Victoria Chavez Confirmed, Sworn in as Court of Appeal Justice
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chavez won unanimous confirmation yesterday as a justice of Div. Two of this district’s Court of Appeal.
Confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments came at the end of a 50-minue hearing, following which the new justice, who succeeds retired Justice Michael Nott, was sworn in by her father, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victor Chavez.
Father-daughter swearing-in ceremonies are not unprecedented for the Chavezes. Victoria Chavez, then a Municipal Court judge, swore in her father when he was appointed to the Superior Court, and he swore her in when she was elevated to that court.
The three members of the commission — Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and the district’s senior presiding justice, Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three — made few comments before casting their votes in favor of the nominee, who was rated “qualified” by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation.
Speakers Urge Confirmation
Speaking in favor of the nomination were attorney Leonard Pomerantz, who was partnered with Victor Chavez when Victoria Chavez started her legal career at their firm; Los Angeles Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, who noted that he and Chavez started their judicial careers together in traffic court; Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allen J. Webster Jr., who tried cases as a criminal defense lawyer before Chavez prior to becoming her colleague in the Compton courthouse; and Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers.
Meyers, who grew up in Compton and was calendar deputy in Chavez’s courtroom there, delivered a ringing endorsement, saying the new justice had “changed the lives of people living in the South Central judicial district.”
She praised Chavez for having made the “remarkable” decision to volunteer for service in the economically deprived, crime-ridden community, where Chavez served as supervising judge and presided over calendar filled with violent crime cases.
Chavez, she said, ran her court with a “sense of compassion and commitment to justice,” demonstrating both a genuine desire to help defendants who were trying to straighten out their lives and could benefit from alternatives to prison, as well as a tough veneer and a willingness to impose maximum sentences when called for, including the death penalty on three occasions.
‘Caring and Feelng’
Chavez, Meyers said, is a “caring and feeling human being,” whose concern extends to all who come into contact with the court. She is friendly with the support staff and the prosecutors and defense lawyers who work in her courtroom and takes a genuine interest in their lives, , and is adamant about respecting jurors’ time and not keeping them waiting, Meyers said.
As an appellate justice, Meyers predicted, Chavez will draw on her “vast experience” in the trial courts and take a realistic approach to cases.
Two witnesses who had been granted permission to speak in opposition to the nomination, attorney Stanley Arouty and his paralegal Bradford Henschel — a suspended lawyer — changed their minds and informed the commission before the hearing that they would not testify.
In virtually identical and sometimes-rambling letters to the commission, the two accused Chavez and fellow Compton jurists John Cheroske and Jack Morgan of “denying due process to minority criminal defendants” and sought to link the nominee to a local practice in Compton — disapproved of in a recent Court of Appeal decision — of requiring that all pretrial motions be heard at least 30 days before trial.
Chavez is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and Loyola Law School, who entered law practice in 1979. 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 for the appellate court from a list of applicants that included a large number of her Superior Court colleagues, as well as U.S. District Judge Nora Manella.
Chavez — who is married to Los Angeles attorney Timothy Morris — has also served on the Superior Court Executive Committee and has was the site judge at Airport Court before going to Compton.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company