Monday, December 31, 2007
L.A. Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs to Retire
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs, who was reappointed to the court in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after losing her bid for re-election, confirmed Friday that she will step down from the bench next year.
Janavs, 71, declined further comment when contacted by the MetNews, but a spokesperson for court’s Public Information Office said that her retirement will become effective March 4. The spokesperson also said that Janavs’ last day on the bench will likely be Jan. 31.
The first Los Angeles Superior Court judge to be defeated for re-election in 18 years, Janavs lost her 2006 bid for reelection to Lynn D. Olson, a non-practicing attorney who ran a Manhattan Beach eatery with her husband, Hermosa Beach City Councilman Michael Keegan.
Despite being rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association—the association’s highest possible rating—Janavs received 46 percent of the vote in the election in contrast to Olson’s 54 percent. The association had rated Olson “not qualified” after she declined to meet with the committee.
Shortly after Janavs’ defeat, Schwarzenegger announced that he would reappoint her “as soon as she completes the paperwork,” after being urged to do so by numerous judges and lawyers.
Janavs is a native of the Baltic republic of Latvia, which was invaded by Russian troops in 1941 when she was four years old, and then invaded by German troops during World War II. Janavs and her family took refuge in 1944 in a camp for displaced persons in southern Germany, then came to the United States in 1950 under the sponsorship of the Unitarian Church, settling in Los Gatos.
She received her law degree from Boalt Hall College of Law in 1961, and her undergraduate degree from San Jose State University in 1958. She was admitted to practice in 1962 and became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, rising through the ranks to become first assistant chief of the Civil Division before then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed her to the Superior Court in 1986.
In 1990, then-U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., recommended Janavs for appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, but then-President George H. W. Bush did not take Wilson’s advice. Describing herself as a moderate Republican, Janavs commented at the time that she was deemed “too liberal” by the administration.
A longtime member of the California Judges Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and the National Association of Women Judges, Janavs participated in the Judges Extern Program at California Sate University, Los Angeles.
The Department of Justice awarded her its Meritorious Service Award in 1967, and the Director’s Award for Superior Performance in 1981. She also received the Commissioner’s Special Citation from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1980.
Janavs would have had to stand for reelection in 2008, and her seat will now be filled by election for the term beginning in January 2009. Filing for the June 3 primary begins Jan. 28.
When notified of Janavs’ decision to retire, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Solner said:
“Judge Janavs has been a tremendous asset, not only to the court, but to the people of Los Angeles, and she will be sorely missed. I have had the pleasure of serving with her in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the 70s and have followed her career in public service and I can’t think of a better person to serve the public’s interest.”
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Andria Richey agreed, saying:
“She has run that writs department with such great intelligence, energy and fortitude, it is hard to imagine anyone being able to fill her shoes. I will miss her, as will our entire legal community.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John A. Kronstadt said, “There is no finer jurist; there is no better person. Dzintra Janavs embodies the title, ‘Honorable.’”
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company