Monday, March 4, 2002
Superior Court Judges Elect Widdifield Commissioner
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Melissa Widdifield was elected a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner in balloting tabulated Friday.
Widdifield, 42, president of Women Lawyers Assn. of Los Angeles, bested Deputy District Attorney Diana Summerhayes in a runoff to fill the open commissioner post.
An attorney with Lightfoot, Vandevelde, Sadowsky, Medvene & Levine for her entire legal career, Widdifield said she became interested in serving on the bench while participating in a juvenile delinquency matter.
“I had an epiphany about a year and a half ago,” she said. “It occurred to me that I would just love to do this.”
Widdifield said it would take her “a couple weeks” to wrap up her practice and prepare to take the bench.
There are nearly 150 Los Angeles Superior Court commissioners, more than the total number of bench officers on most other California courts.
Commissioners are entitled by statute to handle preliminary matters but can also serve in place of Superior Court bench officers if authorized by court rule and upon stipulation by the parties. Because of the pressing need for judges in Los Angeles, commissioners here generally handle full case loads in civil, criminal and juvenile matters.
Commissioners are elected by the judges, who select from candidates already ranked on a list prepared by the court’s Commissioner Examination Committee. The committee issued rankings in September, naming a total of 35 candidates from among more than 200 who applied.
Judges are not required to vote for top-ranked candidates, but usually the balloting victor is also the candidate ranked at the top of the list.
That makes Summerhayes the leading contender in the next election, which will begin March 12 if currently scheduled retirements go forward. Ballots would be counted the first week of April.
After Summerhayes are Superior Court research attorney William Dodson, State Bar Court Hearing Judge Stanford Reichert, Superior Court Referee Jane Godfrey, Santa Monica lawyer Michael Levanas, Deputy Federal Public Defender Richard Novak, Sherman Oaks practitioner Michael Convey, and child support enforcement attorney Nicholas Taubert.
The judges have elected seven commissioners since the last list came out—Jeffrey Marckese, Sanjay T. Kumar, S. Robert Ambrose, Scott Gordon, Mitchell Beckloff, Robert Kawahara and Widdifield.
Marckese perished in a traffic accident Jan. 17, and Ambrose declined the job.
Commissioner Louis Head is scheduled to retire today, Michael Price March 11, and Linda Elliott March 31.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company