Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Senator Dutton: Pirozzi Is ‘Qualified’ for Judicial Post
By a MetNews Staff Writer
State Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, yesterday stood behind San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Elia V. Pirozzi’s recent appointment to the bench and speculated the judge would do “extraordinarily well” in his job.
“I don’t get what the problem is,” the lawmaker told J’Amy Pacheco of the San Bernardino Bulletin, a weekly publication of the Metropolitan News Company. “He’s qualified.”
Dutton’s remarks came after the State Bar’s disclosure Monday that Pirozzi was appointed to the judiciary despite earning a “not qualified” rating from the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission.
The judge, who was sworn in July 3, currently sits in the Chino courthouse. He was selected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on May 23 to succeed now-retired Judge Thomas Glasser.
Dutton said he has known Pirozzi for “a number of years,” and described the judge as “honest, decent and caring.” He also called him “one of the coolest customers I’ve ever seen.”
“He is very well tempered,” Dutton said. “I’ve never seen him lose his temper or even talk badly about somebody. It’s not his way. I think he’ll do an outstanding job.”
The senator speculated that Pirozzi’s lack of criminal experience might have been partly to blame for the rating.
“We need balance in our courts,” he remarked. “We need criminal attorneys and criminal judges, but we also need judges who understand civil. Unfortunately, in California, litigation has almost become a part of the standard way of negotiating a contract or a deal.”
“We need people like Elia – who is not a D.A. or defense attorney – and those seem to be the ones the JNE Commission always recommends; at least the ones who come up to see me,” he continued. “We do need to get some business attorneys.”
Pirozzi received the lowest rating possible from the JNE Commission.
Created by statute as an agency of the State Bar, the commission consists of attorneys and public members who are responsible for evaluating all judicial appointment candidates under consideration by the governor. After vetting each candidate, the panel submits its non-binding recommendations to the Governor’s Office.
JNE’s evaluation process includes checking all information in each judicial candidate’s “Personal Data Questionnaire” obtaining confidential comments from hundreds of lawyers and judges who either know the candidate personally or are included in a random list.
As part of its evaluations, JNE rates each judicial candidate either “not qualified,” “qualified,” “well qualified,” or “exceptionally well qualified.” Ratings are determined with reference to a list of qualifications, including professional ability and experience, industry, intellectual capacity, community respect and commitment to equal justice.
Although the commission’s findings are confidential, the State Bar Board of Governors may release a candidate’s JNE rating when he or she is appointed despite being graded “not qualified.”
In response to the JNE Commission’s request, the board voted at its meeting last Friday, in closed session, to publicly release Pirozzi’s rating after notifying the judge.
Pirozzi was admitted to the State Bar in 1989. Prior to his appointment, he was in private practice focusing on real estate law. From 1990 to 1991, he was a lawyer for the Law Offices of Robert E. Weiss.
In 1991, he co-founded Westprop Real Estate Corporation with his wife, Diane Pirozzi, and served as its president/CEO until recently. The Ontario-based company joined Coldwell Banker as an affiliate office in 2005, changed its name to Coldwell Banker Western Properties, and is now run by Diane Pirozzi.
Commenting on Pirozzi’s real estate background, Dutton said that a “lot of attorneys actually do real estate as well [as practicing law].”
As an attorney, Pirozzi has represented many clients, the lawmaker said, noting he knows of a congressman who used Pirozzi as his attorney.
Opining that business attorneys “do not need to have a lot of courtroom experience,” Dutton said:
“An attorney who could keep me out of court is one that I’d want. We need judges who not only understand court procedures, but also understand what it takes to get the parties to come to some resolution.”
Pirozzi has also served as a pro tem judge for about a year, the senator pointed out.
Pirozzi, 49, earned his law degree from Southwestern University, and a Master of Law degree from the University of San Diego, where he graduated cum laude. His undergraduate degree is from California State University, Northridge.
His past community activities include involvement in the Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana Chambers of Commerce, the Mt. San Antonio Council, and the Community Action Legal Institute, which he founded.
He has been a board of directors member for the California Building Industry Association and National Association of Home Builders. In addition, he has served on the advisory board for KVCR-TV Channel 24, Inland Empire’s public broadcasting station, and the board of directors for Camp Fire Boys and Girls.
A Republican, Pirozzi made unsuccessful runs for Congress in 1998, 1999 and 2000. He chaired the San Bernardino County Republican Party in 2000-2003 and
founded the West Valley Republican Assembly in 2004, the same year he lost a bid for a state Assembly seat.
He is presently a member of the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association, which he joined eight days after his enrobing.
Dutton noted Pirozzi is well respected by the community leaders of San Bernardino County.
“I wish people would stop playing politics with appointments,” he said.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company