Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Otero Confirmed as Newest Federal Judge in Central District
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge S. James Otero was confirmed by the U.S. Senate late yesterday as a U.S. district judge for the Central District of California.
The vote was 94-0. Otero joined John Adams of Ohio and Robert Junell of Texas as the first federal judges confirmed this year. Otero could not be reached for comment.
The votes came four days after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nominations to the Senate floor by voice vote.
Otero, 51, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1988 and was elevated to the Superior Court two years later.
A Los Angeles native, he grew up in East Los Angeles, attended Burbank High School and California State University-Northridge and earned his law degree from Stanford in 1976.
Upon graduating from law school he joined the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, where he represented the city’s Department of Water and Power and served as assistant supervisor of the office’s Criminal Division during his 12 years with the agency.
After leaving the City Attorney’s Office, he served as regional counsel for Southern Pacific Transportation Co. for a year and a half.
He also served as vice president and general counsel of Los Angeles Union Terminal, Inc. and Southern Pacific Warehouse Co.
He presently serves as assistant supervising judge of the civil departments in the Central District. Presiding Judge Robert Dukes, who could not be reached yesterday for comment, had previously said that Judge J. Stephen Czuleger would assume that post when Otero left.
Otero’s confirmation leaves two vacancies in the Central District. Orange Superior Court Judges Cormac J. Carney and James V. Selna have been nominated for those positions.
Otero was rated “well qualified”—the highest possible rating—by a “substantial majority” of the American Bar Association’s evaluating committee. Under the committee’s guidelines, that means at least 10 of the 15 members from throughout the country voted for that rating, with the remaining members voting for the next highest rating of “qualified.”
Carney received a “qualified” rating from a substantial majority, with the remaining member or members abstaining, the committee reported last week on its website. Selna, who was nominated Jan. 29, has not yet been rated.
The other nominees confirmed yesterday, Adams and Junell, will serve in the Northern District of Ohio and the Western District of Texas, respectively. Adams, 47, is a state trial judge in Akron; Junell, 56, is a state representative from San Angelo and of counsel to a large law firm, where he specializes in tort defense.
Senators also are preparing for their first vote of the year on a U.S. Court of Appeals nominee, Miguel Estrada, whom Bush nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Republicans have been pushing strongly for Estrada’s confirmation since Bush sent them his name in May 2001. Democrats have threatened to filibuster the nomination and have debated his nomination with Republicans for more than a week on the Senate floor.
Democrats likely will make a final decision whether to try to block Estrada’s nomination at their weekly conference this afternoon. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said last week he did not know whether he has the 41 votes to sustain a filibuster.
A filibuster probably would be the only way Democrats could stop Estrada’s confirmation, with Republicans in control of the Senate by two votes. If the Democrats should filibuster, it would take the support of 60 senators to force a final vote.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he hoped to get a final vote on Estrada’s nomination before the end of the week.
Estrada, a Washington-based partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and former lawyer in the Solicitor General’s Office, came to the United States from Honduras as a teenager and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. He has practiced constitutional law and argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company