Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, May 13, 2002


Page 1


Three Judges Said to Be Under Review for Court of Appeal




Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Rico, Aurelio Munoz, and Charles Lee are under consideration for the lone vacancy on this district’s Court of Appeal, the MetNews has learned.

A judicial officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the three names had been sent to the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, apparently within the last month. Rico and Munoz both confirmed that information as to themselves, and said they had been told that Lee—who did not return MetNews phone calls—was also in the mix.

The person selected by Gov. Gray Davis will fill the fourth seat in Div. Eight, which started hearing cases earlier this year with the appointment of its first presiding justice, Candace Cooper, and associate justices Paul Boland and Laurence Rubin.

Rico, who earlier this month began a three-month assignment as a temporary justice in Div. One, had been the Superior Court site judge in East Los Angeles.

The 48-year-old jurist was tapped by Davis as a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge in October 1999, as part of the governor’s first group of local trial court appointees. He became a Superior Court judge through unification in January 2000, and two months  later became the last judge ever elected in the old Los Angeles Judicial District.

He was rated well qualified by the Los Angeles County Bar Association in that contest and won by a 3 to 1 margin.

Prior to his appointment, he was a senior attorney on the staff of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Div. Three. He joined the Santa Ana-based court in 1995 after 11 years with what is now the Los Angeles firm of Breidenbach, Buckley, Huchting, Halm, & Hamblet.

He is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford University School of Law.

Munoz, 64, has been seeking a Court of Appeal position since fellow Democrat Davis became governor. He returned to the trial bench Friday following an assignment to the appeals court’s Div. Seven.

He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1979 and elevated to the Superior Court by Brown in 1980.

A Navy veteran who worked as an electronics technician during college, he earned his law degree at what is now Santa Clara University in 1966. He worked as a staff attorney for a First District Court of Appeal justice, then was a Ford Foundation fellow in criminal justice before joining the Public Defender’s Office in Fresno in 1969.

He left Fresno after three years to become a legislative staff member, working on Penal Code revision. He was a staff attorney for this district’s Court of Appeal from 1973 to 1976 and a deputy state public defender from 1976 until his appointment to the bench.

Lee, 55, is the lone Republican among the three. The Virginia native, who claims descent from Gen. Robert E. Lee and Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light Horse Harry Lee,” currently sits on the Superior Court Appellate Division.

The judge is a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam. He is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and the University of Virginia Law School.

Lee began his legal career at Latham & Watkins in 1976. He established a solo practice in 1981 but joined Whitman & Ransom the following year, leaving in 1983 to become a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He was an assistant U.S. attorney for four years, leaving for a partnership at Tuttle & Taylor. He was named to the Superior Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1989 and sat in Glendale before he was named to the Appellate Division in September 2001.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company