Friday, November 23, 2001
Davis Swears In Cooper, Hails Her as ‘Best Judge for Job’
Governor Boasts of Diversity in Judicial Appointments
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
Court of Appeal Justice Candace Cooper won unanimous confirmation Wednesday as presiding justice of this district’s new Div. Eight, and was immediately sworn in by Gov. Gray Davis.
The governor said he had found the “best judge for the job” in Cooper, whom he appointed to the court’s Div. Two in his first group of judicial appointments two years ago.
Cooper was one of three Davis appointees to win unanimous approval from the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The others were Paul Boland, who joins Cooper and Justice Laurence Rubin—confirmed last month—in Div. Eight, and Richard Aronson, elevated from the Orange Superior Court to fill a new position in the Fourth District’s Div. Three in Santa Ana.
Davis was not present for the hearings or swearings-in for Boland and Aronson, who were sworn in by Chief Justice Ronald M. George.
Before administering the oath to Cooper, the governor praised her numerous accomplishments, beginning with her work as an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Davis noted that he himself “wasn’t good enough” to get hired by that prestigious firm after graduation from Stanford Law School.
“Candace Cooper,” the governor said, “is among the very best that California has to offer.”
Cooper, an African American who has been an outspoken advocate of diversity in the bench and bar, has been a judge for more than 20 years, first on the Los Angeles Municipal Court and then on the Superior Court. She was supervising judge of the West District. She is also a former president of the California Judges Association, as is Boland.
An aide to Davis distributed a release charting the governor’s female and ethnic minority appointments and comparing them to those of his immediate predecessors.
According to the chart, 34 percent of Davis’ appointments to the bench have been women, compared with 25 percent for Pete Wilson, 16 percent for George Deukmejian, and 16 percent for Jerry Brown. Latinos have accounted for 14 percent of appointments under Davis, compared to 5 percent for Wilson, 5 percent for Deukmejian, and nine percent for Brown, if the chart is correct.
African Americans have made up 10 percent of Davis’ choices, compared to 5 percent for Wilson, 4 percent for Deukmejian, and 11 percent for Brown, the release said, while Asians have accounted for 8 percent of appointees under Davis, 6 percent under Wilson, 3 percent under Deukmejian, and 4 percent under Brown.
The governor noted that he has appointed four openly gay judges, “the first such appointments in over 18 years.”
Davis’ appellate appointments drew praise from Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who noted that the commission—which he chairs—has now reviewed 18 nominees for the Court of Appeal and one for the Supreme Court. “Each and every one has been an outstanding appointment,” George said.
Cooper was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation.
Her witnesses at the confirmation hearing, State Bar President Karen Nobumoto, U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter, and Court of Appeal Presiding Justices Vaino Spencer of Div. One and Roger Boren of Div. Two, praised her willingness to serve as a mentor and adviser, particularly to other minority lawyers and judges, and her involvement in community outreach.
Spencer described Cooper as “more than an outstanding judge,” noting her outside work as a teacher, public speaker, and member of a number of committees.
George and his fellow commissioners, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of this district’s Div. Three, were also enthusiastic in their support of Cooper, who Klein described as “a product of the New Girls Network.”
Testifying for Boland, who was also rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the JNE Commission, were trial lawyer Paul Kiesel, appellate attorney Robin Meadow, and Court of Appeal Justice Earl Johnson Jr. of Div. Seven, where Boland is currently sitting on assignment.
Johnson, who has known Boland for more than 30 years—going back to the days when Boland taught in a clinical program at UCLA Law School and Johnson in a similar program at USC, and both were involved in the Western Center on Law and Poverty—read a statement from Div. Seven Presiding Justice Mildred Lillie.
Lillie, the state’s longest-serving judicial officer, noted that she was “not an old friend” of the nominee, but had formed a strong impression of him during the year he has served on assignment in Div. Seven.
She urged the commission to confirm him based on his “wealth of legal knowledge and experience in both the civil and criminal law,” saying “[h]is opinions are a joy to read.’
JNE Commission Chair Pauline Weaver noted that she did not participate in the commission’s evaluation, as she is a longtime friend of Boland and his wife, U.S. District Judge—and former State Bar President—Margaret Morrow.
Aronson, an Orange Superior Court judge since 1996 and a former court commissioner who was once a Fourth District staff attorney, was rated well qualified by the JNE Commission. His skills and temperament were praised by Div. Three Justice Kathleen O’Leary, retired Orange Superior Court Judge James L. Smith, and Irvine attorney Jennifer L. Keller.
The speakers noted that as a commissioner, Aronson continually presided over criminal trials by stipulation of the parties. And O’Leary became emotional as she praised Aronson for maintaining his dignity and professionalism during a wrenching period of his life, when he lost his young daughter to cystic fibrosis and his first wife—who was O’Leary’s court reporter—to ovarian cancer within a short period.
“He treated all who came before him with respect and understanding,” she said of her new colleague.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company