Thursday, February 14, 2013
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner to Retire April 5
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner told the MetNews yesterday that she plans to retire shortly.
The judge said her last day of service will be Feb. 28, and that she will officially retire April 5 after exhausting accumulated leave.
Sautner, 65, recently completed her 20th year of judicial service. She was elected to the old Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1992 and then became a Superior Court judge through unification in 2000.
A New York City native and onetime NYPD detective, Sautner said she plans to divide her time between residences in Manhattan and Palm Springs. She explained that she does not want to spend winters in the East, but does want to spend time with family members who still live in that part of the country.
The jurist acknowledged feeling “kind of guilty” at leaving the court during its current financial crisis. But she resolved some time ago that she wanted to get back to her East Coast roots once she was eligible for retirement, she said, adding that she believes the Airport courthouse, where she now serves as site judge, “will be in good hands.”
Sautner said that she has no particular plans for the next six months other than to enjoy “traveling, theater and family and friends.” After that, she explained, she would like to sit on assignment in criminal courts in Los Angeles or Riverside counties.
She also plans to learn to speak Italian.
“I’m not without mixed emotions,” she added. “I’ve really enjoyed my time on the bench, and I’ve worked in great courthouses with great colleagues.”
Sautner, who grew up in the Rockaway Beach section of the New York City borough of Queens, came west to attend Whittier College School of Law, one of the few ABA-accredited law schools willing to admit her on the basis of “life experience” and maturity rather than an undergraduate degree.
She had gone to work as a secretary after high school, helping support her family after her parents separated. After waiting out a long hiring freeze, she was hired as a police officer, eventually winning promotion to detective and working on major drug and sex crimes cases.
She graduated from Whittier in December 1982, and passed the February 1983 bar exam. Her first job after law school was as a researcher for the television program “The People’s Court,” assisting one of her professors at Whittier, Harvey Levin.
She became a deputy city attorney in 1984, and her work as head of the office’s Slum Housing Task Force led to national publicity when a Beverly Hills doctor became the first defendant in the nation sentenced to live in one of his own buildings.
Her decision to run for judge 21 years ago, she told a reporter at the time, was motivated in part by then-Municipal Court Commissioner John Ladner’s announcement that he intended to run for the open seat. Sautner had tangled with Ladner over enforcement of probation orders in a slumlord case and had made the decision not to stipulate to his hearing any more of her cases.
Another factor in her running, she said, was then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s veto of legislation that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Sautner, whose election apparently made her the county’s first openly lesbian judge, defeated Ladner, who is now retired, and then-Commissioner Gerald Richardson, now deceased. It was her only contested election.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company