Friday, March 20, 2009
Judge Alice Hill to Leave Court for Obama Administration Post
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alice Hill yesterday confirmed she is leaving the bench June 12 to go to Washington, D.C. to become counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, her former law school classmate Janet Napolitano.
Hill, 53, told the MetNews she will serve her last day on the bench May 29, and that her new role, which does not require Senate confirmation, will involve work on special projects and assisting Napolitano in carrying out her job.
A former assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, Hill was appointed to the Municipal Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1995. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1983 with Napolitano, who became DHS secretary Jan. 21 after serving as Arizona governor.
As secretary, Napolitano heads the cabinet-level department of the federal government responsible for protecting U.S. territory from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters.
Hill said she had already spoken with the DHS secretary about some of the projects she would be undertaking, but declined to specifically identify any of them.
The judge currently presides over criminal matters at the Alhambra courthouse, and said Napolitano’s request to join the department was a “huge honor.” However, Hill said she would miss serving on the Superior Court, adding that she had thoroughly enjoyed her time and could not “think of a finer bench.”
Her former supervisor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, legal commentator and Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, called the news “fabulous,” saying that Hill’s appointment was the “best thing” to have happened so far under the new administration.
Hill said Napolitano had offered her the position some time ago, but that she had delayed until she and her husband—USC professor Pete Starr—could resolve the logistics of moving across the country with their two daughters. She said Starr will continue to be affiliated with the university and will teach a class there each spring.
The youngest of three sisters, Hill grew up in Washington, D.C., where her father practiced international law. She came to California to attend Stanford and spent summers teaching English in Indonesia and Japan with non-profit group Volunteers in Asia. While at college, she also met her future husband Pete Starr.
Hill attended law school at her father’s alma mater, and after graduating clerked one year for U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Young in Baltimore while her husband worked on his doctorate at Johns Hopkins.
The couple then moved to Paris, where Starr taught French and comparative literature and Hill became an associate in international law with a French law firm.
Hill and Starr returned to California in 1985 when Star was offered a tenured position at USC, and Hill joined Morrison & Foerster’s corporate department as an associate, earning admission to the State Bar the next year.
In a 1996 interview, she said she soon grew disillusioned—not being a “contracts-type” person—but decided to try working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office before giving up on law.
She joined the office in 1987 and loved the job immediately, she said, and soon began work on a massive fraud case under Levenson, then a senior assistant U.S. attorney.
Hill eventually became the first woman to head the office’s major frauds unit, and spent four years prosecuting Charles Keating and others in the Lincoln Savings & Loan fraud. She also prosecuted drug-related and white collar crimes, and did grand jury work, but eventually decided to seek new challenges to avoid burnout.
Inspired by both Young and her father, she sought and received a judicial appointment, but her father died unexpectedly before she took the bench.
Hill initially served at the San Fernando branch of the Municipal Court, where she was a supervising judge before being elevated to the Superior Court by court unification in 2000. She subsequently became supervising judge of the North Valley District in San Fernando
The judge has chaired the Superior Court’s Judicial Education Seminars Program since its inception, and is a former chair of the Continuing Judicial Studies Program of the Center for Judicial Education and Research.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company