Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Elizabeth A. Grimes Confirmed as Div. Eight Justice
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth A. Grimes was unanimously confirmed as a justice of this district’s Court of Appeal, Div. Eight following a public meeting of the Commission on Judicial Appointments yesterday.
Immediately following the hearing, Chief Justice Ronald George—who presided over the hearing with Attorney General Jerry Brown and Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three—administered the oath of office.
Grimes fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Justice Tricia A. Bigelow to presiding justice of Div. Eight in February.
Div. Four Presiding Justice Norman Epstein, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl and former Third District Justice Daniel Kolkey spoke as witnesses in support of Grimes’ appointment, while Beverly Hills attorney Cyrus Sanai objected.
Sanai began his hastily delivered remarks by addressing Grimes’ “shockingly bad” reversal rate, explaining that he had identified 51 Court of Appeal opinions involving decisions by Grimes, 23 of which resulted in reversals. He calculated her reversal rate at 45 percent of those cases, three times higher than the average for a trial court judge, he said.
He opined that such statistics indicate that Grimes “is unwilling or temperamentally unable to apply the law correctly in a large number of cases.”
The attorney also suggested that her unfitness for confirmation was further demonstrated by her “rejection of the minimum ethical standards for the judiciary,” citing as an example her failure to recuse herself from hearing a 2000 dispute between him and his landlord in Sanai v. Saltz.
Grimes should have recused herself, Sanai argued, because “every owner and operator of rental housing in California” was “seriously injured” by his success in that case. He claimed that Grimes “went crazy with her ad hominem attacks against me” during trial because “she knew that if she did not put an end to my lawsuit, the value of her and her husband’s real estate holdings would be materially injured.”
Sanai added that Grimes was “thrown off” the case under Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.1(c).
Brown asked Grimes to respond to Sanai’s remarks, and the jurist said she had “no idea” what her reversal rate was, but asserted that she tries to learn from her reversals.
Grimes added that she thought she had contributed to the development of “good law” during her six-month tenure as a justice pro tempore on Div. Four of the Court of Appeal as well.
Epstein praised the decisions she wrote for the panel during that time as “incisive, well thought out, and articulate.”
Additionally, over her 13-year career as a trial judge, Epstein said she demonstrated “experience, familiarity and knowledge” in civil, criminal and dependency law.
Kuhl commented on Grimes’ “great breadth and depth of experience” as a result of having presided over cases involving multiple substantive areas of law, her “collegial skills,” and “legal acumen.”
She also called the jurist a “role model” and “shining example” of a woman able to balance an accomplished legal career while being “an exemplary wife and mother.”
Kolkey, now a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, opined that Grimes “has the skill set and characteristics that will make her an exceptional associate justice” based on his observation of her over the last 30 years.
As an associate at Gibson Dunn, Grimes demonstrated “equanimity” dealing with a difficult case, and as a judge, her “analytic skills” were “superb,” Kolkey said. Grimes also demonstrated “great writing ability” and an ability to “be open to argument and her colleagues’ views” while sitting pro tem on the Court of Appeal, he remarked.
Alice Salvo, chair of the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, said that the commission had found Grimes “qualified” for appointment during its 2005 assessment of her fitness for elevation.
The commission found Grimes was “even–tempered” and “courteous but decisive,” Salvo reported. Although she was criticized by some for favoring the prosecution and police, she was “held in high regard” overall, Salvo said.
George asked Salvo about the lapse of time since the evaluation was made, and Salvo explained that the commission made its assessment when the governor had first submitted Grimes’ name to it. She said it was not within JNE’s authority to update its evaluation of a nominee without a request from the governor to do so.
Klein asked Grimes if she thought the JNE rating would have changed if a more recent evaluation had taken place, and Grimes said she felt she would have received an “extremely well qualified” rating since she felt extremely well qualified for the position and thought that was the rating that should have been given in 2005 as well.
Grimes began her judicial career in 1997 with an appointment by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. She had previously served Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as a partner from 1988 to 1998, associate from 1980 to 1988 and was a summer associate in 1979.
A graduate of Stanford Law School and the University of Texas at Austin, Grimes was admitted to practice in 1980.
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