Legal Library

Abigail Turner
John C. Bonifaz
National Voting Rights Institute
401 Commonwealth Avenue, Third Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
617-867-0740

Joseph H. Duff, State Bar No. 50431
1551 High Point Street
Los Angeles, California 90035-3907
213-932-8172

Roy M. Ulrich, State Bar No. 46087
Law Offices of Roy M. Ulrich
185 Pier Avenue
Santa Monica, California 90405
310-452-2552

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

NAACP, Los Angeles Branch; MultiCultural Collaborative; Southern Christian Leadership
Conference of Greater Los Angeles (SCLC); California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG); Southern California Americans for Democratic Action; David E. Allen; Frank L. Berry; Hester M. Watkins; Talt Coldiron; Dolores C. Stephens; Isaac R. Elnecave; Denise M. Robb; Michael A. Feinstein; James E. Sturm; Allen Rubinstein; Arnold Arbiso; and Charles L. Lindner,

Plaintiffs,

v.

Bill Jones, Secretary of State of California; Conny B. McCormack, Registrar of Voters for Los Angeles County; Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; Members of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Michael D Antonovich; Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Deane Dana, Gloria Molina, and Zev Yaroslavsky,

Defendants

Case No. 96-3469 DT

COMPLAINT FOR VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS-VOTING RIGHTS

COMPLAINT, CIVIL RIGHTS

JURISDICTION

1. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§1331,1343(a)(3) and (a)(4). Jurisdiction is proper over the state constitutional claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367(a).

INTRODUCTION

2. Plaintiffs, as voters in judicial elections, and Charles L. Lindner, as a candidate, challenge the campaign finance system in judicial elections in Los Angeles County, California because it discriminates against them on the basis of their lack of wealth and access to wealth. The system effectively excludes plaintiffs from participating in a critical part of the election process for judges in Los Angeles County. Further, it eliminates many qualified candidates and, thus, restricts voters' choices to candidates who have personal wealth or wealthy supporters.

3. The defendants, the Secretary of State of California, the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have established, sanctioned, and maintained an exclusionary wealth primary in judicial elections in Los Angeles County. The "wealth primary" is the exclusionary process in which the wealthy control who participate in and who almost invariably win judicial elections. The process of amassing large sums of before every run-off election.

4. The wealth primary excludes and discourages voters and candidates who lack vast personal wealth or access to The wealth primary excludes and discourages voters and candidates who lack vast personal wealth or access to vote. Their right to vote includes participation in the whole panoply of the election process. By requiring large sums of money to be a viable judicial candidate, this electoral system threatens the integrity and the appearance of integrity of the courts.

5. The state-maintained wealth primary violates less affluent voters' rights to vote and to participate fully in the election process as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and by the equal protection guarantee of the California Constitution.

6. The wealth primary unlawfully burdens voter plaintiffs' First Amendment rights under the United States and California Constitutions to caste a meaningful vote for the candidate of their choice; to their freedom of expression on views at issue in judge campaigns; and to their freedom of association as nonwealthy voters who do not have an opportunity to support a candidate who can become a rallying point for their views related to the local courts.

7. The state-maintained wealth primary also violates the candidate plaintiff's rights to run for office and participate in the electoral process on an equal and meaningful basis as protected by the federal and state Equal Protection Clauses.

8. Los Angeles County publishes qualification statements of superior court candidates in the County's Official Sample Ballot and Voter Information pamphlet only if the candidate pays the more than $45,000 cost. This denies voters' First Amendment rights to receive and hear campaign information from candidates without the funds to pay such costs.

9. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the wealth primary in judicial elections in Los Angeles County violates the Equal Protection Clauses and the First Amendments of the United States and California Constitutions. The voters seek an order from the court enjoining Los Angeles County's operation of the wealth primary without providing alternative public financing to enable nonwealthy voters and candidates to participate meaningfully in judge elections. The voters also seek an order prohibiting the County from requiring judge candidates to pay a fee to have their qualifications appear in the Official Ballot.

PARTIES

Plaintiffs

10. Plaintiff NAACP, Los Angeles Branch, includes more than 4,500 members. Almost all of its adult members are registered voters in Los Angeles County.

11. Plaintiff MultiCultural Collaborative consists of ten community-based organizations which work with the African American, Asian Pacific American and Latino communities in Los Angeles. The Board of Directors include: Asian Pacific American Legal Center; Asian Pacific Planning Council; Central American Resource Center; Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in LA; Dunbar Economic Development Corporation; Korean Youth and Community Center; Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund; NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Watts/Central Latino Organization. MCC's Board of Directors represent thousands of registered voters.

12. Plaintiff Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles (SCLC), includes more than 150 members. Almost all of its adult members are registered voters in Los Angeles County.

13. Plaintiff the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) includes more than 12,000 members in Los Angeles County. Almost all its adult members in Los Angeles County are registered voters. Its state headquarters offices are located in the City of Los Angeles.

14. Plaintiff Southern California Americans for Democratic Action (SCADA) includes more than 3,000 members in Los Angeles County. Almost all of its adult members are registered voters in Los Angeles County.

15. Plaintiff David E. Allen is a registered voter and is a resident of the City of Los Angeles. He is First Vice President and a member of the Executive Committee of the NAACP, Los Angeles Branch.

16. Plaintiff Frank L. Berry is a registered voter and is a resident of the City of Carson in Los Angeles County. He is employed by the NAACP, Los Angeles Branch.

17. Plaintiff Hester M. Watkins is a registered voter and is a resident of the City of Los Angeles. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the NAACP, Los Angeles Branch.

18. Plaintiff Talt Coldiron is a registered voter and is a resident of Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. In 1994, Mr. Coldiron worked in the campaign of Janet Araujo, a candidate for municipal court judge in the Southeast Judicial District.

