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Davis Names Eskin to Santa Barbara Bench

The retired attorney and former Ventura County assistant D.A. will join the Superior Court.

August 27, 2003|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

A retired attorney whose career as a prosecutor, civil litigator and criminal defense lawyer spanned three decades and three counties was appointed Tuesday to the Santa Barbara County Superior Court by Gov. Gray Davis.

George C. Eskin, 65, a Santa Barbara resident who has served as the assistant district attorney in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and as a chief assistant city attorney in Los Angeles, is expected to begin hearing cases next month.

Eskin's appointment was among eight announced Tuesday amid a historic campaign to recall the governor from office. In addition to Eskin, Davis named Santa Barbara County Court Commissioner Arthur A. Garcia to the Superior Court and elevated five judges to state appellate courts.

In Ventura, where Eskin began his career as a prosecutor in 1965, judges and attorneys described him as a seasoned litigator whose wide-ranging background made him an excellent choice for the bench.

"George has mentored so many attorneys, and so many judges, that it is fit and proper that he should put on the robe," said Associate Appellate Court Justice Steven Z. Perren, who was hired by Eskin in 1969 as a deputy district attorney in Ventura County.

Eskin also hired former Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury and at least eight prosecutors who went on to serve as county judges.

Eskin spent three years as the assistant district attorney in Ventura County before going into private practice. He worked again as a prosecutor in Santa Barbara in 1975 and 1976, and then served five years as chief assistant city attorney in Los Angeles before resuming private practice in 1981.

Over the years, Eskin, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from UCLA, has handled a broad range of criminal cases, from manslaughter and armed robbery to political corruption and fraud.

"He is exceptionally well-versed in the law, and he has a prodigious intellect," Ventura County Superior Court Judge David W. Long said. "He has been a shining star in the legal community, both here in Ventura and in Santa Barbara."

Eskin retired in 1997 to become a stay-at-home dad after the election of his law-firm partner and wife, Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). But he didn't stray far from the courtroom.

He continues to coach a high-school mock trial team and has lectured at law school seminars. He also served on the State Bar of California commission that evaluates judicial candidates, and on the boards of various nonprofit groups. In addition, he had a weekly talk show on KCLU-FM (88.3) radio focusing on social and political issues.

Eskin said Tuesday he was looking forward to launching a new chapter in his legal career. He applied for a judicial seat last year and will fill a vacancy left by the retirement of his longtime friend, Judge Harry Loberg.

"I am really excited about the challenges this presents," Eskin said. "It provides me an opportunity to serve the whole community and the administration of justice, which is where my efforts have been focused throughout my adult life."

Jackson, Eskin's wife of 22 years, said that the community would be getting a good judge.

"It's a wonderful appointment," she said. "Once he decided that retirement wasn't for him, and that he really missed the law ... he really was very anxious to get started and apply his talents and expertise and wisdom to the bench."

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