Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, July 22, 2002


Page 1


Bush Nominates Klausner, Otero For Seats on Federal Court


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judges R. Gary Klausner and S. James Otero have been nominated to seats on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

President Bush sent the two judges’ names to the Senate Judiciary Committee late Thursday, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.

Klausner, supervising judge of the court’s civil division, and Otero, assistant supervising judge of civil, were unanimously approved by California’s bipartisan Judicial Advisory Committee. The panel was established by California’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, with Gerald Parsky, Bush’s state chair for judicial appointments.

Both nominees are Republican.

Superior Court Presiding Judge James Bascue called Klausner and Otero “two of the finest judges we have,” and said they would be great additions to the federal bench because of their commitment not only to the work inside the courtroom, but to the court as a whole.

“I think it’s our loss and their gain,” Bascue said.

Klausner, 61, said the only downside to the nomination was the feeling that “you’re leaving your family” on the Superior Court.

The judge has long been a leader in the Superior Court. He became supervising judge of the Criminal Departments in 1991, was elected assistant presiding judge in 1993, and took over as presiding judge in 1995 and 1996.

Those recession years were marked by continuing tension between a cash-strapped Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the court, which at one point threatened to sue the county if it got what Klausner and his colleagues saw as too small an allocation to properly operate the nation’s largest trial court.

Klausner’s calm demeanor through the crisis was cited by many as a primary reason legal action was avoided.

The trial courts are now funded by the state.

After stepping down from the court’s top leadership post, Klausner was appointed to head the Probate Department. In 2000, Bascue appointed him to a new post in the larger unified court supervising the civil departments.

Klausner is a native Los Angeles native and a graduate of Loyola High School. He went on to University of Notre Dame in Indiana and earned his law degree in 1967 from Loyola University School of Law.

A Vietnam veteran, he served as a U.S. Army captain, then returned to Los Angeles to become a deputy district attorney.

After five years as a prosecutor, Klausner was appointed to the Pasadena Municipal Court as a commissioner in 1974. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to a judgeship on that court in 1980, and Gov. George Deukmejian elevated him to the Superior Court in 1985.

Public Defender Michael Judge called Klausner “an excellent choice.”

“He stands on his principles at all times,” Judge said. “He’s fair and just.”

Klausner called Otero “an outstanding judge.”

“It’s been kind of fun going through the process together,” Klausner said.

Otero, 51, was out of town and unavailable for comment.

He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then Deukmejian in 1988 and was elevated to the Superior Court two years later.

Also a Los Angeles native, he grew up in East Los Angeles, attended Burbank High School and California State University Northridge and earned his law degree from Stanford in 1976.

Upon graduating from law school, Otero joined the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, where he represented the city’s Department of Water and Power and served as assistant supervisor of the office’s Criminal Division during his 12 years with the agency.

After leaving the City Attorney’s Office, Otero served as regional counsel for Southern Pacific Transportation Co. for a year and a half. He also served as vice president and general counsel of Los Angeles Union Terminal, Inc. and Southern Pacific Warehouse Co.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory O’Brien called Otero a conscientious, hardworking bench officer who “has the courage to go out on a limb” even if it means an unpopular decision.

Otero ruled that Measure F, an Orange County initiative that was approved by voters two years ago, was unconstitutional. The initiative required that any airport expansion, toxic dump, or large jail construction within a half-mile of homes be submitted to the voters, and that it must receive two-thirds approval before the county proceeds.

“I think for judges who have to stand election….deciding something that has been popularly and overwhelmingly voted for to be unconstitutional, I think it is somewhat unusual,” O’Brien, president-elect of the California Judges Association, said.

Otero, who served as vice president of the CJA, is highly respected by his colleagues and the lawyers who appear in front of him, O’ Brien said.

“We have faith they will move through the Senate like a hot knife through butter,” O’Brien said.

Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson said it was a good sign nominations were even being made, given the enormous caseload and the high number of vacancies on the federal bench.

Levenson said the nominees have a long road ahead of them, given the past history of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the bickering that has gone on between parties.

“I don’t think you can ever say its clear sailing,” Levenson said. “It’s been war between the Democrats and Republicans in confirming federal judges.”

She added:

“If they find something they don’t like about these judges we’re going to hear about the crazy Ninth Circuit and the ‘no pledge of allegiance.’”

Lisaius, the White House spokesman, expressed hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee moves quickly on the nominations to hold full hearings.

“There is a judicial crisis facing this nation with the amount of vacancies in the federal court,” Lisaius said.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who recommended both judges to the panel, said he was “hopeful the Senate will put aside pettiness and look at the impact the backlog of cases are having on our nation and appoint these two qualified individuals.”

The panel that recommended the nominations is made up of four six-member subcommittees—one for each judicial district in the state. Each subcommittee has one member named by Boxer, one named by Feinstein, and one selected jointly by both senators, along with three members selected by Parsky.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company