Contra Costa District Attorney candidate Mark Peterson is asking a court to bar his opponent’s use of the title “judge” from campaign materials and signs.
District Attorney candidate Dan O’Malley was a Superior Court judge for just shy of six years before he resigned his judicial position in order to pursue private practice, and ultimately, political office. In a recent press release, O’Malley identified himself as “Judge O’Malley,” followed by a disclaimer of “retired.” His Facebook name is “Judge O’Malley.”
Once a judge, always a judge?
O’Malley argues that he is a retired judge. California judges become eligible — or vested — for retirement benefits after serving five years, he said, although they collect a much smaller level than judges who sit for 20 or more years.
“This is a campaign strategy, a tactic to take up my time and money responding to lawsuits when I could be out making appearances and raising money,” O’Malley said. “If Peterson was so concerned about it, he should have brought it up months ago when we could have resolved in a timely manner.”
Peterson’s camp views the use of “judge” alone as misleading unless the candidate displays in the same font size the word of “retired” or “former.”
The timing is critical for O’Malley.
If he goes ahead and puts out signs and mailers that say “Judge O’Malley,” with a smaller disclaimer, and a judge rules against him, it will hurt his campaign. But if he waits until the case is resolved, he loses valuable time he needs to put his name before voters.
Vote-by-mail ballots start going out next Monday and it’s unclear when the courts will settle it. O’Malley’s wife is a Contra Costa Superior Court judge, which means the case will have to move out of the county.