Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Page 1


Superior Court Judge Francis Gately to Retire in November


By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Francis “Frank” Gately has slated his official retirement for Nov. 30, but said he will use his accrued vacation time so that his last day presiding will be Oct. 21.

But the 19-year veteran jurist said he will return to the bench “from time to time,” sitting on assignment. “Exactly how much depends on what else is going on,” he said.

The 67-year old said he made his decision to retire because “time’s a-footin,’ and I’d like to be able to enjoy some things I haven’t had the time to do.”

In addition to spending more time with his family, and “maybe a little more travel,” he said “I have a couple hobbies I used to have that I’d like to catch up on.”  

Those hobbies include raising orchids and making what he jokingly called, “‘authentic’ Navajo silver jewelry.” He explained “even though I’m Irish, I think I can do a pretty good job of replicating some of that.”

In jest, he said that his proudest accomplishment was “saving the western world.”

He was appointed to the old Rio Hondo Municipal Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian the same day the Berlin wall fell. “I like to tell all my friends that once the Commies heard I was judge, they surrendered,” he said. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Turning slightly more serious, he said, “I’ve worked in the courts basically all my adult life,” he said. “I think I’m one of the last of the leadership of the old muni courts to retire.”

Gately served as chair of the Municipal Court Judges Association of Los Angeles County in 1994 and of the Municipal Court Presiding Judges Association “for 20 days” before court unification in 2000. “I think I can brag that I was the only chair of both organizations,” he added.

He also said he has seen “a lot of changes” in the past two decades. Even though unification cut his term as chair of the Presiding Judges Association short, he opined that unification was “very helpful” because it created a “uniform way of approaching things,” allowed caseloads to be divided more evenly, and “consolidated” much administrative work.

Other positive changes include an increase in formal continuing education programs,he said.

“There are more courses than ever,” he said. “That’s really nice to have.”

The New York native was raised in Southern California, graduating from Loyola High School, Loyola University, and Loyola Law School.

He served from officer candidate to lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, and performed two tours of duty aboard the USS Prichett, receiving two Campaign Ribbons and a Campaign Service Medal.

Gately spent 15 years in private practice, periodically serving as a judge pro tempore in the Rio Hondo court before being elected commissioner in 1987, and appointed as a judge in 1989. He was elected in 1990, reelected in 1996, and elevated to the Los Angeles Superior Court  by unification in 2000.

Among the most rewarding aspects of his career he said, was “putting marriages and families back together” in domestic violence cases. “I can’t tell you how many people have come back to me and said ‘Judge, you saved my marriage,’” he reminisced.

 “When anyone reflects on their life they like to think they made a difference in the world,” he said. “I like to have played a little role in that.”

Gately had been slated to leave the bench in January, as he did not run for re-election. But he indicated earlier that he was considering departing before the end of the term.

His successor will be chosen in a November runoff between Deputy District Attorney Hilleri Grossman Merritt and civil practitioner Steven A. Simons.


Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company