Is Attributed to Judge Rico to 'Fight to Protect Seniors' Rights'
turned 55 a month ago, I find I am now viewed as a constituent of
that special interest group known as "senior citizens." I've received
a slate mailer from a group dubbed "The Coalition for Senior Citizen
the Senior Citizen, can make your voice be heard loud and clear!
This Election Day, vote for candidates who CARE about Senior Citizens!"
the candidates spotlighted in the flyer who care about us old folks
is one who offers the pledge:
fight to protect Seniors' rights."
who is this stalwart champion of the causes of that special interest
group to which I now belong, this knight who readies to do battle
to protect our rights?
Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard E. Rico, a candidate in Tuesday's
pledge to "fight" for a cause is often heard from candidates for
legislative and executive offices — but not judicial offices. Those
running for judgeships commonly pledge to be "firm but fair" and
to "uphold the rights of all citizens."
there it is, in black and white: Rico, who faces a token election
challenge, is portrayed as running on a platform not simply of "upholding"
seniors' rights, but fighting for them—communicating an intention
of engaging in judicial advocacy.
how does Rico propose to go about fighting for the rights of us
not sure, to tell you the truth," Rico responded when I asked him
about the matter yesterday morning.
judge said he has not seen the slate mailer in question (at age
45, he would not have received one in the mail), and added:
kind of a mystery to me."
said he authorized Skelton to pay for his name "being on the slate
mailers," but did not give approval to any stances being ascribed
declined to disavow the pledge to "fight to protect Seniors' rights,"
however, explaining that he wanted a chance to review the slate
mailer and confer with Skelton.
told me: "We had nothing to do with that text," advising that it
was inserted by the slate mailer company. He commented that "it
seems weird" that the company would stick such a slogan under the
name of a judge.
campaign finance statement shows payments for inclusion on eight
slates, at rates ranging from $400-$1,000. Skelton acknowledged
that he did not see any of the slate mailers before they went out.
"They won't show them to you," he noted.
dismissed the idea of insisting that the slate mailer company immediately
dispatch a leaflet with a correction, scoffing, "They won't do it."
Gill, senior account executive at Cerrell Associates, Inc.—the firm
most closely associated with judicial contests—confirms that those
who pay for the inclusion of a candidate's name on a slate mailer
customarily do not see the flyers before they are disseminated.
might be custom...is a judicial candidate not remiss in failing
to insist on seeing how he or she is to be portrayed in campaign
has, even if unwittingly, run on a platform of fighting for seniors.
Any person with knowledge of the slate mailer "might reasonably
entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial"
in any case involving the rights of a senior, arguably triggering
an obligation on the part of Rico to recuse himself under Code of
Civil Procedure Sec. 170.1(a)(6)(C).
a slate mailing company to gratuitously insert a slogan beneath
a candidate's name is probably a rare event. Skelton said the Rico
campaign did not pay for text under the name, and if it had, he
would have written the text. Nonetheless, there are various other
ways a candidate could be misportrayed in a piece of campaign literature
and prudence would seem to require seeing that literature before
it goes out.
best reason why judicial candidates are ill-advised to buy space
on slate mailers blindly is that they could be linked in the minds
of recipients of the slates to causes—of a partisan political nature,
for example—with which a candidate for a judgeship should not be
recalled an election in which clients of the Cerrell firm were upset
that their names had been included on a slate mailer which took
a stance on abortion rights.
slate mailer I received includes a disclaimer, in small print, which
reads: "This document was prepared by The Coalition for Senior Citizen
Security, NOT AN OFFICIAL POLITICAL PARTY OR ORGANIZATION." Notwithstanding
that verbiage, all but the most sophisticated would assume that
something called "The Coalition for Senior Citizen Security" is
an organization, especially in light of the impression the mailer
creates that the entity is engaged in ongoing activities in support
of a certain agenda. The piece reads:
PLEDGE: '....We will always fight for the strengthening and total
preservation of Social Security."
as Rico is running for a judgeship, the assurance attributed to
him that he will "fight to protect Seniors' rights" is most apt
to be read as a declaration that he would protect those rights in
his capacity as a judge. However, given the impression that the
mailer is produced by some standing organization dedicated to "strengthening"
social security, the pledge could also be perceived as including
participation in the campaign for legislative action to boost benefits.
truth, by the way, no such organization as The Coalition for Senior
Citizen Security exists. The address listed for it on the slate
mailer is that of the David L. Gould Company, which acts as treasurer
for slate mailer companies.
late yesterday afternoon, after having reviewed the slate mailer
and having talked with Skelton, would not out-and-out disavow the
pledge to "fight to protect Seniors' rights." He said: "I disavow
it to the extent that I didn't make it." He also said: "I'm fighting
to protect the rights of everyone," "I'm going to fight to be a
fair and impartial jurist," and "I'm fighting for justice."
would not say, flat out, that he does not promise to "fight to protect
Seniors' rights" or to fight for the rights of any other particular
would hope that any judge would be willing to readily commit himself
or herself to judicial neutrality and to repudiate any unauthorized
promise attributed to the judge to be a "fighter" on the bench for
the rights of any special interest. Rico wouldn't, instead dancing
around the issue.
might well be attributed to Rico's lack of experience in publicly
commenting on issues. Appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court
on Oct. 14, he has not previously been involved in an election campaign.
drew a challenge on Nov. 1 from a lawyer who took out papers to
run for Office No. 44, thinking it was an open seat, and who, after
being apprised that Rico had been appointed to the post, filed the
papers, anyway. She explained that she might as well run since had
already paid the filing fee. Rico, playing it safe, decided to take
the challenge seriously, and to spend some money.
the Los Angeles Municipal Court no longer exists, in light of unification,
the contest remains listed on the ballot as one for the Los Angeles
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