Thursday, January 17, 2002
Los Angeles Superior Court’s Senior Member Says He Is Likely to Retire Within Next Two Months
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Leslie Light, the court’s senior member, said yesterday there was a “strong probability” of his retirement in the next two months.
“I’ve been at the dance long enough,” Light, a judicial officer for 35 years, told the MetNews. “I’m hearing the orchestra playing their theme song.”
The judge said he might still change his mind. But he has had “a lot of years of making decisions,” he said, adding that his wife “says there must be more to life than this.”
Light said he began thinking seriously about retirement when the court moved its West District criminal cases out of the Santa Monica courthouse where he had sat for many years. He said he didn’t want go to the Airport Courthouse, which assumed the bulk of the Santa Monica criminal caseload, and settled for an assignment hearing misdemeanors and some felonies in Beverly Hills.
That’s still a 30-minute drive from his home, compared to eight minutes when he sat in Santa Monica, he noted.
Staying in Santa Monica to hear a strictly civil caseload wasn’t an acceptable alternative, he said. A year spent at the Central Courthouse awhile back, he commented, convinced him that civil work “wasn’t my cup of tea.”
His retirement plans, he said, include traveling and developing computer proficiency. He said he would also consider sitting as an assigned judge in criminal cases.
Light’s retirement would close an era on the court, Presiding James Bascue said.
Bascue, who was a prosecutor in Light’s courtroom early in his career, described the judge as “bright, enthusiastic, hardworking and…very much an institution in the West District.”
Light said that while he never had any interest in formal lecturing, he saw himself as a teacher in his dealings with young lawyers, even if they were sometimes as reluctant to take his advice as he was to take advice from judges when he was a young prosecutor.
Bascue said he and other lawyers were grateful for Light’s insights.
“He was almost like a professor,” the presiding judge said. “We were grateful he was willing to take the time to talk to the lawyers [and to act as] a mentor to a lot of defense lawyers and prosecutors.”
Light, he said, “was so knowledgeable in criminal law and so well respected” that lawyers were very much interested in what he had to say.
Light, a graduate of California State University-Los Angeles and UCLA School of Law, earned his degree in 1959 and joined the District Attorney’s Office the following year. He was named a Superior Court commissioner in 1967 and became a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge two years later, by appointment of then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.
He has been a Superior Court judge since Reagan elevated him in 1972.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company