Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Los Angeles Superior Court Elects Two New Commissioners
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court judges have elected sole practitioners J. Christopher Smith of Los Angeles and Maria Puente-Porras of Bellflower as commissioners.
Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl’s office informed judicial officers that Smith and Puente-Porras were elected from a list of candidates nominated by a judicial panel. Their election was expected, based on the court’s tradition of electing commissioners in the order that the panel has ranked them.
Smith told the MetNews he “can’t wait” to get to work at the court, although he will need some time to wind down his practice. He is primarily a criminal defense lawyer, he said, but also handles police brutality and personal injury cases.
A graduate of UCLA and Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Ga., he has been practicing for 18 years. He said he first became interested in judicial service while working for the Los Angeles Superior Court as a judicial assistant.
“I got to see the behind-the-scene operations of the court, how the judge makes his or her decisions, he said. “Being part of the system planted a seed….”
A number of judges, he said, told him he should consider applying for the bench, so when the court announced last year that it was going to recruit new commissioners for the first time in three years, he decided to apply.
Puente-Porras said she expects to be sworn in sometime next month. She and Smith both said they had not been given any indication as to where they might be assigned.
Puente-Porras said that after 17 years of practice, the last 12 or 13 as a sole practitioner, she was “wanting to continue to be a public servant, to see the law from the other end of the courtroom.” Her practice focuses on family law and criminal defense.
A graduate of Cerritos College and Western State University College of Law, she served as president of the Southeast District Bar Association in 2010 and has since been the secretary-treasurer, a post she is giving up in order to become a bench officer, she said.
The remaining candidates on the commissioner list are Deputy District Attorney Latonya Hadnot Prioleau; Woodland Hills sole practitioner Michelle Short-Nagel; Deputy Public Defender Lisa Strassner; Deputy Federal Public Defender Alicia Blanco; Montebello attorney Armando Duron; Administrative Law Judge Amy C. Yerkey; court staff attorney Nichelle Blackwell; dependency court attorney Timothy Martella; Calabasas sole practitioner and former Superior Court Referee Marilyn Mordetzky; Deputy Alternate Public Defender Michael Miller; Orange County Deputy Public Defender Sheryl Beasley; Amparo Veronica Sauceda of the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice; and Irvine attorney Doreen Boxer.
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