Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, September 22, 2006


Page 1


Donald F. Miles Named State Bar Court Hearing Judge


By TINA BAY, Staff Writer


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday appointed Bay Area attorney Donald F. Miles to serve as a State Bar Court hearing judge in Los Angeles.

Miles, who is scheduled to take office on Nov. 1, will be replacing Judge Robert Talcott, whose term expires Oct. 31.

First District Court of Appeal Justice Paul Haerle, chair of the State Bar’s Applicant Evaluation and Nomination Committee, could not be reached to confirm whether Miles was the top-ranked candidate on the committee’s list of recommendations for the position.  For all open State Bar court positions, the seven-member committee assists the relevant appointing authority, in this case the governor, by providing it with a list of the top three highest ranking applicants to each post, following an extensive interview and evaluation process. 

Experienced Litigator

Miles, 57, has been a member of the State Bar since 1974 and specializes in insurance and product liability litigation.  He has practiced his whole career in the Bay Area and is currently a partner in the San Francisco office of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley, which he joined in 2004 after working as a director with Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin.

His 17-year tenure at Howard Rice was preceded by five years as a partner with Rogers, Joseph, O’Donnell & Quinn, and five years as an associate and then partner with Pettit & Martin.  Prior to entering practice, Miles clerked for clerked for then-Justice William P. Clark, Jr. of the California Supreme Court from 1974 to 1975. 

He earned his law degree from UC Hastings College of Law, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif and the Thurston Honor Society, and graduated from Stanford University with distinction.

San Francisco lawyer Jerome Fishkin, who has practiced in the State Bar system for 25 years and said he does not know Miles, told the MetNews it was typical for judges to come to the State Bar Court without having practiced before it.

‘Up To The Task’

But Bernard Burk, a director with Howard Rice and chair of the firm’s professional responsibility committee, pointed out that Miles was no newcomer to legal ethics:

“During some of the years Don worked here, he served on our professional responsibility committee and acted as in-house counsel to our firm, so he is well-versed in legal ethics issues.  He’s a superb lawyer and a very fair-minded man.  I think he’ll be a fantastic Bar Court judge.”

State Bar Court Judge Richard A. Honn, the court’s supervising hearing judge in Los Angeles, said the court’s counsel normally teach new judges all of the “ins and outs” of the system, and opined that Miles would be “up to the task.”

Saying he didn’t know Miles, the supervising judge remarked:

“[F]rom what I’ve heard and what I’ve read, it looks like he has an excellent background preparing him for this position.  I look forward to working with him and [will]  assist him in any way I can.”

Honn added:

 “Hopefully he’ll be able to begin his work soon, because we have a lot of court business that we need to take care of,” explaining that Hearing Judge Joann Remke’s recent elevation to presiding judge means the court will be short-handed until the resulting vacancy in San Francisco is filled.

Honn noted that Talcott, who is well-liked by all the court personnel and litigants, would be dearly missed come November.

In addition to practicing law, Miles has been an instructor and adjunct faculty member at Hastings, a faculty member of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and a faculty member and program leader of the Federal Practice Program.  He has authored various publications for CEB and frequently lectures on insurance law and trial practice.

Having been awarded the highest rating in Martindale-Hubbell, Miles is a long-time member of the International Association of Defense Counsel and the San Francisco Bar Association. 

He is a Republican.

Miles’ is the third appointment to the State Bar Court this year, after the Supreme Court’s last month reappointed Judge Patrice McElroy to serve as a San Francisco-based hearing judge, and elevated Remke to the post of presiding judge upon Presiding Judge Ronald Stovitz’ retirement.

The State Bar Court bench consists of five hearing judges at the trial level and three review judges, including the presiding judge, at the appellate level.  The Supreme Court appoints all three review judges and two of the hearing judges, while the remaining three hearing judges are appointed by the governor, speaker of the Assembly, and Senate Committee on Rules.

Miles, who will be paid $112,000 a year in his new position, did not return calls seeking comment on his appointment.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company