Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Robert Kawahara Elected Superior Court Commissioner
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles attorney Robert Kawahara has been elected a Superior Court commissioner, the court disclosed yesterday.
“I’m excited,” the downtown sole practitioner told the MetNews. “Very excited.”
Kawahara won a majority of the vote in the field of more than 20 candidates for two positions. No other candidate received the necessary majority, so trial lawyer Melissa Widdifield and Deputy District Attorney Diana Summerhayes will compete in a runoff, Superior Court spokesman Kyle Christopherson said.
Ballots went out yesterday and are due back Feb. 28, Christopherson said.
Kawahara said it would take him at least two weeks to close out his practice. He said he was anxious to take the bench but hasn’t been informed of his assignment.
He said he is unconcerned about whether it is a criminal or a civil court.
“I’ve done both” civil and criminal work, he commented. “I enjoy either side.”
Kawahara, Widdifield and Summerhayes, in that order, went into the balloting with the highest ratings of candidates evaluated by the court’s examining committee.
Kawahara, a former president of the Japanese American Bar Association of Southern California, has been a lawyer since 1980. He practiced with his brother, Los Angeles attorney Glenn Kawahara for two years before branching out on his own.
His practice has included personal injury and business litigation and family law.
Widdifield is a partner in the downtown firm of Lightfoot, Vandevelde, Sadowsky, Medvene & Levine. She joined the firm as an associate in 1987—she had clerked there while attending Loyola Law School—then left the following year to clerk for U.S. District Judge, now Chief Judge, Consuelo Marshall of the Central District of California.
She returned to the firm in 1989 and has handled criminal trials and appeals as well as police misconduct and sexual discrimination cases. She serves as an “as-needed” Superior Court referee and is president of Women Lawyers of Los Angeles.
Summerhayes, a former president of the League of Women Prosecutors, is a veteran of the district attorney’s appellate division and was one of the members of the special prosecution team probing the Los Angeles Police Department Rampart Division CRASH unit.
As an appellate lawyer, she has briefed and/or argued a number of cases before the Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court. Two years ago, she persuaded the high court to overrule this district’s Court of Appeal in People v. Hatch, 22 Cal.4th 260, and permit retrial of a defendant whose case was dismissed following a hung jury.
Whichever of the two candidates loses the runoff vote will go to the top of the rankings list and will likely be elected a commissioner in the coming weeks. The rankings are not binding on the judges, but are usually followed, and four vacancies are slated.
Commissioner Manly Caloff is due to retire Feb. 20, Commissioner Louis Head March 4, Commissioner Michael Price March 11, and Commissioner Linda Elliott March 31.
The next-highest ranked candidates will be Superior Court research attorney William Dodson, State Bar Court Hearing Judge Stanford Reichert, Superior Court Referee Jane Godfrey, Santa Monica lawyer Michael Levanas, Deputy Federal Public Defender Richard Novak, Sherman Oaks practitioner Michael Convey, and child-support enforcement attorney Nicholas Taubert.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company