Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Page 1


Commissioner Patricia Nieto Files for Open Superior Court Seat


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Patricia Nieto has entered the race for the Los Angeles Superior Court seat being vacated by retiring Judge Alan Kalkin.

Nieto, a commissioner since July and a referee before that, joins state Deputy Attorney General Lance Winters, who had previously taken out papers to run for the seat.

The 56-year-old Nieto told the METNEWS yesterday that “people  have been pushing me to” become a candidate, and that a judicial candidacy was a logical step after having gone from attorney to referee to commissioner.

She acknowledged the likelihood of a hard fought race with Winters, which would be the latest in a series of recent contests in which prosecutors have gone head-to-head against subordinate judicial officers.

No Consultant Yet

Nieto said she has not yet hired a political consultant, but that she expects to talk to several. “I’m not sure if I’ll be interviewing them or they’ll be interviewing me,” she quipped, adding that she would be meeting this week with supporters to plan the campaign.

“I’m actually very flattered” that fellow judicial officers and attorneys have encouraged her to run for the court, she said. “I’m hoping I don’t let them down.”

Nieto began working for the court as an as-needed referee in 2001 and was given a full-time juvenile delinquency referee assignment in January 2005. Prior to serving on the bench, she was in private practice handling mainly juvenile dependency and delinquency matters. 

Small Firm

From the time she was admitted to the State Bar in 1979 until 1985, she worked in the small general practice law firm then named Romero, Paz, Rodriguez & Sanora. One of the partners, now-Superior Court Judge Steven Sanora, swore her in last summer when she became a commissioner.

Her affiliations have included the Mexican American Bar Association, the Juvenile Courts Bar Association, and the National Council of La Raza.  A native of Kansas City, she earned her law degree from USC in 1977 and her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in 1974, and she is married to Monterey Park attorney Timothy Martella.

In other election-related news:

•Superior Court Judge Francis A. Gately Jr. confirmed that he will not run for re-election, and said he is undecided as to whether he will serve out his term, as he is already eligible for retirement with maximum benefits.

Gately, 67, said he will probably offer to serve on assignment after he retires. “I love this job, I love the people I come across every day,” he commented, but added that he was looking for more time for travel and hobbies, including growing orchids and making jewelry.

Gately maintained a law practice in El Monte from 1972 to 1987 and was appointed commissioner of the old Rio Hondo Municipal Court in 1988. Then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him a judge of the court in 1989 and he became a Superior Court judge through unification in 2000.

He was the last chairman of the Municipal Courts Presiding Judges Association of Los Angeles County, which became defunct once the municipal courts were abolished.

•Redondo Beach attorney Pattricia Vienna said she was considering running for an open seat, but would not make a final decision until Feb. 11, the last day on which non-incumbents may file declarations of intent to run for the seats of incumbents who have not filed.

Vienna, who said she would not run against a sitting commissioner, said she became interested in the idea of running after she became a judge pro tem five years ago.

She spent 18 years with a small firm in Redondo Beach, mostly in the area of commercial finance law, and has had a general civil practice of her own in the same city the past three years. Vienna, past president of the Benjamin Aranda Inn of Court, said she believes the bench needs more members with business experience. 

With many of the judges being ex-prosecutors who have never done civil work, she commented, “you show them a UCC financing statement, sometimes they look at you as if you have two heads.”

She acknowledged that her candidacy was “a long shot,” because only two private practitioners have been elected to the court in the last 20 years and because she does not plan to hire a consultant or spend a great deal of money on the campaign. “I’m not going to be brokenhearted” in the event of a loss, she said.


 Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company