Thursday, December 11, 2003
Oki Challenger’s Designation, Indigence Claim Under Review
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
County officials are reviewing a Los Angeles Superior Court candidate’s ballot designation, as well as his claim that he is indigent and unable to afford a candidate statement, a spokesperson for the registrar of voters said yesterday.
The registrar’s office must determine whether Encino attorney Eugene Salute, one of three candidates running against Judge Dan Thomas Oki, can be described as “Attorney/Temporary Judge” on the March 2 ballot, and the office of the treasurer-tax collector must decide whether Salute is indigent, Marcia Ventura told the MetNews.
Similar reviews are going on with respect to the ballot designations of two additional candidates, and the indigence claims of two others, Ventura said. The determination of indigence would allow a candidate to have a statement of up to 200 words in the official ballot pamphlet without paying the $65,000 estimated charge for the printing and distribution of the statement.
Five Paid for Statements
Five judicial candidates—Deputy District Attorneys Daniel Feldstern and Judith L. Meyer, Judge David Wesley, Superior Court Referee Daniel Zeke Zeidler, and attorney Michael Shook—paid for statements, registrar’s office records show. Feldstern is seeking the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker, Meyer is seeking the seat being vacated by Judge James Wright, and Zeidler and Shook want to replace Judge Rosemary Shumsky, who is not seeking a new term.
Besides Salute, Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Kevin Burke and Deputy District Attorney Hilary Anne Rhonan requested determinations of indigence, Ventura said. Copies of their paperwork have been forwarded to the treasurer-tax collector, as well as to the county counsel for legal advice, she said.
Rhonan is running against Oki, while Burke is challenging Judge David Wesley.
The registrar-recorder has questioned whether the “Temporary Judge” portion of Salute’s requested designation violates Luke v. Superior Court (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 1360. The court held there that it would be misleading to list a court commissioner as “Judge, Los Angeles County (Acting).”
But Salute, in a letter to the registrar and in an interview yesterday, insisted that his situation differs from that in Luke.
The “temporary judge” designation, he noted, appears in the state Constitution.
Serves Twice Monthly
Salute noted that he was certified as a temporary judge by the old Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1996 and has continued to sit pro tem on the unified Superior Court. He said he serves one to two times a month and has received regular assignments to courtrooms in San Fernando, Van Nuys, and Beverly Hills, and has also sat in Newhall.
Court officials have told him that his proposed use of the designation is “inappropriate,” and have threatened to terminate him from the temporary judge program, Salute said. But he declared himself undeterred.
“The community will lose out,” if he can no longer serve as a temporary judge, but it will not affect him professionally, he said. He added that he fully intends to litigate if the registrar rejects his designation.
Other candidates whose designations are under review are Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo, whose proposed appellation of “Judicial Officer” violates Luke, according to an opponent who protested to the registrar, and Department of Industrial Relations attorney Stella Owens-Murrell, who asked to be listed as “State Attorney.”
Escobedo is running for the Tucker seat, while Owens-Murrell is challenging Judge Chesley McKay.
As for the indigence question, Salute—who told the MetNews at the time he filed that he was “not a poor man” and was capable of financing a campaign—said he submitted the paperwork after a registrar’s office employee was unable to tell him what the guidelines were for determining indigence.
“If it turns out that there’s no real standard...I’m going to argue it’s a violation of due process,” he said. “I don’t want to have to borrow $65,000 in order to do this.”
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company