Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, October 23, 2002


Page 1


ABA Panel Says Otero ‘Well Qualified’ for U.S. Judgeship


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge S. James Otero, nominated by President Bush for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, has received a highly favorable rating from the American Bar Association.

Otero confirmed yesterday that he received the highest possible rating, “Well Qualified,” from a “substantial majority” of the members of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary. A substantial majority, under the committee’s guidelines, means that at least 10 of the 15 members voted for that rating.

The remaining member or members, the committee reported, found Otero “qualified.” The committee includes at least one member from each of the 13 geographic circuits into which the federal court system is divided.

Otero is awaiting word on whether the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold further nomination hearings this year. If not, the nomination will officially expire with the end of the 107th Congress, but President Bush has said he will resubmit all of his judicial nominations next year.

The jurist told the MetNews that he had “learn[ed] to adjust to” the lengthy process of seeking a federal judgeship, which usually lasts more than two years from application to confirmation. “I had researched the process significantly” before applying, he commented.

He has not been idle during the wait, he assured. “I have enough work here to keep me busy,” he said, referring to his downtown civil department.  

Otero is one of 18 nominees—six for the district courts and 12 for the courts of appeals—who have received ABA evaluations but are still awaiting committee hearings. The 12 appellate nominees include Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl and Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jay Bybee, nominated for the Ninth Circuit.

Several of the nominees have not been given hearings because they have been unable to secure “blue slips” of approval from their home-state senators. This should not be a problem for Otero, whose nomination was recommended by the bipartisan committee appointed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and by the Bush-appointed committee chairman, Gerald Parsky.

Otero, 51, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1988 and was elevated to the Superior Court two years later.

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, he 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.

There are currently two other nominations pending in the Central District, which has four vacancies.

Otero’s Superior Court colleague, Gary Klausner, cleared the committee earlier this month—after having also received a substantial-majority, well-qualified rating—and is awaiting action by the full Senate. Orange Superior Court Judge Cormac J. Carney was nominated Oct. 15 and is awaiting an FBI background report as well as an ABA evaluation.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company