Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Superior Court Judge Nancy Brown Slates Jan. 31 Retirement
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Nancy M. Brown will retire Jan. 31, the MetNews has learned.
The official end of Brown’s long career on the county trial bench was widely expected. The judge said last month that back problems, which have kept her out of work for several months, would prevent her from running for another term.
“After 35 years, I have done my civic duty,” Brown said, adding that her only retirement plans were to travel with her husband, Los Angeles attorney Laurence K. Brown, as much as her health will permit.
Brown, 68, graduated from Indiana University and Stanford University Law School and was an attorney for the State Compensation Insurance Fund and a public member of the California State Personnel Board prior to her appointment as Alhambra Municipal Court commissioner in 1969.
She became a Los Angeles Municipal Court commissioner in 1973. She was appointed judge of that court by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in November 1976, after Judge Leo Freund won re-election despite having died five weeks before the election.
Then-Gov. George Deukmejian elevated her to the Superior Court in 1984. She spent much of her career in criminal court, and was active in the California Judges Association—serving as vice president in 1984-85—and judicial education.
She also chaired the California Judicial Foundation and served on the boards of several charities.
Brown as a judge has been outspoken and independent.
She has often been praised by attorneys who appeared in front of her, by judges who described her as a mentor, and by women who said they admired her efforts to purge the legal profession and court system of sexism. But she also clashed on occasion with supervisors and court executives.
She was publicly reproved in 1999 by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which said she disrupted the court’s efficiency by barring former criminal court coordinator John Iverson from her courtroom for four years.
The judge said she had acted in a “quiet protest” against what she saw as Iverson’s shabby treatment of the late Judge Gordon Ringer, who was moved with minimal notice from what was then the Criminal Courts Building—where he spent 22 years in the same courtroom—to Long Beach.
Brown said Iverson lied to Ringer, telling him that the move had to be expedited because Brown was anxious to move into his courtroom, when in truth she didn’t want to move at all, Brown testified at a special masters’ hearing.
The CJP, however, rejected several other charges against Brown, including one that she acted improperly when she attempted to arrange a marriage ceremony for convicted murderer Lyle Menendez. The plan was thwarted when Judge John Reid—in a move that Brown told the masters she was still angry over—canceled her order that both the groom and his brother and co-defendant Erik Menendez be brought from the jail to her courtroom for the ceremony, which was to take place prior to the brothers’ sentencing for the shotgun murders of their millionaire parents.
While the CJP proceedings were pending, Brown was moved from her assignment hearing felony trials at CCB to juvenile court in Monterey Park. But she was moved again, to an overflow trial assignment in Alhambra, after lawyers for Dependency Court Legal Services, which represents foster children in dependency proceedings, began filing affidavits of prejudice under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 170.6.
The transfer was made by the court’s then-presiding judge, James Bascue, who had been criminal courts supervising judge at the time of Brown’s spat with Iverson and who had testified at the CJP hearing that Brown had interfered with the proper functioning of the court.
Brown had earlier clashed with another presiding judge, Ricardo Torres.
She criticized Torres openly after he had Brown’s close friend, the late Kathleen Parker, who was 86 years old at the time, dropped from the list of assigned retired judges without discussing the matter with Parker personally.
And she told a reporter that her reaction was “completely unprintable” after Torres was quoted in a legal publication as saying he had not appointed women as supervising judges or committee chairs because he didn’t “want to take chances.”
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company