Three Get Nod for Calif. Appellate Bench
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - California's Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed two Los Angeles judges and a Sacramento attorney to the appellate bench.
Edmon's elevation to Presiding Justice of the Third Division of the Second Appellate District was the second time in court history in which a judge has gone from the superior court bench straight to presiding justice. She replaces retiring Senior Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, the only other justice to do so.
"I have enormous shoes to try to fill," Edmon said.
Klein, who joined Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Attorney General Kamala Harris in approving Edmon's nomination to the seat at a hearing Thursday, joked, "I have to be careful during this hearing because this person is going to replace me. If I make a bad vote today, we're all in trouble."
Witnesses lauded Edmon's qualifications. Long-time friend Edith Matthai, a partner at Robie and Matthai in Los Angeles, said, "I have no qualms that Judge Lee Smalley Edmon is absolutely up to the job. Like Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, she is an obvious leader."
Matthai pointed to Edmon's leadership of Los Angeles Superior Court as presiding judge during two years of harsh budget cuts from 2011-2013.
"That is not an easy job in the best of times. Judge Edmon took on that job in the worst of times," Matthai said.
Edmon spearheaded a court consolidation plan of large-scale courtroom closures and staff layoffs, but kept the courts running and hearing cases.
"Her legacy is that she kept the court operating and she kept the judges united in what I consider the biggest challenge in the history of Los Angeles Superior Court," Assistant Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl of Los Angeles said.
Kuhl pointed out that Edmon was the first woman presiding judge in Los Angeles, though women have served on the bench since 1928.
"On the west wall of the presiding judges' courtroom are arranged all the photographs of the presiding judges of Los Angeles since 1948. The long line of male presiding judges is broken only by the picture of Lee Edmon," Kuhl said, holding up a framed photograph of the wall. She presented the photograph to Edmon at the hearing.
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye thanked Edmon for her contributions to the Judicial Council, saying the two "didn't always agree," but "communication was open, clear and honest and that carried the day."
Edmon said she was "excited and honored" to be taking Klein's seat. She noted the fact that a woman chief justice, attorney general and senior presiding justice were all sitting on a panel to confirm another woman to the appellate court, an unimaginable scenario when she started her legal career in California 30 years ago.
"What a change," Edmon said.
The panel also confirmed attorney Jonathan Renner, legal affairs secretary in Gov. Jerry Brown's Office. Renner, 44, also has been senior assistant attorney general at the California Department of Justice.
If approved by voters in November, Renner will fill the seat in the Third Appellate District left vacant when Cantil-Sakauye became chief justice in 2011.
"I am excited about the possibility of serving the state of California as an appellate justice," Renner said. "My goal will simply be to do the bets job that I possibly can for the people of the State of California."
In response to Harris' questioning his lack of experience as a trial judge, Renner said: "I have been fortunate in that I've had a practice that has exposed me to a wide range of subject matter. I've been fortunate and unfortunate to experience what it's like to really not know what I'm going to work on any given day."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brian Hoffstadt was the last confirmation of the day. If approved in November, Hoffstadt will replace retiring Associate Justice Kathyrn D. Todd in the Second Appellate District.
Elwood Lui, a retired appellate justice and Hoffstadt's former colleague at Jones Day in Los Angeles, joked that he had "discovered" Hoffstadt.
"I discovered Judge Brian Hoffstadt," Lui said. "I knew his destiny lay with the courts."
Hoffstadt has been a trial judge since 2010, was a partner at Jones Day, was assistant U.S. attorney and senior counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. He also clerked for Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Hoffstadt's hearing took a lighter tone than the preceding ones, as colleagues and friends praised his accomplishments off the bench. "Who else would climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with his girlfriend and ask her to marry him?" Lui said. "Who else can say I'm going to run a marathon and just get up and run a marathon. Of course he probably had to warm up for a few hours first."