Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, August 2, 2001


Page 1


Davis Sends Four Names to JNE Commission for Mosk Vacancy

Governor’s Spokeswoman Says More Names May Be Sent Later


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


Gov. Gray Davis disclosed yesterday that he had sent the names of four candidates to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation to be considered for the state Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Stanley Mosk.

The four are Fifth District Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Cornell, U.S. District Judge Carlos Moreno of the Central District of California, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Perluss, and Court of Appeal Justice Steven Perren of this district’s Div. Six.

The governor may submit additional names at a later time, spokeswoman Hilary McLean said.

Moreno, a former Los Angeles Superior Court judge, has no appellate judging experience. Perluss has been on the bench less than two years, although he recently completed a short assignment to the Court of Appeal.

Cornell has been an appellate justice since December of last year, having previously served as a Merced Superior Court judge and before that as a part-time federal magistrate. Perren was appointed to the Court of Appeal two years ago after 17 years on the Ventura Superior Court.

The list is notable for some of its omissions, one observer said.

Former Los Angeles County Bar Association President Sheldon Sloan said he was surprised that the list included no women, particularly mentioning the governor’s chief of staff, Lynn Schenk, and Court of Appeal Justice Candace Cooper of this district’s Div. Two, both of whom were reportedly in contention.

McLean said Davis wanted to nominate several women, but they declined his offer.

The fact that none of the nominees has substantial appellate experience may prove problematic, Sloan told the MetNews, because of the collegial nature of the California Supreme Court. But it isn’t a “disqualifier,” he said.

“Lots of marvelous justices” have gone on to higher courts without working their way up the ladder, he noted, citing the late U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren and the late California Chief Justice Roger Traynor. And Mosk, who became a revered figure among California jurists, never served on an intermediate appellate bench, Sloan pointed out.

Sloan, a Republican who was an appointee of then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to the Los Angeles Municipal Court, predicted that the list of nominees would be well-received.

“I don’t hear any wildly liberal names,” he said. Moreno may have the inside track, he commented, because there hasn’t been a Hispanic on the court since Justice John Arguelles retired in 1989.

Gerald Uelman, a Santa Clara College of Law scholar who closely follows the high court, agreed. While “all four of them would be an excellent choice,” he said, Moreno  “would enhance the diversity of the court and I think the absence of an Hispanic on the court is something that should be remedied.”

 Sloan called Moreno a “quality guy.” If any of the four has a weakness, he said, it might be Perluss because he’s the only one of the four who hasn’t sat as a criminal trial judge.

Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of this district’s Div. Six, who has nearly 20 years on the appellate bench and was widely reported to be in contention, declined to comment on his own absence from the list, saying he had “nothing to do with” that fact.

Age may have worked against Gilbert, who is 63. The four nominees are in their 50s.

Gilbert praised the four candidates as “very capable” and said he didn’t think a long tenure on an appellate court was necessarily a prerequisite.

“I think you have to have a fine mind and insight into legal problems,” he explained. “You need the vision …to develop and shape the law. I think you want someone who understands a broader picture beyond just having a knowledge of applicable legal principles.”

He noted that U.S. Supreme Court Justices William O. Douglas and Hugo Black were highly regarded even though neither served on a lower court. Douglas went to the high court from the Securities and Exchange Commission and Black from the U.S. Senate.

A lack of substantial time on the appellate bench may actually be an advantage, Boalt Hall professor Stephen Barnett commented.  “The Supreme Court is too inbred and full of justices who came through the California judicial system,” he said.

All of the six justices now serving came from the Court of Appeal, Barnett noted, although several hadn’t been there very long.

Of the four nominees announced yesterday, Perren is the oldest at 59. He has been a member of the Court of Appeal since November 1999, when he was confirmed as one of Davis’ first appellate appointments. JNE Commission member Charles Bird, who oversaw Perren’s evaluation, said at the time he was the most qualified nominee Bird had ever reviewed.

A San Fernando Valley native and Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star, he served as a Ventura deputy district attorney for three years before practicing plaintiffs’ personal injury law and criminal defense in Ventura from 1972 until his appointment to the Superior Court 10 years later.

He is regarded as one of the state’s foremost experts on the law governing sentencing of criminal defendants.

Moreno, 52, was born in East Los Angeles and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, where he was senior class president. He holds degrees from Yale University—where he headed a Mexican American student group prior to graduating in 1970—and Stanford University Law School.

After graduating Stanford in 1975, he became a Los Angeles deputy city attorney, working in the criminal and consumer fraud sections. His boss, then-City Attorney Burt Pines, is now the governor’s top adviser on judicial appointments.

Moreno was a senior associate at a Los Angeles law firm when then-Gov. George Deukmejian tapped him for the Compton Municipal Court in 1986. He was elevated to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1993.

His 1998 appointment to the federal bench by President Clinton was endorsed by a number of elected officials in both parties.

Cornell, 53, was appointed to the Merced Superior Court in 1992 by Wilson, and served as presiding judge from 1997 to 1999. He has served in the appellate departments of the Merced and Mariposa superior courts, and served on assignment to the Fifth District before becoming a member of it.

He began his law practice in Merced in 1974 and later was elected to represent his region on the State Bar Board of Governors. He had a broad practice, with specialization in family law, and would be the first certified family law specialist to sit on the high court.

Perluss, 53, was a partner at Morrison & Foerster when Davis appointed him to the Superior Court in October 1999. He handled securities, antitrust and other forms of complex business litigation and taught at USC’s law school. He was deputy general counsel for the Christopher Commission and was a Los Angeles County Bar Association trustee.

He previously worked at Hufstedler & Kaus for 20 years. He clerked for Shirley Hufstedler when she was a judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and also for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company