Thursday, October 17, 2002
Davis Appoints Two to Los Angeles Superior Court Bench
By LORELEI LAIRD, Staff Writer
Gov. Gray Davis yesterday named four men to superior courts in southern California, including two to Los Angeles Superior Court.
Rafael A. Ongkeko, a principal deputy Los Angeles county counsel, and John A. Kronstadt, a partner in the Century City offices of Arnold & Porter, have been appointed as judges in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“I’m honored, frankly humbled, to be given this opportunity,” Kronstadt said. “I’m numb today. It’s the kind of thing where I wanted to look back on my legal career and say I’ve done things that matter.”
Kronstadt, who specializes in complex business litigation, said he only found out yesterday that he had been selected by the governor. He said he’ll likely start as a judge next month.
He doesn’t know what sorts of cases he might be given to try, he said, but he’ll do his best with whatever he gets.
“It’s a great challenge to try to do your best, to be the kind of judge before whom you would like to appear and provide as fair and open a hearing as you can,” he said.
Kronstadt has previous public experience as a clerk for U.S. District Judge William Gray in Los Angeles, in 1976 and 1977. He is active in the Los Angeles County Bar Association, winning its first award as an outstanding committee chair, and has also served on the board of the Constitutional Rights Foundation. He holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell and a law degree from Yale.
Ongkeko said he sees his appointment as a judge as his third career, after 23 years in public and private practice.
“I think every litigator would like to be a judge, or should be thinking about [it],” Ongkeko said. “I was encouraged to do this sooner rather than later. I’m very lucky to have gotten this far.”
Ongkeko spent 19 years in the County Counsel’s Office, including 17 years handling civil litigation. From 1998-2002, he was in private practice, including a stint at his own civil litigation firm, Ongkeko, Doyle & Nichols, but returned to the county earlier this year. He has served as a volunteer arbitrator in the Superior Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a law degree from Boalt Hall.
Kronstadt and Ongkeko replace retired Judges Juelann Cathey and J.D. Smith, respectively.
Ventura Superior Court Commissioner Manuel J. Corvarrubias was appointed as a judge in Ventura Superior Court. Covarrubias currently handles family law cases in the eastern branch of the court; he said he enjoys it but looks forward to his new duties.
“Eventually, I am looking forward to taking on different assignments,” he said. “It takes a personal toll but I still enjoy trying to resolve conflicts.”
Covarrubias is a past president of the Mexican American Bar Association of Ventura County and currently co-chairs a subcommittee on race and ethnicity for the Judicial Council of California. He graduated from California State University-Northridge and Loyola Law School. He will fill a new judgeship at the Superior Court.
Like Covarrubias, Commissioner John Iwasko of the Santa Barbara Superior Court currently handles family law cases. He said he’s “absolutely looking forward” to the change that comes with his elevation to a judgeship.
Iwasko has extensive experience with civil litigation, business disputes and family law as a lawyer in private practice from 1970 to 1997, including stints at the Santa Monica firms of Melville & Iwasko and Iwasko, Good & Klee. He has served on the Board of Directors of the California Court Commissioner’s Association and is active in the community, serving as president of the Marian Medical Center Foundation and on the Board of Directors for the local Red Cross. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Woodbury College and is a graduate of Hastings College of the Law. He replaces retired Judge Eugene L. Huseman.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company