Monday, August 4, 2008
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Leon S. Kaplan Retires Today
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Leon Kaplan retires today after almost 27 years on the bench.
A former Los Angeles Municipal Court judge who was elected to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1986 in what was then the most expensive judicial race in county history, Kaplan, 64, served his last day at the Van Nuys courthouse on July 14.
Kaplan joined the bench in 1981, when then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court.
In 1986, he prevailed against then-Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Alban Niles in a race for a seat on the Superior Court, spending $212,000 on the race to Niles’ $117,000. Niles, who himself joined the Superior Court in 1996, once told the MetNews Kaplan had “bought the seat.”
The race also led to a federal suit by Kaplan challenging Los Angeles County’s practice of requiring candidates for judicial and other nonpartisan offices to prepay a printing charge before the county will mail official campaign statements to voters.
In the 1986 election, the base fee for a superior court candidate was $52,000 for the primary election, and $27,500 for the runoff election, and Kaplan sought to have the printing-fee requirement struck down.
However, the district court ruled against him and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in Kaplan v. County of Los Angeles (1990) 894 F.2d 1076, ruling that the requirement did not unduly interfere with constitutionally protected speech.
The Ninth Circuit also rejected Kaplan’s argument that the requirement unlawfully discriminated against candidates on the basis of wealth, concluding that “judges cannot iron out electoral disparity resulting from differences in candidates financial resources.” Kaplan appealed, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined certiorari.
Born in Santiago, Chile to Polish immigrants, Kaplan came to the United States 15 years later in 1959.
He attended college at UCLA, graduating in 1965, and then graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 1968 before being admitted to the State Bar the following year.
Kaplan began his career as a volunteer attorney with the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation in San Francisco
In 1972, he joined the Youth Law Center in San Francisco as a staff attorney, where he received a federal grant to reduce street crime by developing neighborhood-based alternatives to arrest, detention and imprisonment of juveniles.
Kaplan entered private practice in Inglewood in 1973, first with the firm of Jacoby & Meyers, and then as a sole practitioner the following year.
He joined the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office in 1975, and later that year joined the California Youth Authority Appeals Board, where he remained until joining the bench.
Now known as the Youthful Offender Parole Board, the board holds responsibility for determining California Youth Authority institutional designation and earliest possible release for juvenile offenders, as well as parole eligibility and revocation.
Kaplan’s retirement brings the number of judicial vacancies in the county to 24.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company