Friday, March 25, 2005
Judge Hatter to Take Senior Status Next Month
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., who served as chief judge of the Central District of California from 1998 to 2001, said yesterday he will take senior status April 22.
“My wife’s been telling me [to slow down] for some time,” the 72-year-old jurist told the METNEWS, although the reduction of his workload will be gradual. “I’m going to go off the wheel for a little while,” he explained, meaning he will not take new cases but will keep his current calendar, which he said includes 400 Central District cases and 400 Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation matters.
“There’s an awful lot that I’ll still be doing,” he commented, including chairing committees dealing with courthouse space and security. He also remains on a Judicial Conference of the United States committee on court administration and case management.
Hatter said he chose the April 22 date because it will be the 28th anniversary of his appointment to the bench. He was a Los Angeles Superior Court judge—then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him—from 1977 to 1979, and he was named to the federal bench by President Carter in 1979.
The judge said he will continue to take an interest in the issue of judicial appointments. Hatter has long advocated a nonpartisan approach to judicial selection and elevation of magistrate judges to district judgeships.
Hatter said he is optimistic the bipartisan Federal Judicial Qualifications Committee, which recommends candidates to President Bush for district judgeships, will be retained in the president’s second term. A spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who appoints the committee members along with Sen. Barbara Boxer and committee chair and presidential confidant Gerald Parsky, told the METNEWS last week that an agreement to keep the committee intact will be officially announced soon.
As for the magistrate judges, Hatter said he had “expressed my concern” to a Feinstein staff member. Two former magistrate judges, George King and Virginia Phillips, were elevated by President Clinton but President Bush’s Central District appointees have all come from the state courts or from private practice.
The magistrate ranks, Hatter said, “are a prime place to go to fill some of these vacancies”—there are two open seats on the court, and two more will open with Hatter and Judge Dickran Tevrizian set to take senior status—“if not all of them.”
A magistrate judge does not need to transition into district judge status, he explained, but can simply “wear the magistrate judge’s hat one day and the district judge’s the next.”
Hatter has long argued that presidents should consider appointing highly qualified judges regardless of party. He noted that all of President Clinton’s appointees were Democrats, and that all appointees of the presidents Bush have been Republicans.
“I don’t know why we don’t have a ladies’ and gentlemen’s agreement” to take partisanship out of the process. He suggested an approach similar to that of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has appointed judges from both parties and established a policy of not inquiring into applicants’ party affiliations prior to appointment.
The Republican judges appointed by the current president have been of high quality, Hatter opined. “But I don’t see why we should have to depend on good fortune,” he commented.
When he stepped down as chief judge three years ago, Hatter said he would not take senior status as long as a substantial number of vacancies remained on the court. Yesterday, he said he was troubled by the possibility that district judges, like their state counterparts, would leave the public bench to pursue lucrative private judging.
Hatter noted his longstanding interest in the issue of judicial compensation. He was the lead plaintiff in Hatter v. United States, a long-running suit that resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that judges who held office prior to 1983 are constitutionally exempt from a law passed that year requiring federal employees to pay Social Security taxes.
Hatter is a Chicago native and graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1960. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1954 and was in the Air Force from 1954 to 1956.
He began his legal career in his home city as an attorney in private practice, and was also a part-time assistant public defender. He was named an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California in 1962, and later served as chief counsel to the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation and as a federal anti-poverty official in San Francisco.
He came to Los Angeles in 1970 to become executive director of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. He left that position in 1973 and held several posts in the administration of then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley before Brown appointed him to the bench.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company