Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, November 12, 2004


Page 1


Four More Local Superior Court Judges Vetted for Appeals Court

Names of Willhite, Rothschild, Kriegler and Lager Sent to JNE Commission


By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts


Four more Los Angeles Superior Court judges are under consideration for elevation to the Court of Appeal, the MetNews has learned.

The names of Judges Thomas Willhite Jr., Frances Rothschild, Sandy Kriegler, and Marvin Lager have been sent to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, and JNE questionnaires regarding those candidates have been received by members of the local legal community in recent days.

The four join Judges Stephen Petersen, Elihu Berle, and Michael Johnson, whose names were sent to the JNE Commission previously. Rothschild, Lager, and Willhite were also considered for elevation by Gov. Gray Davis.

Rothschild said she felt honored simply to be considered. “I just feel that all the judges whose names have been submitted are excellent candidates,” she told the MetNews.

Lager agreed that it was “really an honor” to be considered. Kriegler declined to comment beyond confirming that he was under consideration.

Willhite could not be reached yesterday. He had declined to comment last year on the prospects of his being appointed by Davis.

Kriegler, 54, has been a judge since 1985, when then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court. He was elevated to the Superior Court by Deukmejian in 1989.

Deputy Attorney General

Before his appointment to the bench, he was a deputy attorney general for 10 years, starting in the Criminal Law Division before moving to the Special Prosecutions Unit, where he worked on organized crime cases. He is a graduate of California State University-Northridge and Loyola Law School.

Kriegler is currently the supervising judge in Van Nuys, where he worked for 10 years before being appointed to the Appellate Division in 1999. He returned in his present position in October 2002.

He also sat on assignment in Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal in 1999.

Lager, 50, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1994 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, who elevated him to the Superior Court three years later. At the time of his Municipal Court appointment he was a civil litigator at the time with the Marina del Rey firm of Hirschtick, Chenen, Cohen & Linden, which he joined in 1986.

Court of Claims

He earned his bachelor’s degree from City University of New York, Queens College in 1975, and his law degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1978. He was a law clerk for Judge Thomas Lydon of the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., for a year following graduation, then was with Memel, Jacobs, Pierno, Gersh & Ellsworth before moving to Hirschtick Chenen.

He is currently assigned to the Appellate Division, after holding a general civil assignment downtown for several years.

Rothschild, 63, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1975 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who elevated her to the Superior Court in 1978. She was in private practice, primarily in labor law and civil litigation, at the time of her appointment to the bench.

She was counsel to the California State University and Colleges from 1969 to 1972, and clerked for then-Justice Shirley Hufstedler in 1966-67 when the future U.S. secretary of education served on this district’s Court of Appeal.

Her undergraduate and law degrees are from UCLA.

Loyola Graduate

Willhite, 50, is a 1976 graduate of UCLA and earned his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1979. He practiced for 10 years, all of it as a state deputy attorney general, and served as death penalty coordinator for the Los Angeles office during the last two years.

He was appointed to the Municipal Court in 1990 by Deukmejian and elevated to the Superior Court by Wilson in 1997.

He did a 10-month stint three years ago as an assigned member of the Court of Appeal’s Div. Five. His best-known opinion during that time may be the one in which he and the panel concluded that Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.’s former lover could, contrary to the trial judge’s conclusion, sue the prominent lawyer for “lifetime” support.

There is currently one vacancy on the Court of Appeal, in Div. Four, where Norman Epstein was recently elevated to presiding justice. Two more vacancies are imminent, however, with Justices Reuben Ortega of Div. One and Margaret Grignon of Div. Five retiring next month. 


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company