Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Superior Court Judge William Birney to Retire in July
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Birney said yesterday he plans to retire July 7.
“It’s been a great gig,” the judge, who turned 80 last month, told the MetNews. “But the time has come.”
Birney, who has spent his entire 23-year career at the Norwalk courthouse, said he did not have definite retirement plans, and has no current interest in private judging or sitting on assignment. “But I have been cautioned against settling into a boring life of unproductive leisure,” so he has not ruled out the possibility of returning to work in the future, he said.
Birney was named to the court in 1988 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, following a 20-year career as vice president and general counsel of Vons Grocery Company, during which he was admitted to the American Board of Trial Advocates.
A native of Connecticut, he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in New York in 1952 and subsequently joined the U.S. Army. He was a newscaster and disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Service while stationed in the Marshal Islands, and also taught broadcasting courses at Fort Slocum, N.Y.
He was discharged in 1956 and earned his law degree from Southwestern Law School in 1960. He became a Los Angeles deputy city attorney in 1961, prosecuting misdemeanors downtown, before switching to the County Counsel’s Office the following year.
His work for the county was primarily in eminent domain and liability defense, and he remained there until joining Vons in 1968.
One of his more unusual trials occurred in 2007, resulting in a reported $85,000 verdict for a woman whose two children were exposed to pornography on an unblocked television channel in an Artesia motel room. He also presided over litigation involving public officials in South Gate, issuing an injunction in 2002 barring critics of the then-City Council members and city treasurer from harassing the officials.
There are currently four vacancies on the Superior Court. Judge Dennis Aichroth retired Feb. 17 and Judge Conrad Aragon Feb. 18; Judge Jerry E. Johnson March 3, and Judge Marlene Kristovich March 31.
With Judge Andrew Kauffman retiring May 15 and the departure of Judge John Kronstadt once he receives his commission as a U.S. district judge, Birney’s retirement could leave the court with seven vacancies, depending on when Gov. Jerry Brown begins making appointments.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company