19. Plaintiff Dolores C. Stephens is a registered voter and is a resident of Bell in Los Angeles County. In 1994, Ms. Stephens worked in the campaign of Janet Araujo, a candidate for municipal court judge in the Southeast Judicial District.

20. Plaintiff Denise M.M. Robb is a registered voter and is a resident of the City of Los Angeles. She is a member of the coalition of groups which worked to get the Common Cause sponsored campaign finance reform initiative on the ballot in 1996.

21. Plaintiff Michael A. Feinstein is a registered voter and is a resident of Santa Monica in Los Angeles County. He is a member of the coalition of groups which worked to get the Common Cause sponsored campaign finance reform initiative on the ballot in 1996.

22. Plaintiff James E. Sturm is a registered voter and is a resident of Long Beach in Los Angeles County. He is a member of Common Cause.

23. Plaintiff Isaac R. Elnecave is a registered voter and is a resident of Canoga Park in Los Angeles County. He is employed in the Los Angeles Office of California Common Cause.

24. Plaintiff Allen Rubinstein is a registered voter and is resident of the City of Los Angeles. He is a member of the coalition of groups which worked to get the Common Cause campaign finance reform initiative on the ballot in 1996.

25. Plaintiff Arnold Arbiso is a registered voter and is a resident of Norwalk in Los Angeles County. He is a member of Common Cause.

26. Plaintiff Charles L. Lindner was a candidate for Superior Court Judge place number 18 in the March 1996 primary. He resides in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County. He is a registered voter.

Defendants

27. Defendant Bill Jones is the Secretary of State of the State of California. As the chief elections officer of the state, he administers the provisions of the Elections Code. In that capacity, he oversees compliance with the statutes and constitutional requirements governing elections, including the requirement of county-wide elections for the office of superior court judge. Cal. art.6, §16(a).

28. Defendant Conny B. McCormack is the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters and County Clerk. Judicial candidates file their declarations of intention to become a candidate in the office of the county clerk. Defendant McCormack has the duty to conduct elections in conformity with the California Elections Code. These duties include establishing rules for publication and distribution of the voter's pamphlet required by Elections Code §§13307-13313.

29. Defendant Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors makes the decision under Elections Code §§13309(e) and (f) whether candidates for judge must pay to appear in the voter's pamphlet required for each election under Elections Code § 13307(b). The Board also makes the decision of whether the County will fund voter's pamphlet statements in any language other than English.

30. Defendant Members of the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, Michael D. Antonovich, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Deane Dana, Gloria Molina, and Zev Yaroslavsky, make the decision under Elections Code §§13309(e) and (f) whether candidates for judge must pay to appear in the voter's pamphlet required for each election under Elections Code § 13307(b). They also make the decision of whether the County will fund voter's pamphlet statements in any language other than English. These members are sued solely in their official capacities.

FACTS

31. Plaintiff NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Los Angeles Branch, has for 62 years advocated for the voting rights of African Americans. The organization has worked to strike down barriers to the rights of African Americans and other minorities to participate fully in the electoral process.

32. The NAACP's office is a designated location for voter registration. The organization through its volunteers also conducts voter registration drives at public places such as grocery stores, movie theaters and other retail sales locations.

33. The members of Plaintiff NAACP regularly exercise their right to vote for judges in Los Angeles County.

34. A substantial part of the NAACP's membership is low or modest income and without resources to make large campaign contributions. Thus, the NAACP advocates against election practices where wealth is a requirement for meaningful participation.

35. Providing voter education opportunities is a service the NAACP regularly gives its members and the community. These opportunities include meetings for candidates and/or their supporters to present their views, questioning candidates about issues of particular concern to African American voters and voter summits for members to hear about current political issues.

36. During election campaigns, the NAACP speaks out to its members and the public about issues of concern to people of color including matters of fairness in the courts and the records and performance of judicial candidates.

37. The NAACP advocates for fairness in the courts, particularly in the treatment of people of color. The organization receives daily telephone requests for assistance in addressing alleged discrimination in court proceedings. Staff monitor criminal and civil court proceedings where litigants have expressed concerns about discrimination. Where significant questions of fairness to African Americans and other people of color occur, the NAACP will hold public hearings and issue reports and recommendations on its findings.

38. NAACP volunteers regularly counsel litigants and citizens with legal problems. The organization's Legal Redress Committee provides lawyer referral services and works with retained counsel to investigate and document allegations of discrimination in court proceedings.

39. The time the NAACP staff must spend in court advocacy is increased by a judiciary composed predominantly of persons of vast personal wealth or with access to vast wealth. Litigants facing a judge with little or no experience in the poorer communities of Los Angeles County believe that they cannot receive fair treatment and are more likely to request assistance from the NAACP.

40. Encouraging its members to be involved in politics, including working in campaigns and running for office, is an important activity of the NAACP. The large costs of funding a viable judicial campaign means that the NAACP's members cannot contribute nor raise sufficient funds to sponsor a candidate whose views come nearest to reflecting the members' views on contemporary issues. Consequently, the NAACP's ability to carry out its goal of increased political participation is hindered.

41. NAACP members lacking both personal wealth and access to wealth are effectively excluded from the critical wealth primary process in judge elections in Los Angeles County.

42. The NAACP and its members are deprived of rights to participate fully in the voting process when their ability to hear judicial candidate qualifications through the County's voter pamphlet is dependent on the candidates' ability to pay the more than $40,000 cost of a voter pamphlet statement for superior court judge.

