Friday, January 9, 2009
Superior Court Commissioner Harold Vites to Retire
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Harold Vites said yesterday he will retire in the coming months.
The 66-year-old jurist, a commissioner for more than 16 years, confirmed that his last day on the bench will be Feb. 10 and that his official retirement date will be March 31 or April 1.
“You have to make room for younger folks with better skills,” Vites told the MetNews. “It’s just time” to retire, he said.
His plans, he said, are to learn how to play the clarinet and paint, and do as much traveling as he can. He will not practice law or become a private judge, he said, but would consider returning to the court on assignment from time to time if that opportunity becomes available.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the word,” he said. “You can’t ask for a better place to work. L.A. Superior Court is the best place in the world.”
The son of European immigrants, Vites said he wanted to become a lawyer from childhood. He majored in government at California State University, Los Angeles and graduated from law school at USC in 1968.
He clerked for what was then called the Appellate Department of the Los Angeles Superior Court for a year before becoming a deputy county counsel. He was in private practice in Beverly Hills and Century City from 1973 to 1976, then became a deputy district attorney and later a deputy public defender.
In 1982, he joined a Panorama City practice that emphasized criminal law and became Ash, Vites & Adajian. Partner Jacob Adajian later became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, retiring in 2006.
As a member of the firm, Vites handled several murder cases, including one in which his client and another woman were convicted of killing a high school classmate whom they believed had been involved with their boyfriends.
Vites’ client, Karen Severson, and Laura Doyle were charged with first degree murder and convicted of second degree murder, and were sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
The victim was drowned in the remote Big Tujunga Canyon area of Angeles National Forest.
Vites left practice to become a Los Angeles Municipal Court commissioner in 1992 and became a Superior Court commissioner through unification. A longtime resident of the San Fernando Valley, he was assigned to an early disposition program at the Metropolitan Courthouse, later served in San Fernando and Van Nuys, did a short stint in San Pedro, and now sits in a direct calendar court, doing criminal cases and small claims in Santa Clarita.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company