Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, May 5, 2003


Page 1


Superior Court Judge Dale Fischer Nominated to U.S. District Court


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dale S. Fischer has been nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by President Bush.

Fischer, 51, was among 15 candidates whose nominations to judicial offices were sent to the Senate last Thursday. If confirmed, she would fill a position created by last year’s Justice Department Appropriations Authorization Act, effective July 15.

“I’m honored and excited to be nominated,” Fischer said, but declined to comment further on her selection. She becomes the seventh candidate nominated by Bush in the district as a result of the bipartisan selection process worked out between the White House and Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

All six of the previous nominees have been confirmed easily.

Fischer is a New Jersey native who graduated from the University of South Florida and from Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Women’s Law Journal. After graduation in 1980, she joined Kindel & Anderson and spent 17 years with the Los Angeles firm as a business litigator.

When that firm broke up, she joined the local office of Heller, Ehrmann, White & McAuliffe. But she was there only about two months when then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed her to the old Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1997.

Prominent Defendants

As a Municipal Court judge, she heard a criminal calendar and was later named supervising judge in Hollywood. Among the many defendants who came through her courtroom were then-Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Hernandez, who received a deferred adjudication and eventual dismissal after conditionally pleading guilty to a drug possession charge, and former pro football star Jim Brown.

Fischer sentenced Brown to six months in jail after he rejected probation on a charge of vandalizing his wife’s car. Brown appealed, arguing the judge was wrong to order him into a domestic violence program as a probation condition since he had been convicted of attacking his wife’s car and not her person. (Jurors acquitted on a related charge of making terrorist threats )

The Superior Court Appellate Department upheld the sentence, saying that the statute requiring that defendants placed on probation for domestic violence crimes to participate in counseling applied because Brown attacked the car in response to an argument with his wife. Even if the statute didn’t apply, the panel added, Fischer was “well within [her] discretion” in imposing what the judges agreed was a reasonable condition.

New Assignment

Following trial court unification in 2000, then-Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Victor Chavez gave Fischer a temporary assignment as a liaison between judges of the former municipal courts and their new Superior Court colleagues. She later was assigned to her present post, hearing felony cases at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center downtown.

Of the remaining candidates nominated Thursday, five are in the Southern District of California. The San Diego-based district, like other districts along the U.S.-Mexico border, has long sought additional judges to cope with a criminal caseload disproportionate to the district’s population.

The nominees include three magistrate judges: John A. Houston, Roger T. Benitez and Larry Burns. The others are Assistant U.S. Attorney William Q. Hayes and Dana M. Sabraw, a San Diego Superior Court judge.

Southern District Chief Judge Marilyn Huff told the San Diego Union-Tribune she expected “quick confirmations” as a result of bipartisan support for the five nominees.

Burns, 48, was appointed magistrate judge in 1997 after a long career as a prosecutor with both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office in San Diego. Houston, 51, is a 16-year veteran with the U.S. Attorney’s Office who became a magistrate judge in 1998.

Benitez, 52, was appointed the court’s first full-time magistrate judge in El Centro in January 2001, after serving as a Superior Court judge in Imperial County for 3 1/2 years.

He handled civil cases as a partner in an El Centro law firm for 18 years and was president of the Imperial County Bar Association.

Sabraw, 44, served as a municipal court judge for three years before being appointed a Superior Court judge in 1998. Before being tapped by Wilson for the bench, he was a partner with the law firm of Baker and McKenzie.

He joined that firm in 1989, handling business and commercial litigation.

Veteran Prosecutor

Hayes, 47, a federal prosecutor in San Diego for 16 years, has headed the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 1999. Before coming to San Diego, he was a private attorney in Colorado, handling civil cases.

Four of Thursday’s nominees are in Bush’s home state of Texas. One is a former Texas Supreme Court justice who was defeated in last year’s state Republican primary.

Xavier Rodriguez, now a private attorney in San Antonio, was nominated to fill the Western District of Texas seat left vacant by Edward Prado. Prado was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday for an opening on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Also nominated by Bush were U.S. Magistrate Marcia Crone to fill a newly created judgeship in the Eastern District, and state appellate justice Lee Yeakel, state District Judge Frank Montalvo, and visiting judge Kathleen Cardone for openings in the Western District.

Rodriguez was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in August 2001, but was defeated in his Republican primary by Austin attorney Steven Wayne Smith. Smith spearheaded the successful lawsuit against the University of Texas School of Law that led Texas public universities to end affirmative action programs.

Rodriguez, a San Antonio native, is a partner with the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his master’s and law degree from the University of Texas.

Crone presided Thursday when several former Enron executives pleaded innocent to various charges. She has served as a magistrate judge in Houston since 1992. Before that, she was a lawyer with Andrews & Kurth in Houston.

Montalvo has served as the 288th district judge since 1995. He was a private attorney with a focus on commercial litigation. Cardone has been a judge of various Texas trial courts since 1983. Yeakel has served on the appeals court since 1998, following a 29-year career in private practice.

The remainder of Thursday’s nominees were James I. Cohn, a state trial judge from Ft. Lauderdale, to be U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Florida; Pennsylvania Attorney General D. Michael Fisher, whose nomination to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was announced earlier in the week; and R. David Proctor, a Birmingham lawyer who primarily represents management in employment disputes and defends civil rights cases on behalf of the state, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company