Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Superior Court Judge Phillip Argento to Retire This Summer
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Phillip J. Argento will retire Aug. 1 after 23 years on the bench, the MetNews has learned.
Argento, 60, will take accrued vacation before his departure from the bench becomes official. His last day at the Pasadena courthouse will be July 8.
Argento was named to the Pasadena Municipal Court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1982, just days after turning 37 years old. He became a Superior Court judge through unification in 2000.
A Rochester, N.Y. native who grew up in Los Angeles and Alhambra, Argento attended Pasadena City College before going on to Pomona College, graduating in 1967. He earned a master’s degree in journalism from UCLA the following year, and after a stretch of active military duty—he was a military policeman in the Army Reserve for six years—he became involved in politics, joining the campaign of Democratic Senate hopeful John Tunney.
Tunney ousted then-U.S. Sen. George Murphy in the 1970 general election, and Argento joined the senator’s Washington office the following spring. After two years there, he joined the national office of the League of Women Voters, handling media relations, then entered law school at Georgetown University.
Graduating in 1975, he returned to Los Angeles and joined the North Hollywood firm of Bolton and Gelbard, which was then house counsel for Travelers Insurance Co. He also worked for El Monte attorney Martin L. Abrams, who had a general practice, and spent three and one-half years at the Los Angeles litigation firm then known as Breidenbach, Swainston, Yokaitis & Crispo before Brown appointed him to the bench.
He generated controversy in his early days on the Municipal Court when he declared Proposition 8, the Victims’ Bill of Rights adopted in not long after he became a judge, unconstitutional.
That decision led to the District Attorney’s Office effectively removing him from its cases by filing blanket affidavits of prejudice, although he continued to hear misdemeanor cases brought by the Pasadena city prosecutor. The office stopped filing affidavits once the Supreme Court upheld the initiative.
The timing of his appointment forced him into an immediate election contest with Pasadena attorney Suzanne Lefevre, who was endorsed by the Sacramento-based Law and Order Campaign Committee and attacked him as an anti-law enforcement Brown appointee. Argento won with just under 53 percent of the vote.
He later served as presiding judge of the Municipal Court, chaired the Presiding Judges Assn. of Los Angeles County, and was a recipient of the Pasadena Bar Association’s judicial award. He also lectured in the Continuing Judicial Studies Program and served on the Executive Committee of the California Judges Association.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company