LASC Judge Kleifield Leaves Bench Tomorrow
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Tomorrow will be Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield’s last day on the bench, after more than 20 years of service.
He will use up earned vacation days and officially retire on April 7.
Appointed by then-Gov. Gray Davis, Kleifield assumed office on Sept. 12, 2002.
He received his law degree from George Washington University in the District of Columbia in 1979, and was admitted to the State Bar of California the following year. At the time of his appointment, he was a partner in the mid-Wilshire law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton, and Goldstein, which he joined in 1989.
On March 22, 2016, then-Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl appointed Kleifield to preside over all asbestos-related cases for Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, effective April 29.
His reflections appear on Page 3 of today’s issue.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bruce E. Brodie, whose last day on the bench was scheduled for last Friday, as reported, has advised that he will remain in harness until next Wednesday and will officially retire on March 6.
On Tuesday, David Sotelo officially retired as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. His last actual day on the bench was Dec. 9.
Sotelo was appointed by Davis in 2002. His 1986 law degree is from UCLA.
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Judge Steven Kleifield Reminisces
Below are reflections of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield, whose last day on the bench is tomorrow. As to colleagues he mentions: John Shepard Wiley Jr. is now a justice of this district’s Court of Appeal; Hank Goldberg, Amy D. Hogue, Ann I. Jones and Rita “Sunny” Miller are arbitrators/mediators; Jan Levine is retired; and Victor Chavez is deceased.
AM SO FORTUNATE, to have been a Los Angeles Superior Court judge for the past 20 years. It has been both a privilege and an honor.
While all the cases I heard were important, in retrospect it is the people I remember most. I will only be mentioning a few of them in the interest of space.
Probably the most fun I had was during the early years sitting in criminal courts. I had no experience in criminal and didn’t know any of the lawyers. It was a steep learning curve. I spent a year and a half trying misdemeanors in Huntington Park with Mary Strobel and Amy Hogue, who were the experienced ones because they had been on the bench for six months, and I was new. We had more than a few tostadas at the local restaurants. I also had a great time doing prelims at the Foltz Courthouse with Monica Bachner, Hank Goldberg and Stuart Rice.
My civil experience was all at the Mosk Courthouse. I was in limited civil for a time and conducted twenty five unlawful detainer jury trials in one year. I had independent calendar assignments in Dept. 53 and Dept. 57, sandwiched around a two-year stint in complex, handling the asbestos calendar. The asbestos lawyers were pros. I was surrounded by fantastic judges, including Carolyn Kuhl, Bill Highberger, Ken Freeman, John Wiley, Elihu Berle, Ann Jones, and Maren Nelson.
I got to know the legendary Judge Vic Chavez, who was famous for arranging lunch dates. I was happy to be a part of the regulars. Typically Vic and I would be joined by Sunny Miller and Jan Levine. Vic made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.
At the Mosk Courthouse we have a judges’ lounge where I used to go for lunch regularly pre-COVID. We took turns bringing bagels on Friday mornings. The judges’ lounge was the place where we felt free to share thoughts and experiences. We had judges of all political persuasions, which gave rise to many interesting conversations. What I learned from that experience was that no matter where we were on the political spectrum, once we put on the robe we were all focused on the pursuit of justice.
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