While the upcoming California primary isn’t until June 5, a judgeship race has already affected Burbank.
The race for a seat on the Los Angeles County Superior Court took a turn in March after David Diamond, a criminal defense attorney and member of the Burbank Police Commission, was accused by his opponent of having a misleading ballot designation. Diamond’s original designation listed him as a “Police Commissioner/Attorney.”
His opponent, L.A. County Deputy District Atty. Troy Davis, took issue with the inclusion of police commissioner as part of the ballot designation and filed a petition in court against County Registrar-Record Dean Logan and Diamond to have it changed.
“For a criminal defense attorney to attempt to masquerade as a police official in a judicial election is as misleading as a designation can be,” the petition states.
Brentford Ferreira, an attorney for Davis, said voters unaware of the commission who saw the ballot designation could have thought Diamond was in charge of the department. He said it was an attempt by Diamond to equate himself with former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Several attempts to reach Diamond for comment were unsuccessful. However, in an email he sent in response to a request, Diamond said “there are many layers” to the dispute but did not elaborate more.
The city’s police commission is a voluntary body that meets once a month and acts as a liaison between the community and the Burbank Police Department. However, the commission lacks any oversight powers.
Although candidates are allowed to list a volunteer position as part of their designation, California’s election code states that it must “constitute substantial involvement of the candidate’s time and effort such that the activity or service is the sole, primary, main or leading professional, vocational or occupational endeavor.”
According to a court declaration from Burbank Police Department Chief Scott LaChasse, the commission meetings last for “approximately an hour or two” and commissioners occasionally get to review materials prior to their meetings.
“I applaud the unpaid volunteers who serve on our police commission but cannot verify that service on the commission is a time-consuming activity,” he said. “It is not an occupation or job.”
In his own declaration, Diamond said he does “spend a significant portion of every week working as a police commissioner,” including reviewing government documents such as the city’s budget, preparing for meetings and attending city events.
However, according to court documents, a judge found that Diamond’s duties as a commissioner were ancillary to his actual job as an attorney.
“It appears from his website that [Diamond] maintains a busy criminal-defense practice, and that he also spends time teaching trial advocacy and as a media personality,” according to the judge’s ruling in courtroom minutes.
The ruling went on to say that Diamond was unable to tell the judge how often he reviews the city budget in his role as a commissioner, how long that takes and “what role, if any, the commission has in recommending changes to the budget.”
Despite’s Diamond’s declaration to the otherwise, his work as a commissioner is not a “substantial part of his week or month,” the judge ruled.
A judge eventually ruled the designation was misleading and ordered it changed to read only as “Attorney.” However, the judge disagreed with Davis’s “contention that ‘police commissioner’ is an inherently misleading description.”