Monday, October 22, 2001
Judge Michael Kanner Says He Won’t Seek Reelection
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Kanner, who won a hotly contested bid to hold on to his seat six years ago, won’t run for another term, the judge told the MetNews Friday.
After 21 years on the bench, the judge said, “I’m going soak in my jacuzzi for at least six months” before deciding on future plans.
Kanner’s term ends in January 2003. His decision not to run means there will be at least two open seats on the ballot next March, since Judge Michael Pirosh is retiring in January and has said he won’t file for reelection.
Kanner’s options within the law may be limited, he acknowledged.
Entering private practice at this stage in his career may not be practical, the former prosecutor said. And after a legal and judicial career devoted almost exclusively to criminal law, he commented, “I’m not sure mediation or being a rent-a-judge is really a viable option.”
He may consider some type of pro bono work, he said, in order to remain involved with the legal process.
“The law is something that can really sustain you,” he commented. “It keeps your mind agile.”
The jurist said he’d look back fondly on his career. “There have obviously been some valleys, but by and large it’s been a ball,” he said.
The obvious low point of Kanner’s career came in 1994, when he was publicly reproved by the Commission on Judicial Performance for adopting a policy of issuing no-bail bench warrants for all misdemeanor defendants who failed to appear before him in what was then the Alhambra Municipal Court.
The commission said the policy violated state law giving defendants a right to bail before conviction, absent an applicable exception, and constituted a “failure to exercise judicial discretion.”
Of particular concern to the commission was the fact that Kanner had issued a no-bail warrant for a man accused of a dog-license violation, an offense to which the judge later said the policy was not intended to apply.
The reproval figured heavily in the campaign of Dennis Orfirer, a Los Angeles attorney and former West Hollywood rent control hearing officer who filed a last-minute challenge to Kanner when he came up for reelection in 1996. Orfirer spent liberally and held Kanner—who had never faced an opponent before—to 55.7 percent of the vote.
The judge, who became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in January of last year through unification, figured in another controversy when he took the unusual step of endorsing an attorney who was challenging another Alhambra jurist.
Kanner backed attorney Maria Vargas-Rodriguez in her challenge to Judge John Martinez in last year’s elections. The battle became a Superior Court contest when unification was approved after filing but before the election, but was run in the old Alhambra district.
Vargas-Rodriguez said Kanner and the court’s commissioner, Michael Duffy, persuaded her to run against Martinez. The challenger led Martinez in the primary, but the incumbent won the runoff.
Martinez and Judge Carlos Uranga, who backed his reelection, remain in the Alhambra courthouse. Kanner was transferred, first to the North Central District and then to the Criminal Courts Building, where he is currently hearing misdemeanors; Duffy is now in Monrovia.
Kanner, 54, joined the District Attorney’s Office after his graduation in 1969 from Southwestern University School of Law. He received a January 1983 “midnight” appointment by outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company