Monday, June 24, 2002
Deputy Federal Public Defender Richard G. Novak Elected Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Deputy Federal Public Defender Richard G. Novak has been elected a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner, officials said Friday.
Novak defeated Juvenile Court Referee Guillermina Gutierrez Byrne in a runoff election. The two were the next-highest votegetters in an election last month that resulted in only two candidates winning a majority of the votes in balloting for three seats.
Novak was the next-highest rated person on the court’s list of eligible candidates, while Byrne, the wife of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J. Michael Byrne, skipped over five contenders who were ranked higher—Sherman Oaks practitioner Michael Convey; veteran child-support enforcement lawyer Nicholas Taubert; Referee Marilyn Mackel; Deputy Public Defender Mark Zuckman and Referee Stephen Marpet.
The loss puts Byrne back in her original spot on the list, behind the candidates she leapfrogged, leaving Convey to top the list of candidates going into the next election, which could come as early as next month.
The rankings, which were issued last August by a judicial panel, are not binding on the court’s judges, who elect the commissioners, but Byrne was the first candidate on the current list to trump a higher-ranked applicant.
Novak said he has been anticipating becoming a commissioner and has slowly been scaling back his caseload. He said he will take the bench in the next couple of weeks after he transfers his cases, but has not received his assignment.
Novak said his experiences with the Federal Public Defender’s Office over the last five and a half years have helped him to understand why people make the decisions they make.
“Obviously it’s a totally different set of responsibilities, but I think having been a federal public defender for all these years, I’ve learned a lot about why people end up frequently in the situations they end up in,” Novak said.
An as-needed referee in juvenile court for the past two years, Novak said he looks forward to the opportunity to sit as a judicial officer full-time.
Novak said he expects Byrne to be elected shortly.
“She’s been a referee for a very long time with a good reputation,” Novak said of his opponent.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and graduating UCLA School of Law, Novak spent three years at Public Counsel, a public interest law firm, where he set up a legal clinic for homeless youth.
There are nearly 150 Los Angeles Superior Court commissioners, more than the total number of bench officers on most other California courts.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company