Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Page 1


At ‘Person of the Year’ Dinner:

Court’s Leaders Hailed for Spurring Inter-Agency Harmony


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Accolades streamed on Friday at the 18th Annual Metropolitan News-Enterprise “Person of the Year” Dinner, with praise being heaped by speakers not only on the honorees, but on other speakers, as well as the emcee.

The theme of remarks concerning the recipients of the annual award, Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge William MacLaughlin and Assistant Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, was that under their leadership, the court has been working in harmony with other agencies involved in the justice process.

Roger Boren, administrative presiding justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, in presenting plaques to the honorees, said it is “imperative” that his court maintain a positive relationship with the Los Angeles Superior Court. He explained that seven of the eight divisions of his court deal exclusively with appeals from that court which he said is a unique situation in the state.

He told the gathering of about 225 persons:

“With Bill and Steve at the helm of the Superior Court, we’ve had the most cordial of relationships: cooperative, no gamesmanship.

He said MacLaughlin and Czuleger are “always willing to express their concerns and their ideas about what we ought to be doing, but at the same time, being willing to cooperate with and be collegial in every respect.”

Boren said it was “really important” to his court “to have the very best of the Superior Court” serving as pro tems. In an apparent slap at a presiding judge in the early 1990s who refused on occasion to grant leaves to members of the Superior Court who were requested for service on the appeals court, the jurist remarked:

“We haven’t always had the cooperation that we enjoy these days.”

Wife Represents Sheriff

Filling in for Sheriff Lee Baca, who was in the District of Columbia on Friday, were his wife, Carol Baca, and William J. McSweeney chief of the Sheriff Department’s Training Division. McSweeney said that his department’s relationship with the Superior Court “couldn’t be better,” adding that the court’s leadership “is a large reason that’s the case.”

Los Angeles County Bar Assn. President Edith R. Matthai, managing partner of Robie & Matthai, hailed the honorees “for all of the time that they have spent in working with us to try to make sure that we have a good working relationship between the court and the bar, to make sure that we can get the little problems and issues and glitches that come up resolved in a sensible and commonsense fashion.”

William C. Vickrey, administrative director of the courts, said that MacLaughlin and Czuleger “have been tremendous partners with the chief justice and the members of the [Judicial] Council, as well as their colleagues, the presiding judges of the other 57 counties in California in an effort to protect a strong, impartial, fair and accessible court system.”

Diplomacy Cited

METNEWS Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace, in presenting the “Person of the Year” award to MacLaughlin, termed the presiding judge a “consummate diplomat,” observing, “at this particular time, that is exactly what is needed.”

She commented:

“There are judges in L.A. County, and beyond, who are discernibly miffed over some of the management of the states’ courts occurring in San Francisco. The presence here tonight of Bill Vickrey is evidence of Judge MacLaughlin’s ability to maintain positive relationships.

“He is a cool-headed leader and a very, very effective one.”

There have been undercurrents of discontent on the part of Superior Court judges based on the perception that Chief Justice Ronald George has assumed too strong a leadership role, intruding on prerogatives of the trial bench. Vickrey alluded to the friction, pointing to the need “to improve our ability to have a strong, statewide judicial branch, strong consistent policies across the state, to assure the consistent administration of justice, but also a court system that is appropriately managed at the local level.”

Vickrey said that MacLaughlin and Czuleger are “the great people to help us find that appropriate balance.”

MacLaughlin Comments

MacLaughlin, in turn, summed up his relationship with Vickrey, saying:

“Bill mentioned that he and I have had a lot of meetings now for some years, and we do it quietly and privately because I think it’s important that we resolve issues. I think it’s also important that we do it in such a way…that we can find solutions that will serve all of us better.

“Bill Vickrey has never gone back on his word to me on anything. I find that extremely important. I think it’s the foundation and basis of a strong relationship.”

He went on to say:

“That doesn’t mean we always agree—I’m not suggesting that. We do have some disagreements from time to time.”

Personal Attributes

Vickrey drew attention to personal attributes of the two honorees.