43. Plaintiff MultiCultural Collaborative's (MCC) creation in 1992 grew out of the civil unrest in April 1992 following the verdict in the trial of the police officers who beat Rodney King. Inner-city residents' perceptions about the lack of justice in the verdict precipitated MCC's formation.

44. MCC's founding members were driven by forces that prompted the disturbance: racial polarization and ethnic conflict; interracial violence in schools and neighborhoods; anti-immigrant sentiment; and the criminalization of masses of African American and Latino young men. Thus, since its beginning, MCC has been constantly concerned about how the courts handle multiracial and multi-ethnic civil and criminal cases.

45. The MultiCultural Collaborative (MCC) is both an advocate and catalyst for achieving equitable treatment, intergroup cooperation and democracy in the diverse communities of Los Angeles. The advocacy includes work on justice in the courts. Much of the MCC's advocacy and programs are directed to problems of low income and inner-city residents.

46. The MCC focuses on the causes and prevention of interracial tension and violence. The MCC's mission to reduce interracial tensions requires it regularly to respond to requests to diffuse community conflicts including those conflicts caused by matters in the courts. The courts' treatment of interracial civil and criminal conflict and its impact on increasing or decreasing tension in inner-city communities receives repeated attention in MCC's work.

47. The MCC regularly speaks out to its members and the public about issues of social and economic justice, particularly on situations which inflame racial antagonisms. This media and education work includes speaking out about fairness in the courts and about treatment by law enforcement officers.

48. The MCC and its members encourage responsible civic and community involvement as a vehicle to reduce inner city conflict and violence. They regularly encourage members to participate in all phases of the election process, including judge elections.

49. The election of judges who understand and have ties to the low income communities and citizens with whom MCC works is important to the MCC. In its assessment of the social and economic factors that fueled the interracial tension in Los Angeles, the MCC identified the lack of diversity and low income community involvement in policy making as factors which exacerbated conflict. It has been MCC's experience that when only wealthy lawyers, and those with access to wealth, can become judges, the needs of low income voters and inner-city communities are not considered.

50. The MCC, its member organizations, and its program participants who are without wealth are effectively excluded from the critical wealth primary process in judge elections in Los Angeles County.

51. Plaintiff Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles organized in 1964 to struggle against racism, economic exploitation and inequality. Based on the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the SCLC affirms nonviolence as the only reasonable basis for political and social change.

52. The SCLC advocates for justice for all persons regardless of economic status. It teaches and encourages full political participation to bring about a just community. Voter registration is one of SCLC's primary programs. SCLC was part of Operation Big Vote, and is currently registering and educating voters in conjunction with the national Coalition of Black Voter Participation and Operation Black Youth Vote. SCLC also organizes precinct walking to get voters to the polls on election day and serves as a neighborhood polling place.

53. In 1990 as the level of violence increased around civil disputes, the SCLC observed that the courts seemed overburdened and community interactions with law enforcement were frequently negative. SCLC's programs to resolve civil disputes in South Central Los Angeles grew out of the despair from the failings of these institutions.

54. SCLC members and its program participants speak out about the failings of the court system. They organize to change the reality and the perception of injustice.

55. Because women who are the victims of rape and other forms of domestic violence were being further victimized by the court system, the SCLC provides court appearance assistance, counseling and referrals to other services.

56. By providing constructive alternatives for youth involved in gang violence, substance abuse, and crime, the SCLC gives the youth a stake in their communities. These programs address political involvement and empowerment as a necessary part of finding community solutions to reduce youth violence.

57. In its programs across Los Angeles, the SCLC emphasizes the direct link between responsible civic and political participation and reducing violence in low and moderate income neighborhoods.

58. The members of SCLC regularly exercise their right to vote for judges. Most of the SCLC members are low or modest income and without resources to contribute to judge candidates. They are unable to identify a candidate with whose views they agree on contemporary issues and to support a viable campaign. Lacking access to wealth, they are excluded from meaningfully exercising their right to vote.

59. Plaintiff California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) has spoken out about and organized around voter participation issues for the last 20 years. Since 1984 it has played a leadership role in registering students nationwide to vote. It has supported and monitored the passage and implementation in California of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C.§ 1973 (the Motor Voter Act).

60. A primary focus of CALPIRG's work is on democracy issues including voter registration, campaign finance reform, and initiative and referendum reform. CALPIRG led a campaign to get a campaign finance initiative on the ballot for 1996. It helped collect approximately 200,000 signatures in Los Angeles County. At the same time, it registered thousands of voters.

61. CALPIRG frequently speaks out about the dangers of special interests in the political process and the corrupting influence of money in politics. The need to raise large sums to finance a judge campaign is of particular concern to CALPIRG because it threatens the necessity of actual fairness and impartiality in the courts as well as the appearance of fairness and impartiality.

62. CALPIRG's members in Los Angeles County are from all walks of life. The membership disagrees with a system which allows wealth to corrupt the political process. The members' ability to choose among a broad group of candidates is hindered by the necessity for candidates to raise large sums to deliver their message. Consequently, CALPIRG's ability to carry out its goals of greater and more meaningful voter participation are harmed.

63. Plaintiff Southern California Americans for Democratic Action (SCADA), founded in 1947, has as one of its fundamental goals to promote a society in which each individual is free to speak, write, associate and vote as they choose without regard to race or ethnicity, religion or creed, gender or economic status. In furtherance of this goal, SCADA promotes reforms in the political process to enable and encourage all citizens to participate to the maximum extent possible in the democratic process.

64. SCADA's primary functions include interviewing candidates for public office, including judge candidates, and endorsing candidates who come closest to reflecting the organization's values on political and social issues.

