Thursday, April 23, 2009
Superior Court Commissioner John T. Rafferty to Retire
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner John T. Rafferty is retiring.
The 25-year bench officer told the MetNews yesterday that he will preside for the last time on May 22 and take accrued leave until his official retirement date of July 6.
“It’s the most difficult decision of my life,” he said, “and I really miss the Superior Court already.” He shared excerpts of his letter to Presiding Judge Charles McCoy, in which he praised his colleagues, in particular West District Supervising Judge Gerald Rosenberg, and spoke of his regret at leaving “the world’s most distinguished trial court.”
He made the decision, he told the presiding judge, because “at age 62, after nearly 25 years on the bench, I have come to realize that time waits for no one.”
Rafferty—a theater, opera, ballet, and art buff—said he plans to relocate to New York City, at least on a part-time basis, and that he has been looking for a residence near the Broadway theater district.
Rafferty is a native of Kitchener, Ont. His parents owned a hotel in Crystal Beach, Ont., the site of a popular amusement park.
The hotel closed after boat service between the park and nearby Buffalo, N.Y. ended in 1956, Rafferty explained, and the family moved to Buffalo.
The future commissioner went to grade school in Buffalo, and then prep school near Boston. He attended Carleton University in Ottawa for a time before transferring to Syracuse University, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in 1970 and his law degree in 1973.
His first job in the legal field was as an assistant district attorney in Buffalo.
He owed that position to his mother, he explained, who at the time was managing the Roycroft Inn, a resort hotel located in an artisan community about 30 minutes from Buffalo. She knew the Erie County district attorney because the Democratic Party held functions at the inn, Rafferty explained.
He stayed with the district attorney for two years, but was ready to leave the East Coast after visiting Los Angeles for the first time on vacation. Finding both the weather and the local populace to his liking, he applied for a legal post with the Customs Service—he had worked as an inspector for the agency on the U.S.-Canadian border during his college years—and was hired in the spring of 1976.
Two years later, however, a chance encounter with a British judge on the Queen Elizabeth II led to his being hired by a London-based charitable foundation, The Spastics Society, which runs schools and homes for the disabled. He replaced a British barrister who had recently left the staff, and the work took him to nearly every part of England and Scotland, he explained.
Living in England was exciting but expensive, he said, so he applied for a job as a Los Angeles deputy city attorney and returned here in 1980. He later applied to become a Los Angeles Municipal Court commissioner and was appointed in 1985.
He became a Superior Court commissioner through unification in 2000.
As a commissioner, he has had a number of assignments, including a criminal trial court in San Pedro; Central Arraignment Court, where he recalled working all night during the riots in 1992 as the National Guard bivouacked in the parking lot outside his window; traffic cases at what is now called Metropolitan Court; and West Los Angeles, where he currently sits.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company