Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Superior Court Judge Conway Slates February Retirement
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Chris Reed Conway, one of Norwalk’s veteran jurists, said yesterday that he plans to retire from the bench Feb. 2.
The judge, 65, told the MetNews he was stepping down after 20 years on the bench in order to spend time enjoying life with his wife of 39 years.
“It was an extremely difficult decision for me to make because I think this is a great job,” Conway said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve especially liked where I’ve worked and the people I’ve worked with out here in Norwalk in the Southeast District.”
But after becoming eligible for retirement with maximum benefits last September, he said, he began to think about stepping down and finally decided several weeks ago to “take the leap.”
“My wife and I had some long discussions and decided…I still have my health and want to have some time to be able to do some things like travel,” he said, adding that his first post-retirement trip with his wife will be a Mediterranean cruise in June.
After hopefully wrapping up pending matters by the last day of this year—which will also be his last day at the Norwalk courthouse—Conway said he would be available through January to take care of any remaining work.
The judge said he will miss his job very much, but “now is the time” to leave. One motivating factor, he said, was the structure of the Judges’ Retirement System, which would have required him to continue making contributions to the retirement fund without giving him any additional benefits past his eligibility date.
After stepping down, the judge said, he will most likely involve himself in alternative dispute resolution, although he said he has not decided on details.
Even though leaving will be difficult, he said, “I’m looking forward to a new challenge and doing something a little bit different. The closer I get to [retiring], the more excited I am about doing something new.”
Southeast District Supervising Judge Brian Gasdia, who as an attorney tried cases in front of Conway, said his now-colleague would be sorely missed.
“He’s always been involved here and led this place very well,” Gasdia commented, referring to Conway’s two terms as supervising judge of the Southeast District in 1994-1995 and again several years ago. “He’s knowledgeable, he’s thorough, he’s courteous and he’s efficient. He handles every assignment well and he’s very, very bright—that’s what we’ll miss the most. Off the bench, he’s just a great colleague.”
Conway, who currently presides over civil trials and handles the Southeast District’s probate calendar once a week, has been in the Norwalk courthouse since 1988.
He is presently the Southeast District’s representative on the Superior Court’s Executive Committee.
His recognitions include Judge of the Year designations by the Whittier Bar Assn. in 2002, and the Southeast Bar Assn. in both 1990 and 2004.
Conway has served on various Superior Court committees, including the alternative dispute resolution, personnel and budget, and library committees. Most recently, he was on a committee focused on how to handle commissioner-related problems.
Appointed a Long Beach Municipal Court judge in 1986 by then-Gov. George Dukemejian, Conway served in that capacity until elevated in 1987 to succeed retired Superior Court Judge Alexander R. Early. He was assigned to the Compton courthouse as a criminal trial judge for six months, and then transferred to Norwalk, where he handled the criminal calendar for one year.
His Superior Court experience also includes criminal trials, law and motion calendars, adoptions, complex litigation, and family law matters.
“I have done almost everything there is to do,” he said, adding that he started his career handling arraignments, unlawful detainers, and small claims and traffic matters.
Off the bench, he has been very active in the American Inns of Court as a member of the Joseph A. Ball/Clarence S. Hunt Inn in Long Beach.
“It’s something I believe very strongly in because I think it serves a very worthwhile function,” he said, explaining the inn is a group of lawyers and judges who partake in mentoring programs geared toward improving lawyers’ skills and civility toward one another.
A native of Long Beach, he has served for 25 years on the committee of a Long Beach Bar Association scholarship program for local public high school students.
Prior to his bench career, Conway practiced probate, tax, business and real estate law as an associate and then partner with Winston, Winston & Conway from 1967-1970, and as a partner with Vandenberg, Conway, Newell, Curtis & Nelson from 1970-1986.
He received his law degree from USC in 1966, after graduating from Occidental College in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
As he prepares to leave the Norwalk courthouse, Conway said he hopes to be remembered for fair decision-making:
“I think the biggest thing is to have all of the parties and attorneys, especially in litigated matters, go out of the courtroom saying, ‘I got a fair trial. I was treated fairly.’”
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company