65. Each election cycle, SCADA mails a lengthy questionnaire to each superior court and municipal court candidate in Los Angeles County. SCADA's Endorsement Committee reviews the candidates' completed questionnaire and interviews those whose views appear compatible with SCADA's. The Endorsement Committee recommends to the Board which judicial candidates, as well as other candidates, the organization should endorse. Upon Board approval, SCADA publishes its judge endorsements to its membership and to 7,000 former members.

66. SCADA's members include large numbers of senior citizens on fixed incomes and students. Thus, many of its members are of low or modest income.

67. The members of Americans for Democratic Action regularly exercise their right to vote for judges in Los Angeles County.

68. SCADA's Endorsement Committee has interviewed and endorsed judge candidates whose candidacies the organization wishes to support but who lack personal wealth or access to wealth. Because SCADA is without the money to contribute significant sums to such candidates, the organization's impact and effectiveness in influencing the elections is diminished. It is unable to contribute sums to enable its selected candidates to conduct viable campaigns.

69. SCADA's members who are without wealth or access to wealth are unable to identify a candidate with whose views they agree on contemporary issues and to support a viable campaign. Lacking access to wealth, they are excluded from meaningfully exercising their right to vote.

70. SCADA has endorsed candidates from a cross section of political parties. SCADA wants its endorsements to be widely publicized including by the candidates through the voter's pamphlet. SCADA's ability to speak out about its endorsements is, thus, limited by the high cost of the candidate's statements in the voter's pamphlet.

71. SCADA will continue its function of judicial candidate interviews and endorsements in future elections and is currently planning its endorsements for the November 1996 elections.

72. SCADA's decisions on judge endorsements are part of the organization's goal to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system. SCADA reviews components of the criminal justice system to identify areas in which there is demonstrably unfair and inequitable treatment. SCADA speaks out about issues of sentencing including "three strikes" and the death penalty.

73. Voter registration is an on-going SCADA program activity. Its staff and members regularly register voters in such places as high schools in the City of Los Angeles, at naturalization ceremonies, and in conjunction with soliciting initiative signatures.

74. SCADA speaks out in support of measures to encourage participation in the voting process at the federal, state and local level. Conducting educational workshops about voting and political participation issues for its members and the public is another regular SCADA activity. These workshops include advocacy of campaign finance reform.

75. SCADA organizes and regularly speaks out in favor of campaign finance reform and public funding of campaigns including judge campaigns. SCADA advocates for an election process which provides access to a broad range of candidates who are not dependent on private contributions to finance a viable campaign.

76. Plaintiff David E. Allen has been a registered voter in California since 1985. Mr. Allen is self-employed as an employment discrimination consultant.

77. From 1989-1993, Mr. Allen was the administrator of a law firm which handles predominantly civil rights cases filed in state court. Many of the firms' clients were of modest or low income and had filed employment discrimination actions. While with the firm, Mr. Allen attended state court proceedings and had many opportunities to observe state court judges.

78. As an NAACP volunteer, Mr. Allen has assisted and continues to assist persons who contact the NAACP for assistance on employment discrimination complaints.

79. Mr. Allen volunteers time to help low income youth in Los Angeles' inner-city communities escape the violence they face daily. For the NAACP, he supervises programs to teach youth how to be responsible members of the community. This includes voter registration and political participation. In the Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence Against Kids, Mr. Allen organizes and speaks to kids about the personal and family costs of using handguns and the subsequent likely entanglement with the criminal justice system.

80. Mr. Allen regularly votes in judge elections and seeks opportunities to support candidates who come near to reflecting his views on contemporary issues. His experience observing state court trials and assisting people with discrimination complaints has made him concerned about the lack of diverse background among state court judges. Because judges are predominantly drawn from the pool of lawyers with access to wealth, Mr. Allen believes that low income and minority litigants' problems and needs are not treated equally.

81. Mr. Allen considers carefully whom he will support in judge elections. He seeks information from candidates, hears candidates or their supporters at forums, and reads and uses the judge candidate qualification statement in the County's Official Sample Ballot and Voter Information pamphlet.

82. Lacking wealth, Mr. Allen cannot contribute large sums to a judge candidate's campaign. When the candidate who has wealth is the one almost always elected, Mr. Allen suffers harm as a voter.

83. Plaintiff Frank L. Berry has been a registered voter in California since 1965. Since late 1992, Mr. Berry has been employed by the NAACP, Los Angeles Branch, as the Executive Assistant in its branch office.

84. Mr. Berry is the principal staff person who regularly receives telephone calls from individual and community groups who have complaints about justice in the courts. Mr. Berry or NAACP volunteers investigate such complaints. Mr. Berry monitors court proceedings where litigants have expressed concerns about discrimination.

85. As an NAACP employee and volunteer, Mr. Berry has worked on voter registration and participation issues. He currently coordinates voter registration drives with the Los Angeles Branch's Political Action Committee. This includes voter registration and voter education about issues important to the African American community.

86. When high profile trials occur in Los Angeles, Mr. Berry works with the NAACP's President and Executive Committee to present the organization's views about the proceedings. During the O.J. Simpson trial, Mr. Berry communicated the NAACP's positions to telephone callers from around the world. Mr. Berry worked as the staff person to coordinate the NAACP's December 1995 hearings on police abuse which followed the release of the Fuhrman tapes during the Simpson trial.

87. Mr. Berry regularly votes in judge elections and seeks opportunities to support candidates who come near to reflecting his views on contemporary issues. His experience observing state court trials and assisting people with discrimination complaints causes him concern about the lack of diverse background among state court judges. Because judges are predominantly drawn from a pool of lawyers with access to wealth, Mr. Berry consistently witnesses the lack of sensitivity and/or understanding of the poor by the judiciary in its unsuccessful attempt to administer justice in a fair and unbiased manner. He is also concerned that this major discrepancy in our system of justice, via the courts, will become a permanent flaw that yields the legal benefits to the wealthy side of our society.

