Thursday, December 18, 2008
Czuleger Unveils Portrait, Passes Gavel to McCoy
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger symbolically passed on the gavel yesterday to his successor, current Assistant Presiding Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy, during a ceremony yesterday unveiling the portrait of Czuleger which will adorn the presiding judge’s courtroom at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.
As a crowd of approximately 50 judges and staff gathered in the courtroom, Czuleger stuck his head out of his chambers’ door and jokingly called out:
Czuleger then entered the courtroom, accompanied by his wife, author Rebecca Forster; mother, Helen Czuleger; sister, Miriam Wilhelm; and mother-in-law, Ann Marie Forster.
McCoy welcomed the audience, quipping that he had expected Chief Justice Ronald M. George and Administrative Office of the Courts Director William Vickrey—both of whom have had philosophical differences with the presiding judge—to attend Czuleger’s “hanging”
Over the past two years, McCoy claimed that at any point, he could ask Czuleger how much time was left in Czuleger’s term, and Czuleger would respond along the lines of, “five months, six days, three hours.” McCoy then posed the question to Czuleger, and Czuleger immediately responded, “14 days.”
Growing more serious, McCoy reflected that “this has been a very difficult two years,” and opining that over the past 10 years, each presiding judge has faced “enormous” challenges, with each one greater than the one before.
For Czuleger, McCoy said, there was “a quantum step in difficulty.” But he praised his predecessor as “a real man of courage,” because “it takes courage to walk up to a challenge like that and say ‘I’m going to do it.’”
Acknowledging that Czuleger has left “some challenges” for him to face, McCoy maintained that Czuleger “got us as far as he could in the time he had” in addressing the problems facing the court.
Czuleger’s secretary, Gloria Pedregon—whom Czuleger called “the real boss”—choked up with emotion as she thanked Czuleger, on behalf of his staff, for “an enjoyable two years,” and presented him with a photograph of the staff and a framed issue of the court’s magazine, Gavel to Gavel, featuring an article by Czuleger.
Court Executive Officer John Clarke also praised Czuleger as “extraordinary with the staff,” and being “the essence of leadership” before he presented Czuleger with the portrait to hang on the courtroom’s eastern wall.
But when Czuleger went to hang his portrait alongside the 29 others, he accidentally knocked another portrait down. He caught the falling portrait and added his to the wall, but it was misaligned, hanging at least an inch above the others.
The portrait was also distinctive as the first to depict the presiding judge standing, and was taken from a further distance than any prior portrait, although Czuleger jokingly told the MetNews that he wished the photographer had stood at the far end of the room.
“I liked the law books and the flag in it,” he added, as well as the potted plant in the lower left corner, because “there’s not so much a focus on me.”
After hanging his portrait, Czuleger took the podium briefly and told the audience that for the past two years, “we, meaning all the bench officers and staff, were a great success.” The reason for the court’s successes during his tenure “had little to do with me, and more to do with you, collectively,” he opined.
Reiterating a comment he admitted to making frequently, Czuleger said that “we are the best court system in the world because of the 6,000 employees and 600 bench officers” of which it is comprised.
Czuleger, who will be moving to a civil courtroom in the same building with the advent of the new year, then retrieved a gavel from the bench and handed it to McCoy, saying “I pass this on to great leadership in Tim McCoy…and I look forward to serving under him.”
McCoy accepted the gavel, banged it, and announced that cake was served.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company