Carmen Trutanich is the Los Angeles city attorney. But that's not how he wants to be known to voters who cast ballots for L.A. district attorney in June.
On paperwork filed Thursday with county elections officials, Trutanich says he wants to be called "Los Angeles Chief Prosecutor."
That job does not exist. The phony title seems intended to make voters think Trutanich is already the district attorney, so voting for him would be like voting for the incumbent.
"I hope a candidate challenges that," says the actual incumbent, D.A. Steve Cooley, who is backing his top deputy, Jackie Lacey, in the race to succeed him. "I think that's misleading."
Asked to provide some legal justification for the made-up title, the Trutanich campaign pointed to the L.A. City Charter, which gives the city attorney responsibility for misdemeanor cases and code violations.
But the charter does not use the term "chief prosecutor." It describes the city attorney as "the legal adviser to the City." Trutanich's primary responsibility under the charter is defending the city from lawsuits and suing people on the city's behalf.
The campaign also pointed to this memo, authored by Trutanich's chief deputy. The memo also does not use the term "chief prosecutor." It does use the term "city prosecutor," but as a historical reference. That job was abolished and folded into the city attorney's office in 1933.
Bottom line: Trutanich has a title, and it is, unequivocally, the "Los Angeles City Attorney." So why not use that?
Because people don't like attorneys. They like prosecutors. Trutanich is running against a bunch of prosecutors, so he has to elevate himself to "chief prosecutor."
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This is not a new phenomenon. When City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo ran for attorney general in
2006, he described himself on the ballot as "Prosecutor / City
Attorney." He at least got his actual title in there. Trutanich is stretching the truth several notches beyond that.
We'll wait and see if the county Registrar-Recorder rejects Trutanich's designation, or if one of his opponents decides to sue.