Monday, October 28, 2002
Renetzky Ballot Designation Not Misleading, LACBA Panel Says
By KENNETH OFGANG , Staff Writer
A deputy district attorney and Los Angeles Superior Court candidate who teaches a law-related course at a community college is not misleading the public by calling himself a “Prosecutor/Law Professor” on the Nov. 5 ballot, a Los Angeles County Bar Association committee has concluded.
The Fair Judicial Elections Practices Committee Friday released its finding that there was no deception in Craig Renetzky’s ballot designation.
The committee unanimously approved a subcommittee recommendation rejecting a claim by supporters of Renetzky’s opponent, Deputy District Attorney Richard Naranjo, committee chair Barbara Yanow Johnson told the MetNews.
A Renetzky complaint that Naranjo and his campaign had violated LACBA guidelines by publicizing the complaint to the media was also rejected. The committee promised an investigation after two members of the Naranjo for Judge Committee, Linda and Glenn Hollingsworth, sent a complaint on Oct. 11 to numerous governmental agencies and bar groups, and to various media, including the MetNews, which reported the complaint Oct. 17.
The subcommittee was chaired by attorney Howard W. Cohen. The other members were Phillip Saeta, Lois Saffian, and Dennis Winston.
Saeta is a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge.
The subcommittee, which heard from Naranjo and Renetzky last Friday, noted that the complaint was addressed to the LACBA Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee, rather than to the campaign practices committee, to which it was referred.
The evaluation committee rates all local judicial candidates as “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified” before the primary, but does not perform any other function after the ratings are finalized. Both Renetzky and Naranjo received the “qualified” rating.
The campaign practices subcommittee cited common use of the term “professor” in concluding that it could be applied to Renetzky’s part-time teaching position.
In its report to the full committee, the subcommittee explained:
“The Subcommittee notes that the secondary dictionary definition of ‘professor’ includes a teacher at a college or sometimes a secondary school, that a college dean referred to the candidate as a professor, that the college catalogue refers to members of the faculty as professors, and that the student newspaper used ‘professor’ to cover teachers and lecturers as well as professors.”
Renetzky’s complaint regarding publicity about the complaint was rejected on the ground that the complaint was not sent to the campaign practices committee.
The applicable LACBA guideline, the subcommittee noted, provides that “[n]o candidate for judicial office shall make a public statement, or release to the media, or permit such a statement or release to be made on his or her behalf, alleging that a complaint against his or her opponent is pending before the Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee, or that an investigation of his or her opponent is being conducted by that Committee.”
The subcommittee parenthetically expressed its concern “that a candidate could intentionally evade the confidentiality provisions of the Guidelines by providing a complaint to the wrong committee of the Bar Association, trusting that it will eventually be routed to the FJEPC,” but said there was “no evidence of such deliberate manipulation in this instance.”
Naranjo said he was disappointed in the decision and felt the committee had not conducted an adequate investigation. Renetzky was “trying to put himself up there with people…who actually teach law at a law school [when] he’s not even teaching at a four-year college,” he said.
“Maybe the State Bar will hold him responsible,” he added. “I just want the public to be informed.”
Renetzky responded that “Mr. Naranjo’s attitude has been demeaning to students who attend junior college.” The course, he commented, is a serious exploration of search and seizure, the right against self-incrimination, and other significant legal issues.
He added that he was happy to be teaching those subjects to students who were serious about getting an education but “maybe don’t have the money to go to Harvard or Yale.”
His opponent, he added, “seems only to be interested in smearing my name wherever he can.” If Naranjo seriously thought the ballot designation is improper, he “should have taken the high road” and brought a court challenge, the candidate said.
Rentezky and Naranjo were the leading vote-getters in March primary balloting for the seat of Judge Richard Spann, who did not seek re-election. 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 at Valley College in the current semester.
Among those to whom the Hollingsworths complained were the State Bar of California, which does not comment on disciplinary investigations, and the office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, which prepares the ballot.
Chief Deputy Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Kristin Heffron said there was nothing that could be done by her office because the designation is lawful on its face and no one challenged it by seeking a writ or injunction from the Superior Court within the time allowed by law.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company