Tuesday, January 29, 2013
‘Person of the Year’ Dinner Marked by Plaudits, Jazz, Kidding
By a MetNews Staff Writer
—Staff Photograph by Monica Fischer
METNEWS Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace presents plaque to retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence Crispo.
—Staff Photograph by Monica Fischer
METNEWS Editor and Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace presents award to State Bar President Patrick M. Kelly.
—Staff Photograph by Monica Fischer
Roger M. Grace presents plaque to retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan.
State Bar President Patrick M. Kelly and retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Lawrence Crispo and Charles Horan were showered with praise Friday night as honorees at the Metropolitan News Enterprise’s 25th annual “Persons of the Year” dinner.
The black-tie event at the California Club, which drew about 220 persons, was kicked off with a mini-concert by “Gary Greene, Esq. and His Band of Barristers,” with former Gov. George Deukmejian assuming the role of conductor as 17 legal professionals played the 1934 jazz tune, “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”
Kelly, a one-time professional musician, demonstrated his prowess as a guitarist in a performance of the 1963 Surfaris hit, “Wipe Out.”
Los Angeles County Bar Assn. President Richard Burdge noted that when he wed now-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lee Edmon 20 years ago, Kelly borrowed a guitar from a member of the orchestra and played that song.
Contributions to Bar
Burdge, one of several presenters of scrolls to the honorees, said of Kelly, whose prior leadership roles include serving as LACBA president:
“I don’t know anybody who’s given more to the bar than Pat.”
Burdge pointed to Crispo’s advocacy of “civility” in the courts, commenting:
“He preached it as a judge—but he really lived it. He knew you could be tough, and you could be firm, and you could represent your clients, but you didn’t have to be nasty. You could be a good person.
“And he was a real model for all of us.”
Burdge also had praise for Horan, a founder of the Alliance of California Judges which has opposed centralization of court administrative powers at the state level and was the primary force causing cessation last year of the $1.9 billion Court Case Management System project.
“He is a true warrior on behalf of the courts who spoke his mind at a time when many people were being silent,” the LACBA president said of Horan.
Burdge also mentioned:
“He is, by all accounts, a legend in the criminal justice system. He has an absolute encyclopedic memory.
“He is a wonderful mentor to other judges in the system.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge David Wesley confirmed that mentoring role. He hailed Horan as “very smart” and a “master of the criminal law” and said that the other judges “knew that, and all of us used his skills and his prowess to learn from him.”
In recent years, he noted, Horan has become “a prolific and amazing writer” who has been “tenacious” in his efforts as a “champion” of local courts “and judicial branch reform.”
With respect to Crispo—who frequently breaks into song—Wesley remarked:
“You don’t have to ask Larry to sing twice—in fact, you don’t have to ask Larry once.”
He told the retired judge that when was on the bench, he displayed “wisdom, energy, and your charismatic charm”
The presiding judge said Kelly has the gratitude of the Superior Court, declaring:
“We thank him for his unswerving support for full funding of the courts.”
He pinpointed Kelly’s “most important attribute,” saying:
“He’s a nice guy. He’s just a nice guy.”
Lacey Hails Honorees
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey echoed that thought, terming Kelly “a good-natured kind of a guy.”
Lacey disclosed that back when Horan was a deputy district attorney (prior to his 1988 appointment to the Glendale Municipal Court), women in the office referred to him as “that good-looking, Mick Jagger-looking guy.” She told him:
“I haven’t seen you in many years, but, you’re looking good.”
Lacey added, with reference to his stances against the Administrative Office of the Courts:
“You just have the most courage.”
She said she has not spent much “quality time” with Crispo, but related:
“Every single person I asked about you said what a good man you are.”
Kelly presented a scroll on behalf of the State Bar to Horan and Crispo; State Bar Treasurer Gretchen Nelson gave a scroll to Kelly. Emcee Robert H. Philibosian, a former district attorney, said it reminded him of a New Yorker cartoon in which a group of Russian generals were pinning medals on each other.
Philibosian, now of counsel to Sheppard Mullin, emceed the dinner for the 19th time.
Sheriff Lee Baca, after presenting scrolls, joked: “You can turn them in for a gun permit.”
County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich offered congratulations to the awardees, and also had these words for Deukmejian:
“We wish you were back there today [as governor] because you believed in the judicial system. You kept the courts open.”
Kelly was handed his “Person of the Year” award by MetNews Editor/Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace, who termed him a “workaholic” who was “indefatigable,” said that as a bar leader he was “incomparable,” and in a courtroom, was reportedly “virtually invincible.”
The State Bar chief spoke of the need for full funding of the courts, telling fellow lawyers:
“We have to support our judiciary in this fight.”
MetNews Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace gave Crispo his award, after kidding about his singing. She said:
“He’s a kind man. And you may not realize it, but indeed, he performed a kindness for this audience tonight. Gary Greene offered him the opportunity to sing a solo earlier, at the start of the program, and he declined.”
The audience cheered. There were whistles and shouts of “Bravo!”
Crispo introduced members of his family and former law partners and drew attention to a table with members of the Italian American Lawyers Association (of which he is a past president).
Roger Grace recalled Horan being an early critic of the Court Case Management System—a “voice in the wilderness”—and said:
“Credit for ending unrestrained spending on a luxury, to the detriment of justice, does not go to Charles Horan, alone….But no one was more vocal, more dogged, more committed to bringing out the facts and reforming the system, than he.”
Though not mentioning by name Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye—with whom the Alliance of California Judges has a strained relationship—Horan said, in jest:
“I thank you for honoring me tonight, even at the considerable risk that one of last year’s honorees would return her award to you.”
Past “persons of the year” in attendance were Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Norman Epstein, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, retired U.S. District Judge George Schiavelli, lawyer and civic leader Lee Kanon Alpert, Superior Court Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy, immediate past District Attorney Steve Cooley, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, and bar leader Jack Denove, as well as Antonovich, Baca, Deukmejian, Nelson and Philibosian.
Recent honoree Lee Edmon, the immediate past Superior Court presiding judge, had been planning to be there but was snowed-in in Utah where she had been attending a conference.
Candidates in the March City of Los Angeles primary election who were present, in addition to Trutanich, who is seeking reelection, were a rival of his, attorney Greg Smith, and Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, campaigning for the post of city controller.
Jo-Ann Grace made note during the program that the first honoree, in 1983, five years before the annual dinners came to be staged, was Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Mildred L. Lillie, since deceased.
“Today would have been her 98th birthday,” she related.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company