Friday, August 25, 2009
Poochigian Unanimously Confirmed as C.A. Justice
By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer
The state Commission on Judicial Appointments yesterday confirmed the nomination of former state Sen. Charles Poochigian to the Fifth District Court of Appeal.
The commission, meeting in San Francisco, gave its unanimous approval to the Fresno lawyer following a hearing that lasted a longer-than-usual 2 1/2 hours.
A spokesperson for the state courts attributed the length of the hearing to extensive questioning of Jonathan Wolf, chair of the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, about the commission’s conclusion that Poochigian was “Not Qualified” for appointment.
In a letter to the appointments commission, made public Tuesday, the JNE Commission reported its finding that Poochigian lacked the “actual practical legal experience” required of an appellate justice.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, however, yesterday voiced “substantial doubts,” his spokesperson said, as to whether the commission had followed Government Code Sec. 12010.6(d)—part of legislation enacted two years ago in an effort to increase the diversity of the bench.
The legislation states, in part:
“The State Bar shall consider legal experience broadly, including, but not limited to, litigation and nonlitigation experience, legal work for a business or nonprofit entity, experience as a law professor or other academic position, legal work in any of the three branches of government, and legal work in dispute resolution.”
Besides the issue of experience, Poochigian was criticized by Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California, who said Poochigian’s voting record on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people made him unfit for the bench.
Kors acknowledged, however, that the group’s opposition was based entirely on Poochigian’s record as a lawmaker and that he had made no statement indicative of anti-gay bias.
George was joined by Fifth District Presiding Justice James Ardaiz and Attorney General Jerry Brown—who defeated Poochigian in the 2006 general election for the post Brown now holds—in voting for the nominee. Poochigian fills a seat that has been vacant since the death of Justice Thomas Harris last November.
Poochigian joined the Fresno law firm of Dowling, Aaron and Keeler after losing the 2006 election to Brown, who—along with George and Fifth District Presiding Justice James Ardaiz—make up the Commission on Judicial Appointments.
He served in the state Assembly from 1994 to 1998 and the Senate from 1998 to 2006.
A graduate of California State University, Fresno and Santa Clara University School of Law, he practiced with Steven Vartabedian—now a justice on the Fifth District—from 1975 until 1981, when Vartabedian began his judicial career on the now-defunct Sanger Justice Court. Poochigian then practiced on his own until 1988, when Deukmejian named him chief deputy appointments secretary.
When Deukmejian left office, Wilson made Poochigian his appointments secretary, a post he held until leaving to run for the Assembly.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company