Monday, March 24, 2014

Battle of Bogus Ballot Designations Set for Courtroom Showdowns

With the LA County Registrar-Recorder stating that the wording of all disputed ballot designations must be settled by close of business Monday, March 24  to meet the printing deadline, the fate of four bogus ballot designations in the races for Offices 22, 61, 76 and 157 should be decided by Superior Court judges today.

Office 22
DDA Amy Carter, running as 'Sex Crimes Prosecutor,' has challenged her opponent, insurance defense attorney Pamela Matsumoto's use of 'Administrative Law Judge' as her ballot title. According to the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Matsumoto's claim to the ballot title derives from her temporary job as a social security benefits hearing officer. That job ended in July 2013, and Matsumoto recently started working as an attorney in the Glendale law office of Gregory Lucett, representing Allstate Insurance Company.

The issue centers on the "reach back" provisions of Elections Code §13107(a)(3) which permits a ballot designation of "[n]o more than three words designating ... the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents."[Emphasis added]. Matsumoto appears justify her ballot title based on her work for the Department of Social Security through July 2013,  rather than her current employment in insurance defense.

Carter is represented by Bradley W. Hertz, Esq., of The Sutton Law Firm. In the writ petition filed on Carter's behalf, Hertz asserts that Matsumoto's use of the reach back provision does not apply where a candidate such as Matsumoto is currently employed. Rather, he contends, the reach back provision was included in the Elections Code in 1992 when unemployment was at an all time high to allow those who were either retired or unemployed to "reach back" to their principal occupation. Hertz asserts that a candidate cannot use the reach back provision to "... ignore and hide from the voters her current principal professions, vocations, or occupations (i.e., insurance defense counsel) and instead use a more politically popular 'former' job description (i.e., ALJ) from the candidate’s past." To allow that, he argued, would contravene the requirement of §13107 that a designation be rejected if it "would mislead the voter."

Office 61
DDA Dayan Mathai, running as 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor' has challenged one of his opponents, maritime and admiralty attorney B. Otis Felder, who initially tried to run as 'Deputy City Attorney' based on his temporary volunteer externship at the City Attorney's Office. However, following Mathai's initial challenge to the Registrar-Recorder, Felder was bizarrely awarded the title 'Los Angeles Prosecutor' by the Registrar-Recorder.

Mathai has challenged the Registrar-Recorder's decision, telling the Met News that "... I was informed that they were going to change the designation again. Felder’s designation is now 'Los Angeles Prosecutor,' and that is their final decision. This is obviously equally false and misleading because he could be perceived by the public as either the District Attorney, the City Attorney, or a Deputy of either of those elected officials, which he is not and has never been. This is a designation that does not even appear on Mr. Felder’s Ballot Designation worksheet, so I’m unsure why they created it instead of his own stated 2nd Alternative request of 'Los Angeles Attorney.'"

Mathai, who will represent himself in the hearing, will likely assert that the title chosen by the Registrar-Recorder is all too similar to that ultimately awarded to Carmen Trutanich after he was stripped of his misleading ballot title 'Chief Criminal Prosecutor' during his ill-fated campaign to become District Attorney.

Just as in the dispute over Office 22, it is the reach back provision of the Election Code that is at issue. Felder's externship at the City Attorney's Office is understood to have terminated prior to his filing papers for Office 61. In order to prove that his externship was his "principal vocation" (the externship is unpaid) Felder may be required to produce records showing his admiralty and maritime law practice was dormant during that time.

Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis, also running for the seat, declined to join in Mathai's challenge.

If 'Los Angeles Prosecutor' were allowed to stand, it could mislead voters into believing Felder is the City Attorney or District Attorney, Mathai will likely argue. The more accurate ballot title is, perhaps, Felder's second choice 'Los Angeles Attorney.'

Office 76
In a race that sadly pitches one DDA against another, DDA Alison Matsumoto Estrada, running as 'Government Corruption Prosecutor' has challenged DDA Helen Kim's ballot title 'Violent Crimes Prosecutor.'

Unlike the other challenges before the courts on Monday, it is not the reach back provisions of the Election Code at issue here. Rather it is the inherently misleading nature of the ballot title itself; Kim is a part-time filing deputy in Central Complaints.

