Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, January 5, 2007


Page 1


Three Names Sent to JNE Commission for Court of Appeal Slot




Three names have been sent by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation as possible appointees to the Court of Appeal, the MetNews has learned.

The governor’s office has asked the commission for its evaluations of  Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric Taylor, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey W. Johnson of the Central District of California, and Gregory R. Smith, head of the appellate practice at Irell & Manella, sources said.

Taylor, 44, confirmed yesterday that he is a candidate for the post. He said he applied last summer because it would be “a new challenge, intellectually, to continue to expand my experience in the judiciary and...a great honor to review cases along with other appellate justices.”

The judge, who has been on the bench for nine years, added:

“I really enjoy the work I’m doing now. It’s a great job, but I think everyone has a responsibility to develop and grow.”

Taylor and Johnson

Taylor is a 1984 graduate of Dartmouth College. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1988 after having externed with then-California Supreme Court Justice Allen Broussard in 1986.

He was an associate with Pettit & Martin from 1988 to 1991 and Sonnenschein & Nath from 1991 to 1992. He then joined Los Angeles County as a deputy county counsel, the post he held when then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the Inglewood Municipal Court in 1998.

He became a Superior Court judge through unification in 2000.

Taylor currently hears felony trials in Torrance. He served as assistant supervising judge in the Southwest District—covering the Torrance, Inglewood, and Redondo Beach courthouses—in 2002 and as supervising judge in 2003.

He was also president of the California Judges Association in 2003-2004, after having served on the board for two years and as a committee chair prior to that.

Johnson, 46, has held his current post since April 20, 1999. His name first surfaced as a potential candidate for an appellate vacancy last summer.

A prime backer, Senior U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian of the Central District, told the MetNews then that Johnson has “a stellar record here” and is a “well-deserving young man.”

Johnson, a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School, did not return a call seeking comment.

He drew international headlines last March when he recommended that the court order the release of Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, a fundraiser for the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Federal authorities claim that the charity has funneled millions of dollars to Hamas, a Palestinian militant group designated by the government as a terrorist organization.

Hamdan, a West Bank native who came to this country 27 years ago on a student visa, has been ordered deported, but was held for two years at the federal prison on Terminal Island because no country would accept him.

In recommending his release, Johnson noted that he had not been charged with a crime and said that immigration authorities had been “dilatory” in completing the removal process.

Senior U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter agreed with Johnson and ordered Hamdan’s release, subject to electronic monitoring and periodic reporting requirements, in July of last year.

Smith’s Experience

Smith, who will turn 63 on Tuesday, is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Harvard Law School. He was admitted to practice in 1969 and has been an Irell & Manella partner since 1974.

He is a past chair of the California State Bar Committee on Appellate Courts, and a member of the Ninth Circuit Advisory Committee on Rules of Practice and Internal Operating Procedures.

Smith has handled hundreds of appellate matters in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Smith was selected as one of Southern California’s “Super Lawyers” by Los Angeles Magazine in 2006, and has been listed in several editions of Best Lawyers in America.

The appointment of an appellate justice with no prior judicial experience would be unusual, but not unprecedented. Justices Richard Mosk of this district’s Div. Five and Earl Johnson Jr. of Div. Seven both came to the court without having served as a judge.

Smith did not return MetNews phone calls.

There are currently no vacancies in this district, but there has been speculation that Presiding Justice Vaino Spencer of Div. One, who is 86 and has been a judge since 1961 and on the appellate court since 1980, may step down.


Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company