Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Commissioners Bobys, Calabro Slate March Retirements
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Veteran Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioners Hugh Bobys and Daniel Calabro will retire at the end of this month, a court spokesperson said yesterday.
Bobys became a Beverly Hills Municipal Court commissioner in 1990 and spent his entire judicial career serving in the Beverly Hills courthouse. He ran for Beverly Hills Municipal Court judge in 2000—had he won, he would have taken office as a Superior Court judge under court unification—but came in third in a four-way race.
Calabro was a Glendale Municipal Court commissioner and became a Superior Court commissioner upon unification in 2000. In 1987 he was catapulted into the headlines after using the term “nigger” on the bench, prompting then-District Attorney Ira Reiner to disqualify him from hearing criminal matters.
The departures will create two vacancies to be filled from among the 33 remaining finalists on the commissioner list announced in December.
Commissioner Elizabeth Harris was elected by the judges in January and was sworn in Feb. 13. Morrison & Foerster partner Maren Nelson outpolled retired Municipal Court Commissioner John Murphy in a runoff last month and is expected to join the court late this month or early in April.
Harris was the top-ranked candidate on the list. Nelson ranked second, while Murphy ranked 20th. Judges are not required to follow the rankings, determined by a panel that reviewed more than 150 applications, but they usually have.
Harris and Nelson were chosen to replace Commissioner Lonzo Lucas, who retired Dec. 2, and Commissioner Richard Novak, who resigned Dec. 12. The top two candidates remaining on the list are Ventura sole practitioner Robert A. McSorley and Referee Brian Petroborg.
Bobys, 62, said he will probably sit pro tem in the Beverly Hills courthouse after he retires if he is needed, but may do some arbitration and mediation work.
“I have a certain loyalty and love for this court, and it would be very difficult for me just to walk away and not look back. I don’t think I could do that.”
The commissioner added:
“Beverly Hills is a wonderful courthouse.”
He also plans visits with his wife to Singapore, where their son practices international patent law, he said.
Bobys was a Los Angeles deputy district attorney for 20 years before becoming a commissioner. He noted that he was assigned as a prosecutor to the Beverly Hills court when the vacancy he was selected to fill arose.
He graduated from UCLA law school and was a Los Angeles deputy city attorney for three years before joining the District Attorney’s Office.
In the March 2000 balloting he got about 15 percent of the vote. Attorney Mitchell Dawson got 25 percent, but Deputy District Attorney Richard Stone won the seat outright with over 56 percent of the vote.
Bobys noted that he also had an application for a judicial appointment pending before then-Gov. Gray Davis when Davis was recalled.
Calabro, 70, could not be reached for comment yesterday. A member of his courtroom staff in Chatsworth said the commissioner’s last day on the bench was Feb. 11, explaining that he will be using vacation time until his retirement.
The 1987 incident led to investigations by the State Bar, among others, but Calabro was absolved of any misconduct and Reiner eventually relented.
Transcripts showed that the Glendale commissioner, in hearing a battery case in which prosecutors alleged the assault was racially motivated, commented:
“Another nigger case? Another one where this nigger business came up? We’re not past that yet? I thought we were all past that.”
He subsequently apologized and explained the remark as motivated by his dismay at encountering a second case in a short period of time in which it was alleged that the epithet had been used.
A Los Angeles County Bar Association inquiry reached the conclusion that there was no evidence Calabro intended to disparage anyone or harbored racist feelings.
Calabro was reportedly evaluated by the State Bar’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Committee for appointment to the Glendale court during the tenure of Gov. George Deukmejian, but some black leaders urged Deukmejian to drop him from a list of potential nominees and he was not appointed.
Prior to being assigned to the court in Chatsworth, Calabro also worked at the San Fernando courthouse.
He joined the Glendale court as a commissioner in 1981. He earned his law degree from UCLA and spent 23 years practicing with Calabro, Calabro & Calabro, the firm founded by his three older brothers.
One of his brothers, Alfred Calabro, ran against Reiner in 1988, charging that the then-district attorney had smeared the commissioner with charges of racism.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company