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Carson minister targets Latino judges to make way for Filipinos

March 28, 2008 | 12:01 am

The man behind a write-in campaign for six Los Angeles Superior Court seats said Thursday that he targeted Latino judges because they would be easier to defeat, especially if he is successful at recruiting Filipino challengers.

"When you're running against a Caucasian, it's kind of hard," the Rev. Ronald C. Tan of Carson said. "As Filipinos, our names are almost the same as Hispanics, so that puts us on co-equal ground."

Tan said he is still hoping to get some Filipino lawyers to actually run write-in campaigns against the  six judges. "I'm in the process of convincing a couple of my dear friends to run," he said.

He said his primary reason for petitioning for a write-in campaign was his concern about appellate rulings in religious rights cases on subjects such as abortion, gay marriage, evolution "and all that."

"It's legislation from the bench," Tan said. "A lot of judges who get elected have very, very liberal views."

He said he was especially concerned about  rulings from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "Most of them are judges that come from the ranks" of the Superior Court, he said.

A secondary goal was to get more Filipino-Americans on the bench, he said. "There hasn't ever been a judge who has been a Filipino-American," he said.

In fact, Mel Red Recana was presiding judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Court and is currently serving on the Los Angeles Superior Court. He was born in the Philippines and is of Filipino descent.

As for why Tan didn't get his friends to file for the regular campaign and get their names on the ballot, he said he just didn't get around to it. "It was a question of timing," he said.

Only one Los Angeles Superior Court judge -- Ralph Dau -- has been challenged by traditional means in the June 3 election, with an attorney, Sydnee R. Singer, coming forward to put her name on the ballot as Dau's opponent. That meant, almost, that the other 144 judges up for election this year were to be deemed elected without their names even appearing before voters. But judicial election laws include provisions for write-in campaigns if petitioners present enough signatures after the close of regular filing. Judges who are named in the petitions must have their names on the ballot after all, but no opponents are listed.

Tan filed petitions on Judges Juan Carlos Dominguez (in the Pomona North Courthouse); Hector M. Guzman (Torrance); Daniel S. Lopez (Pomona); Daniel P. Ramirez (Whittier); Jose Sandoval (the Foltz criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles); and Michael Villalobos (West Covina). Their names will now appear on the June ballot.

The six still don't know whether they will actually have campaigns run against them -- or by whom. Questions about whether to raise campaign money, hire consultants or any of the other things that challenged judges must do still await resolution.

"It took us totally by surprise," Villalobos said. "We are taking this challenge seriously, but it's really difficult at this point because we don't know who the candidate will be."

Tan was assisted in his effort by William D. Johnson, a judicial candidate who filed in the traditional manner and is running for an open court seat against Superior Court Commissioner James Bianco. County records show that the William D. Johnson who circulated petitions for Tan on several of the challenged judges and the man running against Bianco are the same person. Johnson did not return a call for comment.

Johnson is an attorney with an international law practice in downtown Los Angeles. According to his web site, he has a 78-acre ranch in La Canada where he raises horses, cows and alpacas.

Tan said he met Johnson at the County Registrar-Recorder's Office in Norwalk. Tan said the two men spoke for about an hour and realized they shared many concerns. But Tan said he was not aware that Johnson was active in the Ron Paul for President campaign. "I'm not voting for Ron Paul," Tan said.

A petition was also circulated for Tan by USC student Jeffrey Hubbard, who also has been active in the Paul campaign.

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