A redesigned appointment process for judges of the
State Bar Court got under way last month when two review judges were reappointed and three
new hearing judges were named to the bars disciplinary court.
A controversial new law observers fear will politicize the court
gives appointment powers for three judgeships to elected officials instead of the Supreme
Court. Three bar court judges challenged the law earlier this year, but it was upheld by
the Supreme Court, which formerly appointed all eight judges.
President Pro Tem John Burton, who wrote the legislation, announced that the Senate Rules
Committee, which he chairs, appointed a staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee
to a four-year term on the court.
Jodi Remke, 35, has served as the committees principal staff on
legislation that created the new California Department of Child Support Services.
Jodi Remke is smart, fair and energetic, said Burton.
She has exactly the skills and temperament the Senate was looking for in a hearing
Remke replaces San Francisco Judge Nancy Roberts Lonsdale, one of the
three judges who challenged the Burton legislation. Lonsdale had sought reappointment.
Remke, who was admitted to the bar in 1992 after receiving her law
degree from McGeorge Law School, worked on legislation involving consumer protection,
family law, juvenile dependency and real property as well as efforts to overhaul the states
child support system. She previously served as a legal advocate on housing issues, was a
legal services attorney and practiced real estate law with the firm of Miller, Starr &
Regalia in Oakland.
Assembly Speaker Robert Hertz-berg named Los Angeles attorney Paul
Bacigalupo, 41, to the court to replace Judge Madge Watai, who was elevated to the courts
Bacigalupo, also a McGeorge graduate, is a business litigator at
Castle & Lax, specializing in complex construction, business, employment and insurance
cases. He has worked as a mediator and arbitrator for JAMS/Endispute, is an associate with
the dispute resolution services of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and a member of
California Dispute Resolution Services, and he has served as a temporary judge in the Los
Angeles County courts.
His appointment is for two years.
Gray Davis named Robert Talcott, who, as a former member of the bars board of
governors in the late 1980s, helped supervise the creation of the State Bar Court, to
replace Judge Carlos Velarde in Los Angeles for a six-year term. Talcott, 68, also sat on
the selection committee that made recommendations for the first judges to sit on the
He served as president of the Los Angeles police commission and has
practiced law for more than 40 years. The senior and founding partner at Talcott,
Lightfoot, Vandevelde, Sadowsky, Medvene & Levine, Talcott formerly worked for the
Justice Department and the U.S. Attorneys office.
He earned both his law degree and a masters of law from
The Supreme Court announced the reappointment of Judge Ronald
Stovitz, one of the original bar court judges, to the review department, and it named
Watai as a review judge. She replaces Kenneth Norian, the public member of the review
department, a position that was eliminated by the legislation.
58, has been a review judge since the State Bar Court was established in 1989 and has now
been reappointed twice. He has spent his entire legal career with the State Bar, working
since 1968 as an attorney in its office of trial counsel, which prosecutes attorney
misconduct, before his appointment to the bar court.
Watai, 73, was a superior court judge in Los Angeles before joining
the bar court as a hearing judge in 1995.
The bar court judges should have taken their seats Nov. 1, when the
old terms expired. But because the appointments were made so late, due in part to the
challenge to the Burton measure, the Supreme Court last month extended Lonsdales and
Velardes terms until their replacements take office. This is an interim
measure to insure there is no gap in service, said bar executive director Judy
Because there is about a six-month learning curve for judges to
become familiar with the somewhat obscure law of attorney discipline, the court usually
experiences something of a slowdown when new judges take the bench.
Two of the review department judges do not work full-time and earn 60 percent
of a superior court judges annual $122,628 salary, while hearing judges earn the
same salary as a municipal court judge $111,985.
Under the new law, the Supreme Court set up an applicant evaluation
and nomination committee which solicited applications, evaluated candidates and made
recommendations to the Supreme Court. They did not make specific recommendations to the
elected officials who make the other appointments, but rated the candidates
Bar staff was not involved in vetting applicants, Johnson said,
adding, We have no idea who they recommended or what their rankings were.