88. As a person of moderate income, Mr. Berry cannot contribute large sums to a judge candidate's campaign. When the candidate who has wealth is the one almost always elected, Mr. Berry suffers harm as a voter.

89. Plaintiff Hester M. Watkins has been a registered voter since 1956. She works as a part time travel agent, a job she has held for 18 years. She is retired after teaching grades one through six for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

90. Ms. Watkins has been a member Executive Committee of the NAACP for eight years. She served as president of the Women's Auxiliary from 1990 to 1993. As an NAACP volunteer, Ms. Watkins registers voters.

91. Concerned about the verdict in the trial of the police officers who beat Rodney King in 1992, Ms. Watkins participated in organizing the NAACP's public hearings after the civil disturbance. Ms. Watkins assisted witnesses who had suffered from police brutality in preparing their hearing testimony.

92. Ms. Watkins regularly votes in judge elections and seeks opportunities to support candidates who come near to reflecting her views on contemporary issues. It is important to her to elect judges who have experience with working people and with low income families with a single mother as the head of the household. Her experience is that when only lawyers with access to wealth can become judges their verdicts reflect their lack of experience with poor and disenfranchised people.

93. Ms. Watkins considers carefully whom she will support in judge elections. She reads and uses judge candidate qualifications in the County's Official Sample Ballot and Voter Information pamphlet. Although she desires to know the qualifications of all judicial candidates, she cannot hear and consider the qualifications of all judicial candidates because the voter's pamphlet omits many of them.

94. As a person of middle income, Ms. Watkins contributes small sums to support candidates. She does not have sufficient income to contribute large sums to help mount a judge campaign nor does she have access to vast wealth.

95. Plaintiff Talt Coldiron has been a registered voter in California since 1954. Mr. Coldiron is retired after 38 years from Local 721 of the Cabinet Makers Union. Mr. Coldiron has been and continues to be involved in politics in Bell Gardens where he lives.

96. Mr. Coldiron worked very hard in the 1994 municipal court campaign of Janet Araujo, an experienced public defender. He put up lawn signs; recruited volunteers; canvassed voters; distributed literature; and supervised a phone bank to get out the vote on election day. He also introduced her at speaking opportunities such as the Bell Gardens City Council, fairs, and other public gatherings.

97. Mr. Coldiron solicited contributions for Ms. Araujo's campaign from several unions and individuals. Although he raised some funds, the contributions he raised could not match those raised by Ms. Araujo's opponent, Ruffo Espinosa. As a person of modest income, Mr. Coldiron was unable to contribute money to Ms. Araujo's campaign.

98. Plaintiff Dolores Correa Stephens has been a registered voter in California for more than 50 years. Ms. Stephens is retired after working for 25 years in a sewing factory. When she retired, she was a floor lady and supervised 105 workers.

99. Ms. Stephens worked to help elect Janet Araujo. During the judge campaign in 1994, Ms. Stephens introduced Ms. Araujo when she spoke at Maywood Senior Center. She contacted numerous voters to encourage them to support Ms. Araujo.

100. The Mayor and City Council of Maywood honored
Ms. Stephens as Maywood Senior Citizen of the Year in 1994 for her 50 years of volunteer work. That year she served as President of Maywood Senior Citizens. She volunteers at Bell Senior Citizens Club, the Cudahy Senior Citizens Club and the Montebello Club for Seniors.

101. Approximately 85% of the members of these clubs are Spanish Speaking. Ms. Stephens speaks Spanish to most of the clubs' members. She encourages those who are not citizens to learn English so they can take the test to become a citizen and be able to vote. She encourages those who are voters to vote.

102. Ms. Stephens regularly votes in judge elections and seeks opportunities to support candidates who come near to reflecting her views on contemporary issues. She considers carefully whom she will vote for in judge elections. She relies on the candidate statements in the voter's pamphlet.

103. She also encourages the seniors with whom she works to vote for judges. She is very concerned that the County's Sample Ballot and Voter pamphlet sent to all registered voters is in English. Only if a candidate pays double the price for English does the candidate's statement appear in Spanish in the general pamphlet. Ms. Stephens believes that many of the seniors who speak and read Spanish do not know that to obtain the pamphlet in Spanish they must specially request the Spanish translation.

104. Ms. Stephens is retired and lives on a fixed income. She was not able to make a cash contribution to Ms. Araujo's campaign. Nor did she have access to potential supporters with wealth.

105. The Southeast Judicial District in which Janet Araujo ran for municipal judge includes some of the poorest communities in California.

106. Mr. Espinosa won the 1994 run-off election and spent $155,100. He reported on his Campaign Disclosure Statement an outstanding debt of $120,300, including personal loans to himself of $108,300.

107. Plaintiff Denise M. M. Robb has been a registered voter since 1980. Ms. Robb works as Executive Director of the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action (SCADA).

108. Ms. Robb regularly votes in judge elections. She is a voting member of SCADA's Endorsement Committee. This Committee distributes questionnaires to judicial candidates, interviews the candidates and makes recommendations to the Board about whom the organization should endorse. The endorsements are published to the membership.

109. Ms. Robb volunteered to work with the coalition of groups to insure placement of the Common Cause sponsored campaign finance reform initiative on the November ballot. She speaks out and organizes about the initiative. She organized 50 unpaid volunteers who gathered 7,000 signatures on petitions to get the initiative on the ballot. She also registered voters, as part of this effort.

