Friday, June 21, 2002
Yaffe Allows Embattled Judge to Withdraw Re-Election Bid
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline, who faces child pornography and molestation charges, may withdraw his candidacy for a new term, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ruled yesterday.
Yaffe overruled objections by the Orange County registrar of voters and Dana Point attorney John Adams, who ran as a write-in candidate and outpolled Kline in the March primary. Yaffe held that because the election result had not yet been certified when Kline moved to withdraw, he was neither a primary candidate nor a general election nominee, and thus not restrained from withdrawing by the Elections Code.
At an April hearing, Yaffe rejected an argument put forth Kline attorney Paul Meyer, that negative publicity stemming from the campaign would imperil Kline’s right to a fair trial on the criminal charges. But he asked the parties to brief an issue raised by Gay Sandoval, an attorney who also ran as a write-in—there were 11 such candidates in total—finishing third behind Adams and Kline.
Sandoval argued that a state law prohibiting a nominated candidate from withdrawing does not apply to someone who asks to take his name off the ballot after the primary but before the results are certified. And Yaffe yesterday agreed.
His ruling, while taking Kline off the ballot, leaves uncertainty as to whether Adams will run unopposed on Nov. 5, or will have to face Sandoval. Adams said outside court that his understanding is that he is now unopposed, and that he will not appeal Yaffe’s ruling, even though he argued against it.
Sandoval, meanwhile, said she will ask the registrar to place her name on the ballot, but doubts the request will succeed. That makes further litigation likely, she commented.
Yesterday’s case wound up before Yaffe, as an assigned Orange Superior Court judge, because of the potential conflict of interest if Orange County jurists presided over the matter.
The registrar is unlikely to appeal yesterday’s ruling. Deputy County Counsel Nicole Sims said an it was “the practice of the registrar to follow court orders.”
Meyer read a prepared statement on behalf of Kline after the rulings were issued.
“The judge made the right call,” he said. “Fairness and the facts supported our position. For Judge Kline, the election controversy is over. We will now focus on the legal defense of charges.”
Kline’s caseload was assigned to other judges after he was placed under house arrest.
He pled not guilty in Superior Court to five counts of oral copulation, stemming from alleged acts nearly a quarter century ago with a 14- year-old boy. The 61-year-old jurist pled not guilty in federal court to six counts of possessing 100 images of child porn on his home computer. He is awaiting trial in both cases
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company