Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Superior Court Judge James M. Sutton to Retire This Summer
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James M. Sutton Jr. said yesterday he will retire this summer after 19 years of service on the court.
Sutton said he would step down, at age 65, at the end of June. His decision, he said, was prompted by “personal matters” involving his former wife.
He declined to elaborate.
Sutton was appointed to the court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1984, after 20 years of practice in Deukmejian’s home city of Long Beach. He started there as an associate of attorney Edwin Illiff, then started a solo practice that lasted until the firm of Kight and Sutton was formed in 1968.
He soloed again from 1982 until his appointment to the bench.
The Oklahoma native graduated from Long Beach City College and from USC, then served in the Army before returning to USC for his law degree.
His practice mostly involved real estate, insurance defense, and business and corporations law. He also was involved in Long Beach Republican politics, running for the state Assembly in 1966 and state Senate in 1972.
He presently sits in Norwalk, where he served a stint as supervising judge. He also served two years on the court’s executive committee.
He has been accused in recent years of an impolite courtroom demeanor and showing bias toward the defense in civil trials. He was reversed in one case, Flores v. Coast Federal Savings Bank, by a Court of Appeal panel which said his comments during testimony constituted “judicial misconduct” and were likely to have influenced the ensuing defense verdict.
In a 2001 interview, Sutton told the MetNews that the jury’s verdict was sound, and that the only way to for the plaintiffs to attack it “was to attack me—and they did.” He said he was treated unfairly in the Court of Appeal opinion.
Oakland attorney Panos Lagos, who represented the plaintiff in that case, along with other lawyers who appeared before Sutton, complained about the judge to the Commission on Judicial Performance. Sutton said yesterday there was no disciplinary action taken.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company