Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, October 22, 2001


Page 1


Robert Ambrose, Sanjay Kumar Named Superior Court Commissioners




Superior Court Referee S. Robert Ambrose and state Deputy Attorney General Sanjay T. Kumar were named Friday as commissioners of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Court officials said Ambrose and Kumar had topped the other 32 eligible candidates in runoff voting to fill two commissioner positions. The runoff was necessary because only one candidate—Jeffrey Marckese, a referee before the election—received a majority of the votes cast to fill three vacancies.

Ambrose, who could not be reached Friday for comment, was a longtime deputy county counsel before he went to work for the court. He currently sits in Dept. 240 at the Inglewood Juvenile Court facility.

Veteran Advocate

Kumar is a veteran appellate advocate who successfully argued for the prosecution in defense of the murder convictions of Erik and Lyle Menendez.

He was also the state’s appellate attorney in the securities-fraud prosecution of financier Charles Keating, whose convictions were overturned in a habeas corpus proceeding based on what the federal courts found to be flaws in the jury instructions.

The Chicago native attended public schools there and is a graduate of Loyola University in that city. He came west to attend Pepperdine Law School, was admitted to the State Bar in 1990, and has spent his entire career arguing criminal appeals on behalf of the state, currently serving as a supervising deputy.

He expects his appellate background to be an advantage on the trial bench, he told the MetNews.

“As an appellate practitioner, you get to take time to study the trial; to learn what  things can go wrong in a trial and how things can go right,” he commented. “That gives me sort of a unique perspective.”

He said he’d miss his current position. But having passed up law firm opportunities to work for the state, he commented, he was glad to be continuing in public service.

Kumar said he expects to be sworn in and begin work this week, but doesn’t know where he will be assigned.

Ambrose and Kumar were the highest ranked candidates, after Marckese, going into the balloting. A panel of judges ranks the candidates in order, but the rankings are not binding on the judges, who can elect anyone on the list.

The list is used to fill vacancies as they occur, until the court’s Executive Committee decides it’s time to do another application process and create a new list. Marckese was the first candidate elected from the current list, which replaced one put together in 1997.

Another Vacancy

Another round of commissioner voting will begin this week, a court spokesperson said, to fill the vacancy created when the governor appointed John Doyle as a judge. Moving up to the top position in the rankings for that slot is Referee Mitchell Beckloff, who sits in Eastlake Juvenile Court.

He is followed by Deputy District Attorney Scott M. Gordon, who is assigned to the central trials unit and also teaches evidence, criminal procedure, and trial advocacy at Southwestern University School of Law.

Rounding out the top 10 contenders are  Los Angeles attorney Robert Kawahara;  Women Lawyers of Los Angeles President and veteran criminal defense attorney Melissa Widdiefield, Deputy District Attorney Diana Summerhayes, a veteran of the office’s appellate division  before being reassigned to the ongoing probe of the Los Angeles Police Department Rampart Division and related cases; Superior Court research attorney William Dodson, a former Pasadena senior deputy city attorney; LaVerne attorney Stanford Reichert; Referee Jane Godfrey; Santa Monica lawyer Michael Levanas, and Deputy Federal Public Defender Richard Novak.


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company