Thursday, June 6, 2002
Superior Court Honors Temporary Judges for Service
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday honored 730 attorneys for serving more than four days as a temporary judges over the last year, including one dedicated temporary judge who rushed to court in blue jeans after being called to fill in for a bench officer in an emergency.
With the court in a real pinch for bench officers, real estate attorney Donna C. Riegel rushed down to the court, stopping only to change her tennis shoes.
“I changed my shoes, but if someone would have looked at what I was wearing under my robe that day they would have laughed,” Riegel, who volunteered more than 40 days on the bench during the year, said.
Riegel is one of the many non-paid volunteers who were applauded by the court for contributing a total of 9,940 hours, or the equivalent of 41 full-time bench officers, Presiding Judge James Bascue said. Temporary judges help staff courtrooms when a bench officer is sick or on vacation, or where a courtroom is unassigned.
That kind of support helps the court, with 584 bench officers, staff 620 courtrooms a day, Bascue said.
Bascue congratulated the volunteers for helping the court serve the public more quickly and efficiently.
“Your service to the court plays a critical role in allowing us to provide such timely service,” he said.
There are currently 18 judicial vacancies in the Los Angeles Superior Court—including two for which the governor named new judges yesterday—and the Legislature has not acted to create additional judge positions sought by the court.
Bascue also took the opportunity to encourage the temporary judges to provide good customer service to the people who appear in their courtrooms and reminded them to take pride in representing the court.
“When you sit on the bench, you are a representative of the court in the eyes of the public,” Bascue said. “You are a bench officer.”
Judge Dale S. Fischer and incoming Los Angeles County Bar President Miriam Krinsky awarded plaques to 29 attorneys for having served 40 or more days as a judge pro tem.
Among the recipients were Michael J. Convey, who is the county’s 2001 volunteer of the year, and San Pedro attorney Mitchell B. Young, who is last year’s county honoree.
Convey is on the list of candidates being considered by the court for appointment as commissioner. If Deputy Federal Public Defender Richard G. Novak defeats Juvenile Court Referee Guillermina Gutierrez Byrne in a runoff election later this month, Convey will replace Novak at the top of the list going into the next round of commissioner voting.
In order to qualify to become a temporary judge, an attorney must have been a member of the State Bar for at least five years and attend a two-part training session, beginning with the three-hour “Fairness in the Courts,” which gives attorneys a crash course in ethical issues, demeanor, accessibility and fairness, Fischer said.
After completing the introductory class, temporary judges are given an hour-and-15-minute briefing on the specific area of law where they will be assigned. Temporary judges are used to handle matters in small claims, traffic infractions, unlawful detainers, and civil non-jury trials.
Attorneys are sometimes used as judge pro tems in family law, but those attorneys must be certified family law specialists to be given that assignment.
Temporary judges must repeat the entire training every three years.
“It’s something attorneys like to do as a public service,” Fischer, who heads the court’s Temporary Judges Committee, said.
Convey said he became interested in becoming a judge pro tem after volunteering in the court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which helps people resolve their disputes through mediation and arbitration instead of settling it in court.
“It’s a new opportunity to learn to do something different and expand my experiences in the law,” Convey said.
Temporary judges, who take the time out of their own law practices to sit on the bench, said they rely on the support of employers and family to be able to serve.
Convey said his firm—Silva, Clasen & Raffalow of Sherman Oaks, in-house counsel for Mercury Insurance Company—has been extremely supportive of his volunteer hours. Riegel, a sole practitioner in South Pasadena, said she wouldn’t be able to put in so much time on the bench if it wasn’t for the support of her husband.
“Thank goodness I have a husband who has a job,” Riegel said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company