Monday, October 22, 2007
Commissioner Dobbs to Retire, Post May Become Judgeship
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Ann Dobbs said Friday she intends to retire from the bench, raising the possibility that the position could be converted to a judgeship under the recently enacted Assembly Bill 159.
Dobbs, who was elected to the position in 2001, told the MetNews that she plans to step down effective Oct. 31 in order to spend more time with her family and friends.
She has presided over family law hearings for the entirety of her time on the bench, serving all but the first three weeks of her tenure in the Central District at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.
Dobbs earned her law degree from Southwestern Law School and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1984. She practiced family law until 1994, when she returned to the school as assistant dean of career counseling.
In 1998, she returned to family law, practicing with the firm of Trope & Trope until her election by the judges of the court to serve as commissioner.
Although she said that being a commissioner was time consuming, and at times difficult and stressful, she described her time on the bench as a “wonderful experience.” She praised the camaraderie of the family law bench, as well as the collegiality of practitioners who had appeared before her.
“They were a good bunch to work with,” she said.
Dobbs’ retirement raises the question whether Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger will call an election to replace Dobbs, or whether the position will be converted to a judgeship in light of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing of AB 159 last week.
Under local rules, vacant superior court commissioner positions are filled by a vote of the judges from a list of candidates nominated by a court panel, with the timing of the election determined by the presiding superior court judge.
However, AB 159, which also created 50 new judgeships around the state, authorized the conversion of 162 subordinate judicial officer positions, including commissioner posts, to judgeships. Once converted, the positions would be filled by the governor.
The bill provides that the Judicial Council must convert 16 vacant subordinate judicial officer positions in eligible superior courts to judgeships during the 2007-08 fiscal year, and requires the council to develop uniform allocation standards to identify the positions to be converted according to judicial need.
The bill also mandates that, beginning in the 2008-09 fiscal year, the council must identify up to 16 vacant positions per fiscal year according to its allocation standards, and convert them to judgeships upon notice to, and ratification by, the Legislature.
Donna Hershkowitz, acting director of the Office of Government Affairs for the Judicial Council, told the MetNews that the council plans to consider a proposal at its Oct. 26 meeting to allocate the first set of conversions based upon courts with eligible positions.
The council previously identified 162 positions statewide to be converted in a Judgeship Needs Study made public Feb. 14, including 78 positions in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The council approved the conversion of these positions at a meeting held Feb. 23.
Hershkowitz said that less than 16 of the positions identified in the study are currently vacant, and she expects all of these vacancies to be converted upon the council’s adoption of an allocation proposal.
Czuleger was unavailable for comment on whether he anticipated calling an election to fill Dobbs’ position, or whether the position would be converted.
However, given that the council’s Feb. 14 study stated that it was “not appropriate for [subordinate judicial officers] to handle any part of [the] case” in most family law matters, Dobbs’ position could become one of the first 16 positions converted to a judgeship under the bill, and the first in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
When asked about the procedure for converting further positions beginning in the 2008-09 fiscal year, Hershkowitz said that she expects the council to identify positions and submit them to the Legislature for ratification in groups, rather than on an individual basis.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company