Thursday, September 11, 2008
Edmon to Become Superior Court’s First Woman APJ
McCoy to Lead Court in 2009, 2010; Edmon Expected to Succeed Him
By KENNETH OFGANG and SHERRI OKAMOTO, Staff Writers
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lee S. Edmon was elected assistant presiding judge of the court yesterday, becoming the first woman to ever take that position, and presumptively will become the first female presiding judge on Jan. 1, 2011.
The assistant presiding judge has traditionally been elected to become presiding judge, and in accordance with this tradition, current Assistant Presiding Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy was elected to become presiding judge yesterday, as well.
Both elections were uncontested.
At a small gathering in Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger’s chambers, Edmon said that her historic election was the result of “a natural evolution of where the court is now.” She opined that her gender was not a factor, explaining that “there’s lots more women on the bench and lots more women in leadership positions,” so it was just a matter of time before a woman was elected.
“It happens to be the right time,” she said, “and I expect it to happen a lot more in the future.”
“I’m just thrilled it happened now, and with me, because I get to work with her….There’s no one I’d rather have as my APJ.”
He disavowed feeling at all overshadowed by Edmon’s election.
Gesturing at the courthouse wall lined with portraits of the court’s past presiding judges he said:
“See all those portraits? They’re all men. I’d be just another guy up there if I didn’t have [Edmon] up there with me.”
The court’s public information officer, Allan Parachini interrupted, jokingly telling McCoy he would not be getting a portrait because of the court’s budget concerns.
“Oh that’s right,” McCoy replied. Laughing, he suggested, “we need a roof.”
Turning serious, McCoy said that the court’s estimated $800 million budget is a “real challenge” he and Edmon face.
“We will do everything we can to ensure that the high quality of service that we give to the people of Los Angeles does not suffer even though we’re going to have to operate on a smaller budget,” he vowed.
Nonetheless, McCoy continued, “I’m hoping we won’t just survive the next two years, but we’ll come out of it a better, stronger institution.”
Turning to Edmon he said, “You have all the answers, and I’m going to get them all from you.”
Another major challenge, McCoy said is “one that the court is always facing,” because it is the largest trial court in the nation, but still serves 88 communities. “It’s big…” he maintained, “but it’s got to provide services down at the local level.”
To illustrate he point, he drew on the symbolism behind the American flag.
“The blue on the flag is justice,” he explained, “…justice is the glue that holds the nation together.”
Similarly, he said “preserving that community court system that we have and making sure it functions correctly is a big challenge, and an important factor in keeping this wonderful town of ours together.”
Once he and Edmon take office in January, McCoy said the first thing he is going to do is “go around and meet every single person who works in this court,” from judges to bailiffs to court clerks to cafeteria workers.
“Everyone is vital to this court,” he maintained. “I think it’s extremely important for the PJ to interact with them.” No matter how long it takes, he said, he is determined to do it.
“Well, it’s my job to assist, so hopefully I’ll go along on these trips too.” However she echoed McCoy’s sentiments regarding the importance of visiting each courthouse.
The biggest change in store for him in addition to moving offices, McCoy predicted, was finally taking the reins to lead the court. “It’s like one of the Fortune 500 operations, right here in L.A.,” he said.
The assistant presiding judge’s role is “primarily training,” he said. Pointing at Czuleger, McCoy said “it takes two years to learn how to do his job, to fill his shoes. Ever seen how big his shoes are?”
Czuleger claims he dons a size 11, medium. Footwear aside, Czuleger predicted that McCoy and Edmon were “going to do a great job,” adding, “I have great confidence in the leadership in the coming years.”
Edmon announced her candidacy in a “Dear Colleague” letter on May 29, and when no challengers came forth, she “kind of knew” she was likely to be named the new assistant presiding judge before the news became official yesterday, she said.
“I am deeply honored that my colleagues have entrusted me with this important position on our court,” she said. “I look forward to assisting Judge McCoy as presiding judge and working with all the judges on out court in continuing to serve this community.”
