A state appellate court justice Thursday temporarily halted enforcement of a lower court order to strike "false and misleading" wording from the sample ballot statement of Orange County sheriff candidate Linda Lea Calligan.
The appellate court agreed to listen to the arguments by Calligan, a Sheriff's Department sergeant who is running against Sheriff Brad Gates, that the lower court order was an unconstitutional prior restraint of her First Amendment freedom of speech. Attorneys for Gates and Calligan will have until noon Monday to submit their arguments.
The stay, issued by Acting Presiding Justice Thomas F. Crosby Jr. of the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, "put a hold" on plans to begin printing of the June 3 sample ballot, Orange County Registrar of Voters Al Olson said.
Olson said the delay in printing may make it difficult to get the more than 1 million sample ballots in the mail by his legally imposed deadline of 10 days before the election.
Ruling Will Be a First
It will be the first time an appellate court will rule on the constitutionality of a 3-year-old provision of the state Election Code that permits the deletion of a candidate's comments from the voter pamphlet "upon clear and convincing proof that the material in question is false (or) misleading. . . ."
On Wednesday, Olson's office was ordered by Orange County Superior Court Judge Judith M. Ryan to delete several allegations from Calligan's ballot statement of qualifications. Ryan acted on a lawsuit filed by Gates.
Gates' attorney, John R. DiCaro, said the appellate court will consider only the constitutionality of the Election Code section and will not consider " . . . the issue of the truth or falsity of" Calligan's ballot statement.
Calligan's attorney, William Yacobozzi Jr., said Thursday that "the (Superior) court had placed itself in a position of deciding matters that really belong with voters. (Ryan) does not have the right to decide truth or falsehood . . . " of the ballot statement.
The portion of Calligan's ballot statement stricken by Judge Ryan include allegations that Gates had been convicted of a federal crime and had covered up a drunk driving arrest of one of his deputies.