Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Superior Court Judge James Bascue Retires
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James A. Bascue has retired, Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger told the MetNews yesterday.
Saying the court honored Bascue’s request to “go quietly,” Czuleger said the judicial officer stepped down without fanfare effective June 1, several weeks after reaching the maximum retirement age of 67.
Prior to his official retirement, Bascue had been away from the court due to health issues and also used his vacation time, the presiding judge said.
Judge Robert A. Dukes, who served as assistant presiding judge alongside Bascue when he was presiding judge from 2001-2002, remarked yesterday on the contributions Bascue made to the court:
“Judge Bascue was an outstanding bench officer and presiding judge. In his role as presiding judge, he unified a court which had just merged with all the municipal courts, and was able to restructure its management such that it was inclusive and addressed what had been some touchy morale issues.”
Toward the end of his tenure, Bascue faced unprecedented budget cuts and addressed those significant financial constraints “in a professional and dedicated manner,” Dukes added.
Judge Terry B. Friedman, who sits in the Santa Monica courthouse where Bascue had worked since 2002, also pointed to the fact that Bascue’s administrative leadership fell at the beginning of trial court unification in Los Angeles County.
“That was a challenging time, and I think he met the challenge very well,” Friedman said.
As presiding judge of the Juvenile Court during the same period, Friedman said he was personally “very appreciative” of Bascue’s leadership as presiding judge.
“He was very supportive of the special role of the juvenile court and was extremely helpful in many of the initiatives that the juvenile court embarked upon, one of which was creation of the first full-time juvenile mental health court in California,” he said.
In 2002, the Judicial Council of California honored Bascue with its Jurist of the Year Award for his key role in leading the court through its first two years of unification.
His term as presiding judge capped a period of more than five years in which he was in a central position to grapple with unprecedented challenges facing the court.
As the supervising judge of the court’s criminal departments in the mid-1990s, Bascue faced an overwhelming load of cases that previously would have been plea-bargained, but instead went to trial because the new Three Strikes Law raised the stakes for defendants. Officials predicted the release of dozens or perhaps hundreds of defendants because of the court’s inability to get them to trial on time, but Bascue managed a redirection of resources that kept the court ahead of the caseload.
Elected assistant presiding judge in 1999, he cautiously steered the court through unification with the county’s 24 municipal courts as state judicial leaders put increasing pressure on the resistant Superior Court. Successfully managing unification of the huge court became Bascue’s top priority as he took office as presiding judge in January 2000.
Although the merger made many aspects of court management unwieldy at first, Bascue tried to assure the countywide institution retained many of the community aspects of the much smaller municipal courts that were absorbed.
He urged courthouse staff to make outreach and community programs a top priority. He also helped implement one-trial jury service, regular bench/bar association meetings, family court information centers, a Self-Help Legal Access Center, a Homeless Court, domestic violence clinics and meet-your-judges events.
Bascue was appointed in 1990 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.
Before coming to the bench, he served as a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney from 1971 to 1990, serving as chief deputy from 1983 to 1985 under District Attorney Robert Philibosian. While a prosecutor, Bascue met and married fellow deputy and now-Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Conner. They separated in June 2001 and were eventually divorced.
In 1987, Bascue was selected chief trial counsel of state Bar in 1987 to oversee the organization’s new lawyer discipline program.
Bascue earned his law degree from UC Davis and his undergraduate degree from what is now California State University, Sacramento.
The judge could not be reached for comment.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company