110. Ms. Robb is a person of modest income. She cannot contribute large sums to a judge candidate's campaign. Having participated in interviews of judge candidates, Ms. Robb is deeply concerned that serious candidates whom she has interviewed and with whom she agrees on contemporary issues cannot get their messages heard because they are without vast wealth or access to wealth.

111. When the candidate with the most wealth is almost always the one who wins, she feels that she has no one who represents her views. Ms. Robb suffers harm in her work, as a volunteer, and as a voter. She must spend more resources and time in her job and volunteer work.

112. Plaintiff James E. Sturm registered to vote in California in 1946 and regularly votes in judge elections. Mr. Sturm, a Long Beach resident of retirement age, has a modest retirement income, works part time as a real estate broker, and cannot contribute large sums to judge candidate campaigns.

113. Mr. Sturm speaks out, advocates campaign reform, and is currently a member of the ACLU of Southern California Board of Directors. In 1994, he was active in a successful effort to get partial public funding and campaign finance reform in Long Beach City Elections.

114. Mr. Sturm, also a member of Common Cause, volunteered to help ensure placement of a campaign finance reform initiative on the November 1996 ballot. He coordinated and organized other volunteers in the gathering of more than 11,000 petition signatures in his area. He also registered voters, as part of this effort.

115. Mr. Sturm believes his knowledge of qualifications for judge candidates is severely limited or exaggerated, depending upon the amounts of money candidates are able to raise. A lack of campaign funds makes some judge candidates almost invisible, while well funded candidates may be unjustly and overly visible to Mr. Sturm and other voters. His choice of judicial candidates is limited by the campaign finance system.

116. Mr. Sturm is concerned that well funded judge campaigns may present an appearance of impropriety if some candidates spend large sums and others have little or no sums to spend.

117. Plaintiff Isaac R. Elnecave has been a registered voter since 1988. Mr. Elnecave is employed at Los Angeles Common Cause as Administrative Assistant to the Local Government Affairs Director. He also works part time as a substitute teacher in the Ventura County School District.

118. On the Common Cause staff, his duties have included speaking out and organizing volunteers for the Common Cause sponsored campaign finance reform petition drive. Currently he is working in a nine county area to get the statewide initiative passed.

119. Mr. Elnecave regularly votes in judge elections and seeks opportunities to support candidates. His choice of candidates is limited because he is unable to hear the qualifications of candidates who are without money to publish a statement in the voter's pamphlet. He is discouraged about obtaining objective information from which to choose a candidate who comes near to reflecting his views on contemporary issues. As a person of modest income, he cannot contribute large sums to judge candidates to enhance their voices. The voice of the candidate with wealth or access to wealth drowns out the voices of those candidates whose views Mr. Elnecave seeks to hear and support.

120. Plaintiff Michael A. Feinstein has been a registered voter in California since 1985. He is employed as the Office Coordinator for the Green Party with offices in Santa Monica. His duties include organizing for the Green Party. Each election cycle he registers voters.

121. Since 1990, Mr. Feinstein has worked as an advocate for public funding of election campaigns. He participated in 1995 in drafting both the Common Cause and CALPIRG initiatives which will appear on the ballot in November 1996. Active in numerous local political efforts, he speaks out regularly on how money is corrupting politics.

122. Mr. Feinstein regularly votes in judge elections. As a person of low income, Mr. Feinstein cannot contribute large amounts of money to judge candidates. He believes that since the courts are often the last resort for seeking justice, it is particularly crucial that voters have an opportunity to hear the views of all judge candidates. Many candidates whose views he would like to hear and consider cannot communicate their messages because they are without wealth or access to wealth. His opportunity as a voter to choose among judge candidates is severely harmed.

123. When the candidate who has access to wealth is the one almost always elected, Mr. Feinstein suffers harm as a voter.

124. Plaintiff Allen Rubinstein registered to vote in 1986 and regularly votes in judge elections. He is employed by the Proposition 103 Enforcement Project with offices in Santa Monica.

125. Mr. Rubinstein seeks opportunities to organize and speak out about campaign finance issues. He worked to collect signatures to get the Common Cause sponsored initiative on campaign finance reform on the ballot for 1996 and is volunteering to insure its passage.

126. Mr. Rubinstein has a modest income and is unable to contribute to judge candidates. Without access to wealth, he cannot identify a candidate who comes near to reflecting his views on contemporary issues and provide the needed financial support for a viable candidacy. Thus, his choice among candidates is very limited. Mr. Rubinstein's experience has been that the wealthy judge's perspective on life influences his or her rulings.

127. Plaintiff Arnold Arbiso has been a registered voter for over ten years. He is a member of Common Cause and has advocated in support of social justice issues, including reforms of the election system.

128. Mr. Arbiso gathered signatures in Norwalk for the campaign finance reform initiative sponsored by Common Cause for three months in 1996. At the same time, he registered voters. Over the next months, Mr. Arbiso will be a volunteer for the initiative and will coordinate outreach to civic groups and with the speaker's bureau in his community.

129. Mr. Arbiso is a person of modest income who cannot make significant contributions to judge candidates. Mr. Arbiso's choice of candidates is limited because many qualified lawyers cannot amass the wealth necessary to run. His choices are also limited by the advantages incumbent judges have in raising funds and, thus, deterring challengers. In his view, the money in judge campaigns leads to improprieties and the appearance of improprieties.

130. Plaintiff Charles L. Lindner, who was a candidate for superior court judge in 1996, is a lawyer who has practiced for 23 years. His practice is predominantly criminal defense, and he has appeared in superior and municipal courts throughout Los Angeles County.

131. Mr. Lindner received 20% of the vote in the March 26, 1996 primary election.

132. Mr. Lindner differed significantly from his opponents, Mr. Ronald Sohigian and Mr. Ronald Smith, but voters were never able to become sufficiently informed about these differences because Mr. Lindner had limited resources. Mr. Sohigian's greater resources enabled him to drown out the speech of Mr. Lindner and his supporters.

