Judges, Lawyers Under Scrutiny
Judge McKay, Facing Challenge, Seeks Disability Retirement
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Chesley McKay, who faces a challenge in Tuesday’s primary election and has been rated “not qualified” by a Los Angeles County Bar Assn. panel, is seeking disability retirement, the MetNews learned yesterday.
McKay, 53, has been on leave since September. He reportedly underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain in 2001.
In endorsing his opponent, Department of Industrial Relations attorney Stella Owens-Murrell, the Los Angeles Times on Sunday quoted a statement from the judge as saying “it does not appear that my condition will improve.” McKay was scheduled to return early this month, but did not, and court officials have not been able to provide an anticipated date for him to resume his duties.
Commission of Judicial Performance Director-Chief Counsel Victoria Henley said McKay’s application for disability retirement is pending and has not yet been acted upon. She declined to comment further, citing the CJP’s confidentiality rules.
Applications for disability retirement require CJP approval.
Even if McKay’s disability retirement application were approved prior to Tuesday’s election, it would have no effect on the election. In that event, under a 1987 Court of Appeal ruling, if McKay drew the majority of votes, he would not be deemed elected to a new term and the governor would fill the vacancy.
McKay was one of eight candidates in this election cycle, and the only incumbent rated “not qualified” by LACBA’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee. In a departure from past practice, the committee did not specify its reason for giving that rating to individual candidates.
However, the criteria by which the panel stated it evaluates candidates include “[h]ealth problems that affect the ability to serve as a judge.”
The panel rated Owens-Murell “qualified.”
Efforts by the MetNews to contact McKay during the election campaign have not been successful.
McKay, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, was named to the Antelope Municipal Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994. He won a contested election to retain his seat on that court in 1996, receiving a rating of “well qualified” from the County Bar panel that year.
He was named to the Superior Court by Wilson in 1996, and in 1998 he ran unopposed.
McKay is a 1982 graduate of the San Fernando College of Law. Before becoming a deputy district attorney in 1984, he was an associate with the law offices of Elizabeth Kaufman in Northridge, served as corporate counsel for WHB Chan and Co., and worked in the Encino law offices of Edwin S. Saul.
Owens-Murrell has worked for the Department of Industrial Relations since 1995. From 1986 to 1995, she had a law office in Palmdale, specializing in labor and employment litigation.
She graduated in 1970 from City University of New York’s Hunter College, with a major in political science and a minor in history, and earned her law degree at the University of Notre Dame.
She could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company