Three Lawyers, Three Judges Named ‘Persons of the Year’
MetNews to Pay Tribute to Kwan, Hammock, Berger, Pellman, Sands, Cacciatore
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Three judges and three lawyers have been selected as Metropolitan News-Enterprise “Persons of the Year,” to be feted at a black-tie dinner on Jan. 26 and be profiled in a special supplement.
The judges, distinguished members of the Los Angeles Superior Court, are Ruth Ann Kwan, Randolph Hammock, and David A. Berger.
Also to be honored are prominent attorneys whose service to the Los Angeles legal community has been long and constant. They are former Los Angeles County Counsel Lloyd “Bill” Pellman, a partner in Nossaman LLP; former Langston Bar Association President V. Ahda Sands who is a past co-chair of the Multi-Cultural Bar Alliance; and former Italian American Lawyers Association (“IALA”) President and community leader Thomas P. Cacciatore.
The salutes to the attorneys, are, in essence, lifetime achievement awards.
At the dinner last January, the METNEWS, breaking with custom, honored six persons. In light of the pandemic a dinner could not be held in 2021 or 2022 so, this year’s dinner was in honor of the three 2020/2021 honorees as well as the three 2022 honorees.
Dispensing with the presentation of scrolls by government officials, brief words of praise were spoken of each honoree, respectively, by one longtime friend. The format succeeded and will be followed this year.
The black-tie dinner will take place in downtown Los Angeles at a private club—its rules prohibit identifying it other than in the invitation—on Jan. 26, with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m.
UTH ANN KWAN was born in Hong Kong and came to the U.S. at age 14. Although English was not her primary language, she graduated from her high school near the top of her class and graduated cum laude from USC, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1978.
She was in the top 15 percent of her graduating class in 1981 at what was then known as the University of California Hastings College of Law and was admitted that year to the State Bar of California.
Kwan was a deputy Los Angeles city attorney when she was appointed to the East Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1995 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson.
In 1996, she was challenged by J.B. Casas who, two years earlier, had been turned out of office by voters as a judge of the Rio Hondo Municipal Court. Running as “Judge Casas,” he implied that he was the incumbent.
Then-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien enjoined Casas “from referring to himself, in his candidate’s statement or any other election-related materials, with the title ‘Judge.’ ”
Kwan won the election despite her opponent being Latino and the judicial district also being, overwhelmingly, Latino.
She was elevated by Wilson to the Superior Court in 1998.
The judge has earned various awards including the Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s 2021 Public Service Award. Kwan participates in judicial and bar association events, frequently lecturing.
METNEWS Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace said of Kwan: “Affable and level-headed, she’s adored by colleagues and respected by lawyers. Judge Kwan recently displayed admirable writing skill and analytical prowess as a pro tem on the Court of Appeal for this district. “She is a leading member of the Superior Court.”
ANDOLPH HAMMOCK, as an attorney, represented a client in multiple jurisdictions and, to facilitate that representation, passed the bar exam in 15 states. Advocate, a magazine published by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, said in a June 2022 article that “he is likely to have had passed more bar exams than any other practicing lawyer in the United States.”
He became a part-time, then full-time Los Angeles Superior Court referee and wanted a judgeship. Hammock lost a 2006 race, but prevailed at the polls in 2010.
Since then, he has gained expertise in election law and is sought out for advice on that subject by colleagues. On Sept. 13, he delivered a one-hour talk on judicial elections in the judge’s lounge of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, beamed court-wide via a webinar.
Hammock was a vocal proponent in 2017 of Senate Bill 235 which stemmed from a METNEWS editorial and a model bill drafted by Grace that was sponsored by the Conference of California Bar Associations.
The bill, enacted into law, amends Elections Code §13107, principally to bar dramatized, emotion-evoking ballot designations in judicial races.
The judge is known to read, daily, appellate court opinions posted on the Judicial Council website—all civil opinions of the California Supreme Court and all published civil opinions of the courts of appeal.
“He’s undeniably bright—and that’s reflected in his ably constructed, often witty, minute orders and in the various articles he has written for publications on legal topics,” Grace commented.
“He’s never downbeat, is full of energy, and is fun to be around.”
Like Kwan, his first language was not English. It was American sign language; both of his parents were hearing-impaired.
AVID A. BERGER’s first language definitely was English—the British version. He was born in London and retains a British accent, and still employs some distinctively British phraseology.
The judge came to Los Angeles in 1989, intending to settle here; had to return to the U.K. in 1990 to settle affairs of his father, who had died; completed interrupted law school studies there; returned to the U.S. in 1994. He was admitted to the State Bar in December 1997.
At that time, he was a salaried law clerk for the District Attorney’s Office, and in 1998, was hired as a deputy district attorney. He went on loan to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office on July 1, 2009, then-City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s first day in office, serving as Trutanich’s special assistant—but left, abruptly, nine months later, returning to his prior role.
