Friday, January 11, 2002
Judicial Candidate Wins Dispute Over Ballot Designation
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
State Bar Court Judge Paul Bacigalupo, a candidate for an open Superior Court seat, may be listed as “Judge, State Bar” on the March 5 primary ballot, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ruled yesterday.
Yaffe rejected a voter’s contention that the designation would mislead voters into believing that Bacigalupo was already a Superior Court judge.
Attorney Ben Davidian argued that the designation accepted by Registrar-Recorder Conny McCormack was just as misleading as Bacigalupo’s original proposed designation of “Judge, Bar Court,” which McCormack rejected.
“When a voter sees the word ‘Judge,’ they think he’s a judge,” Davidian argued. The attorney represents petitioner Jared Moses.
Moses, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, was described by sources as a supporter of fellow prosecutor David Gelfound, one of Bacigalupo’s opponents. Pasadena lawyer David Crawford and Superior Court Commissioner Steven Lubell are also seeking the seat of Judge David Finkel, who is retiring later this month.
McCormack’s attorney, Halvor Melom of the County Counsel’s Office, said the amended designation was acceptable because the language “has a specific meaning” to which the general public could relate. Most voters know what the State Bar is, he explained, even if they don’t know about the quasi-judicial arm that hears discipline cases.
The only way to make the delineation between a “Judge, State Bar” and a state trial judge, Melom explained, would be to use a longer version of Bacigalupo’s title. That cannot be done, he noted, because state law limits a designation that is not the title of an elected office to three words.
“The three-word limitation put everybody in a bind,” Melom, who has been involved in numerous cases involving ballot designation issues over the years, commented.
Yaffe said the designation was permissible under Andrews v. Valdez, (1995) 40 Cal.App.4th 492.
That decision allowed Deborah Andrews, now a Los Angeles Superior Court judge but then an administrative law judge hearing unemployment compensation appeals, to be listed as “Administrative Law Judge.” The then-registrar had objected to the title, based on an earlier ruling barring a court commissioner from being listed as “Judge, Los Angeles County (Acting).”
The distinction, the Court of Appeal held, was that Andrews was using a title conferred by statute.
Davidian argued that Andrews doesn’t apply because Bacigalupo is a “hearing judge,” not just a “judge.” But Yaffe cited Business and Professions Code Sec. 6079.1, a State Bar Act section referring to “[a]ny judge appointed under this section.”
Yaffe, chuckling, told Davidian that as “a real judge,” he had sympathy for the petitioner’s position. But if the Legislature chooses to call “these administrative officials” judges, Yaffe said, they can use the term on the ballot.
“The Legislature keeps debasing the coinage,” he said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company