March.
31,
2004

A report on where
things
stand



Four Judges Win Constested Races; 10 Hopefuls Face Runoffs for Five Other Bench Seats... Superior Court to Conduct Balloting for Commissioner Openings Created by Retirements Of Hugh Bobys, Daniel Calabro...Monday Retirements Will
Bring Judicial Vacancies to Six

Judicial Elections

There were nine judicial contests on the March 2 primary ballot:

Office No. 18- Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo and Deputy District Attorney Pat Campbell qualified for a November runoff for the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker. Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldstern and Deputy City Attorney Miguel A. Dager were eliminated. Campbell's campaign consultant is Fred Huebscher.

Office No. 29- Deputy Attorney General Gus Gomez and Deputy District Attorney Lori Jones are in the runoff for the seat being vacated by Judge Richard Hubbell. Deputy District Attorneys Jeffrey Gootman and Edward Nison, Acton attorney Larry H. Layton, who operates an unaccredited law school, and Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack were eliminated. Gomez has Parke Skelton as his campaign consultant, while Jones' campaign is being run by Huebscher.

Office No. 52-Deputy District Attorney Laura Priver and Workers' Compensation Judge John Gutierrez are in the runoff to succeed Judge Nancy Brown, who retired Jan. 31. Huebscher is Priver's consultant; Gutierrez has retained Icon Imaging. Deputy District Attorney Larry Diamond was eliminated.

Office No. 53-Deputy District Attorney David Lopez is in the runoff with Superior Court Referee D. Zeke Zeidler for the seat being vacated by Judge Rosemary Shumsky. Deputy District Attorneys Craig Mitchell and Craig Renetzky, Deputy Attorney General Robert Henry, and Torrance attorney Michael Shook were defeated in the primary. Zeidler is being represented by Cerrell Associates Inc.

Office No. 67- Judge Richard Van Dusen defeated Century City attorney Daniel K. Dik. Huebscher was Van Dusen's consultant.

Office No. 69- Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman and Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer are in the runoff to succeed Judge James Wright. Department of Industrial Relations attorney P. Michael Erwin, Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera, and Sherman Oaks attorney Mitchelll W. Roth were eliminated. Meyer's consultant is Cerrell Associates; Groman's is Evelyn Jerome.

Office No. 72-Judge David Wesley defeated Deputy District Attorney Daniel Bershin, retired Deputy District Attorney Herb Lapin, and Los Angeles Police Dept. Sgt. Kevin Burke, a former Orange County prosecutor. Cerrell Associates, Inc. handled Wesley's campaign.

Office No. 95-Judge Daniel T. Oki defeated three challengers: Deputy District Attorneys Mark Debbaudt and Hilary Anne Rhonan and Encino attorney Eugene Salute. Huebscher served as Oki's consultant.

Office No. 111-Judge Chesley McKay, who has applied for disability retirement, defeated Stella Owens-Murrell, an attorney with the Department of Industrial Relations.


Judges, Lawyers Under Scrutiny

John D. Harris
Los Angeles Superior Court judge

The Commission on Judicial Performance charged Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John D. Harris with judicial misconduct Feb. 19, saying he sought to establish personal relationships with sexual assault victims, made inappropriately personal comments to jurors, attorneys, and court staff, threw a file at a deputy city attorney, and lied during an investigation into his conduct.

Since no one filed to run against him, Harris' name did not appear on the March 2 primary ballot, but an opponent could still mount a write-in campaign against him in the November general election.

The CJP alleges that after two felony sexual assault trials in 2000, Harris met in chambers with the victims and sought to initiate personal relationships. On eight occasions in 2002 and 2003, the CJP claims, the judge made comments to or about female attorneys, court staff members, or jurors that were inappropriately flirtatious or sexual.

The CJP said Harris lied when he stated, in his response to a preliminary investigation letter sent to him in August, that he had never been "counseled, criticized or reprimanded" concerning his conduct by court officials.

Harris filed an answer denying the allegations March 3. He is represented by Long Beach attorney Edward P. George Jr., who has said the allegations are founded on misinterpretations of Harris' behavior.

The CJP said a hearing will be conducted on the charges before a panel of special masters appointed by the state Supreme Court. No date for the hearing has been set.

Patrick B. Murphy
Former Superior Court judge

State Bar Court Judge Robert Talcott has recommended that Murphy, who resigned from the bench while on the verge of removal in 2001, be disbarred. Murphy did not petition for review of the recommendation by the December deadline.

Talcott recommended in November that Murphy's right to practice law be lifted due to the ex-jurist's "egregious" misconduct in collecting a judicial paycheck for 120 weeks while on sick leave between 1996 and 2001.

Murphy had asked to enter the State Bar Court's diversion program for lawyers with mental health or substance abuse problems but failed to appear at a hearing to determine his eligibility for that program or for trial on the disciplinary charges. His default was entered and as a result he was placed on involuntary inactive status Aug. 9.

He was also suspended Sept. 16 for failure to pay his bar dues.