He opined that “those same qualities of judicial temperament, work ethic, and commitment to the system” on the part of MacLaughlin that have impressed the bar “are the factors that make him a great judicial leader in our state.” Vickrey continued:

“He’s smart, he’s pragmatic, he’s decisive and firm, but he’s patient with everyone, unflappable regardless of the controversies that we face, and he treats everybody, absolutely everyone, with respect….”

Of Czuleger, the courts director said:

“He’s analytical, he’s brilliant, he’s passionate about everything. And I mean everything—no issue is too large or too small to have extensive debates and arguments about. He’s candid, he is direct, he asks very tough questions, exposes the areas of problems.

“But he is also extraordinarily loyal, and in the end, he has an amazing ability to always be optimistic. He sorts out the issues, and always settles on what the larger picture is, in terms of what we really need to focus on, as we move ahead.”

MacLaughlin said of Czuleger—who presumably will be elected presiding judge for 2007 and 2008 without opposition:

“He is known for a lot of qualities including his intelligence, his integrity, his work ethic, his willingness to dig in and try to find the right solution.”

Riverside attorney James O. Heiting, who made a presentation on behalf of the State Bar, of which he is president, made note that MacLaughlin is a fellow horseman. Jo-Ann Grace also alluded to the presiding judge’s breeding of horses, and quoted from a newspaper article reporting findings that persons who are horse lovers are “hardworking, passionate and have appeal.”

Presenters Draw Praise

MacLaughlin had praise for others on the program. He said of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who had presented scrolls to him and to Czuleger:

“Mike has been a friend of the County of Los Angeles, but he’s near and dear to our hearts. Mike is a friend of the justice system and is a steadfast friend of the courts. And all of us, every judge here, knows that, and are all very grateful for that.”

The presiding judge noted while supervising judge in Van Nuys, he worked with District Attorney Steve Cooley, then head deputy in that district. He declared:

“I never have seen a better head deputy and, the truth is, Steve, I’ve never seen a better DA.”

He said that an example of “Steve’s dedication to the justice system, and his sense of what’s right and wrong” was his effort “to bring, perhaps a greater understanding of the three-strikes law.” MacLaughlin told the county prosecutor:

 “Steve, you will always be one of my heroes.”

The word “hero” was also applied to Boren. Emcee Robert Philibosian, who served as California’s chief assistant attorney general from 1979-82 and chief deputy attorney general in 1982, so denominated Boren based on his successful prosecution of the Hillside Strangler case (which stretched from November 1981 to November 1983).

Philibosian Draws Plaudits

Boren in turn, said of Philibosian:

“Bob Philibosian worked not with me in the Attorney General’s Office. He was my boss. And I have to tell you that I learned a great deal from him, and he provided some great leadership for us in some very troubling times and during some troubling events. And I appreciate all the things that he’s done.

“I wouldn’t be here were it not for Bob Philibosian.”

Cooley expressed similar sentiments about Philibosian, who was district attorney from 1983-84 and had been a member of the District Attorney’s Office from 1968-79. The current district attorney recalled a day when, as “a very young DA in the mid-’70s,” he was walking to the parking lot and “this guy next to me starts talking to me…and he recruits me, and starts mentoring me, and he brought me along.”

He was referring to Philibosian, Cooley related, saying:

“I am what I am today in great measure because of Bob Philibosian.”

He added that Philibosian “brought many people along.”

Cooley said of the emcee, now a partner in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton:

“He’s disciplined, he’s organized, he gets things done. If we had more Bob Philibosians, the world would be a better place.”

MacLaughlin remarked:

“Everybody knows Bob’s career. One of the things I think is talked about less is Bob has been a mentor, an example, within the DA’s Office for many, many years. And there is a number of DAs, not just Steve, who are very grateful to Bob for the leadership that he’s provided.”

METNEWS Editor/Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace expressed gratitude to Philibosian for emceeing the dinner for the 11th year in a row.

Recognition for Zolin

Grace introduced a five-time emcee of the dinner, former Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Officer Frank Zolin, who was the honoree at the first dinner, in 1988.

There were five “persons of the year” designated by the newspaper—starting with the late Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Mildred L. Lillie in 1983—before the annual dinners began.

The black-tie dinner featured strolling violinists, playing requests, and a magician, George Tovar, who performed close-up magic tricks.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company