Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioners Harris, Jones, Schwartz to Retire in Coming Weeks
By PATSY MOORE, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioners Mitchel J. Harris and H. Kirkland Jones will retire next month, both jurists confirmed yesterday.
Harris and Jones both said they would complete their courtroom duties on Feb. 25 and officially retire March 31 after exhausting accrued vacation.
The MetNews has also learned that Commissioner Patricia G. Schwartz is retiring shortly. Schwartz declined to discuss her plans, however, because she had not officially notified the court she intends to step down.
Harris and Jones have been serving in juvenile court, and both declared a love for the institution yesterday.
“I was lucky enough to be placed in juvenile court, which is exactly where I wanted to be,” Harris said.
His sentiments were echoed by Jones. “It’s the one area where you can actually make a difference,” Jones explained.
Harris has offered to continue to help out with the court. “I’ll still work if they need me,” he said, but otherwise he does not have specific plans for his retirement. After 37 years of government service, first at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, then as a deputy district attorney, and finally as a commissioner, he is ready to retire, Harris said.
Harris had been a deputy district attorney for 26 years when a friend convinced him to apply for a commissioner’s position. The result was that Harris spent the last nine and a half years as a juvenile court commissioner.
He noted that Court of Appeal Justice Paul Boland of this district’s Div. Eight was a juvenile court judge when he worked as a deputy district attorney, becoming his mentor and inspiration as a commissioner.
Harris received his undergraduate degree from State University of New York, Buffalo, before he attended Brooklyn Law School and passed the New York State bar examination.
After six months, he moved to California and began working for HUD in 1967. Although he only planned to remain in California for a few years, “I must have liked it,” Harris quipped, because he is still here.
His son, Benjamin Harris, is continuing the legal tradition, working as a construction defect attorney, Harris said.
Jones also said he had not made firm retirement plans, other than to “ease into a different lifestyle.” He said he has not been asked to serve as a private judge and has not made any plans to return to the bench following his retirement.
Jones began serving as a commissioner on Aug. 1, 1988 and spent his entire career in juvenile court. “That’s what I wanted,” he said.
His inspiration came from his work as a deputy district attorney, which began in 1975. In 1977 he was assigned to the juvenile division, where he remained until he became a commissioner.
Born in Chicago, Jones moved to California in 1957. He attended Hastings College of the Law between 1969 and 1972, which was an interesting period to be in law school, he said.
He is satisfied with his time in juvenile court because it is the only place in the judicial system where you can really do something to save people, where there is a consciousness that something can be done, Jones said. “It’s tough, but not impossible.” he said.
Schwartz, 65, has been a commissioner since September 1980 and currently sits in Van Nuys. She served in the Los Angeles Municipal Court prior to court unification in 2000.
She holds undergraduate and law degrees from UCLA. Schwartz was a county social worker before her admission to the bar, and began her law career at Neighborhood Legal Services before going into private civil practice in 1968.
She was with the Los Angeles firm of Fogel, Julber, Reinhardt, Rothschild & Feldman from 1973 until her appointment as commissioner.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company