Judiciary: Vacancies, Appointments




Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

There are two vacancies on the 28-judge court.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said this month she would vote against the nomination of William G. Myers III of Idaho to succeed Judge Thomas G. Nelson, who took senior status this past Nov. 14. A number of Native American activists declared their opposition to Meyers last week, and he has also drawn opposition from environmental groups.

Meyers, who was nominated on May 15 of last year and had a confirmation hearing in January, resigned Oct. 10 as solicitor of the Department of the Interior.
A majority of the members of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary found Myers qualified, with at least six members voting him not qualified.

His opponents claim that he holds extreme pro-business views, and that he slanted his legal opinions while in the solicitor's office to favor interests for which he did legal and lobbying work while in private practice.

He is supported by Idaho's Republican congressional delegation and by many prominent figures in the state, including Cecil Andrus, a Democrat who is a former governor and served as secretary of the interior under President Carter. His supporters say he holds mainstream, balanced views on environmental and other issues.

Republican senators tried in November to move the nomination of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl for the other vacancy, but a cloture vote failed by 53-43, seven shy of the necessary 60-vote majority.

The Judiciary Committee on May 8 of last year approved Kuhl, who was rated well-qualified by at least two-thirds of the ABA committee, on a party-line vote of 10-9. Kuhl was tapped by Bush in 2001 to succeed Judge James Browning, who took senior status Sept. 1, 2000.

A third vacancy will be created when Judge A. Wallace Tashima takes senior status June 30.

Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Schiavelli was nominated Jan. 20 to succeed Judge Lourdes G. Baird, who is to take senior status May 12.

Judge Robert J. Timlin is to take senior status Feb. 1, 2005.




There are no vacancies, but one would be created if the Senate confirms Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to which she was nominated July 25. Brown cleared the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote of 10-9, but an attempt to invoke cloture and force an up-or-down vote on her nomination failed on Nov. 14 by a vote of 53-43, seven short of the required three-fifths majority.

A majority of the American Bar Association's evaluating committee rated Brown "qualified" for the position, with at least six of the 15 members voting her "not qualified."


Second District

Presiding Justice Charles Vogel of Div. Four retired Jan. 31.

Third District

Justice Daniel Kolkey resigned Nov. 17 to return to private practice.

Sixth District

Justice William Wunderlich is currently undergoing an FBI background check as a prerequisite for appointment to the U.S. magistrate judge position in Yosemite National Park. It is anticipated that he will take up those duties in April or May.

Seats in other districts are filled.

Los Angeles Superior Court


Judge Margaret Hay is retiring today, creating a fourth vacancy. Judge Alan Haber retired Feb. 9 and Judge Nancy Brown Jan. 31.

Judge Dale Fischer joined the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Nov. 17.
Judges John Ouderkirk and Lawrence Crispo are retiring on Monday.

Newly elected Commissioner H. Elizabeth Harris is to take up her duties tomorrow at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Justice Center. The court's other new commissioner, Maren Nelson, starts work Friday as a family law jurist at the Stanley Mosk courthouse.

Harris and Nelson were elected to fill vacancies created by the Dec. 2 retirement of Commissioner Lonzo Lucas and the Dec. 12 resignation of Richard Novak, who is now in private practice.

Commissioners Hugh Bobys and Daniel Calabro will retire today. Ballots to select replacements for them will be distributed to the court's judges Monday. They will be due back April 29 and will be counted April 30.


Legislation of Interest to the Legal Community

The following legislation of interest to the legal community was introduced in March:

AB 1978, by Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Temecula, which would create a jury service exemption for a single parent or guardian who has sole custody of a child under 6, or a parent in a two-parent household who stays at home to care for a child under 6. Haynes withdrew the bill March 30 after receiving a commitment from the Judicial Council that the issue will be studied and addressed in court rules.

AB 2057, by Assemblyman Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, which would require that depositions be conducted under the supervision of an officer who is certified as a shorthand reporter, except in certain cases. The bill was amended with technical changes March 22 and remains in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

AB 2253, by Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, which would provide a jury service exemption for all Californians over the age of 75. The bill failed passage from the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 3-7 vote March 23, but was granted the chance to be reconsidered at a future hearing.

SB 1225, by Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Carlsbad, which would revise the duties of a court commissioner. The bill was amended with the court commissioner language March 15 and remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 1305, by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, which would require the Judicial Council, within its existing budget, to establish a unit in the Administrative Office of the Courts to focus on improving the courts' handling of civil and criminal elder abuse cases. The former spot bill was amended to include specific language March 22 and remains in the Senate Rules Committee.

SB 1801, by Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, which would prohibit state agencies and the courts from charging special fees for use of credit cards to pay for any service or obligation, including State Bar dues. The bill was amended March 23 to add specificity and remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AB 2202, by Assemblyman Robert Pacheco, R-City of Industry, which would create an exception to the 75-day time limit for serving a notice of motion for summary judgment. The bill failed passage from the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 3-7 vote March 23, but was granted the chance to be reconsidered at a future hearing.

AB 2211, by Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, which would extend the time period for filing opposition to a motion for summary judgment. The bill failed passage from the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 3-7 vote March 23, but was granted the chance to be reconsidered at a future hearing.



 

 

 


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