Thanks to Roger M. Grace, the Editor and Co-Publisher of the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise, some light has been shed on the surprising and disappointing ruling by Judge Luis Lavin allowing a former volunteer extern at the City Attorney's Office to use the blatantly bogus ballot title, 'Los Angeles Prosecutor,' in his bid to become a judge in the June 3, 2014 primary election for Office No. 61.
In his Friday, March 28, 2014 'Perspectives' column, Grace provides a detailed analysis as to why, in Grace's opinion, Judge Lavin was wrong to allow Felder to use any reference to his volunterism as a substitute for his real occupation; a maritime and admiralty lawyer. Even if Felder could refer to his externship in his ballot title, Grace argues that Lavin nonetheless allowed Felder to use a misleading ballot title; 'Los Angeles Prosecutor' suggests something rather different from a temporary volunteer extern, and surely would mislead voters as to the quality and permanence of his former occupation (Felder terminated his volunterism as soon as he filed papers to run for judge). Grace makes a compelling case that could, should Felder somehow win a place in the run off, provide his opponent with the basis of a further challenge. Hopefully no further challenge will be needed if voters learn the truth about Felder.
Did Felder play the Gay Card?
But perhaps the most controversial portion of Grace's analysis is contained at the end of his column, in a section labeled "Addendum."
"The sexual orientation of a candidate should never be a factor in gauging the person’s fitness for office—and surely is of no pertinence to the legal question of the appropriateness of a ballot designation. Yet, Felder made a point of his homosexuality in his opposition to the writ petition, giving rise to a suspicion as to his motivation. Why he would do this would seem explainable only by the fact that the case had been assigned to Lavin, and Lavin is openly gay." Grace said.
|Grace argues that Felder's reference to his husband is either a deliberate attempt to signal to|
a gay judge that he too is gay, or appallingly bad judgment.
Grace was referring to paragraph 5 of Felder's opposition brief, where, Felder states that "My husband, who is a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, suggested that I consider investigating other career opportunities if I wanted to pursue public service in criminal justice."
Grace argues that "Advice to Felder from his husband, Steve Johnson, which led him to join the Volunteer Attorneys Program, had no conceivable relevance to the issue of the validity of the ballot designation. Can it reasonably be supposed that Felder would have mentioned his having a husband if were not that Lavin has one also?"
Grace continues, "To attempt to win sympathy of the judge by interjecting a gratuitous reference to the party’s religion, knowing that the judge is a devout adherent to the same faith, or sneaking in any other factor that would communicate to the judge some sort of kinship, would be reprehensible." In essence, Grace is saying that Felder played the 'Gay Card' as there was no legally relevant reason for Felder to tell Judge Lavin that he gay. That Judge Lavin is openly gay is no secret; the LA Times reported that back when Lavin was appointed Judge of the Superior Court by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. So was this a blatant attempt to curry favor with a judge?
Grace concludes by offering an alternate explanation; that Felder is a buffoon, "If Felder did not have the motivation that his conduct suggests, he still showed appallingly bad judgment in inserting an irrelevancy that would spark such a suspicion." Bad judgment could be seen by some as a gross understatement. What Felder has truly succeeded in doing is casting a dark cloud over the propriety of Judge Lavin's decision. People will forever wonder whether Judge Lavin was swayed towards ruling in Felder's favor simply because they are both gay. Whether Felder was playing the gay card or was simply a buffoon, he has established himself as unfit to be a judge. People expect fairness and impartiality from judges, and they may well wonder how a Judge Felder would rule if a party gratuitously, irrelevantly and intentionally mentions that they are gay?
In the light of Felder's faux pas, his campaign website seems particularly hypocritical proclaiming, as it does, that he believes in "equal justice for all Angelenos."
Felder also claims to have "fought for equality rights all my life." Strange then, that he did not chose to use "Civil Rights Attorney" as his ballot designation and that he makes no mention of his civil rights work on his law practice website.
If indeed, Felder succeeded in playing the gay card with Judge Lavin, it appears that he was not so successful in his effort to gain the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club.
The Stonewall Democratic Club, according to their website, is "... the home for progressive Democrats in Los Angeles who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies of the LGBT community." They passed over Felder and instead endorsed one of his opponents, Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis. Perhaps they know how unfit Felder is to be trusted with the responsibility of ruling fairly, openly and honestly.
The choice for who should occupy Office No. 61 as Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court should be between Gang Homicide Prosecutor Dayan Mathai and Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis.