect transferred 300 Perrodin votes to Bradley, allowing Bradley to return briefly to City Hall. The game of mayoral musical chairs continued a few days later when the Court of Appeal ordered Bradley back out and Perrodin back in pending review.
Even if the decision is overturned, Bradley may not have been able to return to City Hall this time. He and several other Compton officials were arrested earlier this year on charges of misusing city credit cards and other financial misconduct.
That case is pending before Superior Court Judge Jack Morgan in Compton, Grimes said. Motions are pending but no hearing date has been set, the lawyer explained.
Key to the decision in the elections dispute was application of an obscure elections law theory that holds that candidates listed on the ballot first automatically get a certain percentage of votes, and that any error in ballot order could consequently change the outcome.
Perrodin was listed first on the mayoral runoff ballot and beat Bradley by 281 votes. Chirlin based her ruling on testimony from an Ohio State University professor who calculated that Bradley would have gotten 306 of Perrodin’s votes had the ballot order been reversed.
In an opinion by Justice Reuben Ortega of Div. One, the Court of Appeal avoided ruling on the adequacy of the study by Professor Jon Krosnick, who applied a formula based on out-of-state elections to arrive at the 306 number. But Ortega said it was improper for Chirlin to rely exclusively on the so-called “primacy effect” to transfer votes, and rejected Bradley’s assertion that City Clerk Charles Davis conspired with Perrodin to deny Bradley the top spot on the ballot in the first place.
Davis properly used a State of California random alphabetical drawing to list Perrodin before Bradley in the primary race, and was within his rights to use the same drawing for the runoff since a runoff is essentially round two of the same election rather than a whole new election, Ortega said.
Bradley and his lawyers have argued, so far unsuccessfully, that not listing Bradley first based on a new randomized alphabet was an equal protection violation, which would create federal jurisdiction, as well as a breach of state election laws.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company