Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Superior Court Judge Munoz to Retire
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio N. Munoz said yesterday that he will be retiring on March 2 after 30 years on the bench.
Munoz, 70, told the MetNews that he plans to return on assignment.
“I’ll still be working here,” he said, explaining that sitting on assignment would not mean many changes for him other than the loss of his courtroom and staff, and “maybe not having a calendar, that’ll be the biggest thing.”
The jurist said that he believes he is the senior judge of the court, adding “I’m the only one left that’s been on fast track since day one.”
Helping start the fast-track program and reducing the court’s caseload are two accomplishments Munoz said he is proud of.
“When we started fast track, it was taking over five years to get to trial in L.A. County,” he recalled. “Now we’re down to two years, or even quicker.”
Another change Munoz noted was the addition of computers to the courtroom. At the time the fast track program launched, Munoz said most courtrooms did not have a computer and judges “didn’t even know how many cases we had.”
Now most courtrooms have three computers, which he opined“makes things much simpler.”
Although Munoz said he knows how to use the computers and appreciates having them, he admitted “nobody is ever going to call me tech savvy.”
The judge was born in raised in Dinuba, a rural community near Fresno. After graduating from high school, he served three years in the U.S. Navy, rising from a seaman recruit to electronics technician, second class.
In 1959 he began attending the UC Berkeley School of Engineering, and one year later enrolled at Foothill Junior College, then enrolled two years later at what is now San Jose State University, all the while working as an electronics technician for Hewlett Packard.
He obtained his law degree from the University of Santa Clara in 1966, and spent a year clerking for First District Court of Appeal Justice Murray Draper in San Francisco.
Munoz then spent two years in Philadelphia with constitutional scholar Anthony Amsterdam’s project on criminal justice at the University of Pennsylvania, on a grant from the Ford Foundation.
While he was in Philadephia, Munoz worked for the voluntary defender’s office—the city’s precursor to the public defender—as part of his fellowship.
In 1969 Munoz returned to California and became a deputy public defender in Fresno.
Three years later, he became the senior staff attorney for a joint legislative committee working on revision of the Penal Code, and in 1973, he became a staff attorney for this district’s Court of Appeal.
He became a deputy state public defender in 1976, and was tapped for the Los Angeles Municipal Court bench by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1979. Brown elevated Munoz to the Superior Court bench one year later.
Munoz served as the supervising judge of the criminal courts from 1986 to 1987 and presided over several high-profile cases, including the criminal trial of Horace Burns—one of three men to be convicted for killing family members of football star Kermit Alexander—and the case of Norma Jean Almadavor, a meter-maid-turned–prostitute who went to prison after the Court of Appeal ruled that Munoz could not suspend her sentence.
Munoz’s name had gone to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation as a possible appointee to the Court of Appeal.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company