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2 L.A. Judges Are Top Candidates to Replace Kennedy

November 16, 1987|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

Two Los Angeles federal trial judges are among the leading candidates to replace Judge Anthony M. Kennedy on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals if the Sacramento jurist is confirmed as the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sources close to the selection process identified the candidates as U.S. District Judges Pamela Ann Rymer and Dickran Tevrizian Jr., who have both been interviewed in the past for possible 9th Circuit jobs by U.S. Justice Department officials in Washington.

The 28-judge 9th Circuit, which covers California and eight other Western states, has no active judges from Alaska or Hawaii, however, and Justice Department officials concede that lobbying efforts from those states and other regions within the circuit could influence the filling of any vacancy on the court.

While Kennedy's Sacramento seat traditionally would be filled by another Californian, Stephen Markman, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, said the Reagan Administration is not bound by state borders in filling vacancies on the federal appellate courts.

"We don't see that any state has a geographic entitlement to seats on a circuit court," said Markman, whose office screens federal judicial candidates.

Markman, noting that the Senate confirmation process for Kennedy has not even begun, declined to speculate on possible candidates to replace him and said it is too early for a serious Justice Department review of possible choices.

"Obviously we are aware there are state delegations" eager for representation on the circuit, Markman said. But the Justice Department "tries to look at the caseload" in determining the best geographic area for a new judge, he said. That criterion would benefit candidates from Los Angeles, which produces more 9th Circuit cases than any other area in the West.

Rymer, 46, who has strong Republican connections and a reputation as a tough conservative judge, turned down possible appointment to the California Supreme Court last year, saying, "I love the work that I am doing and feel committed to my appointment to the federal bench."

She has been mentioned frequently for a 9th Circuit judgeship since her appointment to the district court in 1983 and was on a list of candidates considered for the U.S. Supreme Court before President Reagan decided to nominate Kennedy.

Tevrizian, 47, a former Los Angeles Superior Court judge named to the federal bench early in 1986, is viewed as a moderate conservative with close ties to Gov. George Deukmejian. He was interviewed by Justice Department officials in Washington earlier this year after presiding over the political corruption trial of former Norwalk Assemblyman Bruce E. Young, now appealing a mail fraud conviction.

Strengthening the nomination chances for Rymer and Tevrizian was the appointment by Deukmejian in July of former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald M. George of Beverly Hills to the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal.

George, 47, is the head of Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson's merit selection committee for federal trial judges in Los Angeles and was strongly backed by Wilson for an earlier 9th Circuit vacancy this year. The nomination was filled instead by Associate U.S. Atty. Gen. Stephen S. Trott, and George said last week he has no interest in leaving his new job as a state appellate judge.

In the judicial game of musical chairs following the nomination of Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to sources close to Wilson, U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner remains a leading candidate for a federal judgeship in Los Angeles if Rymer, Tevrizian or a1852798056selected.

Bonner was the top choice of Wilson's selection committee for the last local opening on the U.S. District Court a year ago, but was passed over by Wilson, who instead recommended the appointment of former San Fernando Superior Court Judge Ronald Sing Wai Lew, the first Chinese-American ever named to the federal bench in Los Angeles.

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