Friday, February 26, 2010
Retired Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter Dies
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David M. Schacter died yesterday at 68 after a long illness.
Presiding Judge Charles McCoy noted Schacter’s passing in an e-mail to colleagues. No information on services was available.
Schacter retired in 2007 after 22 years on the Superior Court. He served as a Santa Monica Municipal Court commissioner, hearing criminal, civil, and traffic cases, from 1981 until 1985, when then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Superior Court.
He sat in Burbank for several years after his retirement, after having previously served as supervising judge of the North Valley District. While in the Burbank court, he presided over the 2005 civil trial in which actor Robert Blake was held responsible for the death of his wife, Bonnie Blakely, after having been previously acquitted of her murder in a criminal trial.
He suffered a stroke soon after, sources said, and had other serious health problems afterwards.
He began his Superior Court service in dependency court.
Schacter was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in the San Fernando Valley, having become a naturalized citizen in 1951. He received an associate’s degree from Los Angeles Valley College in 1961 and his bachelor’s degree in English Literature from California State University, Northridge in 1963.
He received his law degree from the University of Laverne College of Law at San Fernando Valley, where he was a member of the law review, in 1968.
He worked part-time as a laborer on movie sets while in college and law school. He once told a reporter that one of his jobs was to pick up horse manure during the filming of cowboy movies.
“I was real big in the movies...me and my shovel,” he quipped.
Schacter served as a Los Angeles deputy city attorney from 1968 to 1973, eventually heading the appellate division. In 1972, he argued succesfully before the U.S. Supreme Court in Goldstein v. California (1973) 412 U.S. 546 that California’s anti-record privacy law was not preempted by federal copyright laws.
He also handled anti-pornography prosecutions, and “was a real showman” who “loved the combat of the courtroom,” retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kenneth Chotiner told the MetNews.
Chotiner, who said he and Schacter had been very good friends since working together in the City Attorney’s Office, said “he had a brilliant mind and a unique sense of humor.”
He also had a motorcycle sidecar business as a sideline for a number of years, owned an exotic car, and was a serious collector of lead soldiers, which he repaired, restored, and displayed in showcases at his home, Chotiner recalled. He was also an early computer buff and an avid hiker who would spend his lunch hours walking in the Burbank hills.
Schacter was a senior research attorney for Justice L. Thaxton Hanson of the Court of Appeal for this district from 1973 to 1975. He served as a Long Beach deputy city attorney from 1975 to 1981, representing the Board of Harbor Commissioners and defending civil rights claims in federal court.
His tenure on the Superior Court was at times controversial. In 2001, the Court of Appeal for this district ordered a mistrial in a civil suit against a well-known local realtor and ordered the case reassigned because Schacter had been trying it in “drips and drabs”—23 sessions of about an hour each—over nearly a year.
During a 1996 trial involving Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke, Schacter issued orders excluding the public and the press from all courtroom proceedings held outside the presence of the jury, and sealing the transcripts of those proceedings. He was reversed by this district’s Court of Appeal, whose ruling was unanimously affirmed by the state Supreme Court in NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV), Inc. v. Superior Court (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1178.
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