Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, September 30, 2003


Page 1


Superior Court Judges Jaeger and Martinez Slate Retirements




Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Karl W. Jaeger and John L. Martinez are retiring, the MetNews has learned.

A court source said Martinez was leaving the bench effective Friday, and that Jaeger would follow suit on Oct. 14. Neither jurist could be reached yesterday for comment.

 Martinez, who turned 60 in July, has been a judge for 22 years, having been appointed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown to the old Alhambra Municipal Court in 1981. He had a solo practice in Los Angeles for two years before that, preceded by six years at the Los Angeles Center for Law & Justice, where he was a senior attorney representing indigents in civil matters.

Martinez is a Long Beach native who attended schools in that city and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Loyola Law School. He is a former president of the Mexican-American Bar Association of Los Angeles and a former trustee of the County Bar.

He served on the Alhambra court until 2000, when he became a Superior Court judge through unification. He continued to sit at the Alhambra courthouse, primarily hearing misdemeanors.

Election Challenge

Martinez was often criticized as being aloof and difficult for staff and lawyers to deal with. A deputy public defender took out papers to run against him in 1994, but was disqualified because most of his nominating signatures came from outside the district, and the judge faced a serious election challenge three years ago.

A local attorney, Maria Vargas-Rodriguez, drew endorsements from two of the other judicial officers in the courthouse and actually finished ahead of the incumbent in the primary.

The runoff campaign featured harsh attacks on both sides, and an unsuccessful attempt by Martinez to have his opponent enjoined from distributing campaign materials that he claimed tried to pass Vargas-Rodriguez off as a judge. Martinez, who acknowledged in an interview at the time that he campaigned far more aggressively in the runoff,  prevailed by more than 13,000 votes, with 62.71 percent to the challenger’s 37.29 percent.

1996 Runoff

Jaeger, who turned 67 yesterday, is also a veteran of a hard-fought election campaign. The jurist, a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge at the time, defeated then-Citrus Municipal Court Judge Pat Murphy in a 1996 runoff for the Superior Court.

That race featured attacks by Murphy, who had ousted incumbent Abe Khan from the Citrus court in 1992. Murphy, who later resigned from the bench on the verge of being removed for abandoning his office, claimed Jaeger had been moved by his colleagues into the civil division because he couldn’t handle the volume of criminal cases.

Jaeger denounced the charges as “hogwash,” and won the election by a margin of 52.81 to 47.18 percent despite being outspent. His campaign consultant, Joe Cerrell, attributed the victory largely to his having hit a “grand slam”—winning all of the newspaper endorsements made in the race.

Jaeger also won the backing of a long list of officials, including many of his fellow judges. He was elected to the Superior Court’s Executive Committee not long after defeating Murphy.

Jaeger, who now sits in Pomona, is a Chicago native who graduated from USC and Southwestern University School of Law. Admitted to practice in 1967, he was a civil trial attorney and was heavily involved in local politics, winning election to the Covina City Council and serving from 1976 to 1982.

He was the city’s mayor in 1979 and 1980.

Then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1987, and he served as presiding judge of what was then the largest limited-jurisdiction trial court in the United States in 1991.


 Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company