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Lawyer Steps Down in Flap Over His Election Flier


Tom Dunn, who lost a judgeship race Tuesday, has resigned from his appellate court staff lawyer position after the court's justices angrily denounced one of his campaign mailers.

The justices said Dunn, 45, had not only overstated his job with their court, but also had misled voters about the appellate court's role in the judicial system.

The justices have not said whether Dunn was forced to resign. But they were clearly unhappy that he refused to admit that the mailer was misleading. He characterized their criticisms as "ridiculous" and chastised them for impugning his motives.

Dunn, a former prosecutor, had worked for three years as a staff attorney for Justice William W. Bedsworth at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana.

Tuesday, Dunn was handily defeated for a Superior Court seat by Sheila Fell, 54% to 45%. Fell serves as an appointed trial commissioner on that court. Fell had been endorsed by most of the Superior Court judges. Dunn was endorsed by the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which was upset with Fell over one of her rulings in a civil case.

The association paid for the disputed mailer, Dunn said. The mailer talked mostly about his career as a prosecutor. But he also stated: "In the appellate courts, I have worked to ensure that trial judges are required to impose consecutive prison time for violent felons who personally use a firearm in the commission of their offenses."

Dunn contends he was referring to work he did on appeals while a deputy district attorney. But the justices believe he deliberately tried to mislead voters.

"Mr. Dunn . . . does not speak for this court," the Santa Ana appellate court's Chief Justice David G. Sills wrote to the Superior Court. "None of our justices have delegated their decision-making responsibilities to staff . . . and are quite upset with any implications to the contrary."

Bedsworth was reportedly upset by the mailer too. But he declined to publicly criticize Dunn. Others were not so hesitant. "He's broken his faith with us," Justice Thomas F. Crosby said.

Justice William F. Rylaarsdam said the mailer misrepresented the appellate court's obligation to approach each individual case objectively.

"It's hard to express how outraged I am," Rylaarsdam said. "We never approach any case with the type of agenda this mailer implies."

In the county's only other contested Superior Court race, Dan McNerney defeated Jan Nolen, 62% to 37%.

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