133. The Los Angeles County Bar Association rated Mr. Lindner as "qualified." The Association rated Mr. Sohigian as "unqualified."

134. Faced with the requirement of depositing $48,775 for a statement in the voter's pamphlet when he filed nomination papers on November 29, 1995, Mr. Lindner was unable to afford such an expenditure.

135. Mr. Lindner raised less than $8,000 for his campaign. This included $5500 in contributions from friends and colleagues. He personally contributed $1,500 from his own earnings.

136. Mr. Lindner's opponent, Ronald Sohigian won the wealth primary. On information and belief, he spent several times what Mr. Lindner spent.

137. Mr. Sohigian purchased a statement in the voter's pamphlet by paying the mandatory deposit cost of $ 48,775. He won in the March primary without a run-off.

138. The California Commission on Campaign Financing conducted a three year study on the impact of money on judicial elections in Los Angeles County Superior and Municipal Court races. The Commission, formed in 1984, is a non-profit, bipartisan, private organization. Twenty-three prominent Californians from the state's business, labor, agricultural, legal, political and academic communities serve as its members.

139. The Commission released a report of its findings in November 1995. The Report is titled The Price of Justice, A Los Angeles Area Case Study in Judicial Campaign Financing. The Commission analyzed campaign finance data for Los Angeles County candidates in contested superior court contests from 1976 to 1994 and in contested municipal court races from 1988 to 1994. Overall, 136 individual superior court candidates and 76 individual municipal court candidates were studied. The Commission used campaign contribution and expenditure data from the California Secretary of State and the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters. The Commission developed the data for the facts in #'s 126 to 129.

140. In order to be competitive in a superior or municipal court judicial contest, a candidate must raise large amounts of money from persons with private wealth or must contribute his or her own private resources.

141. Almost invariably, the winner of the wealth primary is the winner of the judge seat. In more than 70% of superior court contests from 1988 to 1994, winners have outspent losers. Similarly, in more than 70% of the municipal court races from 1988 to 1994, winners have outspent losers.

142. Between 1988 and 1994 in open seat races, the median amount winners spent exceeded losers by four times.

143. It has become common for recent winners to spend over $100,000 as indicated by the large expenditures by several winners in recent campaigns:

Superior Court
Friedman 1994 $295,000
Schwartz 1994 $148,000
Kristovich 1994 $144,000
Bryant-Deason 1994 $134,000
Karlin 1992 $132,000
Municipal
Goodman (Culver) 1994 $196,000
Espinosa (Southeast) 1994 $155,000
Finkel(Santa Monica) 1990 $105,000
Perkins(Beverly Hills) 1990 $104,000

144. From 1976 through 1994, the largest single source of funds for superior court candidates was the candidate's own money or family money. The amount a superior court candidate spends from his or her own or family's money is related to success in the election. In Superior Court races since 1988, more than 80% of winners spent more of their own or family money than their opponents.

145. Almost half of campaign dollars in superior court contests came from the candidates and their families. In Superior Court races since 1988, over 80% of personal or family contributions were $50,000 or greater.

146. The second largest source of funds for judge candidates is contributions from lawyers and law firms.

147. Some successful superior and municipal court candidates end their campaigns in substantial debt and are forced to continue to raise money while in office. In 1994 successful candidates in superior court run-offs reported campaign debts from $47,000 to $121,000.

148. Continuing to raise funds, including requesting funds from practicing lawyers while a judge, threatens the integrity and the appearance of integrity of the courts.

149 By statute, the Registrar of Voters must distribute a voter's pamphlet to each registered voter in Los Angeles County. The purpose of the pamphlet is to educate voters about the candidates' qualifications so that voters may intelligently exercise their right to vote. Each candidate is permitted to submit a 200 word statement for the voter's pamphlet describing his or her qualifications and education. Elections Code §§ 13309(a)(1) and (b).

150. The Los Angeles County voter's pamphlet, titled Official Sample Ballot and Voter Information, is mailed to every registered voter along with the sample ballot. Because it is a County created document, it gives an imprimatur of official approval of the statements of qualifications. The financial requirements for appearing in the pamphlet give a candidate with wealth or access to wealth a clear advantage over candidates whose supporters are without the money to pay for him or her to appear.

151. Los Angeles County has 3.6 million voters.

152. The Board of Supervisors determines each election cycle whether the candidates must pay some or all the costs for the publication and distribution of the pamphlet. Elections Code §§13309(e)and(f).

153. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to charge candidates for participation in the voter's pamphlet every election cycle since 1965.

154. The high costs of the statement discourage and exclude nonwealthy candidates and their supporters. A candidate for superior court judge must pay the large deposit for the voter pamphlet early in the fund raising cycle when the candidate files nomination papers.

155. For primary elections since 1990, the mandatory estimated cost which a superior court candidate must deposit with the Registrar to purchase a statement in the voter's pamphlet in English only has been:

Primary Run-off
1990 $62,775
1992 $64,000 $65,000
1994 $46,275 $16,225
1996 $48,775

156. Superior court candidates whose statements appear in the voter's pamphlet are more likely to win. In superior court races from 1976 through 1994, where at least one candidate purchased a statement in the voter pamphlet, 69% of those who purchased a statement won. Only 11% of those who did not purchase a statement won. Each candidate who purchased a statement in 1996 won.

157. The cost of the candidate's statement establishes a fee hurdle exceeding $45,000 for a candidate and a candidate's supporters to inform voters countywide of his or her qualifications.

158. Judicial candidates in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Sutter Counties do not have to pay to appear in the voter's pamphlet.

