Friday, May 14, 2004
Stephen Czuleger Enters Campaign for Assistant Presiding Judge
Former CJA Officer Joins Colleagues Lichtman and House in Race for Post
By Kenneth Ofgang , Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger has become the third candidate in the contest for assistant presiding judge of the court.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter dated May 3, Czuleger touted his 16 years on the local trial bench and his service as assistant supervising judge of the civil departments and earlier as assistant presiding judge of the criminal departments.
He also noted that he is a former California Judges Association vice president, has served on court and Judicial Council committees, and has experience lobbying in Sacramento on issues of interest to judges.
This will be Czuleger’s second bid for assistant presiding judge. He lost to current Presiding Judge Robert Dukes four years ago.
Entering the race earlier were Judges Peter D. Lichtman and Mary Thornton House. The voting is scheduled for October, with the winner taking office in January, when by tradition the current assistant presiding judge, William MacLaughlin, will become presiding judge.
If tradition holds, the winner of the assistant presiding judge contest will serve a two-year term as presiding judge in 2007 and 2008.
“The coming years offer many challenges to our court, including our relations with the AOC, with other Superior Courts, and with the Bar, and the need to manage ourselves in an effective and dignified manner,” Czuleger said in his letter. “....The progress we have made in these areas needs to continue. But rather than simply rely on where we have been, we must plan for the future, build on our accomplishments and execute a coherent design for which we are responsible, not a plan imposed on us by others.”
Czuleger identified several “clear priorities” for the next administration, including preserving “the stability of our local benefits,” maintaining “the service we provide to the public in our courtrooms” in the face of budget problems, and considering “the career goals of judicial officers...along with the needs of the Court” in making judicial assignments.
A former Superior Court judge who saw the letter, speaking on condition of anonymity, questioned those priorities, particularly as to whether the court leadership ought to be involved in the issue of local benefits, which has been a controversy around the state.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George went so far as to suggest at the CJA annual meeting several years ago that such benefits not only provoke the ire of judges in the counties that don’t give them, but may violate a state constitutional requirement that judicial pay be uniform throughout the state.
But House said she shares Czuleger’s concerns.
Part of the job of the court leadership, House told the MetNews, is working to assure that “the highest quality people” are encouraged to seek and retain judgeships. Local benefits are part of that, House said, commenting that “it’s not just an L.A. issue” but affects judges in at least 15 counties.
House added that she has spoken to both of her opponents and expects “a collegial race.”
She, Lichtman, and Czuleger “all have something different to offer,” she commented, while adding:
“I think my experience best meets the needs of the court, otherwise I wouldn’t be running.”
Czuleger, 53, was appointed to the Superior Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1990.
He graduated from the University of Santa Clara in 1973 and from Loyola University Law School in 1976. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles from 1977 to 1979; an associate with Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert & Matz from 1979 to 1982; and a special attorney with the Justice Department Organized Crime Strike Force in San Francisco from 1982 to 1984.
He returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1984 and served there until his appointment to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Deukmejian in 1988.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company