A declaration filed by DDA Rob Dver on behalf of Matsumoto Estrada, asserts that violent felonies (as defined in Penal Code §667.5(c)) are typically handled by special units, not Central Complaints. Dver, who is a filing deputy, also asserts that no more than 5% of the cases he handles fall within Penal Code §667.5(c).

Matsumoto Estrada is represented by Stuart L. Leviton of Reed & Davidson, LLP. 

Office 157
DDA Andrew Cooper, running as 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor,' has challenged attorney Arnold W. Mednick's use of 'Administrative Law Judge' as his ballot title. The issue is not too dissimilar to that in Office 22. According to the Met News, Mednick last worked as a hearing officer for the Department of Social Services on January 16, 2013.

Mednick is apparently asserting that he has held no other employment since January 16, 2013, and that his listing on the State Bar website which uses the address of a bankruptcy attorney, is simply a mailing address. In his writ petition, Cooper asserts that Mednick changed his listing on the State Bar website. As of February 11, 2014, Mednick was affiliated with the Offices of Steven Bryson. On February 12, 2014, Mednick changed the listing to show only a personal mail box without affiliation to Bryson. According to Cooper, Mednick filed his nominating papers on February 10, 2014, and that the change of detail (i.e. the lack of association with Bryson) "...was an attempt to hide the fact that he is a practicing attorney so he could attempt to make use of the 'look back'  provision found in Elections Code section 13107(a)(3)." the Met News reported.

Cooper, like Carter in Office 22, is represented by Bradley W. Hertz, Esq., of The Sutton Law Firm.

Bogus Ballot Designation Challenged in Race of County Assessor

The Los Cerritos Newspaper Group/Hews Media Group reports that a legal challenge has been filed against Jeffrey Prang, one of twelve candidates for Los Angeles County Assessor. Prang, is trying to use 'Los Angeles County Deputy Assessor' as his ballot title, based on Prang being an at-will appointee of disgraced outgoing Assessor John Noguez. Noguez currently faces fraud and corruption charges arising out of alleged acceptance of bribes in return for property tax reductions.

"Prang serves as a Special Assistant to the Assessor. His job title requires him to conduct investigations and perform staff or public relations assignments for the Executive Office of the Assessor.  He is misleading voters intentionally," said Omar Haroon who is also running for the office.

The HMG-CN reported that the legal challenge to Prang caught his campaign consultant off guard on Friday afternoon.  "We are not aware of this legal challenge, so it is hard for me to have an immediate reaction," Ross Bates told HMG-CN in a phone conversation on Friday afternoon from an airport in Northern California.

"These type of things happen in campaigns.  This isn’t surprising.  Jeff has worked under two past Assessors, but if we have to change his ballot title to Special Assistant, I am okay with that," said Bates.

Haroon called Prang a "career politician."  He also took a swipe at John Morris, who is running for Assessor, and who is a Deputy District Attorney for LA County DA Jackie Lacey. "A deputy district attorney has no qualifications or understanding of the office," Haroon told the HMG-CN. In his statement, Haroon perhaps belies his ignorance (or fear) of Morris who, having successfully headed the DA's Office Bureau of Fraud and Corruption's Healcare Fraud Division, knows precisely how to root out and prevent the rampant corruption that allegedly occurred under Haroon and Prang's noses while they served in the Noguez administration. 

Haroon will be represented by Benjamin Davidson of the Law Offices of Benjamin Davidson, P.C. at a press conference scheduled to take place Monday morning on the steps of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.


Anonymous said...

I hope Helen Kim changes her mind about using a completely false and misleading ballot designation. If she loses the lawsuit, which looks likely, it will put the credibility of every DDA in question. If she wins, then it is clear that this ugly business is not going away. It is likely that the mainstream media has already started investigating Kim's claims and will rip her to shreds in their editorials. If she really was a prosecutor, she would know that credibility is everything, but I suppose that as she only shows up for work 3 days a week, she is a little out of touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

"put the credibility of every DDA in question"

Give me a break!
Matsumoto's lawsuit just reduced every filing deputy down to a PUNCHLINE!