Monday, December 10, 2001
Ashmann Confirmed, Sworn In as Appeals Court Justice
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Judith Ashmann was confirmed and sworn in Friday as the newest justice of this district’s Court of Appeal.
The Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously approved Gov. Gray Davis’ nomination of Ashmann, 57, to succeed Justice Candace Cooper in Div. Two. Cooper was confirmed last month as presiding justice in Div. Eight.
Ashmann proved an uncontroversial nominee, and there was no opposition when the commission met Friday. She was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shari Silver, UCLA law professor Carole Goldberg, District Attorney Steve Cooley, and Davis’ judicial appointments secretary, Burt Pines, spoke in favor of the nominee.
Silver credited Ashmann’s skills as a trial judge, saying prosecutors and defense lawyers often trusted her abilities enough to waive jury trials, and as an administrator. Ashmann served as supervising judge of the old Los Angeles Municipal Court’s Van Nuys branch before being elevated to the Superior Court, where she served as North Valley District supervising judge.
It was in that capacity that Ashmann got to work with Cooley, then the top prosecutor in San Fernando. The district attorney called the nominee a “good friend and respected judge.”
He and the deputies he supervised respected her abilities as a trial judge, Cooley said. In addition, as supervising judge, she succeeded in whittling down a six-month backlog of criminal cases that was the biggest of any district’s, he said.
The result was that “civil courts were again able to hear civil cases,” Cooley said.
“She has excelled every place she has been assigned and she has improved every court to which she has been assigned,” the district attorney said of Ashmann.
Pines, who regularly attends the commission’s hearings but had never testified at one, explained that he first met Ashmann when she was “one of the bright young lawyers attracted to our office” after Pines was elected Los Angeles city attorney in 1973.
Her intellect, drive and energy were so “remarkable,” Pines said, that she graduated first in her law school class, as a night student working full time as a deputy probation officer. She rose to the position of senior special counsel, Pines said, handling “some of the most sensitive matters we had.”
Pines also credited Ashmann with taking the lead in setting up the office’s domestic violence unit, the first of its kind in thenation.
Pines noted that he has now advised the governor on more than 160 judicial appointments, mostly of people that he and Davis didn’t know before they applied for the bench.
“Sometimes you wonder if you’ve got it right” once you’ve decided to put someone on the bench, he said. “In Judge Ashmann’s case, I know we got it right.”
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, the commission chair, told Pines that he was extremely impressed with the work done by his office. Reiterating comments he has made at earlier hearings, he said the quality of Davis’ appellate court appointments was “excellent.”
“Much of the credit goes to the governor,” Pines quipped. “He plays an important role in the process.”
Given the uncontroversial nature of the appointment, neither George nor either of the other commissioners—Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Div. Three Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein—had any probing questions for Ashmann. But George, noting that one of the witnesses had mentioned that Ashmann had run a marathon, asked her her time.
“I finished,” she responded, perhaps not wishing to engage the chief justice, who took up long distance running a number of years ago and has completed several marathons.
Ashmann’s confirmation leaves one Court of Appeal vacancy in this district, on the new Div. Eight. Among those who have been evaluated by the JNE Commission and could be appointed to the post are Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Madeline Flier, Laurie Zelon and Gregory Alarcon and Ventura Superior Court Judge Melinda Johnson.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company