Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, November 21, 2008


Page 3


Former Pasadena Municipal Court Judge Elvira Mitchell Dies at 70


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Former Pasadena Municipal Court Judge Elvira Mitchell has died at age 70.

A Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department spokesman told the MetNews yesterday that deputies at the department’s Crescenta Valley station, asked to check on Mitchell’s welfare, found her dead in her La Canada Flintridge home.

There were no signs of foul play, he said, adding that Mitchell had been under doctor’s care recently, although he could not discuss her condition.

Mitchell, a native of the Philadelphia, Pa., area, came to California with an older sister after attending Temple University for a year, she once explained to a reporter. She had aspirations of becoming a dancer, but she couldn’t handle the “casting couch situation” and decided to study journalism at Los Angeles City College, she said.

Her interest in the law was developed while working as a secretary for the legal division of a collection agency, she said, leading her to Southwestern Law School, from which she graduated in 1968. She joined the District Attorney’s Office the following year, became supervisor of the juvenile division in Pasadena in 1982, and was appointed to the old municipal court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1985.

Her tenure on the court was a stormy one, as she feuded with other judges over a host of matters. As presiding judge in 1987, she relieved the court administrator of his duties, backing down after the court’s other three judges balked at the move.

She subsequently feuded with her successor as presiding judge, Victor Person—now retired—and took a medical leave in 1988, which she blamed on stress caused by Person’s “attitude and conduct” toward her.

In 1995, after the MetNews reported fresh criticisms of her conduct by other bench officers, she informed then-Presiding Judge Terry Green, now a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, that she would no longer attend the judges’ meetings “which represent the only actual contact I have with the male bench officers of the Pasadena Municipal Court.”

The following year, a local attorney, Fred Rotenberg challenged her for her seat, a campaign that split the court, as Judge Judson Morris Jr. and Commissioner Kevil Martin, both now retired from the bench, endorsed Rotenberg while Commissioner Collette Serio endorsed Mitchell, and Green and Judge Phillip Argento, now retired, proclaimed neutrality.

Rotenberg won the election and later became a Superior Court judge through unification. He is still serving on the court.

Mitchell resumed active membership in the State Bar in 1999 but had been inactive since 2003.


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