Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Former Judge Henry Nelson Honored as ‘Attorney of the Year’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Sheriff’s Department yesterday honored attorney and former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry P. Nelson as its “Attorney of the Year” for 2001.
Nelson’s five-attorney firm, Nelson & Fulton, has represented the department in over 169 lawsuits. Last year the firm successfully litigated 15 of the 17 lawsuits assigned to its attorneys by the Sheriff’s Department, ranging from allegations of excessive force by deputies to car accidents involving patrol cars.
Three cases handled by Nelson’s firm were held up by the Sheriff’s Department as examples of his expertise resulting in defense verdicts, including one in which a plaintiff accused deputies of using unreasonable force when they shot him and left him a paraplegic after he attempted to run down a deputy to avoid arrest for auto burglary and grand theft auto.
The honor came as a surprise to Nelson, who said he had been kept in the dark about the award for over a month.
“I’m very happy they gave me this award and they think what we do for them is good,” Nelson said.
Lt. Ralph Webb, who heads the department’s Civil Litigation Unit, called Nelson a “workhorse” who produces great results with his “no frills, no fanfare” style.
“It’s really advantageous having a former judge as a lawyer,” Webb said. “Talk about knowing the system.”
Nelson retired from the bench in 1991 rather than face a hearing, before three masters reporting to the Commission on Judicial Performance, in which attorneys were prepared to testify to Nelson’s alleged persistent bullying of lawyers.
Nelson was transferred from the Criminal Department in light of a flood of complaints from both prosecutors and defense lawyers and frequent “papering”-the filing of affidavits of prejudice against him.
Before retiring, Nelson was in the Juvenile Court, where protests over his performance were said to have persisted.
Webb said he was not aware of the circumstances surrounding Nelson’s retirement from the bench, adding that it wouldn’t have been a consideration for the award.
“He’s just a good lawyer,” he said.
Nelson was appointed to the bench on March 11, 1980 by then-Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. He had been in private practice for 18 years—at one point as a law partner of now-Mayor Tom Bradley, and for the final 10 years before becoming a judge as a sole practitioner.
After leaving the bench, Nelson helped found Nelson & Fulton.
Past recipients of the award include Eugene Ramirez of Manning & Marder; Richard Kemalyan of Kemalyan & Richland; and Dave Lawrence of Franscell, Strickland, Roberts & Lawrence. Four members of County Counsel have also been honored with the award: Pat Myers, Kevin Brazile, Roger Grambo and Dennis Gonzales.
Last year’s honorees were Steven Blades of Manning & Marder and Douglas R. Hart of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company