Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Honorees, Attendees Praised at ‘Person of the Year’ Dinner
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Words of high praise flowed Friday night at the 21st annual Metropolitan News-Enterprise “Person of the Year” dinner for both the two honorees—Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles W. “Tim” McCoy Jr. and Assistant Presiding Judge Lee S. Edmon—and for attendees.
In a program following the debut performance of the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic Orchestra, McCoy lauded the assembled members of the legal community as “treasures” and told them the award was really “about us and our ability to work together.”
The black-tie dinner, held at a private club downtown, was attended by about 242 persons.
Accepting his award from MetNews Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace, McCoy recounted his presence at a ceremony last month to swear in Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich for an eighth term, when McCoy noticed Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and Los Angeles County Public Defender Michael P. Judge together in the audience.
“Think—two of the best people in the nation sitting together as colleagues and friends,” the presiding judge said, echoing Cooley’s comments earlier in the evening highlighting the importance of partnerships in maintaining a functional judicial system.
Edmon offered similar remarks, commenting that it was “a great honor” to be trusted as assistant presiding justice, and telling attendees that the judges of the Superior Court are her “personal persons of the year, every year.”
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Robert Philibosian, now a partner in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP, reprised his role as the event’s master of ceremonies for the 13th time, having broken a 12-year streak last year in order to be honored himself as a MetNews Person of the Year.
Following brief remarks by Antonovich, a 2002 honoree, Judge praised McCoy and Edmon as a “great team,” and called for an increase in judicial compensation, remarking that it is “foolish to shortchange people making the most important decisions in this state.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, a 1999 honoree, told attendees that “America’s freedom and everything we stand for as a nation is due to laws,” and shared his “hope and dream” that the next appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court would come from Los Angeles County.
Presenting scrolls from the Sheriff’s Department, he told the honorees the certificates were difficult to obtain, quipping “it’s easer to get a gun permit.”
Los Angeles County Bar Association President Danette E. Meyers recounted her first meeting with Edmon 20 years ago—telling attendees she was impressed off the bat by a then-pregnant Edmon “telling big men what to do”—and Meyers called the judge “an inspiration and a joy.”
But Meyers said she did not envy the judges’ roles given the court’s budget shortfall and a Court of Appeal ruling last year holding Los Angeles County’s payment of benefits to Superior Court judges—over and above those given all judges under state law—unconstitutional. Pledging to work with the judges, Meyers asked them to call on the association “any time you need us.”
State Bar President Holly Fujie said she was “delighted” to have McCoy and Edmon leading the court. She cited McCoy’s “wisdom, warmth, common sense, humility and…fine knowledge of the law.”
Remarking on Edmon’s status as the first female assistant presiding judge in the court’s history, Fujie said she was always concerned by “new firsts,” explaining, “if we have to wait that long, it better be really good.” However, she added, “that’s what we’ve got with [Edmon].”
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley told attendees he was “impressed” by the Superior Court’s new leaders, and emphasized that “the system won’t work unless we work together.”
Praising Judge, Cooley said their positive relationship allowed them to “make things work” and “end up with something akin to justice,” and he said he also hoped to work more closely in the future with the offices of the Los Angeles City Attorney and the U.S. Attorney.
Former Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger—a 2005 honoree who Philibosian called “the most relaxed person here tonight”—said that he would not miss his old job because he knew he had left the court “in wonderful hands.”
Promising to heed his wife’s warning to keep his remarks brief or face a shoe thrown by her—“she saw something on TV about it,” Czuleger commented—the judge said working with McCoy had been the best part of his old job, and he called the new presiding judge “a partner, a friend and a moral compass.”
Czuleger then said that Edmon, who he has known for “many years,” reminded him of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that “a woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
“Edmon is about to work in hot water, but she will be better for it and the court and the public will be better too.”
MetNews Editor and Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace presented Edmon with her award, introducing her by lightheartedly bemoaning the change from the “good old days” when the Superior Court’s leaders “made copy” rather than “just do[ing] their work ably.”
Grace said that Edmon was elected “not just because she’s a woman, but because she’s worthy,” and recalled having invited her to attend the annual dinner for the first time while she was LACBA president 10 years earlier—despite not knowing her—at Philibosian’s urging.
“If Bob Philibosian goes to bat for a Democrat, you know that’s someone with merit,” he joked.
Accepting her award, Edmon told the crowd:
“Life is not measured by the amount of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away. The night is one of those moments.”
Edmon added that she felt privileged to serve, and quoted a passage from the New Testament book of Luke that “to whom much is given, much is required.”
Introducing McCoy, Jo-Ann Grace compared him to the source of his nickname—cowboy Tim McCoy, who hosted a popular Los Angeles children’s television show in the early 1950s and also starred in the 1939 western film “Straight Shooter”—and said that the judge was a real straight shooter.
McCoy recounted his experience at Antonovich’s swearing-in and told the audience they were all “treasures,” adding that they would be able to look back at their life and say, “I made a difference.”
Saying, “never let it grind you down and allow that treasure to be tarnished,” McCoy commented that that the value of his award was the value of those who had given it to him, and asked for the audience’s support over the course of his two-year term.
McCoy and the other speakers also complimented the approximately 30 attorneys who played in the orchestra at the beginning of the dinner under the baton of attorney Gary S. Greene, who also conducts the Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra of California.
Introduced by actress June Lockhart, the orchestra began with a rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” and followed with pieces by Mozart, Bizet and Puccini, among others.
Thanking the orchestra and Greene, Roger Grace also noted the assistance of LACBA Executive Director Stuart A. Forsyth and Executive Assistant Grace Danziger in putting the orchestra together.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company