Monday, February 11, 2002
Panel Confirms Fybel for Fourth District Court of Appeal
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Richard D. Fybel, formerly a judge of the Orange Superior Court, was confirmed and sworn in Friday as a justice of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Div. Three.
The Commission on Judicial Appointments—made up of Chief Justice Ronald George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Presiding Justice Daniel Kremer of the Fourth District’s Div. One—was unanimous in ratifying Gov. Gray Davis’ selection of Fybel, 55, to fill a new post on the Santa Ana-based panel.
The appointment was uncontroversial, as the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation gave the new justice its highest rating, exceptionally well qualified, and there was no public opposition to the appointment.
Fybel was appointed to the Superior Court last year after 30 years in private practice, first at Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliot and, from 1981 to 2000, as a partner at Morrison & Foerster.
He specialized in complex business litigation, including contract, banking, energy, trade secret, labor and real property issues. He most recently presided over a felony master calendar court, after previously hearing civil and criminal trials and civil law and motion matters.
Fybel graduated from UCLA, where he earned his bachelor’s and law degrees, and was a member of the law review. He is a past president of the UCLA Law Alumni Association and currently serves on the board of the UCLA Foundation.
Among those who testified in his behalf were the dean of UCLA’s law school, Jonathan Varat. Not only has Fybel contributed financially and helped the school’s graduates land jobs, he has made great personal efforts to ensure diversity in the law school population, Varat said.
As a Morrison partner, Varat noted, he helped establish a minority scholarship program. When the program had to be abandoned because of constitutional concerns, he added, Fybel helped establish a new program by working with law school faculty members as private individuals.
Fybel “has led us to have high expectations of his future judicial work,” the dean said.
Also testifying for Fybel were former Morrison chairman Carl Leonard, Orange Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson, and former U.S. Secretary of Education and current Morrison partner Shirley Hufstedler.
Leonard said one of the soft-spoken jurist’s greatest assets was his humility, leading the chief justice to quip that “we hope it one that survives the transition” to the appellate bench.
Hufstedler noted that Fybel had a major role in negotiating the merger of her former firm with Morrison, earning the admiration of all involved, she said. “If he has any detractors, I haven’t found them,” she commented.
Fybel, a Jew whose parents—who attended Friday’s hearing, along with a host of other family members—came to America from Europe as the Holocaust took form, “is an outstanding example of the kind of benefits this country has received from immigration,” Hufstedler said.
Johnson, who took office the same day as Fybel and occupied the Fullerton courtroom next to his for 18 months, said that Fybel had become a respected judge in the criminal law field, despite his lack of practice experience in the field. He said his colleague was known as someone who dealt professionally with everyone in the courtroom, including defendants, “not always an easy task.”
In remarks after the swearing-in, the new justice introduced and thanked the numerous family members, fellow Orange Superior Court judges, and bar leaders who came to support his nomination, along with his new colleagues, who wrote a leader of endorsement to the commission.
He also spoke of how lucky he and his parents had been to come to America, and his desire to give something back to the public.
“The opportunities…provided to us have always been the inspiration for my public service,” he said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company