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Governor Lists 4, Including 2 Women, for High Court

December 20, 1988|PHILIP HAGER | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Monday announced the names of four state appellate court justices, including two women, whom he is considering to fill an upcoming vacancy on the California Supreme Court.

Deukmejian submitted the names for evaluation by a special commission of the State Bar. After the nonbinding review, one of the candidates would be in line for selection by the governor to replace Justice John A. Arguelles, who is retiring March 1.

The four justices under consideration are:

- Patricia D. Benke, 39, of San Diego, a former state prosecutor and Superior Court judge who was the first woman appointed by the governor to the state Court of Appeal. Benke previously was on a list of six candidates for three posts on the high court filled by the governor in 1987.

- H. Walter Croskey, 55, of Pacific Palisades, a former Los Angeles lawyer whom the governor named to the Superior Court in 1985 and the Court of Appeal in October.

- Joyce Luther Kennard, 46, of Sherman Oaks, a former deputy attorney general, who was selected by Deukmejian for the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1986, the Superior Court in 1987 and the Court of Appeal in 1988.

- Fred W. Marler Jr., 56, of Sacramento, who served with Deukmejian as a Republican floor leader in the state Senate in the 1970s. Marler, a former Redding lawyer, was named to the Sacramento Superior Court by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1974 and was elevated to the Court of Appeal in July, 1987.

As he has in the past, the governor looked to candidates already well-established as judges in considering nominees for the high court. Of the governor's five appointees to date, four came from the state Court of Appeal. The other, Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas, was a former law partner of the governor and a federal district judge.

"While possessing quite different backgrounds, these four jurists share several common traits," the governor said in a statement issued in Sacramento. "They have extensive experience in the legal profession and have earned the respect of their colleagues."

Concern for Reputation

Deukmejian, a leading opponent of former Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and two other liberal court members ousted in the November, 1986, election, added: "I am confident that whoever is ultimately selected will play a vital role in reestablishing the high court's lofty reputation with the general public."

Under current procedures, the Bar's Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation has up to 90 days to complete a confidential evaluation of the candidates.

While the commission cannot block a nomination, it is free to disclose its decision to the public when it finds a judicial candidate unqualified.

After the governor announces his choice, the nomination must win approval by the state Judicial Appointments Commission. That commission will include Lucas, Lester W. Roth, senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal, and Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp.

Whoever the nominee, the governor's choice is expected by legal observers to provide the court with a jurist of the same moderate-to-conservative judicial philosophy shared by his previous nominees. Thus, the court's ideological balance, with conservatives in a 5 to 2 majority, is likely to stay the same.

Speculation Refueled

As two of the four prospective nominees are female, earlier speculation that Deukmejian will name a woman to the post is likely to build in coming weeks. Bird was the only woman to serve on the court in its history.

Both Benke and Kennard would provide markedly different judicial philosophies from the liberal former chief justice, who in nine years on the bench voted to strike down all 68 death-penalty cases the high court reviewed.

"Both Patty Benke and Joyce Kennard would be the kind of justices who are going to follow the law--not try to rewrite the law in accordance with their own personal views," said Robert H. Philibosian, a former Los Angeles County district attorney and chief assistant to Deukmejian when he was attorney general. "They were both tough, law and order judges in the past and they would be tough, law and order justices on the state Supreme Court."

Philibosian added that, while he believes the governor welcomes the opportunity to appoint a woman or member of a racial minority to the court, he is certain the nominee will be selected on merit.

"The governor traditionally has made philosophy and judgment the key criteria--and then, within those parameters, tried to make selections reflecting the diversity of the state's population," he said.

Lorraine L. Loder, president of the Women Lawyers Assn. of Los Angeles, welcomed the inclusion of two women on the governor's list and urged that one of them be the nominee.

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