California Bar Journal
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5 judges named to State Bar Court
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Staff Writer
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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 bar’s 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.

Robert TalcottSenate 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 committee’s 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 judge.”

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 state’s 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 court’s review department.

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.

Madge WataiGov. Gray Davis named Robert Talcott, who, as a former member of the bar’s 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 court.

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. Attorney’s office.

He earned both his law degree and a master’s of law from Georgetown University.

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.

Ronald StovitzStovitz, 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 Lonsdale’s and Velarde’s terms until their replacements take office. “This is an interim measure to insure there is no gap in service,” said bar executive director Judy Johnson.

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.

Paul BacigalupoTwo of the review department judges do not work full-time and earn 60 percent of a superior court judge’s 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’ qualifications.

Bar staff was not involved in vetting applicants, Johnson said, adding, “We have no idea who they recommended or what their rankings were.”