William A. MacLaughlin to Retire As Judge of Los Angeles Superior Court
Cites Boredom Based on No Cases to Try During Pandemic; Hailed for Outstanding Leadership
By a MetNews Staff Writer
WILLIAM A. MACLAUGHLIN
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William A. MacLaughlin, who served as his court’s presiding judge in 2005 and 2006, has slated a Dec. 31 retirement.
“I don’t have any present plans for the future as my retirement was the result of the inactivity caused by the pandemic and not because of a plan for something else,” he said yesterday, adding:
“I’ve been doing long cause civil cases for the past 14 years and would continue in that assignment indefinitely. The pandemic has put the trial of those cases on hold since March 16 and there is no present ability to predict when we may be able to resume.”
The court’s current presiding judge, Kevin C. Brazile, had this to say:
“Bill MacLaughlin was an exemplary judge, amazing colleague and wonderful friend. He was a mentor and role model to me and many others. He was the gold standard in terms of court leadership.
“He was the first person that I and other PJs turned to when major problems or a crisis arouse on the court. He always provided cogent, sage and well reasoned advice and guidance.
“He was a person of great humility, the utmost integrity and unwavering coverage. You always felt better after talking to him about your concerns or problems. He made everyone around him better through his experience and brilliance.
“He was kind and caring and always made time to listen and talk with you. He was the ultimate advisor and counselor to judges. He was simply the Best!!”
‘Judicial Scholar,’ ‘Legend’
Eric Taylor, the Los Angeles Superior Court’s presiding judge-elect, remarked yesterday:
“Judge MacLaughlin will be sorely missed in our court as a friend, a judicial scholar and a legend among our presiding judges.
“He served during some of the most challenging periods for our court. He tackled a major budget issue and tempered ambitious efforts to shift power from local court governance to a centralized model, maintaining many aspects of our localized system that benefits our communities.
He created the LASC’s Judicial Education Seminars (JES) allowing our court’s bench officers to receive their ongoing education here in Los Angeles, while launching many L.A. judges into their own paths as experts in judicial instruction.
“Bill is kind, thoughtful and dedicated. He is the model of what a judge should be.”
Carolyn Kuhl, the 2015 and 2016 presiding judge, offered this praise of her horseback-riding colleague:
“Bill MacLaughlin stands tall, out of the saddle as well as in the saddle. He is courageous. He is wise. He never failed to stand up for our court, for its independence and for the independence of every judicial officer.
“He has been a mentor and confidential advisor to every presiding judge who came after him. All of us learned to be leaders at least in part from Bill. Part of his teaching is his great sense of humor and his example of not taking oneself too seriously.
“He is loved and respected, and his influence for the betterment of LASC will continue even though he now will spend time in greener pastures.”
“Courage, Intelligence,’ ‘Professionalism’
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, who succeeded MacLaughlin as presiding judge, said:
“I had the honor and pleasure to be the assistant presiding judge while Bill was the presiding judge. I could not have had a better example of courage, intelligence or professionalism to prepare me for my role. Bill is the quintessential judge and leader.
“Our court was blessed to have his talents over the years. He will be missed, but I know more than most that his legacy will live on long after he retires. The Los Angeles Superior Court is a better place today because of Bill MacLaughlin.”
‘Genuinely Great Leader’
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy, who was presiding judge in 2009 and 2010, commented:
“Bill MacLaughlin was a genuinely great leader of the Los Angeles Superior Court, not only as presiding judge but in the many other important positions he held over his years on the court. His wise decisions as presiding judge resulted in countless improvements in court operations and provided an environment where judicial officers and staff could serve the public to the very best of their abilities.
“Bill was not only a leader, but he mentored and raised up leaders for years to come. It is with admiration and thanksgiving that we all wish him the very best in his retirement years.”
Robert Dukes—a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge who is presently serving on assignment and was presiding judge in 2003 and 2004—described MacLaughlin as “one of the true living foundations of our current court.” Dukes continued:
“He bridges the court from pre-unification to the current era and at all times was an outstanding leader and mentor to the court’s judicial officers. He was a visionary who saw the need for our local court to establish stellar educational programs and continue as a preeminent provider of judicial education to judges locally and throughout the state.
“As presiding judge, he continued to establish the court’s independence from ever encroaching attempts to centralize administration and control at the state level while still maintaining a cordial working relationship with the governor, the Legislature, and the Judicial Council. To me he was a confidant. To all he is a friend.”
MacLaughlin, who was appointed to the Superior Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992, received his law degree from Yale in 1960.
He came to California based on advice he received, along the lines of “Go West, young man.” Expecting to remain on the East Coast, he was interviewing with a Wall Street firm when, in the course of conversation, a senior partner realized he knew MacLaughlin’s family, in Iowa.
The man rendered avuncular advice, telling MacLaughlin to go to the West Coast, saying:
“That’s where the future is.”
He took the advice and landed a job in Los Angeles with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
MacLaughlin, 85, spent most of his legal career in small partnerships or practicing on his own. He formed Wetherbee & MacLaughlin in 1964, and MacLaughlin & Gerber in 1974, and became a sole practitioner in 1978.
“I had practiced law as a trial attorney for more than 31 years before being appointed to the bench,” he recounted yesterday.
He noted that his first court appearance was in the building now known as the Stanley Mosk Courthouse (then the Central Courthouse), and it will be as a judge assigned to that courthouse that he will end his career.
“I will always miss the court and our judges,” he remarked.
Looking back on his years in judicial service, MacLaughlin said that “the comradery and fellowship with the judges is a standout.” He hailed “the dedication and commitment of the judges,” adding:
“I did not appreciate the full extent of that dedication and commitment until I became a part of it.”
While Taylor accords credit to MacLaughlin for the founding of JES, the court’s educational program, MacLaughlin shared that credit, saying:
“It started in 2005 with a few classes and with reluctant and little administrative support and has now grown to become the primary educational resource for the judges of our court and would not have occurred without the nearly incredible support and effort of our bench.”
MacLaughlin was an author of a May 9, 2011 report by leaders of the Los Angeles Superior Court setting forth, with particularity, how the Judicial Council had been failing in its oversight of the Administrative Office of the Courts—which was subsequently disbanded.
The San Fernando Valley Bar Association named him trial judge of the year in 1997, the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles accorded a like honor to him in 2000, and the Metropolitan News-Enterprise named him “person of the year” in 2005.
MacLaughlin, who has since his youth had a love of horses, lives with his wife on a cattle ranch in the northwest portion of Los Angeles County.
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