Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, December 27, 2002


Page 1


Davis Names Justice Dennis Perluss to Succeed Mildred Lillie

Governor Also Names Six to Los Angeles Superior Court


By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts


Gov. Gray Davis yesterday nominated Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Perluss as the new presiding justice in this district’s Div. Seven.

If confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, Perluss would succeed the late Mildred Lillie, California’s longest-serving judge. Lillie was a member of the Court of Appeal for more than 44 years, the last 18 as presiding justice in Div. Seven.

The commission, when considering appointments from this district, consists of Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and the senior presiding justice, Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three. The hearing will be held Jan. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Court of Appeal in San Diego, 750 B Street, Suite 300, following hearings on three judges nominated earlier this week to serve on the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Confirmation would cap a rapid rise in the judiciary for Perluss, 54, a former Morrison & Foerster partner. He was named to the Superior Court as part of Davis’ first group of trial court appointees, in October 1999, and was elevated to the Court of Appeal in September of last year.

Eyed for High Court

He was also one of four jurists whose names were sent to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation as possible appointees to the state Supreme Court following the death last year of Justice Stanley Mosk. The appointment ultimately went to Carlos Moreno.

The ascension has been “thrilling,” Perluss said. The justice said he does not anticipate major changes in the operation of the court under his leadership, and that his major goals are “promoting collegiality and building consensus,” qualities for which Lillie was widely recognized.

He said he considers himself  “moderate or centrist” in judicial philosophy, similar to Lillie.

The division is strong, he added, because of the experience of its other members. Justice Fred Woods has served for 15 years and Justice Earl Johnson Jr., who has been the acting presiding justice, for 20, Perluss noted.

The nominee is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School. After clerking for then-Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Shirley Hufstedler and the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, he began his practicing career in 1975 in Los Angeles with Hufstedler and Kaus. He also served as deputy general counsel to the Christopher Commission.

Comments on Perluss’ nomination, or requests to speak at the hearing, should be received by 5 p.m. Jan. 3, the Administrative Office of the Courts said in a statement. State guidelines require that requests to speak be accompanied by a summary of the facts on which the speaker intends to rely.

The AOC asked that comments and speaking requests be addressed to the Commission on Judicial Appointments, in care of the chief justice, at 350 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA 94102, Attention: Ms. Gale Tunnell, Secretary to the Commission.

The governor yesterday also named six new members to the Los Angeles Superior Court’s judging ranks—Superior Court Commissioners Robert A. Schnider and David Sotelo, Deputy District Attorneys James R. Dabney and Craig D. Karlan, Assistant County Counsel Kevin C. Brazile, and Long Beach insurance defense lawyer Michael P. Vicencia.

Commissioners Elevated

Sotelo, 48, said he was awaiting word yesterday afternoon as to when he would be sworn in and where he would sit. He has spent his bench career so far in East Los Angeles, where he served as a Municipal Court commissioner from 1994 to 2000 and has been a Superior Court commissioner since trial court unification.

While he is ready to “go wherever I am needed,” he said, he would “prefer to stay where I can make the most difference.” He has been hearing drug court and Proposition 36 cases, in addition to handling a felony arraignment calendar.

Sotelo, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and UCLA School of Law, will succeed retired Judge Robert Letteau. He was in private practice in Los Angeles from 1987 to 1988 and was a deputy district attorney from 1988 to 1994.

He has served on the faculty of the California Judges College since 1997 and serves on the board of the Mexican American Bar Foundation

Vicencia, 38, will succeed retired Judge Alban Niles. He said he was encouraged by lawyers he has worked with to apply for the bench, despite his relative youth.

A lawyer since 1990 and an associate at Prindle, Decker, & Amaro since 1998, and the immediate past president of the Long Beach Legal Aid Foundation, he said that watching judges at work “kind of inspired me [to believe] you can make your profession better and your community better” through judicial service.

The California State University, Fullerton and McGeorge School of Law graduate also said he was encouraged by his family, which has long been involved in public service. His father, businessman Frank Vicencia, spent 12 years in the California Assembly, and was speaker pro tem for two terms.

The elder Vicencia donated $25,000 to the governor’s just-concluded re-election campaign.

Schnider, 57, has been hearing family law cases since his appointment as a commissioner in 1981. He specialized in family law matters before his appointment as a judicial officer and was in the first group of lawyers to become certified family law specialists in 1979.

He has also lectured at continuing education programs and was an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School, has been honored by the family law sections of the Beverly Hills Bar Association and State Bar of California, as well as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Boalt Hall.

He will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge William T. Garner.

Dabney, 46, has spent his career as a prosecutor, beginning in 1984, and currently heads the Habeas Litigation Unit. He is a veteran of 22 murder trials, 11 of which were “special circumstances” cases, and has been recognized for his expertise on Proposition 36.

After graduating from CSU Long Beach, he attended Whittier College School of Law, graduating first in his class and as editor-in-chief of the law review. He was a founder of the Latino Prosecutors Association.

He will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Thomas R. Simpson.

Karlan, 36, has had a broad variety of assignments in his 11 years as a prosecutor and is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Law School, where he teaches a course in white-collar crime. He has also given lectures on white-collar crime for the California District Attorney’s Association.

He graduated from Yale College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and from Harvard Law School. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Theodore Piatt.

Brazile, 45, joined the County Counsel’s office in 1984 and currently heads the General Litigation Division, and has been heavily involved in the defense of police misconduct, employment discrimination and sexual harassment litigation. His undergraduate and law degrees are from UCLA.

Brazile will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge David A. Horowitz.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company