Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Charles Vogel to Leave Court of Appeal Next Month
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Presiding Justice Charles S. Vogel of Div. Four of this district’s Court of Appeal said yesterday he will retire at the end of next month.
Vogel, who served as a Pomona Municipal Court and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge but left the bench to resume his law practice before being appointed to the Court of Appeal by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992, has been Div. Four’s presiding justice since 1996. He is also the administrative presiding justice of this district.
He was president of the State Bar of California in 1990-91 and of the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 1985-86, both after leaving the Superior Court bench 1977 to become a partner in Mossameh, Krueger & Marsh. He joined Sidley & Austin in 1981.
“Chuck has a tendency to become president of any organization he joins,” his Div. Four colleague Justice Norman Epstein commented yesterday.
In 1991 Vogel and his wife, Justice Miriam Vogel of this district’s Div. One, were jointly honored by the MetNews as “Persons of the Year” for 1990.
Vogel said he is “considering a number of options,” but has not yet decided how he will occupy himself after leaving the court.
“I really have not made any specific plans,” the presiding justice said, though he conceded that a return to law practice is “always a possibility.”
Vogel declined to pick out high points from his appellate work, noting that to do so would be bound to offend a losing party.
“Lawyers are the best judges of what they think the high points were,” he said, adding:
“You try to cut it down the middle and apply the law and you do what you think is right.”
Los Angeles County Bar Association President Robin Meadow said Vogel brought to the appellate bench “a very pragmatic, real world view and understanding of how lawyers work in the trial courts.”
“Perspective is a very good thing on the Court of Appeal, and I think we’ll miss him,” Meadow, of the appellate firm Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland, said.
Vogel agreed that his background helped him in his work as an appellate jurist.
“I’ve had a very broad perspective of the lawóseeing it from the lawyer’s side and from the judge’s side, and in addition my State Bar and County Bar Association activities,” he said. More than anything else, he explained, that varied background allowed him to appreciate “how much more difficult it is for the lawyers than for the judges.”
Epstein, who like Vogel earned his law degree at UCLA Law School, recalled that he was sworn in by Vogel, then a Superior Court judge, when Epstein became a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge in 1975.
“He has been my good friend and colleague for decades, and it is hard to imagine the court without him,” Epstein declared. “For all of this time, he has stood for and has demonstrated integrity, wisdom, clear and articulate reasoning and leadership.”
Epstein said he first worked closely with Vogel on UCLA alumni activities, and noted that as a Superior Court judge Vogel twice served as a pro tem justice on the Court of Appeal, each time handling the appeal of a major criminal trial with a huge record.
One was the conviction of two men in the killing of a police officer in a Kern County onion field, which became known as the “Onion Field” case. The other was the conviction of Charles Manson and three of his followers.
Vogel authored a 52-page opinion in which the court upheld the “Onion Field” convictions and an approximately 90-page ruling which upheld three of the Manson convictions, but ordered a new trial for Leslie Van Houten, whose attorney had disappeared during the trial. Petitions for Supreme Court review were denied in both cases.
“Talk about huge cases—those are enormous cases,” Epstein commented, adding: “They were both published opinions, both excellent opinions, and both have stood the test of time.”
Meadow credited Vogel with getting him involved in bar activities, recalling that the justice “predicted 20 years ago I would be president” of LACBA.
“I thought it was a lot of nonsense at the time,” he said.
Vogel’s LACBA presidency coincided with the campaign to recall then-Chief Justice Rose Bird, Meadow said, observing that Vogel “steered a fairly effective course in keeping the bar from getting dragged into a conflict where you couldn’t really win no matter what you did.”
U.S. District Court Judge Margaret Morrow of the Central District of California, who served as State Bar president a few years after Vogel, said of Vogel’s decision to leave the bench:
“That’s going to be really the loss of the bench and the bar in this community.”
Morrow said Vogel’s appellate opinions “add clarity and preciseness to the law, which is what we really need from Court of Appeal justices.”
Attorney Havey Saferstein of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, a former State Bar president who served with Vogel on the Board of Governors and also worked with him in the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, of which Vogel served as president in 1984-85, called him a “wonderful lawyer and a wonderful person,” adding:
“His wisdom and his ability to deal with people will be sorely missed. He has a rare capacity to bring people together, and that’s important as a presiding judge of a Court of Appeal or as a president of a bar association.”
Vogel, 71, said he will probably name one of his colleagues to serve as the court’s administrative presiding justice on an interim basis until Chief Justice Ronald M. George fills the post, but he declined to say who that would be.
Vogel began his legal career in Pomona in 1959 as an associate in the firm of Allard, Shelton & O’Connor, later becoming a partner. His appointments to the Pomona Municipal Court bench in 1969, and to the Superior Court the following year, were made by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.
A Republican, Vogel made contributions to Wilson’s gubernatorial campaign, to other Republican candidates, and to some Democrats. When he was named presiding justice by Wilson in 1995 he denied rumors he had turned down an appointment to the California Supreme Court, saying that if he were governor, “my wife is the person I’d be appointing” to the state’s high court.
Charles and Miriam Vogel met in 1974, when Charles Vogel was appointed to serve as a pro tem justice in Div. One where Miriam Vogel—then Miriam Tigerman—was a research attorney for Justice Robert Thompson. In 1990, he recalled being impressed with a memo his future wife had written on an issue similar to one he faced in the Manson case, and she said it was his intellect which attracted her.
Since 1995, Charles Vogel has chaired the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics, which makes recommendations to the Supreme Court on the Code of Judicial Ethics. He led the effort that produced the first Code of Judicial Ethics adopted by the Supreme Court under a constitutional amendment that gave the Supreme Court authority to adopt the code.
In a statement, George declared:
“Throughout his distinguished career, Charles Vogel has made outstanding contributions to the administration of justice in many capacities. He has ably served California as an appellate justice and trial court judge known for excellence in decision-making, as an outstanding legal practitioner, and as an effective judicial administrator—.I consider Justice Vogel a close friend of many years and I shall miss having him as a colleague on the appellate bench.”
Vogel received the Shattuck-Price Award from the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 1998, the Distinguished Pro Bono Award from the Western Center on Law and Poverty in 1996, and the UCLA School of Law Alumnus Award of the Year in 1986.
His retirement will create a second vacancy on the appellate bench to be filled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has yet to name a judicial appointments secretary. Justice Daniel Kolkey of the Third District resigned Nov. 17 to return to private practice.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company