Ethics issues raised in judge’s race |

Ethics issues raised in judge’s race

What would a judge’s race be without lawyers disagreeing about the law?

With two weeks left before the June 6 primary election, the judicial race for a rare open seat on the Nevada County Superior Court is heating up with charges of ethical missteps being levied against three candidates.

At issue are the size of campaign signs, where signs are placed and the content of campaign literature. Muddying the picture, in some cases, are differing interpretations of the law.

Grass Valley lawyer Ray Shine has been criticized for posting signs that are 8 feet long by 4 feet high.

Grass Valley’s city zoning ordinance says political signs within city limits can be 10 square feet when placed on commercial property, or 4 square feet when placed on residential land.

Shine said that ordinance ” which remains on the city books ” was overridden three years ago when the City Council adopted the Uniform Sign Code. The code is one of several standards developed by the International Conference of Building Officials.

The Uniform Sign Code, Shine said, allows temporary political signs up to 8 feet by 4 feet ” the size of a sheet of plywood.

Tom Last, Grass Valley planning director, said he understood the zoning ordinance to be the governing rule. “What I see here doesn’t apply,” Last said of the Uniform Sign Code which, he added, generally applies to buildings.

It remained unclear among city officials late Monday as to which of the rules took precedence.

Shine said city officials were unable to provide him with a copy of the code when he asked for it in February when he was preparing for the campaign.

Nevada County follows the California Department of Transportation guidelines, which allow signs up to 32 square feet. “Signs shall not be placed within the right-of-way of any highway,” the rules state.

In Nevada City, City Manager Mark Miller said, “Outside the historical district, we’re pretty flexible in general.”

Some complaints have arisen over the placement of signs on private property. One property owner, who asked not to be identified, said she had removed several signs placed without her permission in her strategically located yard.

Other complaints have arisen over injudicious content of campaign material.

On one of the pages of Public Defender Tom Anderson’s Web site, the candidate cites his experience as a “municipal court judge” in two counties. The actual title of the position was “judge pro tem,” which means a temporary judge who fills in when the sworn judges are unavailable.

Anderson’s campaign manager, Joey Jordan, said the wording was an oversight. Other literature had clearly stated Anderson’s experience as a judge pro tem, she


“That’s not what was intended. We’ll get that fixed right away,” Jordan said.

Mike Colantuono, who practices in the Lake Wildwood area and is Auburn city attorney, said he trashed mailers showing him in judicial robes. At least 8,000 of the mailers already had been sent out.

The California Judicial Association’s code of conduct states that “a person who does not normally wear a robe, such as a lawyer who serves as a temporary judge, should not use pictures of himself or herself in a robe in campaign literature.”

“I can promise the people of Nevada County that, if I get constructive feedback on my performance, I’ll do the right thing,” Colantuono said.

He is spending $6,000 to reprint mailers with a photo without the long, black robe.


To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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