Monday, April 17, 2017
Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon to Retire After 20 Years on Trial Bench
By a MetNews Staff Writer
1996 Staff Photograph
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon is retiring after 20 years on the bench, the MetNews has learned.
The jurist is slated to sit in her Stanley Mosk Courthouse courtroom for the last time May 5. An official retirement date could not be determined.
Sanchez-Gordon, 65, became a judge following her election to the East Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1996. She won a rare open seat on that court, prevailing over two commissioners she termed part of the “Old Boys Network” to become the first Mexican-American woman judge of the court.
She was born in the Mexican state of Jalisco and came to Southern California with her family at the age of four. Her father was a butcher in Vernon and a member of the meat packers union.
She attended Immaculate Heart College in Central Los Angeles, then earned a teaching credential and taught for nine years at Malabar Street Elementary School. She enrolled in People’s College of Law in 1980. Raising a child, substitute teaching, and going to school at night, she was admitted to the State Bar in 1988.
In a 2012 interview, she credited her decision to go to law school to her husband, Los Angeles attorney Walter Gordon III, and his father, Walter Gordon Jr., a pioneer among African-American lawyers in the area.
During her teaching days, she said, her husband “would call his father or vice versa and discuss court calendars, judges, cases, clients and information about prosecutors.” She said she found it fascinating.
One of her jobs after law school was as director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s Labor Immigrant Assistance Project, helping immigrant workers obtain legal status under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. She became a deputy federal public defender in 1990, and remained at that post until her election to the East Los Angeles court.
She prevailed in a November 1996 runoff, defeating East Los Angeles Municipal Court Commissioner Anthony Luna. The campaign was largely heated and personal, as Sanchez-Gordon attacked Luna—who later went to prison for tax fraud—for having overbilled the county on court-appointed work he’d handled as a criminal defense attorney, and Luna attacked her for not living in the district.
The campaign turned out to be an extraordinarily expensive contest for a small district. Sanchez-Gordon wound up spending more than $200,000 and Luna more than $100,000.
Sanchez-Gordon was elevated to the Superior Court in 2000, through unification. Her off-the-bench activities have included efforts, through the California Judges Association, to foster a growing relationship between California judges and their Mexican counterparts.
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