Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, May 26, 2011


Page 1


Ten Added to Local Criminal Justice Wall of Fame


By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer


Ten now-deceased members of the local bench and criminal bar were honored yesterday a ceremony celebrating the addition of their names to the Criminal Justice Wall of Fame at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Court of Appeal Justices Paul Boland and Morio L. Fukuto, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the Central District of California, Deputy District Attorneys P. Philip Halpin and Richard Hecht, and defense practitioners Robert Berke, Michael R. Concha, Phyllis Norton Cooper, William I. Gilbert, and Charles Earl Lloyd, were commemorated on the gleaming black stone cenotaph on the northern aspect of the building.

Created in 2006, the Wall of Fame lists the names of individuals, now numbering 100, who made significant contributions to the Los Angeles County criminal justice system during their lifetimes.

Santa Monica criminal defense attorney Richard G. Hirsch, chair of the Criminal Justice Wall of Fame Committee, served as emcee of the event, which was held on the first floor terrace of the criminal courthouse building beside the memorial.

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Alarcón, one of the architects of the Wall of Fame concept, praised the new inductees as “role models” who exhibited the “highest ethical and professional standards in performing their duties” and “inspired many young lawyers and judges to adopt those same high standards.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg, head of the court’s criminal division, remarked that the wall is “a wonderful way to honor some of our friends and colleagues,” and said she plans to bring show her summer externs the memorial and tell them that “these are people you can aspire to be like.”

Presiding Judge Lee Edmon spoke briefly on the role of the criminal justice system in society, analogizing it to a “fortress that protects our country, community and way of life.”

The 10 individuals honored yesterday, Edmon said, “contributed many bricks to this fortress,” and having their names added to the wall serves as “a small thank you, and a reminder to us all to create new bricks.”

Los Angeles County Bar Association President Alan K. Steinbrecher similarly called on the audience members to be inspired by the accomplishments of those whose names graced the wall beside them and “leave here committed to preserve, protect and improve the criminal justice system.”

Boland, who died in 2007, served for six years on this district’s Court of Appeal, Div. Eight,  after spending two decades on the Los Angeles Superior Court bench.

He was presiding juvenile court judge for the county in 1989 and 1990, during which time he took a major role in the building of the Edelman Children’s Court.

In the 1970’s, Boland also co-founded the first clinical educational program at UCLA’s law school, which served as a model for other schools nationwide, and while on the appellate court, created an externship program designed to attract students from top schools and to combine seminars and courtroom visits with writing and research under the supervision of individual justices.

Angela Haskins, president of Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, yesterday described Boland as “the best mentor of women of anyone I had the opportunity to be mentored by.”

When she met Boland as a young attorney, she said, “he convinced me that I was going to single-handedly change the law and make this a better place for women to practice.” Haskins quipped that she later discovered Boland “instilled that sort of confidence in everyone, so I was going to have quite a bit of competition.”

Fukuto began his career as an Army intelligence analyst from 1954 to 1956 and as legal advisor to the local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture before joining the District Attorney’s Office in 1957.

During his 17-year career as a prosecutor, he rose to become head of central operations, responsible for overseeing all felony prosecutions in the Central District, before then-Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the South Bay Municipal Court in 1974. He was elevated to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1979 and the appellate court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1987.

Hirsch credited Fukuto with being able to bring his Div. Two colleagues together to reach consensus on difficult legal and administrative issues in his dozen years as a justice.

Fukuto retired from the bench in 1999 and died in 2007.

Cooper, who Edmon described as “the best of the best,” presided over several high profile cases during her 11 years on the federal bench before her death last year.

She made headlines dismissing the case against accused Chinese spy Katrina Leung on grounds of governmental misconduct, and in declaring a mistrial in a wrongful death suit filed by the family of rapper Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace after learning that the government had failed to turn over documents.

The jurist began her legal career as a research attorney for Alarcón, then a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. After a short time as a deputy city attorney for the City of Los Angeles, Cooper became a research attorney for the district’s Court of Appeal in 1978, reuniting with Alarcón—who had been elevated to the appellate bench in June of that year—and also serving Justice Arleigh M. Woods, since retired, after Alarcón was appointed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cooper was a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner from 1983 to 1990, a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge from 1990 to 1992, and a Superior Court judge from 1992 to 1999.

Halpin, who died in 2003, was described by District Attorney Steve Cooley as a “brilliant trial attorney.” During his 20-plus year career as a prosecutor, Halpin secured convictions in “The Onion Field” kidnapping and murder of a Los Angeles police officer and “The Night Stalker” murders.

Cooely praised Hecht as a skilled administrator and policy maker for the office. He oversaw the prosecution of college militants in the 1960s and presented the “Watergate West” case to a Los Angeles grand jury in 1973. 

He retired in 1993 and died in 2008.

Berke, a past president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, served for eight years as a deputy public defender, during which he played a role in two cases which expanded access to police personnel files in cases alleging a pattern of officer misconduct.

After entering private practice, Berke was among the first to successfully defend inmates convicted on the basis of false testimony by jailhouse informants, and won a  2008 California Supreme Court case establishing that lawyers who prevail in lawsuits brought in the public interest are entitled to compensation for their work.

Berke died in 2009.

Concha, who also died in 2009, spent over 36 years with the Public Defender’s office. He served on the board of directors of the Southern California and national chapters of the Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals—an organization committed to finding solutions to problems facing low-income communities.

The attorney also helped stage mock trials for middle and high school students as part of a program through the Constitutional Rights Foundation for over 20 years.

Norton Cooper was the first female offered a scholarship to Yale Law School, which she turned down to remain near her husband and their five children. After graduating from USC, she partnered with her husband—prior Wall of Fame honoree Grant B. Cooper—to defend Sirhan Sirhan at his trial for the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

She went on to become a charter member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the first female president of the USC Alumni Association, and head of the USC Law Alumni Association. In 2007, one year before her death, Norton Cooper became the first woman to be inducted into the Half-Century Trojans Hall of Fame.

Gilbert, who died in 1949, gained acclaim for defending clients in some of Los Angeles County’s highest-profile cases in the first half of the 20th century. He was responsible for securing the reversal of theatrical impresario Alexander Pantages’ 1931 rape conviction as well as the acquittal of former Deputy District Attorney David H. Clark of a 1931 double-murder.

Lloyd, who died last year, was the first African-American to supervise the Criminal Division of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. He entered private practice in 1964, and was a law partner of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.


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