Monday, December 22, 2003
Judicial Candidates Are Not Indigent, County Official Says
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Three candidates for Los Angeles Superior Court judge who claimed to be indigent in order to avoid prepayment of the cost of printing and distributing a candidate statement have had those claims rejected, a county official said.
Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector Donna Doss said the determination was made after auditors spent several days reviewing financial records submitted by Los Angeles Police Dept. Sgt. Kevin Burke, Deputy District Attorney Hilary Rhonan, and Encino business lawyer Eugene Salute.
The candidates acknowledged that they learned of the county’s decision Thursday, giving them until tomorrow to pay the $65,000 charge—$130,000 to have the statement printed in both English and Spanish.
Salute and Rhonan, both of whom are challenging Judge Dan Oki, declined comment, although Salute previously said he might bring a constitutional challenge, citing the county’s inability to explain to him the precise standard for determining indigence.
Burke, who is challenging Judge David Wesley, said that while he is not indigent in the sense of being destitute, he felt he qualified because he could not raise the necessary funds even if he liquidated all of his assets. He said he has about $2,000 in the bank and about $65,000 in real estate equity.
Steven Ipsen, president of the Associate of Deputy District Attorneys and a backer of Burke’s, expressed outrage.
“This system is designed to protect [incumbent] judges,” he told the MetNews. “Whether by design or otherwise, it has turned into a system that protects the occasional bad judge...It is undemocratic to make people pay more [for a candidate statement] than they make in a year.”
Also expressing outrage, not at the system but at Rhonan, Salute, and Burke, was Hal Dash of the consulting firm of Cerrell Associates.
“They’re cheaters” who “tried to beat the system” and take advantage of the taxpayers and are “unfit for public office,” Dash—whose firm represents Wesley—said. The Cerrell firm also represents open seat candidates Daniel Zeke Zeidler and Judith L. Meyer, and all three paid to have their statements included.
The other candidates to pay for statements were Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldstern and private attorney Michael Shook, who are seeking open seats.
In other election developments:
•Dash said he is having lawyers look into whether Burke’s having taken inactive status within the last 10 years makes him unqualified to run. Burke said he retained an attorney and obtained an opinion that he was qualified.
•A hearing is set for tomorrow afternoon before Orange Superior Court Judge John Watson on Oki’s challenge to Salute’s ballot designation of “Attorney/Temporary Judge.”
•Sources said Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo, a candidate for the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker, was preparing to go to court after her proposed designation, “Judicial Officer,” and her alternate preference, “Temporary Judge,” were both rejected by the registrar’s office.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company