Berger will say only that Trutanich ordered him to do something unethical, and he refused.
His comically derisive political commentary on Trutanich on his much-viewed blog, Los Angeles Dragnet, was perhaps influential in defeating his ex-boss’s bid for election as district attorney and his failure to gain reelection as city attorney. Berger’s first two campaigns for the Superior Court failed, but he was elected on Nov. 3, 2020.
He has the distinction of holding two law degrees: one conferred by the University of London in 1993 and the other by Loyola in 1997.
While members of his court have widely varying backgrounds, he might be the only member who has been a professional race car driver.
“Judge Berger is highly articulate. It cannot be imagined that attorneys, hearing his explanation of rulings, would be confused.”
LOYD “BILL” PELLMAN spent 31 years in the County Counsel’s Office. From 1998 to 2004, he was the county counsel, heading a law office with a staff of about 500, representing the county in litigation, and advising the Board of Supervisors, the county’s 40-or-so departments, the Superior Court, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the county superintendent of schools, and special districts.
Grace said that Pellman, now at Nossaman, “might well be regarded as the premier lawyer in California in the area of government law and, in particular, municipal law.” He also specializes in land use and mediation.
As county counsel, Pellman attended each Board of Supervisors meeting and was frequently called upon to provide on-the-spot advice, requiring intimate familiarity with the Government Code, other sets of statutes, the county charter, ordinances, and recent court decisions. He explained the law simply, directly, succinctly.
Providing correct advice sometimes meant not telling the supervisors what they wanted to hear. For example, in 1998, there was sentiment on the board in favor of opening up records where a minor, removed from a home, died while in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services; Pellman insisted that as the law stood, his office was obliged to press to keep juvenile records confidential.
With the 1998 general election one week away, it was uncertain whether Sheriff Sherman Block, who was seeking reelection, would live. Pellman told supervisors that if Block died and won, they would appoint a successor for a two-year term, and if he won but was incapacitated, they could ask the attorney general to authorize them to due (in quo warranto) to remove him.
(Block died before the election, which was won by Lee Baca.)
. AHDA SANDS, an attorney for the State Compensation Insurance Fund in its City of Orange office, is anything but insular. In addition to being a past president of the John M. Langston Bar Association, Los Angeles, and a past co-chair of the Multicultural Bar Association, she is a past board member of Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, and is currently secretary of the Senior Lawyers Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
She’s also a past member of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association.
For six years, she participated in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s temporary judge program and has been a speaker at local high schools’ “career days” to spark interest in students in becoming lawyers.
Aside from her legal community activities, she is former vice president, secretary and treasurer of the Orange County chapter of the International Association of Women.
Sands is also a real estate broker associate and a certified public accountant.
Through her comments on LinkedIn, she provides praise and encouragement to Black members of the legal community, such as telling Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rupert Byrdsong, when he left office last year as president of the California Judges Association:
“Congratulations on the completion of your term!
Karen Nobumoto, who served as State Bar president in 2001 (and was the METNEWS “Person of the year” that year) died last year on May 10. A memorial tribute with large attendance was held, orchestrated by Sands, and through her efforts, a “Karen Nobumoto Scholarship” was set up by the Langston Bar Association.
Grace praised Sands as “one of the most positive forces in the legal community” adding that Sands has “acted “selflessly, gallantly in her efforts.”
HOMAS P. CACCIATORE is an attorney dedicated to his family, to Italian American organizations and causes, and to the legal profession. He has long served in that profession having been admitted to practice more than 51 years ago.
After a stint as an attorney for an insurance company, he went into private practice, handling cases throughout the state and at all court levels.
For 11 years, Cacciatore fought the case of Bigbee v. Pacific Telephone Co. which generated three published opinions, culminating in a California Supreme Court decision which redefined duty and proximate cause, being much cited and included in casebooks.
His client was a man who, in 1974, was injured when a car rammed into the phone booth he was using. Cacciatore brought suit, on the client’s behalf, against the telephone company and the manufacturer of the booth, setting forth theories including products liability and negligence as to the booth’s location.
The state high court was persuaded by Cacciatore to reverse summary judgment in favor of the defendants. In a 1983 opinion, it declared that “it seems evident that a jury could reasonably find that defendants should have foreseen the possibility of the very accident which actually occurred here.”
Cacciatore has been involved in various Italian American organizations in Los Angeles and, notably, was an early president of the Italian American Lawyers Association. Formed in 1977, he headed it in 1981.
Grace, herself a past president of the IALA, hailed Cacciatore as a “backbone of the organization, through the decades,” adding:
“He attends the board meetings, religiously, presents his views forthrightly and, with his unique institutional knowledge, provides sagacious counseling.”
The IALA staged a Nov. 13, 2018 heavily-attended roast of Cacciatore.
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