Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, August 19, 2020


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C.A. Justice Laurie D. Zelon to Retire Aug. 31

Jurist Was Author of Controversial Decision in Dueñas


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for This district has announced that Justice Laurie D. Zelon of Div. Seven will be retiring on Aug. 31, after 17 years as a member of that panel and 20 years as a jurist.

The announcement was made late Monday by the district’s clerk/executive officer, Daniel P. Potter, who provided statements from members of the court.

Zelon was author of Div. Seven’s widely debated Jan. 8, 2019 decision in People v. Dueñas in which it was held that due process requires that a convicted defendant be afforded an ability-to-pay hearing before the judge imposes court operations or court facilities assessments or a restitution fine. Some district and divisions have followed Dueñas; others have repudiated it.



Court of Appeal Justice


There was no petition for review in that case, but the issues raised by the decision are currently before the California Supreme Court in a case from the Fourth District’s Div. One which followed Dueñas to the extent of requiring an ability-to-pay hearing, but grounding the requirement on the Eighth Amendment’s bar to excessive fines.

Zelon, 67, was president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 1995-96 and received that organization’s highest honor, the Shattuck Price Award, in 2009.

She was founding chair in 1997 of the California Commission on Access to Justice, then a unit of the State Bar. (It is now an independent nonprofit California public benefit corporation).

In 2000, the State Bar chose her to receive the Loren Miller Legal Services Award, presented annually to an attorney who demonstrates a long-term commitment to the providing of legal services to the poor.

Long-Time Association

Zelon was a partner in the law firm of Hufstedler & Klaus, which merged into Morrison & Foerster. A colleague in the Hufstedler firm and in Morrison & Foerster, was partner Dennis Perluss, now the presiding justice of Div. Seven.

“I have had the privilege of working with Justice Zelon for most of my professional career, nearly 20 years as law partners and 17 years on the Court of Appeal,” he commented. “She has been a supportive and inspiring colleague.

“Her scholarship, integrity and compassion will be deeply missed.”

Segal Comments

Justice John Segal of that division said:

“Justice Zelon has been the consummate colleague and my constant mentor. She has a unique ability to figure out difficult cases and to see things others do not.”

He hailed her “wisdom” and said he will miss her “guidance” and “companionship.”

Justice Gail Feuer of Div. Seven remarked:

“Justice Zelon’s longtime commitment to access to justice has transformed the justice system and inspired me and so many others in the legal community.

“I treasure my time with her in Div. Seven as my mentor, colleague, and friend. She has made all of us better by her wisdom, judgment, and example.”

Lui’s Remarks

The district’s administrative presiding justice, Elwood Lui, of Div. Two, said of Zelon:

“I first met her when she was in private practice at Morrison & Foerster. She was highly regarded as a skilled litigator and bar leader who was committed to her profession and to public service.

“Her skills as a practitioner, her collegiality and interpersonal skills made her a natural for the bench. She has been a dedicated judicial officer for the last 20 years.”

Zelon earned her law degree at Harvard in 1977, and was admitted that year to the State Bar of California.

Then-Gov. Gray Davis appointed her both to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2000 and to the Court of Appeal in 2003.


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