Thursday, August 30, 2001
Davis Appoints San Diego Jurist McConnell to Fourth District Court of Appeal
By a MetNews Staff Writer
San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith D. McConnell, whose federal bench nomination stalled after Republicans took control of the Senate in 1994, was appointed yesterday by Gov. Gray Davis to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
McConnell, 57, has served as a San Diego trial judge since her appointment by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1978.
The appellate court appointment is subject to confirmation by a panel consisting of Chief Justice Ronald George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and Justice Daniel Kremer, the senior presiding judge of the Fourth District.
Davis also appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia L. Meza and state deputy Senior Assistant Attorney General Laura Whitcomb Halgren to the San Diego Superior Court.
McConnell likely is best known to San Diegans today for a series of rulings on a new baseball stadium and efforts to put it on the ballot, and for rulings involving the re-use of El Toro Naval Air Station.
But she garnered the ire of conservatives with a ruling more than a decade ago that awarded the custody of a child to a gay man rather than the child’s mother, a Christian fundamentalist accused of kidnapping the boy.
That ruling was cited as the reason for Republican resistance to her appointment to the federal court by President Clinton, which came on the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
McConnell, who was elevated to the Superior Court by Brown in 1980, later served as that court’s presiding judge. She is widely lauded for her contributions to improving access to justice,, and was awarded the Benjamin Aranda Access to Justice Award by the state Judicial Council, the California Judges Association and the State bar of California. The Judicial Council this year named her Jurist of the Year.
McConnell is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and earned her law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law.
She worked as an attorney for the California Department of Transportation from 1969 to 1976, then went into private practice with the San Diego firm of Reed, McConnell & Sullivan from 1976 to 1978.
If confirmed, she will fill a vacancy created by the death of Don Work on May 16. Court of Appeal justices earn $152,260 annually.
Meza, 48, graduated from Yale University and earned her law degree from Stanford. She began her career with the Legal Aid Society, heading the government benefits unit, then worked as a litigator with Sullivan & Jones and Rogers & Wells.
She joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego in 1987 and headed the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Narcotics Task Force. She currently serves as the office’s civil rights coordinator.
Meza, who said she applied for the post in March, is to be sworn in today.
She said she looked forward to her new post but added, “It’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss my friends and colleagues.”
Halgren, 44, is best known for having represented the state in defense of the death penalty imposed on Jaturun Siripongs, a former Buddhist monk executed in 1999 for the murder of a Garden Grove market owner. She was also counsel to the Commission on Judicial Performance in a variety of investigations, including a probe of a San Diego judge for receipt of gifts from lawyers who appeared before him.
She is a graduate of Loma Linda University and earned her law degree from UCLA. She began her career as an associate with the law firm of Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye.
Superior court judges earn $133,051 a year.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company