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Notebook / Criminal Court

His Special Kind of Justice Is Reserved for the Legal System

February 08, 1988|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

When then-Deputy Dist. Atty. William W. Bedsworth won a Superior Court judgeship about a year ago, a tiny tremor of concern rumbled through Orange County's legal community.

Not that Bedsworth, now 40, wasn't highly qualified to be a judge.

But legal folks wondered what his elevation to the bench would mean to "A Criminal Waste of Space."

That's the name of Bedsworth's popular, or at least notorious, humor column, which has appeared the last seven years in the Orange County Bar Assn.'s monthly magazine.

Bedsworth specializes in self-deprecation. But his best zingers are reserved for judges, defense attorneys and anyone else he meets in court.

Defense motions, he once wrote, come in two forms: "Vanilla and raspberry mocha praline chip swirl." Another column asked, "Have you ever met a public defender who wouldn't embarrass you at a museum opening?"

Bedsworth once wrote that U.S. District Judge A. Andrew Hauk was so tough that he ate "lawyers and Sterno for breakfast."

He once predicted that the state Supreme Court, under then-Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, was becoming so powerful a force in molding the law that it would soon open its own legal service, called "Laws R Us."

All of this comes from a legal mind whose office as a prosecutor was lined with hundreds of empty Excedrin tins.

Bedsworth was a prosecutor for more than 15 years and was head of the district attorney's writs and appeals section for nearly six years. But even then he couldn't resist a good line. Opposing a change of venue in a murder case, Bedsworth once wrote that the county suggested by the defense couldn't supply enough jurors to field a good softball team.

"We should take the law seriously, but we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously," Bedsworth said in a recent interview. "Sometimes the job is exasperating. The column is my outlet.

"I do have a few hobbyhorses I jump on. We file too many lawsuits, for example. But mainly I just want to have a little fun."

In his column, Bedsworth once gave this advice on jury selection: "Beware of jurors who list their occupation as urban guerrilla or spit at you during voir dire (questioning prospective jurors)."

And he once attacked a judicial seminar on body language this way: "If I'm voir diring a juror and her pupils dilate, I know now that she either finds me attractive or she's on drugs. Or she's using drugs and that's why she finds me attractive."

Even high praise is couched in humor. When Alicemarie Stotler was appointed to the U.S. District Court two years ago, Bedsworth suggested that she got the job because "she already knew how to walk on water. They figured it would save them a lot of time and effort in the training program."

Judges are a favorite Bedsworth subject, even now that he's on the bench.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had such a bad track record, he once wrote, that "it's a little hard to tell whether being reversed by them goes in the 'L' column or the 'W' column." But he added a footnote that "people who speak ill of federal judges generally do so in lieu of sucking on an exhaust pipe."

Bedsworth's endless supply of footnotes is his trademark. The line, "in the words of Queen Victoria, we are not amused," was footnoted "and Joe Biden."

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