Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Retired Commissioner Stephen Leventhal Dies at 69
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Stephen A. Leventhal, who served on local trial courts for nearly three decades, has died.
Commissioner John Rafferty, who served with Leventhal in three different courthouses, mostly recently in West Los Angeles, said his former colleague died Sunday of a massive coronary. Leventhal was 69.
“Steve was an extremely intelligent individual,” Rafferty said. “He was exceptionally articulate and had the best vocabulary of anyone that I ever met....I never had a conversation with him in which I didn’t learn a new word.”
While Leventhal was known for maintaining a formal courtroom, Rafferty added, he had a great sense of humor and knew how to run a high-volume courtroom, hearing between 100 and 200 matters daily for much of his career.
Leventhal was named a Los Angeles Municipal Court commissioner in 1977, became a Superior Court commissioner through unification in 2000, and retired in 2005.
He graduated from UCLA in 1960 and from what is now Loyola Law School in 1963, then joined Master Linen Service, a textile rental supply business owned by his father-in-law. He oversaw a number of aspects of the business, including its legal affairs.
The company was sold in 1971, and Leventhal declined an offer from the new owners and accepted an offer to become a Los Angeles deputy city attorney.
While at the City Attorney’s Office he served as the first Criminal Division liaison to the Los Angeles Police Department. As a commissioner, he was very popular with police officers, and in retirement, be lectured to officers on how to testify in court, Rafferty said.
As a commissioner, he heard a wide variety of cases in many different locations, including the Metropolitan, Robertson, West Los Angeles, San Pedro, and San Fernando courthouses.
He ran for an open municipal court judgeship in 1988, touting his experience on the bench and naming two former city attorneys, Roger Arnebergh, now deceased, and Burt Pines, now a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, as honorary co-chairs of the campaign. The seat was won by then-Deputy City Attorney Marion Johnson, who, like Leventhal, was rated “Well Qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. .
Survivors include his wife, Brenda Leventhal, two sons, two daughters, and several grandchildren. Information on services was not immediately available.
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