Thursday, February 17, 2005
Schwarzenegger Names Four to Los Angeles Superior Court
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday named two deputy district attorneys, a court commissioner, and an insurance defense lawyer to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The appointments of Commissioner Michael Levanas, Deputy District Attorneys Eleanor Hunter and Scott Millington, and Claremont attorney Dorothy Reyes reduced the number of vacancies remaining to be filled to eight. Schwarzenegger also named several Superior Court judges in Sacramento, San Bernardino and Fresno counties.
“It’s obviously an honor to do the work of a judicial officer,” Levanas, 55, told the MetNews. “I hope I do it with dignity and respect.”
Levanas praised the governor, saying yesterday’s appointments confirm Schwarzenegger’s intent to appoint the best possible judges regardless of party affiliation. Levanas, Hunter, and Reyes are Democrats.
Levanas said he will be sworn in as soon as some paperwork is processed. He said he has not had an opportunity to talk to court officials about his assignment, he said, but his preference would be to remain in family law.
“I’ve spent my whole career working with families and kids,” he pointed out.
Levanas was elected a commissioner in May 2002 after 25 years of law practice.
Levanas began his legal career with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, where he practiced for five years before becoming a panel lawyer for the dependency court. He served as a panel lawyer for a year and a half before entering private practice.
At the time of his selection as commissioner, he handled private dependency work, including child abuse and neglect, and also did personal injury cases.
He sat as a referee for two years in the early 1980s.
Levanas received his undergraduate degree from UC San Diego and earned his law degree from Rutgers Law School in New Jersey. He succeeds Judge Margaret Hay, who retired last March.
Hunter, 43, has handled a number of high-profile cases, including that of former Symbionese Liberation Army operative Sara Jane Olson, in her 16 years as a prosecutor. She was honored last June as “Prosecutor of the Year” by the California District Attorney’s Association.
Hunter and then-Deputy District Attorney Michael Latin—who was appointed as a judge in November 2003—prosecuted Olson, who pled guilty in October 2001 to trying to blow up two LAPD cars with nail bombs in 1975.
District Attorney Steve Cooley has credited Hunter and Latin with laying the groundwork for charges to be filed in Sacramento against Olson and four ex-SLA members for the 1975 shooting death of a customer during a bank robbery.
Last year, Hunter successfully prosecuted Sante Kimes for the March 1998 shooting death of Granada Hills businessman David Kazdin. Kimes’ son, Kenneth, who was convicted in New York along with his mother of a socialite’s murder there, pled guilty to Kazdin’s murder and testified against her.
In recent years, Hunter also prosecuted real estate agent Bruce Koklich, who is serving a 15-year-to-life term for the slaying of his wife, who was the daughter of the late state Sen. Paul Carpenter; and Virendra “Victor” Govin, who was sentenced to death for the slayings of a family of four in a business dispute.
She will not take the bench for about four weeks, she said yesterday, because she is trying the case of Govin’s brother and co-defendant, Pravin “Peter” Govin. The Govin family and that of the victims owned competing motels in Universal City.
The jury that convicted Pravin Govin deadlocked as to the guilt of his brother.
Hunter, who practiced with a couple of local firms before joining the District Attorney’s Office, said that she had long thought about the bench but did not apply until last year.
She added that she has no preference between handling a criminal or civil assignment.
“I’m kind of happy just to have the job,” she said.
Hunter, a graduate of California State University, Long Beach and the University of LaVerne College of Law, succeeds Judge Dale Fischer, who left for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 2003.
Millington, 44, has spent 15 years as a deputy district attorney and had previously worked as a bankruptcy associate at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton and as an FBI investigative specialist. His undergraduate and law degrees are both from UCLA, and he will fill the seat left vacant by the retirement last April of Judge Chesley McKay.
Reyes, 52, has more than 22 years of insurance defense experience. A partner at what is now LaFollette Johnson, DeHaas, Fesler & Ames from 1982 to 2001, she founded her own firm, now Reyes & Wolfe LLP, three years ago.
Reyes is a graduate of Grambling State University in Louisiana and Loyola Law School. She succeeds Judge Alan B. Haber, who retired last February.
Named to the Sacramento Superior Court were Laurie Earl, 42, a Democrat and internal investigator for the state Inspector General; and Alan Perkins, 56, a Republican and business defense attorney in the capital city.
Tapped to the Fresno bench were Donald Franson Jr., 53, a Republican criminal defense and civil attorney; Jeffrey Hamilton Jr., 40, a Republican and Fresno deputy district attonrey; and David Kalemkarian, 42, a Republican and Fresno Superior Court commissioner. Franson’s father was a Fresno Superior Court judge from 1968 to 1972, a Fifth District Court of Appeal justice from 1972 to 1987, and the presiding justice in that district from 1987 until his retirement from the bench in 1990.
Named to the San Bernardino Superior Court were Jon Ferguson, 42, a San Bernardino deputy district attorney and Raymond Haight III, 55, a San Bernardino Superior Court commissioner.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company