Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Judicial Council Recognizes Presiding Judge Bascue
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge James Bascue has been recognized by the state Judicial Council for his key role in leading the nationís largest trial court through its first two years of unification.
The council on Friday named Bascue as the recipient of its 2002 Jurist of the Year Award.
Judge Lois Haight of the Contra Cost Superior Court also was named to receive the award.
Bascue concludes his two-year tenure as the Los Angeles Superior Courtís top judge in two weeks, culminating a period of more than five years in which he was in a central position to grapple with unprecedented challenges facing the court.
As the supervising judge of the courtís criminal departments in the mid-1990s, Bascue faced an overwhelming load of cases that previously would have been plea-bargained, but instead went to trial because the new Three Strikes Law raised the stakes for defendants. Officials predicted the release of dozens or perhaps hundreds of defendants because of the courtís inability to get them to trial on time, but Bascue managed a redirection of resources that kept the court ahead of the caseload.
Elected assistant presiding judge in 1998, Bascue cautiously steered the court through unification with the countyís 24 municipal courts as state judicial leaders put increasing pressure on the resistant Superior Court.
Successfully managing unification of the huge court became Bascueís top priority as he took office as presiding judge in January 2000.
Although the merger made many aspects of court management unwieldy at first, Bascue tried to assure the countywide institution retained many of the community aspects of the much smaller municipal courts that were absorbed. He made certain that outreach and community programs topped the courtís agenda.
† He helped implement one-trial jury service, regular bench/bar association meetings, family court information centers, a Self-Help Legal Access Center, a Homeless Court, domestic violence clinics and meet-your-judges events.
Toward the end of his tenure, Bascue faced unprecedented budget cuts and worked over the last several months to balance the need to cut spending with the duty to continue providing access to justice.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company