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Marshals Man Court's Door to Bar Thomas

June 28, 1986|PAUL FELDMAN | Times Staff Writer

A courtroom confrontation between two Los Angeles Municipal Court judges failed to materialize Friday morning when Judge George W. Trammell posted marshals to deny Judge Maxine F. Thomas access to the jurist's entrance of the presiding judge's courtroom.

But the dueling judges, both of whom maintain that they are the presiding judge of the Municipal Court, engaged in a private verbal battle later in the day, with Thomas--according to Trammell--announcing that she would refuse to accept a new assignment.

Despite a 57-13 recall vote by her colleagues Wednesday, Thomas has insisted that she is still the presiding judge of the Municipal Court, whose responsibilities include calling the list of cases in Division 1.

Court Rules Cited

But court administrators and fellow judges say that under the court's written rules, Trammell, 49, who was the assistant presiding judge, has succeeded her in the supervisory post.

Trammell, who took the bench at 9:01 a.m., said later that marshals "were ordered to prohibit her from coming through (the judge's entrance) to take the bench." If she had "waltzed in" through a public entrance, he said, he would have stepped aside to avoid a confrontation.

Thomas, who indicated that she may take legal action next week to try to void the recall results, said she returned to her office to avoid a public scene after discovering the marshals on hand and a door to the courtroom locked.

"I arrived this morning to find the door leading to . . . Division 1 locked," Thomas told reporters gathered at her office. "I was not going to participate in a confrontation."

Thomas added that she planned to meet with Trammell later in the day and indicated that she would accept a temporary courtroom assignment Monday. "I'm not going to allow any business of the court to go wanting," she said, responding to reporters' questions.

However, Thomas, 39, may have reversed her position in a brief, late-afternoon meeting that Trammell described as "very short" and "confrontational."

He said he handed her a written order to report to Division 59 on Monday morning to preside over misdemeanor trials.

"She said she was not going to go," Trammell recalled.

Trammell said he discovered midway through the conversation in Thomas' office that someone was eavesdropping through a speaker phone on Thomas' desk. "It took me a little bit of time to get her to turn it off," he said.

Trammell said he was disturbed by the session because "if she wants to pursue this thing, let her pursue it in what I feel is the dignified way--by filing a lawsuit and not just acting in an anarchist manner."

"This will have an impact on cases Monday," he said. "She's not helping us out; instead, she's just sitting here doing nothing."

Thomas could not be reached for comment on the meeting.

A candidate for a Superior Court judgeship in the November election, Thomas was voted out of her presiding judge's post Wednesday after 42 of the court's 80 judges petitioned for a removal hearing.

Although they did not cite specific reasons, Thomas, the first black woman to become a presiding judge, has been criticized by fellow jurists, who contend that she has neglected her judicial duties to campaign for office.

Thomas has termed the removal vote unfair because specific charges were not cited before the balloting.

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