Monday, October 31, 2005
Governor Also Names Five to Los Angeles Superior Court
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday nominated Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chavez to fill the last remaining vacancy on this district’s Court of Appeal.
If confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, Chavez, 52, would succeed Justice Michael Nott, who retired from Div. Two on April 1. The commission, when considering nominations from this district, consists of Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and the district’s senior presiding justice, Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three.
The governor Friday also named a Superior Court commissioner, two prosecutors, and two civil lawyers to fill vacant judgeships on the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The five are Superior Court Commissioner Robert P. Applegate, Deputy District Attorney Mike Camacho, Long Beach Assistant City Prosecutor Daniel S. Murphy, Los Angeles County Employee Retirement Association staff counsel Margaret L. Oldendorf, and Otis D. Wright, a partner in the Los Angeles firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker.
Chavez is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and Loyola Law School, who entered law practice in 1979 at the firm of Pomerantz and Chavez, co-founded by her father, Victor Chavez, who followed her to the Superior Court bench.
She was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1988 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian and elevated to the Superior Court in 1992 by Deukmejian’s successor, Pete Wilson.
She was selected from a list of applicants that included a large number of her Superior Court colleagues, as well as U.S. District Judge Nora Manella.
The justice-designate did not return a phone call Friday—a court employee said she was “inundated” with messages—but her father said he was “just delighted” with the selection.
Victor Chavez noted that it was his daughter who swore him when Deukmejian appointed him to the Superior Court in 1990. (He swore her in when she was elevated to the Superior Court by Wilson.) He said he did not know whether he would swear in this time.
“That’s up to her to decide” he noted.
The judge said he had no doubt of her ability to handle the appellate responsibilities, citing her “vast experience” handling a large variety of civil and criminal cases, including major criminal trials, as well as her service as an assigned member of Div. Seven of the Court of Appeal when the late Mildred Lillie was its presiding judge.
Victoria Chavez—who is married to Los Angeles attorney Timothy Morris—has also served on the Superior Court Executive Committee and has been site judge at Airport Court and supervising judge of the South Central District, where she currently sits. Judge Allen Webster, who serves with her there, described her Friday as a “tremendous judge with a great sense of humor, very decisive and intelligent.”
Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger said her elevation would be a loss for his court. He and Chavez have been friends since beginning their careers together in traffic court in 1988, he said.
“[A]s one her colleagues of long standing, I could not be happier,” he said. “The governor has made an excellent choice of an excellent judge.”
Presiding Justice Paul A.
Turner of the Court of Appeal’s Div. Five said he had urged Chavez to apply for the post.
“Given the extraordinary number of highly qualified judges being considered for the vacancy in Division Two, this was one of the most difficult appointment decisions Governor Schwarzenegger has made to date,” Turner commented.
Of the five people designated Friday to serve on the Superior Court, the first to be sworn in is likely to be Applegate, who said he would take the oath this morning from Senior U.S. District Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian.
Applegate, 55, explained that his wife, Jeanette Appelgate, retired from the Sheriff’s Department last year after 33 years of service, including an assignment as Tevrizian’s bailiff in the Los Angeles Municipal Court “a long time ago.”
Commissioner and Referee
Applegate has been a commissioner since 1999 and was a juvenile court referee before that. He was an attorney in private practice for 21 years where he handled insurance defense, construction defect, immigration, juvenile, family law and criminal defense cases.
His bachelor’s and law degrees are from UCLA and fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Meredith C. Taylor.
Applegate currently holds a family law assignment in Burbank. He said he did not know whether he would be reassigned, but commented that he enjoys presiding over a family law court.
Camacho, 44, serves in the Major Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office. His previous assignments in the office, which he joined in 1988, have included the Hardcore Gang Division, where he handled a number of high-profile cases, included that of Richard Penunuri, sentenced to death four years for ordering a murder from jail.
He is a graduate of Idaho State University and Western State University College of Law, and fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Ronnie B. MacLaren to the Alameda Superior Court.
He is a graduate of UCLA and of Loyola Law Schoo, and fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Judith L. F. Abrams.
Oldendorf, 47, has served as senior staff counsel for LACERA since 1996, after spend 12 years in civil litigation at several local firms. She is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton and Loyola Law School and fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Frances Rothschild to the Court of Appeal.
Wright, 61, joined Wilson Elser—where he currently practices in the areas of professional liability, torts, insurance, and environmental law—in 1983 after three years as a deputy state attorney general. From 1969 to 1980, he served as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.
He is a graduate of California State University, Los Angeles and Southwestern University School of Law, where he serves as a trustee. The Tuskegee, Ala. native succeeds Judge Lorna Parnell, who retired.
Camacho is a Democrat, all of the other local appointees are Republicans.
Schwarzenegger Friday also named Riverside personal injury lawyer Douglas E. Weathers to the Riverside Superior Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan B. Conklin and Fresno Chief Deputy District Attorney Houry A. Sanderson to the Fresno Superior Court, and Chico family law practitioner Sandra L. Schweitzer to the Butte Superior Court. Weathers is a Democrat, the others are Republicans.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company