Friday, January 20, 2006
Valley Lawyer Says He Will Not Challenge Judge Murphy After All
Judge Thomas Peterson to Retire, Creating Fourth Possible Open Seat
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Woodland Hills attorney who took out papers to run for Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy’s seat said yesterday he will switch to another race.
Stephen H. Beecher, 54, said he will take out signature papers today, probably for the seat being vacated by Judge Ruth Essegian, who is retiring March 3. A candidate needs 5,967 signatures of qualified voters in order to get on the ballot without paying a filing fee.
In another election-related development, the MetNews learned that Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Peterson will retire March 3. He is the fourth judge to slate retirement during the candidate qualification period, meaning there would be an election for the seat if a candidate qualifies before the governor makes an appointment to fill the vacancy.
Beecher said yesterday it was “never my intent to run against a seated judge.” The decision to run for Murphy’s seat, he said, was based on “misinformation” that the judge was seeking another post and would not run for another term.
Murphy said on the day she learned of the challenge that she intends to run for another six-year term. There are currently no declared candidates for the seat of Essegian, who will be retiring during the qualifying period, meaning it is possible the governor will appoint someone to the seat, who would then be able to run as an incumbent.
Petitions are due Feb. 23. Candidates, whether qualifying by fee or signatures, must file the candidate’s oath and other nominating documents between Feb. 13 and March 10 in order to qualify for the June 6 primary.
Beecher is a University of West Los Angeles School of Law graduate and 1988 admittee to the State Bar. He practices business and tort litigation, as well as bankruptcy and criminal law.
Beecher was an unsuccessful candidate for the State Bar Board of Governors in 1996, losing to Judith Gilbert. In his candidate statement, he cited his background as a credit manager for 12 years in two manufacturing businesses and his experience as a sole practitioner as qualification for the board.
He said yesterday that he “did not campaign at all” for the Board of Governors seat, apart from putting his name on the ballot and submitting the candidate statement. “I figured I had as good a chance as anyone else,” he commented.
Three other non-incumbents have taken out signature-in-lieu papers for various judicial seats.
Richard A. Nixon of North Hills took out papers for the seats now held by Judges Michael E. Knight, Richard G. Kolostian, John P. Farrell, Burt Pines, and Melvin Sandvig.(A candidate need not commit to a specific race until the nomination documents are filed.)
Knight, Kolostian, Essegian, and Peterson are all retiring during the filing period. It is possible that the governor would appoint their successors, who could then run as incumbents, prior to the March 10 filing deadline.
Encino attorney Stephen M. Feldman took out papers to run for the Knight seat, while Robert Davenport of Los Angeles and Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack took out papers for Kolostian’s seat.
Davenport also took out papers to run for Judge John Reid’s seat, but said he did so only because he had heard a rumor that Reid would not run. Reid said he intends to run.
Peterson, 65, has been a judge since June 1984, when then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Pomona Municipal Court. He was a commissioner of that court from 1974 until his judicial appointment.
A Missouri native who grew up in Downey, Peterson obtained his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Notre Dame. After Army service during the Vietnam War, he returned to Los Angeles County, became a deputy district attorney, and served in that capacity until the Pomona judges made him a commissioner.
Peterson was scheduled to retire from the Municipal Court in February 2000, but altered those plans upon being made a Superior Court judge by unification. As a Superior Court judge, he continued to hear misdemeanor cases at what had been the Pomona Municipal Court building, redesignated the Pomona North courthouse.
His last day of work was last Friday. Court officials said his courtroom will be covered by retired judges until further notice, with retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Gustaveson sitting there through the end of next month.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company