Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, October 16, 2003


Page 1


Judge Marcus O. Tucker Says He Will Not Seek Re-Election

Judge Alexander H. Williams III Draws Challenge From Westlake Village Lawyer




Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marcus O. Tucker said yesterday he will not seek re-election, setting up the first open seat on next March’s judicial ballot.

The race to succeed Tucker could become crowded quickly. Los Angeles attorney and part-time Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo has already taken out papers to run for the seat, Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer previously announced she would run for the first open seat, and Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman said yesterday she is considering throwing her hat into the ring as well.

Tucker, 68, was appointed to the Superior Court by then-George Deukmejian in 1985. He had been appointed to the Long Beach Municipal Court by Deukmejian’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, in 1976 after two years as a Superior Court commissioner.

Deputy City Attorney

Tucker, a graduate of USC and Howard University School of Law, was a deputy city attorney in his native Santa Monica from 1963 to 1965, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California from 1965 to 1967, and a criminal defense lawyer in Santa Monica from 1967 until his appointment as a commissioner.

He has spent most of his judicial career in juvenile court, beginning with service as an “as-needed” referee during his time in private practice. He was the dependency courts supervising judge in 1991-92 and the presiding juvenile court judge in 1993-94.

He has also served on assignment in the Court of Appeal and is a former president of the John M. Langston Bar Association and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Tucker said he was aware that Escobedo, whom he described as a friend, had taken out papers to run. He praised Escobedo as “a conscientious person,” but said he would not be endorsing a successor, at least not until the full field of candidates is known.

Escobedo, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, also took out papers to run for the seat of Judge Nancy Brown. Brown, a judge since 1976 and a commissioner for seven years before that, told the MetNews she has not decided whether to run for another term.

Superior Court incumbents, and their challengers, must file declarations of intention to run between Oct. 27 and Nov. 5. Candidates for open seats have until Nov. 10 to file declarations, and all candidates who file declarations must finalize their candidacies by returning their nomination documents between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5.

Not until that final stage of the process is a candidate required to commit to a specific seat.

The only non-incumbent besides Escobedo to take out papers so far is James D. Gustafson, a Westlake Village lawyer who said he intends to run against Judge Alexander H. Williams III.

No Expensive Campaign

Gustafson, 42, said he does not intend to run an expensive campaign, and acknowledged that it will be difficult to defeat an incumbent judge on a limited budget. But he said he was “hoping to get the word out” through the media and through other lawyers.

Gustafson said he is running to call attention to “a lack of civility in [the] courtroom, not just by the judges but by the staff.” Lawyers, he said, are “talked down to, berated, and belittled.”

Williams, he noted, drew formal discipline from the Commission on Judicial Performance in 1997 as a result of a profanity-laced tirade triggered by the refusal of certain litigants to accept what the judge considered to be an extremely fair settlement offer.

Williams was re-elected the year after the reproval, following a campaign in which the judge said he was sorry about what had transpired and that he had worked hard to control his temper and exhibit a more even-tempered nature.

But Gustafson—who said he started his career as a insurance defense lawyer but has done a large amount of telecommunications-related litigation in recent years, some of it in front of Williams—said the judge remains “kind of sarcastic,” has an “irreverence in his voice,” and has a tendency towards “comically overdoing” his insistence on civility.

Williams, 59, noted yesterday that he received 64 percent of the vote in 1998 against an opponent whose primary issue was Williams’ courtroom demeanor. “I’m an older, wiser and better judge than I was then,” he added.

“I’ve worked very hard and I’m very proud of what I have done,” he said. He revealed that he had just been told by the Southern California Mediation Association that he is to receive its “Peacemaker of the Year” award for his support of alternative dispute resolution.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company