Friday, February 2, 2007
Judge Valerie Baker Confirmed to U.S. District Court
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Valerie L. Baker was confirmed yesterday to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Baker, 57, was approved on a unanimous voice vote of the Senate after brief debate.
The jurist, who runs a civil fast-track courtroom in Santa Monica, said she has had a “tremendous interest” in federal court since her early days of practice, both in private civil practice and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the late 1970s. “I thought that being a federal judge would be one of the greatest jobs in the legal profession,” Baker said.
She said it had taken about 18 months to navigate the process, which includes consideration by the bipartisan Federal Judicial Qualifications Committee and the White House, then nomination by the president and review by the Senate.
The Minneapolis native was nominated on May 4 of last year to succeed Judge Consuelo Marshall, who took senior status on Oct. 24, 2005. She was unanimously rated “well qualified” by the American Bar Association’s evaluations panel.
Her nomination, as well as that of Judge Philip Gutierrez, who was confirmed Tuesday, appeared likely to be approved last year, before the pre-election recess. But those plans were scuttled when a Republican “hold” on a Michigan nominee caused a previous bipartisan agreement to unravel.
Baker and Gutierrez both cleared the Judiciary Committee without dissent last September.
There is currently no scheduled swearing-in date, as the Executive Branch must issue a formal commission before that can occur. Baker also said she has several hearings scheduled.
Baker was a partner in the Los Angeles firm of Lillick, McHose, and Charles, specializing in business litigation, when then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed her to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in February 1986. She had joined Lillick McHouse as an associate in 1980 after her three-year tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Baker graduated from UC Santa Barbara, where she majored in English, in 1971. She went on to earn a master’s degree, also in English, from the same school before attending UCLA law school, where she was book review editor of the Law Review and graduated in 1975.
She was an associate at Overton, Lyman & Prince before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney.
As a judge, she has had an extremely diverse set of assignments. She did misdemeanor trials and arraignments and unlawful detainers in the municipal court, where she served for a year before Deukmejian elevated her. She later sat in the Eastlake and Los Padrinos juvenile courts and the downtown criminal courts before sitting as a law and motion judge at what is now the Stanley Mosk Courthouse for a little over a year in the early 1990s.
She also heard long-cause trials in Central Civil West and then went back to the central courthouse to take over a fast-track calendar before taking up her current assignment over seven years ago in the West District.
While federal judges hear lengthy dockets made up of both civil and criminal cases, Baker said she was undaunted. “I’ll work hard at making it a manageable assignment,” she commented.
She said that while many individuals were helpful in the process, she was particularly grateful to former U.S. Attorney Debra Yang for encouraging her to apply.
The Senate yesterday also confirmed two other district judges, Lawrence J. O’Neill for the Eastern District of California and Gregory K. Frizzell for the Northern District of Oklahoma. O’Neill, a magistrate judge in Fresno, was confirmed on a roll call vote of 97-0 and Frizzell, a district court judge in Tulsa, on a vote of 99-0.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company