She currently serves as supervising judge of the court’s civil departments and is a member of the court’s Executive Committee. She was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2000 after spending 13 years with the international corporate law firm of Dewey Ballantine LLP (now Dewey LaBoeuf).
The 1981 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law began her legal career with the law firm of Adams, Duque and Hazeltine and has been active in charitable and civic activities her entire career.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George named Edmon to the Judicial Council of California in June, succeeding McCoy on the council. She also serves as the chair of the council’s Civil and Small Claims Advisory Committee.
Edmon previously served on the Judicial Council Governing Committee of the Center for Judicial Education and Research and the Task Force on Judicial Service, and was a member of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, the University of Illinois College of Law (Board of Visitors), the Los Angeles County Law Library, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Alliance for Children’s Rights, Inner City Law Center and the Constitutional Rights Foundation.
Additionally, she is a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association Barristers, and the American Bar Association’s nonprofit affiliate, the American Bar Endowment.
In 2006 Edmon was named the Alfred J. McCourtney Trial Judge of the Year by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles.
At 52, she may be the youngest assistant presiding judge-elect ever, being a year younger than Czuleger when Czuleger was elected four years ago.
She is married and has four daughters.
Edmon followed a path similar to that of McCoy, who also served as civil supervising judge and on the Judicial Council, and was similarly unopposed when he ran for assistant presiding judge in 2006. Both are also members of the Executive Committee of the Litigation Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
The two passed off the similarities as mere coincidences. Edmon suggested that since both are Scorpios, “that means we’re in sync.”
McCoy was elected assistant presiding judge in 2006. He was appointed to the court in 1992 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson and elected in subsequent election.
His prior judicial experience includes service in the California Judges Association from 1996 to 1999 and the court’s Executive Committee from 1994 to 1996, as well as involvement in 16 different judicial committees, five of which he has chaired.
He served as a judge pro tempore in the Los Angeles Municipal Court during the 1980s, and as a volunteer settlement officer from 1980 to 1981. He was also a partner at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s Los Angeles office, where he practiced for 17 years.
Prior to his judicial appointment, he served as chief of staff to Matthew Fong when Fong was a member of the State Board of Equalization.
McCoy served four years as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He received a Navy Commendation Medal for his service in Vietnam and for outstanding performance as assistant inspector instructor of the Marine Corps Fourth Military Police battalion.
The Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Student attended Purdue University on a four-year NROTC scholarship, graduating in 1968. He then attended the University of Texas School of Law, graduating with honors in 1975.
He is married and has three children.
The first-ever election of a woman to the second-highest administrative post on the huge court drew an excited response from other women who have been leaders of the bench and bar.
“It’s long overdue,” Shirley Hufstedler told the MetNews. “I’m glad that Lee Edmon’s superior qualifications have been recognized.”
Hufstedler, now senior of counsel to the firm of Morrison & Foerster, was the first woman to serve on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the first person ever to hold the office of U.S. secretary of education. For many years she was the only woman sitting on a federal appellate bench in the United States.
Hufstedler, who served on the Los Angeles Superior Court from 1961 to 1966, noted that she was once the only woman on the court, and that she was one of only seven women admitted to the State Bar during 1950.
“It was not a big pond in which to fish,” she said. Hufstedler credited the civil rights movement of the 1960s in creating awareness among women of the opportunities in the legal profession.
Only recently, she added, has there been recognition “that women on the bench have made significant contributions.”
Hufstedler’s comments were echoed by Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal. Klein was the first woman ever to serve as presiding justice of a California appellate court.
“It’s about time the judges figured we ought to put a woman on the Superior Court in a leadership position,” she said, and she’s particularly happy it’s Edmon.
“I’m very impressed with her as a judge and as a person who is willing to assume these leadership duties,” the jurist commented. “That is no small task. I’m pleased that she has undertaken it....Nobody could be better qualified.”
The small number of women judges in leadership positions, Klein said, is a reflection of the fact that it was not until recently that large numbers of women began entering the profession. Klein pointed out that she was one of only two women in her graduating class in law school.
