Tuesday, February 26, 2002
Chirlin’s Ruling on Compton Election Was Based on ‘Junk Science,’ Lawyer Tells Appellate Court Panel
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An appeals panel is expected to rule today on whether ousted Compton Mayor Eric Perrodin should be returned to office pending appeal of a ruling that threw out his June election victory based on a theory that the defeated incumbent was robbed of votes because his name was listed second on the ballot.
Perrodin’s counsel, Frederic Woocher, told the Div. One panel of this district’s Court of Appeal yesterday that the “primacy effect” on which Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Judith Chirlin based her order returning ex-Mayor Omar Bradley to office is nothing but “junk science.”
More than 100 people, including several uniformed City of Compton public safety officers, crowded the Court of Appeal hearing room in the Ronald Reagan State Building for the arguments in the politically charged case.
Both lawyers argued for the court to sustain the “status quo” pending an appeal process that could last months. Woocher said that status quo should be “the will of the people” in electing Perrodin; Hertz said it should be Chirlin’s ruling finding fault in the ballot order.
Chirlin on Feb. 8 issued an order reversing the election of Perrodin in favor of Bradley based on testimony by Ohio State University Professor Jon Krosnick.
Krosnick said he reviewed the election data and determined that Perrodin received more than 300 votes that otherwise would have gone to Bradley because he, rather than Bradley, was listed first on the ballot.
Hertz argued that Compton City Clerk Charles Davis broke the law by failing to request a randomized alphabet drawing from the secretary of state to determine the proper order of candidate names.
Davis instead listed Perrodin first because, he said, the randomized drawing listed him first in the primary election.
Woocher attacked the expert’s opinion, saying it was based on a county in Ohio that much larger than the small City of Compton.
Davis acted properly, Woocher said, arguing that the law allows the random drawing from the primary to be used for the runoff.
But even if Davis was wrong, he said, the notion that the ballot order would sway enough people to vote for a different candidate does not hold water in Compton, a politically active and turbulent city where the candidates were well known.
“It’s offensive,” Woocher said. “If he had a bar card they ought to take it away from him.”
The justices sat silent while Woocher made his argument.
By contrast, they repeatedly questioned Hertz on his assertion that Chirlin’s decision was based on “fraud” as well as the primacy effect.
“It strikes me that the sole ground was the primacy theory,” Justice Reuben Ortega told Hertz.
“The trial judge specifically found no wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Perrodin,” Presiding Justice Vaino Spencer added.
The justices also questioned Hertz on the applicability of the professor’s theory when he was not directly familiar with Compton, but read about it only in newspaper articles.
Hertz acknowledged that he was surprised by Chirlin’s ruling but added:
“As unprecedented as it may have been, it was the precise, perfect remedy.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company