Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Superior Court Judge William Chidsey to Step Down
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court William R. Chidsey Jr. has scheduled his retirement for next year after more than 20 years on the bench.
A court spokesperson said yesterday that Chidsey, 70, will officially retire Feb. 25 after serving his last day at Department N at the Compton Courthouse on Dec. 18.
A spokesperson for the judge confirmed the retirement yesterday, but said he was out of the office and unavailable for comment this week. Commissioner Diana Summerhayes is scheduled to take over his courtroom Dec. 23, when new Commissioner Michael Shultz will take over Summerhayes’ calendar.
Chidsey joined the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1989 at the appointment of then-Gov. George Deukmejian and became a Superior Court judge upon court unification in 2000. Before that, he practiced privately in Torrance and Lomita for 17 years after attending law school at USC.
Born in New York, Chidsey moved to the South Bay area when he was 16. He and his younger brother were reared by their father and grandfather after their mother died while they were infants.
Chidsey spent a semester in college after high school, but then enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1965, where he rose from private to specialist over three years. He later finished college at what is now California State University Long Beach before going to law school.
In a 1990 interview he said he could not say why he chose law school, except that he realized during his senior year of college that he needed a graduate degree—in law or business—and USC’s law school accepted him first.
Upon graduation in 1971, Chidsey associated with Frank Gafkowski Jr., who later became a Southeast Municipal Court judge and retired in 1997. When Gafkowski joined the Municipal Court, Chidsey—who was admitted to the State Bar in 1972—became a sole practitioner emphasizing business litigation. He also prepared wills and did some probate and personal injury work.
In 1974, he associated with Milan D. Smith Jr., now a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chidsey joined Smith, Hilbig & Chidsey as a partner in 1975, but returned to solo practice the following year. In 1980, he moved his practice to Lomita, where he associated with Clinton H. Fowler Sr. for seven years before becoming a sole practitioner again in 1988.
Chidsey said in 1990 that he was motivated to become a judge by the time he spent serving as a judge pro tempore and judicial arbitrator on the South Bay Municipal Court from 1983 to 1989 handling mostly traffic and small claims cases.
A Republican, he first sought appointment to the bench from Deukmejian in 1986, encouraging friends and colleagues to write letters of recommendation. One letter of support the governor reportedly received was from Chidsey’s daughter, Marla, then 12. She became a California attorney in 1999 and later became director of compliance and risk management for Convergent Wealth Advisors in Rockville, Md.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company