Thursday, October 17, 2002
Naranjo Backers File Complaints Over Renetzky’s Ballot Designation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Santa Clarita couple has complained to the State Bar and other agencies that Los Angeles Superior Court candidate Craig Renetzky is misleading the public by calling himself a “Prosecutor/Law Professor” on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Glenn and Linda Hollingsworth, who identified themselves as supporters of Renetzky’s opponent, Richard Naranjo, said the “Law Professor” part of the designation “is incorrect, misleading, and violates several provisions of the Ballot Designation Regulations, the California Elections Code, the California Government Codes, the California Rules of Professional Conduct and the California Code of Judicial Ethics.”
Rentezky and Naranjo are both deputy district attorneys, and were the leading vote-getters in the March primary for the seat of Judge Richard Spann, who did not seek reelection. Both candidates filed amended ballot designations after the primary, in which Naranjo was listed as “Deputy District Attorney” and Renetzky as “Criminal Prosecutor.”
Naranjo took the “Criminal Prosecutor” designation for the general election, noting, he told the MetNews, that it seems to be the preferred designation of his colleagues running for the bench. Renetzky revised his designation after he started teaching a law-related class at Los Angeles Valley College in the current semester.
The Hollingsworths yesterday provided the MetNews with copies of their complaints, which they said they filed with the county-registrar/recorder, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the district attorney, and the Fair Political Practices Commission, as well as the State Bar.
Renetzky did not return a phone call for comment, but his campaign consultant, Fred Huebscher, said the designation was appropriate because “Mr Renetzky is teaching a class about law.”
Huebscher cited Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe’s ruling two years ago, in which he allowed then-South Bay Municipal Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan to be listed as a “Court Commissioner/Professor” in his bid for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Carnahan’s five-to-eight-hour-per-week position, teaching a course for aspiring paralegals at El Camino Community College in Torrance for which he was paid $4,000 annually, represented “substantial and significant” involvement with the college, Yaffe said. The term “professor,” he concluded, was properly used in its general sense, even if it was not Carnahan’s official title.
Carnahan later lost the election to then-Deputy District Attorney Katherine Mader, a Huebscher client.
While Yaffe’s ruling was not appealed, and therefore does not constitute precedent in the legal sense, the import of the decision is that “anyone teaching a class at an institution of higher learning may call himself a professor,” the Hermosa Beach-based consultant said.
“To believe...that this is misleading is ridiculous,” he added.
Linda Hollingsworth, who identified herself as a “marketing director/homemaker” and member of Naranjo’s campaign committee, disagreed.
The term “law professor” would normally be understood as referring to someone who teaches at a law school and holds the academic title of “professor,” she said. “The academic community does not let people who are not professors call themselves professors,” she commented.
She added that “anyone who is running for judge should be held to the highest ethical standards.”
Hollingsworth said she had been promised an investigation by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, which has a set of guidelines for candidates and a Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee. The committee has no judicial authority, but issues public findings on complaints.
The committee chair, Barbara Yanow Johnson, could not be reached yesterday for comment.
The State Bar of California has jurisdiction, under a 1997 rule, to investigate and discipline attorneys running for judge who engage in conduct which violates Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Ethics, which, among other things, prohibits false and deceptive campaigning. The State Bar does not comment on complaints at the investigatory stage, however, and Hollingsworth indicated she had not received a response from it.
Chief Deputy Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Kristin Heffron said she had not seen Hollingsworth’s complaint, but was familiar with the issue because Naranjo had complained. There was nothing that could be done by her office, she explained, because the designation is lawful on its face and Naranjo failed to seek a writ from the Superior Court.
“We told [Naranjo] that...we do not have the ability to investigate ballot designations...we have hundreds of candidates and [investigating] is not something we are required to do,” Heffron said. “On its face, there is nothing wrong with the designation that [Renetzky] chose.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company