Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, September 27, 2001


Page 3


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elvira Austin to Retire in November


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elvira Austin has slated a Nov. 5 retirement date after 22 years on the bench, the MetNews learned yesterday.

Austin, 63, will step down from her post in Long Beach, where she has served as a Municipal Court and Superior Court judge since 1980.

A native of Kiev, Ukraine, then ruled by Josef Stalin as part of the Soviet Union, Austin emigrated to Venezuela and had a legal career there before coming to the United States in 1963.

After earning her second law degree she became a member of the California State Bar and joined the Los Angeles Public Defenderís Office, eventually becoming the deputy in charge of the San Pedro office.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the Long Beach Municipal Court on Oct. 16 1980. She served a year as the courtís presiding judge in 1985-86, and became a member of the Superior Court with unification early last year.

Austinís tenure has not been without controversy. She drew fire for holding in contempt and ordering the jailing of a Los Angeles Times reporter and photographer for refusing to divulge information. The case eventually went to the state Supreme Court.

She was publicly admonished in 1987 by the Commission on Judicial Performance for invoking her judicial position to try to get a friend out of jail.

Austin told the MetNews that her friend sought her advice on May 16, 1995, after learning she was a suspect in an alleged pyramid scheme. The judge said she took her friend to see a lawyer, then called the Lakewood Sheriffís Station, and it was agreed the woman would turn herself in to be booked and released.

The friend turned herself in, Austin said, but the deputy who had said she would be released was gone. The friend called Austinís home number, waking the juristís terminally ill mother.

Caught between her motherís badgering and the friendís tears, Austin said she made several calls to the station to try to get the woman out of jail. Tapes of those calls were the basis for the admonishment.

Austin said afterward that she had made a mistake.

She drew a challenge in her re-election effort the following year. Her opponent claimed she was disheveled on the bench and that she slurred her words.

Austin spoke four languages by the age of nine.

ďIf my accent sounds slurred, then how can I help it?Ē she told the MetNews before her successful re-election effort.

The judge was unavailable yesterday for comment.


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company