Metropolitan News-Enterprise
Jan. 11, 1993
Page 3


Klein, Lillie Honored at
Person of the Year Awards Ceremony

Joan Dempsey Klein, presiding justice of Div. Three of this district's Court of Appeal, Friday called for the citizens of Los Angeles to "respect one another and go about our business" and to solve the city's economic and racial problems.

Los Angeles, she said is "an extraordinary city" with "life, vibrancy" and "enough good people to work hard on our problems."

Klein's remarks came in response to a presentation by City Council President John Ferraro honoring her at the MetNews Fifth Annual "Person of the Year" dinner for her 30 years as a judicial officer.

Ferraro had obliquely referred to the city's financial troubles in his presentation, when he remarked that the commendation to Klein "might be the last plaque the city can afford to give."

Also honored at Friday's dinner was Mildred Lillie, presiding justice of this district's Court of Appeal Div. Seven, who was presented with a golden bowl by the MetNews for her 50 years of government service as an assistant U.S. attorney, as a judge for the Los Angeles Municipal and Superior courts, and as a Court of Appeal justice.

Klein, a 1955 graduate of UCLA's School of Law, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1963 by then-Gov. Edmund "Pat" Brown after having worked for seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney. During her term as the court's presiding judge in 1974, she won election to the Los Angeles Superior Court. She was elevated to the Court of Appeal as a presiding justice three years later.

Klein has been noted throughout her career for her activism in helping women advance in the legal profession. She co-founded California Women Lawyers and the National Association of Women Judges.

MetNews co-publisher Jo-Ann Grace, in her introduction of Klein at the dinner, described her as "a pioneer, a doer, a role model" with a "spirit that is indomitable."

38th District Assemblywoman Paula Boland, R-Granada Hills, thanked Klein on behalf of "the people of California—we're the ones who have ultimately benefited."

And Los Angeles Municipal Court Presiding Judge Aviva Bobb praised Klein's advocacy for "the fair representation of women and minorities on the bench" noting that "that commitment has benefited every single woman on the bench today."

But other award presentations to Klein—coming on the evening of the day Gov. Pete Wilson announced his austerity budget for next year—followed Ferraro's lead with jokes about government entities being so broke they couldn't afford a simple plaque.

State Bar Board of Governors member Larry Crispo, in presenting a certificate of commendation from the State Bar to Klein, jested that "showing the frugality of the State Bar, I bought the printing myself."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Leahy, appearing on behalf of Presiding Judge Robert Mallano, bragged that his court thought so well of Klein that "in this era of hard times, we not only sprung for a scroll, but it has a frame and it is matted."

And San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Patrick Morris, president of the California Judges Association, noted that his scroll was also mounted in a frame, "but it's from Aaron Brothers."

The only direct remark about Wilson came when Morris, in recognition of Klein's reputation as an excellent tennis player, presented her with a basketball-sized tennis ball in lieu of a trophy. Morris noted that the ball had the name "Wilson" on the front of it and quickly assured her "this is not a political advertisement."

Morris sounded the financial theme again when he noted that the dinner was perhaps unique in honoring two women jurists with lengthy publicservice records.

"Most judges hit 20 [years of service] and they're out there making money with JAMS," he remarked, referring to the state's largest private-judging firm.

But Klein, in her speech accepting the awards, sounded a more serious note.

"The people in Sacramento are hard-working," she remarked. "I believe in politicians. Government service is an honorable calling—and a tough job to do."

Klein said felt that her most significant activism on behalf of women was to "create a climate among ourselves where we respected, liked, and helped each other" rather than having "a back-biting, Queen Bee syndrome."

Women lawyers and judges, she said, "extend a helping hand" to other women, and "that's what it's all about."

She recalled her term as presiding judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Court, in 1974, when she started large projects that still exist today, such as the court's Planning and Research Center. "Those were the days when there was money to be had," she noted.

Klein choked up when recalling that she had gained her Los Angeles Superior Court seat by election after giving up on the hope that a governor would elevate her. "I took my case to the people, and they responded beautifully—I'm very proud of that," she said.

Klein thanked former Chief Justice Rose Bird for her appellate post. "[Bird] wanted more women to join Justice Lillie," Klein remarked.

But she focused most of her thanks on her husband, attorney Conrad Klein, who helped her get her first appointment to the bench when they were both assistant U.S. attorneys.

"If not for this man I would not be standing before you here this evening," Klein said, praising his "support that got me on the bench" and his "good counsel and friendship" that helped her become a good judge.

Klein also noted that 1993 marks not only the 30th year of her judicial career but the 30th year of her marriage to Conrad Klein—and that the couple was married by Lillie, then an associate Court of Appeal justice.

In recognizing Lillie, MetNews editor and copublisher Roger Grace said the presiding justice is "revered not just for longevity of service but for the excellence of that service."

Lillie, who received her law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law in 1938, practiced privately in Fresno before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles in 1942. In 1947 she was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. Earl Warren, and elevated by him two years later to the Los Angeles Superior Court. She was named as an associate justice to the Court of Appeal by then-Gov. Goodwin Knight in 1958, and elevated to presiding justice in 1984 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.

"You must know by this time that I am what is referred to as `chronologically gifted'—old," said Lillie, 77 in accepting the bowl. She noted that in that time—55 years of which she had been a member of the State Bar—she had seen "monumental changes" in the practice of law, including seeing the number of lawyers in the state increase tenfold.

Lillie also thanked both her deceased first husband, Cameron Lillie, and her current husband, A.V. Falcone, for giving her the confidence to pursue her career.

She said "watched with pride the great upsurge of women in the law" adding that it "took far too long to happen."


CLICK HERE for the text of remarks by Presiding Justice Mildred Lillie.


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