Klein also noted that female attorneys in the state had no organized statewide voice until California Women Lawyers was founded in 1974, and that there was no national group of women judges before the National Association of Women Judges was put together in 1979 and 1980.
Those and other organizations, she said, have helped overcome “resistance to leadership positions for women.” Edmon, Klein said, is poised to have a successful tenure as assistant presiding judge and, presumably, as presiding judge.
“I think her colleagues will give her the opportunity to succeed and I will compliment them all for doing that,” Klein said.
Klein was a co-founder of NAWJ, as was her fellow presiding justice, Vaino Spencer, who recently retired from the bench.
Spencer, who was appointed to the old Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1961 and recently turned 88, likewise praised the assistant presiding judge-elect and noted the historic nature of her selection.
“I am so thrilled,” Spencer said. “She obviously is so eminently well qualified....I will never forget how happy I was when the Los Angeles Municipal Court elected Elizabeth Ziegler. I’m just delighted that I lived to see the Superior Court do the same thing.”
Ziegler, who died in 2003, served as the municipal court’s presiding judge in 1959 and chaired the county Municipal Court Judges Association in 1962-63.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow of the Central District of California described Edmon’s election as “the latest in a series of firsts for women in the profession in California...each of which has taken a period of time to achieve.” Such “cracks in the glass ceiling,” she said, “have given women a chance to influence the course of justice in this state.”
Morrow, who was the first female president of the State Bar and the second woman to serve as president of the County Bar, said “I think [Edmon] will be a terrific presiding judge.”
Andrea S. Ordin, who practices in the Los Angeles office of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, said Edmon was “a person of great intelligence and superb demeanor, and in addition she has a gift for leadership and collegiality which I think will stand her in great stead.”
Ordin said it was “wonderful” that the Los Angeles Superior Court has become the latest local legal institution to be headed by a woman. She noted that when she was appointed U.S. attorney for the Central District of California by President Carter, she was not only the first woman to hold that position in the district, she was only the third in U.S. history.
Los Angeles attorney Holly Fujie, who is due to become the third woman to head the State Bar once she is sworn in as president next month, said the election of a woman to a leadership position in the Superior Court was “long overdue,” and said she was certain “that Judge Edmon will serve the courts and the bar admirably in her new position.”
Other judges, along with leaders in the profession, offered comments yesterday on Edmon’s selection:
•“I got to know Lee when we served together on the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Lee was president and I was president-elect of the Barristers. Lee will be an asset to the Los Angeles County Superior Court as an institution and to the people who use the courts on a daily basis. She is smart, fair and a genuinely nice person.”—California Deputy Attorney General Bill Bilderback.
•“Absolutely wonderful news!”—Gretchen Nelson, immediate past president of the County Bar.
•“Lee Edmon will make us all very proud. She will be an outstanding presiding judge and will continue the tradition of administrative excellence in the Los Angeles Superior Court.”—Terry W. Bird, principal in the Los Angeles firm of Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg.
•“Long overdue....an excellent choice. This is the year for history-making elections.”—Superior Court Judge Kelvin D. Filer.
