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Challenger to Sheriff Loses Round in Court : Federal Judge Won’t Order Registrar of Voters to Include Charges Against Gates in Handbook

Times Staff Writer

Sheriff’s candidate Linda Lea Calligan lost a round in federal court Thursday when a judge refused to order the registrar of voters to include a controversial section of her candidate’s statement in the Orange County voters’ handbook.

The material, critical of Sheriff Brad Gates, was deleted from the voters’ handbook for the June 3 primary after Orange County Superior Court Judge Judith Ryan ruled that it was “false and misleading.”

Earlier this week, Calligan filed suit against Gates and Registrar of Voters Al Olson in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming that her constitutional right to free speech was being denied by the lower court.

Although there is “a serious constitutional question here,” U.S. District Judge Matt Byrne Jr. said, “a preliminary injunction at this stage is inappropriate.”

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Byrne set another hearing for April 28. Calligan said she wanted to meet with her attorneys before commenting on her next move.

John DiCaro, Gates’ attorney, said he was pleased by Byrne’s decision, adding: “The registrar will proceed (with the handbooks).”

The controversial language accuses Gates of being convicted of a federal crime, owning a bar and covering up a felony drunk-driving arrest. At Gates’ request, Ryan cited a 3-year-old state law and ordered the registrar of voters to delete the material from Calligan’s statement.

Calligan, a 38-year-old patrol sergeant in the Sheriff’s Department, said that she paid $7,800 to publish her candidate’s statement and was “being denied the right to say what I want.”

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Calligan vowed to prove that everything she wrote about Gates was true.

“Gates has a lot of money and is a lot more powerful than I anticipated,” said Calligan in an interview before the ruling. “His power reaches into the Superior Court and the state Appellate Court.”

David Epstein, an attorney representing Olson, said that it would have cost the county about $71,000 to print an insert if the judge had ruled in Calligan’s favor. Epstein said that more than a million voters’ handbooks have been printed and are scheduled to be mailed out on May 24.

A state appeals court previously scheduled a June 18 hearing on whether or not the material was properly removed from the voter’s handbook, but that hearing will not take place until 15 days after the election.

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“It is a shame this matter wasn’t resolved in the appeals court of the State of California,” said Byrne, who chastised Calligan’s attorney, Leland Sterling, for not taking the matter directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.


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