Friday, March 2, 2012
Dan Oki to Seek Election as Assistant Presiding Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dan T. Oki will seek election as the court’s assistant presiding judge this fall, the judge has told colleagues.
In a letter sent by e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the MetNews, the 60-year-old Oki said he was “committed to keeping our court a leader, both in the State of California and throughout the nation, and restoring its greatness” even in the face of the court’s difficult financial problems.
Oki, a longtime resident of the eastern San Gabriel Valley, has been a judge since 1992, when then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the now-defunct Citrus Municipal Court. He served two terms as presiding judge before Wilson elevated him to the Superior Court in 1997.
Before becoming a judge, he was in private practice for 15 years in Covina and West Covina.
He noted in his “Dear Colleagues” letter that he has held a number of positions within the court, including three years as supervising judge of the East District and two years as supervising judge of the Criminal Division. He has also served on the Executive Committee, chaired the Personnel and Budge Committee, and currently serves on the Budget Working Group.
Oki was a member of the California Judges Association Executive Board from 2005 to 2008, and president of the California Judges Foundation in 2009 and 2010. He has taught at the Center for Judicial Education and Research’s New Judge Orientation since 1997.
He has served in the criminal and civil courts downtown and in the criminal, civil, and probate courts in Pomona, where he is currently assigned.
Current Presiding Judge Lee Edmon’s two-year term will expire at the end of the year. If tradition is followed, Assistant Presiding Judge David Wesley will be elected presiding judge without opposition.
Oki might have sought a leadership post sooner had it not been for 2003 controversy over an administrative action he took as supervising judge of the criminal courts.
Facing budget pressures, Oki ordered a commissioner to stop arraigning in-custody defendants in downtown’s Div. 30 at 4:30 p.m., the “normal” end of the court day, even though it was not possible to complete the calendar by then.
Some 26 defendants were released, and one of them was charged with a subsequent murder. The releases focused public attention on the longstanding problem of late hours in Div. 30, and administrative changes were soon made that largely resolved it.
Oki said he regretted the decision to stop arraigning defendants at 4:30, but that he did not expect defendants to be released. He subsequently gave up the supervising judge position and transferred to the East District.
Both he and Wesley were challenged in the March 2004 primary, and their opponents—who said they were attracted by a newspaper ad placed by then-Association of Deputy District Attorneys Steve Ipsen—all cited the events of the previous May as a primary motivator for their own candidacies.
Wesley and Oki both ran six-figure campaigns and were reelected.
In his letter, Oki outlined five priorities for the court:
-Preservation of local judicial benefits authorized by SB X2 11, which he said “must remain a top priority if were are to continue to attract and retain the highest caliber of judges’:
-“[A] fair and open process for making assignments”;
-Preserving the judges’ right “to run our own court and be provided sufficient resources to serve the citizens of Los Angeles County”;
-Keeping branch courts open so that citizens can access the courts where they “live and work”; and
-Keeping courthouses safe and secure.
Oki is the first candidate to openly declare that he would run for assistant presiding judge. Judge Carolyn Kuhl, who supervises the civil courts and has been reputed to be interested in the assistant presiding judge post as well, did not return a MetNews phone call.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company