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What do you call a retired judge who’s asking voters to return her to the bench full time? It might be a significant strategic question in the two-candidate race for an open seat on the San Francisco Superior Court bench. It’s also now a legal question, thanks to a court challenge by one of the opposing candidate’s supporters. Petaluma civil attorney David Polin filed a petition for a writ of mandate Thursday on behalf of San Francisco resident Joyce Gisler to try to prevent city officials from labeling candidate Lillian Sing a judge on the ballot. Polin will argue the point in court this morning and attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order. Polin’s arguments cite a section of the state’s Election Code that says a candidate’s official description must designate her current vocation or her main occupation during the last calendar year. Pointing to her retirement, Polin contends that since Sing hasn’t been a full time judge since 2004, labeling her as a judge on the ballot will unfairly confuse voters. Sing retired from the San Francisco bench two years ago, and is now running against local lawyer Eric Safire in the June 6 election to regain a permanent seat on the bench. She says she was sitting by assignment when she filed her candidacy forms in February, a status that allows retired judges to fill in for others when needed. “A judge is a fair description of what an assigned judge does,” she said, noting how the state government code and the court rules describe assigned judges. Though neither Safire nor Sing are named parties in the litigious development, Safire’s campaign would almost surely benefit if Polin is successful. Asked if Gisler was more than a supporter of Safire’s campaign, Polin declined to say. Because the judge’s race is likely to be relatively low profile in June and because contested judicial seats aren’t a frequent occurrence, election guides play a significant role in informing voters. “I would assume,” said Safire’s campaign manager, Enrique Pearce, “that the word ‘judge’ would mislead the voters into thinking she’s the incumbent in this office.” Pearce on Thursday said he knew about Polin’s writ, but said he did not know who the plaintiff was. “It’s [a] voter, I guess.” Local elections officials say it’s too late to make that argument, though. A spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney’s office said his office will argue that there’s a municipal law setting a deadline for protests. “That opportunity in this case ended a month ago,” he said. “It is simply too late to address these concerns without completely disrupting the city’s ability to conduct the election.”

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