Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Commissioner Ronald J. Slick Retires, Czuleger Calls Election for Post
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Ronald J. Slick has retired after 12 years on the bench, prompting the court’s presiding judge to order a prompt election for his successor.
Slick, of Long Beach, left office March 31, a court spokesperson told the MetNews.
A 1972 admittee to the State Bar of California, Slick attended law school at Pepperdine, and represented criminal defendants before being elected commissioner by judges of the Superior Court in 1996.
The California Supreme Court held in 1992 that Slick had provided ineffective assistance at trial to Robert Paul Wilson, who was sentenced to death for the 1984 robbery and murder of Arizona tool salesman Roy Swader. Throwing out Wilson’s death sentence, the court said that Slick should have objected to the admission of taped telephone conversations involving the potential killing of a witness who identified Wilson as having been with the victim in Indio just before the murder.
The State Bar’s Web site indicates, however, that Slick was not the subject of any public discipline or administrative action in connection with the matter, and Wilson subsequently received a second death sentence, after a new trial, which the Supreme Court upheld on appeal.
Slick’s retirement brings to four the number of currently vacant commissioner posts on the Los Angeles Superior Court. Commissioners Albert J. Garcia, Richard A. Curtis, Gary A. Polinsky and Victor I. Reichman have also retired in the last month, although Polinsky’s position was filled last week when the court’s judges chose Sharon L. Miller to replace him in an election called by Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger.
It also raises questions about which posts will be converted into judgeships under AB 159.
Enacted last year, the measure provides for the conversion of up to 162 subordinate judicial officer positions, including commissioner posts, into judgeships to be filled by the governor. Sixteen positions statewide are to be converted by June 30 of this year, and up to 16 vacant positions are to be converted each fiscal year hereafter.
Pursuant to the law, the Judicial Council in December adopted a methodology for identifying positions for conversion according to judicial need that requires courts to notify the Administrative Office of the Court promptly upon confirmation that a position eligible for conversion has or will become vacant, and provide the anticipated date of vacancy.
Courts are prohibited under the scheme from filling a position until the council’s Executive and Planning Committee decides whether to convert it. The council’s methodology does not set a deadline by which the committee must act, but the committee has the ability to approve the appointment of temporary subordinate judicial officers to fill converted positions pending an appointment by the governor.
In a report released in connection with the announcement of the methodology, the council had indicated that two vacant commissioner positions in the Los Angeles Superior Court would be converted into judgeships by the end of this fiscal year.
Czuleger told the MetNews that Reichman’s position would be one of the two, but said that he had decided to fill Slick’s post by calling an election and had already directed that ballots be sent to judges for that purpose. Westside attorney Alan Rubin of Rubin & Adelson is expected to prevail, based on the court’s tradition of selecting the highest-ranked candidate on the list of nominees.
Calls to the Judicial Council seeking comment on Czuleger’s decision to fill the post were not returned.
Czuleger also said he did not know whether either of the remaining vacant positions—those previously held by Garcia and Curtis—would be filled by election or converted, saying that he was negotiating with the council for authority to fill vacant positions rather than leave them open while the council determines whether to convert them and, if so, while the governor then decides who to appoint.
“I can fill them within a month,” Czuleger said, noting the council’s methodology could impede court operations because the conversion of a particular commissionership could take “months to approve,” followed by “months more” until the governor fills the post.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company