159. The judicial election process is an exclusively public function. The Defendants through their legislative actions and through their practices have created and maintained the exclusionary wealth primary in judicial races.

160. The individual voter plaintiffs described above do not have sufficient income to contribute large sums to help mount a judge campaign nor do they have access to wealth. They cannot contribute sufficient money to a candidate whom they support to enable him or her to conduct a viable campaign. As voters lacking personal wealth or access to wealth, they are effectively excluded from the critical wealth primary process for election of judge candidates in Los Angeles County.

161. The wealth primary system relies on contributions from voters or the candidates themselves to pay the high costs of a judge campaign. This system gives affluent lawyers the power to place their own names on the ballot, and it gives affluent supporters of candidates the power to place names on the ballot, whether or not the potential candidate has widespread popular support.

162. The high costs of a judge campaign are well known in the legal community, the source of potential candidates. The wealth primary discourages qualified candidates without wealth or wealthy supporters from running for judge.

163. Because the wealth primary creates barriers to candidate access to the ballot, it limits the field of candidates from which voters can choose. This barrier to a wide choice of candidates falls more heavily on nonwealthy voters because they are without wealth to make the large contributions to fund a viable campaign, no matter how qualified their candidate may be.

164. The individual voter plaintiffs described above are deprived of their right to participate fully in the voting process because their receiving information about all candidates is dependent on the candidates' ability to pay the more than $45,000 cost of a voter pamphlet statement for superior court judge.

165. The large majority of judge seats are uncontested. One third of the superior court and one third of the municipal court seats are up for election every two years. For the superior court, in 1988 there were eight contested races; in 1990 there was one; one in the 1992 primary; six in the 1994 primary; and four in the 1996 primary. Therefore, more than 95% of the superior court seats were uncontested.

166. The County Board of Supervisors defendants, as a matter of legislative choice and practice, have directed that voters who support candidates and the candidates themselves must shoulder the costs of judicial elections. The absence of an alternative method for meaningful access for nonwealthy voters to support their candidates means that the state has erected a system utilizing wealth as a criteria for being on the ballot and for fully participating in the electoral process.

167. The wealth primary in judicial elections threatens the integrity and the appearance of integrity of the courts. It gives the supporters of wealthy lawyers more power to place their names on the ballot. Supporters of nonwealthy candidates are harmed because they can almost never choose a winning candidate whose policy preferences and economic background are close to their own experience.

COUNT 1, FEDERAL EQUAL PROTECTION

168. Defendants' creation and maintenance of the wealth primary to elect judges in Los Angeles violates the plaintiff voters' right to vote, including participating in the electoral process on an equal and meaningful basis and having a broad choice of candidates from which to choose, as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. §1983.

169. Defendants' creation and maintenance of the wealth primary to elect judges in Los Angeles violates Plaintiff Lindner's right to meaningful and equal participation in the electoral process as a candidate, as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. §1983.

COUNT 2, FIRST AMENDMENT

170. The exclusionary wealth primary unlawfully burdens plaintiffs' First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to freedom of expression on views at issue in judge campaigns; to freedom of association as nonwealthy voters who do not have an opportunity to support a candidate who can become a rallying point for their views related to the local courts; to hear the qualifications of all candidates in the county's Official Ballot; to caste a meaningful vote for the candidate of their choice. These rights are guaranteed through the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. §1983.

COUNT 3, STATE EQUAL PROTECTION

171. Defendants' creation and maintenance of the wealth primary to elect judges in Los Angeles violates the plaintiff voters' right to vote, including participating in the electoral process on an equal and meaningful basis and having a broad choice of candidates from which to choose, under the equal protection guarantees of the California Constitution.

172. Defendants' creation and maintenance of the wealth primary to elect judges in Los Angeles violates Plaintiff Lindner's, right to meaningful and equal participation in the electoral process as a candidate, under the equal protection guarantees of the California Constitution.

COUNT 4, FIRST AMENDMENT CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION

173. The exclusionary wealth primary unlawfully burdens plaintiffs' First Amendment rights under the California Constitution to freedom of expression on views at issue in judge campaigns; to freedom of association as nonwealthy voters who do not have an opportunity to support a candidate who can become a rallying point for their views related to the local courts; and to caste a meaningful vote for the candidate of their choice.

RELIEF

Plaintiffs pray the court to enter the following relief:

1. A declaratory judgment that the exclusionary wealth primary in judicial elections

a. violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution;

b. violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution;

c. violates the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution; and

d. violates the First Amendment of the California Constitution.

2. A declaratory judgment that the defendants' charging a discriminatory fee to print the voter's pamphlet violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

3. An order enjoining the defendants from continuing the wealth primary for election of judicial candidates in Los Angeles County without providing an alternative public source of financing to enable nonwealthy voters and candidates to participate on an equal and meaningful basis in the judicial election process and to be heard in that process.

4. An order enjoining the defendants from charging a fee for inclusion of all judicial candidates' statements in the County's Official Sample Ballot and Voter Information pamphlet.

5. An award of attorneys' fees and costs under the Civil Rights Attorneys' Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C. §1988.

6. Other relief the court may find just and proper.

Respectfully submitted,


Abigail Turner
John C. Bonifaz
National Voting Rights Institute
401 Commonwealth Avenue
Third Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
617-867-0740


Joseph H. Duff
1551 High Point Street
Los Angeles, California 90035-3907
213-932-8172


Roy M. Ulrich
185 Pier Avenue
Santa Monica, California 90405
310-452-2552

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

Of Counsel:
Dennis C. Hayes
Willie Abrams
Office of General Counsel
NAACP
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21215-3297
410-486-9180