Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Page 1


Governor Names Three to Court, Shakes Up Election Races




Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will appoint three local attorneys to Los Angeles Superior Court seats to replace incumbents who are retiring within the next two weeks, a spokesperson for the governor said Friday.

Former San Fernando Valley Bar Association President Thomas T. Lewis, 56, will get the seat of Judge Thomas Peterson, who is retiring the first week in March; Stephen P. Pfahler, city attorney for South Pasadena and Rolling Hills Estates, will replace Judge Richard Kolostian, whose seat will be vacant as of tomorrow; and Principal Deputy County Counsel Victor L. Wright, 39, will take the seat that Judge Ruth Essegian is giving up on Friday of next week.

All three of those seats had been scheduled for election this year. But under the California Supreme Court ruling in Stanton v. Panish  (1980) 28 Cal.3d 107, an election for a seat from which the incumbent has retired after the beginning of the filing period will be postponed for two years, unless a candidate other than the incumbent has returned nominating papers for the seat before “an appointee [of the governor] assumes the office.”

Three Drop Out

 Several candidates have taken out papers for those seats, but none had returned them as of Friday; of the four who could be reached, three said they would not run against an incumbent, while one remained undeterred.

Deputy District Attorneys Judy Levey Meyer, who took out papers for Essegian’s seat Friday prior to learning of the governor’s announcement; Thomas Gowen, who had taken out papers for the Peterson seat earlier; and David Stuart, who had pulled papers for the Essegian and Kolostian seats among others, as well as Los Angeles attorney/author Robert Davenport, who took out papers for Kolostian’s seat, all said they would consider other options.

Woodland Hills attorney Stephen Beecher, however, said he would take on Wright for the seat being given up by Essegian.

“It’s a political appointment just to fill a spot,” Beecher said Friday. “I believe [the governor] should have allowed the seat to go to election instead of putting someone in [be designated on the ballot] as a judge with no experience as a judge.”

Beecher added that he knew nothing about Wright or his background. Wright has been a deputy county counsel since 1993, after having been an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for 18 months, and has spent the last three years advising the Sheriff’s Department on various matters.

Wright grew up in Compton and attended Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts before returning to the West Coast to attend USC. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1991.

Wright, Lewis, and Pfahler said the Governor’s Office explained that they might have to run for election, and all three said they were prepared to run campaigns if needed.

Lewis, a partner in the firm of Rehwald, Rameson, Lewis & Glasner, where he has worked since 1984, wasted no time, hiring the political consulting firm of Cerrell Associates to run a campaign if there is an election.

Lewis has practiced in the Valley since 1978. He is a graduate of UCLA and the University of La Verne San Fernando Valley College of Law.

He was one in one of the first groups of attorneys to be certified by the State Bar as a family law  specialist and chaired the Board of Legal Specialization from 1997 to 1999.

Downtown Lawyer

Pfahler is a partner in the downtown Los Angeles firm of Bannan, Green, Frank and Terzian, where he does civil litigation in addition to serving as counsel for more than 40 public agencies. He went to Bannan Green in 2000 along with his mentor, Richard Terzian, with whom he previously worked at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine and at Lebeouf Lamb Greene & MacRae.

In other election-related developments:

The MetNews learned that Judge Paula Adele Mabrey will not run for re-election and will retire April 28.

Santa Monica attorney George C. Montgomery, who had taken out papers on Wednesday to run for the seat of Judge Melvin Sandvig, switched gears and pulled a second set of forms, this time for the seat of Judge Marion Johnson.

Montgomery said earlier that he was eying Sandvig’s seat because the eight-year incumbent had not taken out papers to run for a new term. But several sources said that was only because the judge had left on vacation before a messenger from his campaign consultant’s office arrived to pick up the check for his filing fee; those sources said the judge would return this week and file.

Trial attorney David Crawford III and Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez Thursday took out forms to circulate for signatures that would enable them to qualify as candidates for Essegian’s seat, while Crawford and Gutierrez also pulled papers for the seat held by Judge Michael E. Knight. Knight was due to retire yesterday, and there was no announcement from the Governor’s Office as to whether an appointment would be made to that seat.

Gutierrez also took out papers for the seats of Peterson and Kolostian.Crawford ran last among four candidates for an open seat in 2002, polling 15 percent of the vote for the seat ultimately won by Paul Bacigalupo, who was a State Bar Court judge at the time of the election.

Gutierrez has run twice, losing runoffs to deputy district attorneys both times.  He received 47 percent against Laura Priver two years ago, after having polled  48 percent against Richard Walmark in 2002.

Stuart, as well as San Fernando Valley practitioners Stephen Feldman and Richard A. Nixon, preceded Crawford and Gutierrez in taking out papers for Knight’s seat; Gowen and West Valley lawyer John Hurney drew papers for Peterson’s spot; Nixon, Stuart, Davenport, andDeputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack took papers for Kolostian’s seat; and Beecher and Stuart took out papers for Essegian’s seat before Meyer did. 


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company