California Bar Journal
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Judith Epstein named bar court review judge
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Judith A. Epstein, whose legal career has spanned media, corporate and environmental law, is the newest review judge on the State Bar Court. She took the place of Ronald Stovitz, who was elevated to presiding judge last year.

The 59-year-old Epstein began her career as a clerk for California Supreme Court Associate Justice Wiley Manuel and became the first home-grown woman partner at Oakland's Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, where she specialized in media law. She served as general counsel for Valent U.S.A., a subsidiary of Sumitomo Chemical Ltd. of Japan, overseeing its legal affairs from 1991 to 1998.

Epstein also has taught legal ethics for the last five years at the Univer-sity of San Francisco Law School, was a volunteer staff counsel at the Nature Conservancy and was East Bay executive director and fellow of The Commonwealth Club.

She has a longstanding interest in issues of ethics and professional responsibility, beyond the kinds of ethical breaches which give rise to attorney discipline. The law "is a tremendously changing profession," Epstein says, pointing to developing multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional practices as sources of cutting-edge ethical issues.

She describes her new post as "the opportunity of a lifetime to bring together all the different facets of my career in a very meaningful way and to try to give serious and informed consideration to issues of legal ethics and professional responsibility."

She also sees the job as a chance to "get to know more of the community and to hear their concerns, and to try to make more visible whatever concerns the bar may have relating to professional responsibility."

Epstein was appointed by the Supreme Court to a term which lasts until November 2004.

The terms of two current judges, review Judge Madge Watai and hearing Judge Paul Bacigalupo, expire Nov. 1 and the process of filling those jobs, whether by reappointment or with new judges, begins this month. Watai's position will be filled by the Supreme Court and Bacigalupo's is by appointment by the Speaker of the Assembly.

The State Bar Court, which consists of three review judges and five hearing judges, adjudicates attorney discipline matters.

The review judges and two of the hearing judges are appointed by the Supreme Court and the remaining hearing judges are appointed by the governor, speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee.