Approves Candidate's Use
of 'Professor' Designation on Ballot
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A South Bay Municipal Court commissioner running for the Los Angeles Superior Court may be listed as a "Court Commissioner/Professor" on the March 7 primary ballot, a Superior Court judge ruled yesterday.
Judge David Yaffe said voters would not likely be misled by the ballot designation chosen by Commissioner Douglas G. Carnahan, who teaches a course for paralegals at El Camino Community College in Torrance.
Carnahan is running against Deputy District Attorney Katherine Mader and Superior Court Referee Jeffrey Marckese for the seat of Judge Richard Montes, who chose not to run for reelection. The Superior Court vote is countywide.
Mader was the first person to serve as the Los Angeles Police Department's inspector general, a job created as part of the Christopher Commission reforms instituted to increase civilian oversight of the police in the wake of the Rodney King incident.
Elections Code Sec. 13107 allows candidates to list themselves on the ballot according to their "principal professions, vocations or occupations." Mader filed a writ petition challenging Carnahan's right to refer to himself as a professor, noting that the college reserves that title for full-time tenured faculty members.
But Yaffe said Carnahan could use the title because he has "substantial and significant" involvement with the college, devoting five to eight hours a week to the $4,000-a-year position.
While it is the "custom and practice" of colleges to establish a "pecking order of teachers," Yaffe said, the average voter thinks of a professor simply as "someone who teaches at an institution of higher learning." Because that is "one of the established meanings" of the word, the judge said, it is not misleading for someone who teaches at a college to call himself or herself a professor, even if that isn't the person's official title.
Mader, who noted that the program in which Carnahan teaches doesn't lead to the granting of an academic degree, raised the specter of a candidate who "teaches auto mechanics at a vocational school" running for office as a "professor." But while "you can quibble about what is an institution of higher learning," Yaffe opined, a community college clearly qualifies.
The decision, Carnahan said, was "what we expected," adding that he "never thought we did anything misleading."
Mader told the MetNews she thought the judge was wrong, but didn't think it would be wise to spend time and money appealing the ruling to a higher court. To affect this year's ballot, such an action would have to be taken immediately, as the county has indicated that the ballot must be finalized by today in order to be printed on time.
Carnahan's lawyer, Bradley Hertz, had asked for attorney fees in his court papers—pursuant to the private attorney general statute—but indicated after the hearing that he would probably not pursue the matter. Such fees are rarely awarded to a responding party, he noted.
Copyright Metropolitan News Company, 2000