Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, February 11, 2005


Page 1


Kriegler, Rothschild and Willhite Are Named to Court of Appeal


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Sandy Kriegler, Frances Rothschild and Thomas Willhite were named yesterday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill vacancies on this district’s Court of Appeal.

Kriegler was chosen to replace Justice Margaret Grignon in Div. Five. Rothschild is to replace Justice Reuben Ortega in Div. One, while Willhite was selected to fill the seat formerly held by Justice Norman L. Epstein in Div. Four.

All three must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which for nominees to this district’s court consists of Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Chief Justice Ronald M. George, and the senior presiding justice of the district, Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three. No confirmation hearing has yet been set.

Grignon retired Dec. 31 and Ortega Dec. 3. Epstein, until then an associate justice, was confirmed and sworn in as presiding justice of Div. Four on Oct. 5.

None of the nominees could be reached for comment yesterday.

Willhite, 50, was named to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1997. He has presided over a fast track court since 2001.

Served on Assignment

He served on assignment in this district’s Court of Appeal from January to October 2001. 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.

Before that he was assigned to a felony trial court where he handled criminal cases.

At the time Wilson named him to the Superior Court, he was a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge, having been appointed to that court in 1990 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.

Before being named to the bench, Willhite spent a decade as a deputy attorney general in Los Angeles, serving from 1988 to 1990 as coordinator in that office for all regional death penalty cases.

He earned his law degree from Loyola Law School and his undergraduate degree from UCLA.

Div. Five Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner told the MetNews last month that the governor would “be well served” if he named Willhite to the appellate court. Turner credited the jurist with helping the court through “a tough time” when Justice Ramona Godoy Perez had to leave the bench due to terminal illness.

Turner said he recommended Willhite for that assignment because he recalled him as an aggressive litigator from the time that Willhite was a relatively junior deputy attorney general and Turner a criminal defense attorney, and because he came heavily recommended by other judges.

“He was looked upon as a first rate intellect in the A.G.’s office, and did some of our toughest cases [when he was assigned to the Court of Appeal.],” Turner said. “He’s a first-rate guy.”

Kriegler, 54, has been a Superior Court judge since 1989 and is currently sitting on assignment in this district’s Court of Appeal. He was named to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Deukmejian in 1985 and elevated by Deukmejian four years later.

Former Deputy A.G.

Like Willhite, Kreigler is a former deputy attorney general, having served in that office from 1975 to 1985. During his last four years there he prosecuted organized crime cases.

Kriegler also earned his law degree at Loyola. His undergraduate degree came from Cal State Northridge.

Kriegler sat for 10 years in Van Nuys before being appointed to the Appellate Division in 1999. He returned the Van Nuys court as supervising judge in October 2002.

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

Rothschild, 63, was named to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1978. She also was a Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge at the time of her appointment, having been named to that court by Brown three years earlier.

She came to the bench from a private law practice specializing in labor law and other civil litigation. In 1983 she told a local legal newspaper that she attributed her appointment to the bench to being in the right place at the right time, having represented Brown in a lawsuit when he was secretary of state.

She also served as senior counsel for the state university and college system and clerked for Shirley Hufstedler when the future U.S. secretary of education was a justice of this district’s Court of Appeal.

Rothschild earned her law and undergraduate degrees at UCLA. She was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 8 years old.

The family initially settled in Brooklyn and she attended Rutgers University before transferring to UCLA.

In announcing the nominations, the governor’s press office noted that Kriegler and Willhite are Republicans, while Rothschild is a Democrat.

The three nominees will, if confirmed, fill all the current vacancies on the court. However, Justice Michael Nott of Div. Two will retire April 1.


Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company