Thursday, October 13, 2005
Superior Court Judge Floyd Baxter to Retire Nov. 1
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Floyd V. Baxter will retire Nov. 1, the MetNews has learned.
Baxter, 68, is using accrued vacation time and will not return to the Santa Clarita courthouse where he has sat since then-Gov. George Deukmejian named him to the former Newhall Municipal Court in 1985, a court official said. He became a Superior Court judge when county trial courts unified in 2000.
Prior to being appointed to the bench, Baxter was in private practice for 10 years, first in Encino and later in the Santa Clarita Valley. He was a partner in the Newhall firm of Baxter & Hoodack at the time of his appointment.
Baxter, 65, received a bachelor’s degree in business management from Woodbury University in 1958. He worked as a salesman prior to entering law school, and obtained his law degree in 1974 from what was then the University of San Fernando Valley College of Law.
He was also a longtime reservist, first with the Army Reserve and later with the Air National Guard.
He prided himself on his introduction to innovative programs at the court, including “Teen Court ,” which he established in 1995. Under the program, youthful first offenders were diverted from the juvenile justice system and “tried” by local junior high school and high school students, with “sentences” being in the nature of community service.
Baxter’s inventiveness came to the fore in 1996 when he sentenced a man who had negligently caused two deaths in a boating accident to 720 hours of community service at a morgue.
The judge’s actions in connection with the sentencing of a woman for hitting the bumper of another car in a parking lot and driving off without leaving a note drew criticism several years ago in the Los Angeles Times and the Newhall Signal.
The woman, a stay-at-home mother of two and local PTA president, was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage.
What drew the ire of a Times columnist and a Signal editorialist was that Baxter jailed her for five days between the verdict and sentencing, apparently ignoring the statutory requirement that bail be set for a convicted misdemeanant.
The Signal said in an editorial titled “The Hangin’ Judge and the PTA Mom”:
“There was no need to lock her up while awaiting the sentence. She may be guilty— and she may not be, as it appears there is a distinct possibility this was a ëbad’ verdict— but in either case, Baxter’s handling of the defendant was heavy-handed to say the least....
“In many circumstances, it’s comforting to know there’s a ëhangin’ judge’ in town. When gang members, vandals and bank robbers go before the judge, we want to know he’ll throw the book at them.
But when the ëcriminal’ is a PTA mom who’s accused of a parking-lot fender bender befitting an episode of ëThe Brady Bunch,’ it’s a bit much to throw her in the slammer.”
Baxter drew an election challenge in 2002 from Ross Stucker, a former interim commissioner of the Newhall court, whose bid for a permanent appointment had been unsuccessful. The appointment went to Thomas White, a former law partner of Baxter and now a Los Angeles Superior Court judge.
Baxter claimed at the time of the election challenge that he had recused himself from the selection process because White was seeking the post, but several others involved in the process, including the other two judges then serving on the court, disputed the claim.
Stucker did little in the way of a campaign, and Baxter won easily in the countywide race, winning a “well qualified” rating from the County Bar and polling more than 76 percent of the vote.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company