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Scoville Takes Seat as Appellate Justice

January 20, 1988|JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writer

Harmon G. Scoville was confirmed and sworn in Tuesday as Gov. George Deukmejian's first appointment to the state Court of Appeal in Santa Ana.

At a 45-minute hearing, the three members of the Commission on Judicial Appointments listened as lawyers and a judge praised Scoville's qualifications for the post of presiding justice of Division 3 of the 4th District Court of Appeal.

California Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas, Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and Daniel J. Kremer, presiding justice of the state appellate court in San Diego, then voted unanimously for confirmation.

Appointed by Reagan

Scoville, 65, served 19 years as a judge in the Orange County Municipal and Superior courts after he was first appointed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Deukmejian nominated him for the Santa Ana appellate court last month, after Presiding Justice John K. Trotter Jr. resigned.

At Tuesday's hearing, Van de Kamp, a Democrat, questioned Scoville about whether he had been asked about his judicial philosophy by the governor or his staff before his nomination.

Scoville said his only contact with the governor's office had been with Marvin Baxter, Deukmejian's appointments secretary, last month. Baxter did not ask, but Scoville said he "volunteered" his view supporting the death penalty.

"I have felt that the death penalty is something that in serious, serious cases should be carried out," Scoville said.

Death penalty appeals go directly to the state Supreme Court, but a number of proposals to route most of them through the intermediate courts of appeal have been made.

Van de Kamp also asked Scoville about how he planned to organize the Santa Ana court as presiding justice.

Scoville said he had considered changing a practice, which is common throughout California's appellate courts, of assigning cases at random to the four justices.

Scoville suggested that the legal specialties of the three other justices, all appointed by former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., should not be "wasted."

But Scoville pledged not to make any changes immediately and said he would make none without the "consent and wishes and desires of my colleagues."

Vernon Hunt, president of the Orange County Bar Assn., praised Scoville as an "outstanding legal scholar." Hunt said Scoville would "follow the law and uphold it and not try to become the law himself."

Gets 'the Job Done'

Superior Court Judge Judith M. Ryan described Scoville, past presiding judge of the Orange County Superior Court, as an "innovative" administrator who "got the job done."

Ryan said she was speaking both for the bench and for the county Women's Laywers Assn.

James Ward, speaking for the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation of the State Bar of California, said his group's investigation turned up no negative assessments of Scoville.

Scoville is considered "a judge's role model" having "qualities of remarkable or extraordinary superiority," Ward said.

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