•“Regardless of gender, she is an outstanding candidate. And it is great to see a woman in the APJ position.”—Superior Court Judge Lisa Hart Cole
•“Judge Lee Edmon is the quintessential choice for this position. Her hard work, unflagging determination and innovative responsiveness to the court’s needs make her the right person at the right time for this difficult assignment.”—Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu
•“This is a true milestone and proud moment for this court. It is also a reflection of the extraordinarily high level of esteem in which Judge Lee Edmon is held by her colleagues.”—Superior Court Judge Judith C. Chirlin
•“Judge Edmon will be a standout APJ. She combines intelligence, good judgment and compassion. She defines the word ‘colleague.’ It is fitting that her election coincides with another election this year that will also bring a first to the top executive office no matter what the outcome.” —Superior Court Judge Helen Bendix
•“I have worked closely with Lee as assistant supervising judge of civil [courts] for over a year. She is one of the smartest and hardest working people I have ever met, both on the bench and in the practice of law. She shows a special sensitivity to both her colleagues on the bench and to all the court’s employees. The only real question is why someone as smart and as talented as Lee would want to undertake the challenges given the tough financial times ahead for our court and the ongoing problems of trying to obtain fair treatment for this Court when scarce funds are allocated statewide. I know she will be an excellent leader and spokesman for our court.”—Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger
•“It’s about time.”—Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox
•“It is very exciting to have Judge Lee Edmon elected as assistant presiding judge. There is no judge smarter and no judge harder working. She is an extremely nice person, and a caring person. She has a talent for bringing people together and she will be a unifying force for the court, especially needed in these times of budgetary crisis in the state.”—Judge Margaret S. Henry
•“Our court and the public it serves are fortunate to have the leadership of Judge Edmon. She is a remarkably qualified, thoughtful and dedicated judge with the skill and ability to lead our vast and diverse court.”—Superior Court Judge Joe W. Hilberman
•“I have been a judge for 21 years....I have worked with many fine presiding judges and have observed court leadership up close.....Our court has developed innovative programs and strong community and bar relationships for the betterment of the administration of justice.....to accomplish this we have had the benefit of some of the finest court and administrative leadership. Lee Edmon was elected without opposition because her colleagues recognize that she will continue the fine leadership of the Los Angeles Superior Court. She is a wonderful listener and communicator, sensitive to court challenges along with the community needs. She is respected not only by her colleagues on the bench but also by the bar. Lee and I, along with other women in the legal field, stand on the shoulders of women, who decades earlier made our passage easier. Judge Edmon was selected by her colleagues because of her competency and talents. I expect Judge Edmon will continue our fine tradition as a court and the community will be the beneficiary. I am excited to have a front row seat.”—Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis
•“Never mind the fact that the new APJ is a woman. She happens to be a great person and one of the most outstanding judges and leaders on our court.”—Superior Court Judge Michael Nash
•“I couldn’t be more pleased with the election of Judge Edmon today as APJ. She is a good friend, an excellent judge and an accomplished leader. Our court will be in good hands under Judge McCoy and Judge Edmon and I look forward to the coming years with them at the helm.”—Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger
•“I applaud the election of Lee Edmon as assistant presiding judge. It is a well-deserved honor for an extremely hard-working and genuinely good person. It is jarring to think that it has taken until 2008 for a woman to be elected to this position.”—Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader
•“While the election of the presiding judge by acclamation is traditional, the unopposed election of the APJ is unusual. I can recall several hotly contested APJ contests over the years. While our court is blessed with several highly talented individuals who could perform the duties of the APJ with distinction, Lee Smalley Edmon is certainly at the top of that class. The fact she was elected without opposition speaks for itself. And I hope she uses her judgment and discretion wisely and does not assign me to Pearblossom Juvenile.”—Superior Court Judge Lance Ito
•“Judge Edmon is an absolutely terrific choice on every level. She’s very intelligent, diligent, a great person and is wonderful to work with. In short, she’s everything that a judge should be. Her selection could not be better news for our court. There is no doubt that she will effectively deal with the difficult issues that confront our bench now and in the future. The fact she ran unopposed speaks to the level of respect that her colleagues have for her.” —Superior Court Judge Kenneth A. Black
•“It was long in coming but I am so pleased that today we made history by electing our first female assistant presiding judge, and in two years our first female PJ. Lee is the best.”—Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana
