Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Presiding Judge David S. Wesley Hailed for ‘Courage,’ ‘Integrity’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
—Staff Photograph by Andre Eric Martinez
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge David S. Wesley is presented with a plaque by METNEWS Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace.
—Staff Photograph by Andre Eric Martinez
Cynthia Pasternak and David Pasternak receive an award from METNEWS Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace.
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge David S. Wesley has drawn effusive praise from the judge who is his next-in-command and presumed successor for his high caliber of “leadership in a time of crisis.”
Assistant Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl on Friday night hailed Wesley for “courage” and “integrity,” evinced in overseeing the downscaling of court operations in light of dwindling financing, as well as his “service” to the community throughout his career in law. Her remarks came at the 26th annual Metropolitan News-Enterprise “Person of the Year” dinner.
Wesley was honored along with David Pasternak, a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and currently a member of the State Bar Board of Trustees, and his wife, Cynthia Pasternak, a past president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association.
While Kuhl made a presentation on behalf of the court to Wesley, Wesley made the presentation to the Pasternaks. Other presenters were Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, State Bar President Luis Rodriguez, Los Angeles County Bar President Patricia Daehnke, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Robert H. Philibosian, now of counsel to Sheppard Mullin, emceed the dinner for the 18th time.
In her remarks, Kuhl addressed the court’s cutbacks and told the audience of more than 200 persons, assembled at a downtown Los Angeles private club, that “[t]here are parts of the story that perhaps you don’t appreciate.”
She recited that in November, 2012, then-Presiding Judge Lee Edmon made a “courageous decision” that, in light of the “budget challenge,” 10 courthouses had to be shuttered and operations consolidated, with certain functions being performed only at designated courthouses. Kuhl noted that Wesley, then the assistant presiding judge and set to become the court’s chief in January, had only until July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year, to come up with a plan for implementing the broad-ranging changes.
The assistant presiding judge reflected:
“Nobody knew if that was possible. The court had never undertaken anything like this reorganization.
“We didn’t even know how many files would have to be moved and it turned out it was about 100,000 files.
“We had no specific operational blueprint from which staff and services had to be cut. Nobody even had a reliable estimate as to how much money the consolidation plan would actually save.”
Kuhl said that “as if that wasn’t enough,” Wesley became hampered by the lack of an executive officer when the longtime holder of that post, Jack Clarke, resigned.
She related that there were “many courageous decisions that had to be made” and that “David made all those decisions, and he did not hesitate,” adding:
“And he never let the judges and the staff have reason to fear that victory was not possible.”
“And here’s where the integrity comes in. A person of integrity exercises the same virtues whether or not somebody is watching.
“David made courageous decisions in public—and he made decisions that were courageous that almost nobody knew about. And he never sought credit and he never wavered from the path of doing what was best for our court.”
Wesley described the Pasternaks as “two extraordinary lawyers who have given years of tireless commitment to improving the administration of justice in the State of California and in Los Angeles.”
Philibosian, a prime supporter last year of then-City Attorney Carmine Trutanich in his ill-starred battle for re-election, avoided personally praising the victor, Feuer, in introducing him. He, did, however, quote Lacey, seated next to him on the dais, as telling him that “Mike’s doing a great job.”
Feuer—husband of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gail Feuer, who was present—began on a jocular note, in connection with Wesley, by asking:
“What does one do when asked to recognize one’s wife’s boss?”
He quickly responded:
“He’s a really cool guy!”
The city attorney said that, seriously, Wesley is “somebody with vision, who’s tough, with great judgment, a lot of wisdom, someone who, as Judge Kuhl said, is ready to make tough decisions, but is also someone of great humanity, someone whose level of caring about access to justice is unsurpassed.”
Feuer said the Pasternaks are “longtime friends” with whom he has dealt “in many different contexts,” and remarked:
“At a time when many lawyers define their success in life by their billable hours, David and Cindy define themselves in a much different way. They define themselves by the degree by which they contribute to the justice system, to bar associations, to justice for those in need, for lifting up other people…”
Lacey Expresses Gratitude
Lacey recounted that when she joined the Chancery Club, a lawyers’ group, David Pasternak “could not have been more welcoming and more friendly.” She said he “actually treated me as a somebody before I was an anybody.”
On a light note, the district attorney related that Cynthia Pasternak had a cast on her foot, following bunion surgery, when she first met her.
“And I had had bunion surgery,” she continued. “We bonded over bunion surgery.”
The chief prosecutor said she has known Wesley, a former deputy public defender, for years, and that “we’ve had our differences,” adding: “But we’ve certainly never fallen out.”
A pet project of Wesley is “teen court,” under which students who have misbehaved have judgment passed on them by their peers. Wesley “won my heart,” Lacey remarked, when she attended a session of the “court” at Dorsey High School, in the neighborhood where she grew up.
Lacey, an African American, said:
“I saw him running the teen court, with kids who looked just like me, teaching them the difference between right from wrong.
“Anyone who would take time to spend time with those kids has a heart of gold—and is a ‘man of the year’ every year.”
Scrolls were also presented by Baca, who has dropped his bid for reelection and is resigning from office on Thursday. There have been recent controversies centering on jail conditions.
The sheriff received a standing ovation as he came to the podium, following a rousing introduction by Philibosian who termed him “a mentor, an innovator, an educator, a leader, a protector.”
“He invented the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department University to continue the education of deputies and civilian personnel. He invented educationally based incarceration to prepare inmates for life outside the jail.
“He wrote the ‘Sheriff’s Core Values’ which guide the daily duties of all of the members of the Sheriff’s Department….”
Baca, who is not an attorney, told the audience, comprised primarily of lawyers and judges, that he is “in awe” of what they do.
After Baca bestowed scrolls on the honorees, there came a surprise tribute to him. Veteran San Fernando Valley attorney John L. Moriarity, president of the local chapter of the Footprinters, an international law enforcement support group, came forth to confer a plaque on Baca.
He expressed gratitude to Baca for his 48 years of service to the county’s law enforcement agency “and 15 years as sheriff, handling the largest sheriff’s department in the United States.”
In presenting the “Person of the Year” award on Wesley, Jo-Ann Grace described the presiding judge as “a man with compassion, commitment, fortitude, and humility.”
Roger Grace said the Pasternaks were being recognized for “all they do for the legal community and for the broader community,” and “in light of their sterling attributes.”
Selections were played at the outset of the program by Gary S. Greene, Esq, and His Big Band of Barristers.
Past “persons of the year” in attendance were Philibosian, Antonovich, Baca, Edmon, and Greene, as well as Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Norman Epstein, former State Bar President Patrick M. Kelly, former LACBA president Gretchen Nelson, retired U.S. District Judge George Schiavelli, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victor Chazez, retired judges of that court Lawrence Crispo and Burt Pines, and attorneys Lee Kanon Alpert and Jack Denove.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company