Appeals Court Reinstates Charge Against Ex-Judge Over 1982 Election Accusation

Times Staff Writer

An appellate court Friday reinstated a felony charge against former Municipal Judge Joanne Harrold, accused of lying about her residency on a 1982 election document.

The ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana overturns a 1983 Orange County Superior Court decision dismissing criminal charges against the former judge. Harrold was indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury for allegedly filing false declaration of candidacy papers. At issue was whether she lived in Newport Beach or Riverside when she ran for office.

The appellate court ruling also reinstates a misdemeanor charge against Harrold and her husband, John Saporito, that they influenced a notary public to sign a backdated deed to a Newport Beach house.

Three of the district’s appellate judges ruled that former Superior Court Judge Bruce W. Sumner erred in dismissing the case.


“We’re gratified that the court has vindicated the way we handled the prosecution,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Bedsworth, who appealed the Superior Court decision. “This means we go back into court and start prosecuting again.”

Defense Still Confident

Harrold’s attorney, Paul S. Meyer, said his client was disappointed by the appellate court decision but is confident there is “no factual basis to the charges.”

“The (appellate) court did not rule we had no defense,” Meyer said of the ruling, which concluded there had been procedural errors in the Superior Court decision to dismiss the charges.


“This case is known as a procedural morass,” Meyer said. “We have the ammunition and the procedural facts to prove we were right. It’s unfortunate we have to keep slugging it out through procedural wars.”

Harrold, a former public defender, was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 1980. She ran to retain her seat in the June 8, 1982, election and soundly beat two opponents. She lost her seat, however, when a judge in a separate civil case ruled Harrold had signed a false declaration of candidacy because she lived in Riverside but listed her address as Newport Beach.

A Legal ‘So What’

The grand jury indictments on the felony and misdemeanor counts followed.


Harrold’s defense attacked the indictment by demurrer, which is neither a guilty nor a not guilty plea but is “a legal means of saying, ‘So what?’ ” said Meyer.

The appellate court said the Superior Court had erred in accepting Harrold’s arguments.

Sumner had ruled that it didn’t matter whether Harrold spent most of her time at her Riverside property. If she considered herself an Orange County resident and spent at least some time at her Newport Beach property, that was enough, Sumner said.

Sumner “at the time was one of the most respected judges,” Meyer said. “He was detailed and very thorough. . . . We felt it was an appropriate and fair ruling.”


Prosecutor Bedsworth said he hoped to have the case “back to the courtroom before summer.”