•“I have known Lee Edmon for almost 20 years dating back to her days as a very active member of the L.A. County Bar Association, where she eventually rose to serve as president....She is a hard-working voice of reason, qualities that will serve her well, working with Judge McCoy, in guiding the Superior Court during these difficult times. Lee inspires confidence wherever she goes.”—Superior Court Judge John P. Doyle
“The elections of Judges McCoy and Edmond to the positions of presiding and assistant presiding judge, respectively, by unanimous vote, is a reflection of the confidence the local judiciary has in these two individuals. The historical significance of Judge Edmond’s election as the first woman to hold this position is a proud moment for the Los Angeles Superior Court. I look forward to her continuing outstanding leadership.”—Superior Court Judge Rudolph Diaz
•“Lee is a remarkable person, and an outstanding jurist. Her leadership in judicial education and administration throughout the years has earned her this landmark honor.—Superior Court Judge Eric C. Taylor
•“On behalf of the officers, Board of Trustees and staff of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, I would like to congratulate Judge Lee Edmon on her election as assistant presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. On a personal note, Judge Edmon is an outstanding selection and both the legal profession and the court will greatly benefit from her wisdom, leadership and guidance. Judge Edmon was one of the best presidents of this Association and will prove to be a great leader of the Los Angeles Superior Court.”—County Bar President Danette E. Meyers
•“Judge Lee S. Edmon is energetic, highly experienced, fair-minded, and truly a leader, so that without regard to her gender she is unquestionably qualified to lead our court as assistant presiding judge. I am happy that she also managed to make history, as the first female ever to have been elected to such a post, and to have risen above stereotypical perceptions of what had been viewed as male-dominated positions of leadership. I wish her and Judge Charles W. McCoy the very best, and remain confident that they will serve the interest of our court with honor and distinction.”—Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan
•“I am pleased and honored to serve under the leadership of these two fine jurists. Judge McCoy has worked diligently as the assistant presiding judge and is ready for the many challenges he will face. Judge Edmon has worked in a number of important assignments and she will make an excellent assistant Presiding Judge; her gender is irrelevant to the tasks she will face.”—Superior Court Judge Victor E. Chavez, a former presiding judge of the court.
•“I am proud for all the women in our Los Angeles County judiciary that Judge Edmon was elected. It is another indication that gender no longer plays the significant impediment to leadership on our court as it perhaps has in past decades. I wish her well as she assumes the office at a very challenging time for our Los Angeles Superior Court.”—Superior Court Judge Martha Bellinger
•“The Los Angeles County Superior Court has hit a ‘home-run’ with its election of Judge Lee Edmon to be its next assistant presiding judge. Judge Lee Edmon is an outstanding jurist and a real asset to the judiciary.”—Attorney Robert H. Tourtelot of Tourtelot & Butler, PLC
•“She’ll be terrific. When I joined Dewey Ballantine in l99l she was a partner and I had the opportunity to work with her on a couple of matters. She’ smart, hardworking, and has always been committed to the bar and public service. I’ve only heard good things about her work on the bench.”—John Van de Kamp, former State Bar president and California attorney general, now of counsel to Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP.
•“The election today of Tim McCoy as our new presiding judge is a tribute to him and to the skills he continues to bring to the Court and the legal community as a whole, and I, for one, welcome him into a tough job. The election of Lee Edmon as our new assistant presiding judge is likewise welcome. I had the privilege of serving as one of her assistant supervising judges for a brief period of time and can attest to her capable managerial skills, her concerns for all the judges and the entire legal community, and her dedication to what we all believe is the finest trial court in the nation. With this election, gender has become a non-issue; a very high degree of competence coupled with commitment are what is important.—Superior Court Judge Michael Solner.
•“Lee Edmon is a dedicated, talented and forthright jurist who will make an excellent assistant presiding judge as well as a historic deserving presiding judge.”—Former State Bar President Karen Nobumoto
•“Judge Edmon, a past Barristers and LACBA President, truly understands the demands of practice and the joy of service. She’ll be fantastic.”—Gavin Hachiya Wasserman, former Barristers president and attorney with Wasserman & Wasserman, LLP
•“Congratulations to Judge Lee Edmon. It’s no surprise that she was the one to shatter the glass ceiling. She will do a great job for the court, and the public will be well served.”—Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield
•“It is wonderful that the first woman elected as assistant presiding judge is also so well qualified for the position. Our entire community will benefit from her commitment to make the court a place of true justice for all who enter.”—Former County Bar President Edith Matthai, attorney with the firm of Robie & Matthai.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company