Judge Anthony Mohr - WVRC on August 31st
P MIKE could not be with us, so PE CHRIS BRADFORD presided by calling the meeting to order promptly at 12:30 pm. STEW GILMAN led the Pledge, followed by "I've been working on the Railroad" under the direction of LENNY FRIEDMAN (he wanted "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" but was all but overruled by the obstreperous membership). PP JIM DOWNIE accompanied LENNY on the phone. ED GAULD, after commemorating Labor Day, gave the invocation.
There were several guests joining us today: RAY ZICKFELD introduced his family including son Roger, granddaughters Mallory and Allison, and wife Marjorie. PP STEVE SCHERER introduced The Reverend John Woodall. LENNY introduced his wife Sunny who, he noted, is now well.
At the Head Table were PP BOB WESSLING, the Honorable Anthony Mohr, MARK ROGO, PE CHRIS, PP MIKE NEWMAN, and VP SEAN MCMILLAN. It was noted by PE CHRIS that everyone at the head table was an attorney except MARK. PE CHRIS then played a trick on P MIKE by calling his office and leaving a message asking him if today was the day he was to substitute for him, that he was stuck at the office, and that he would get to the meeting as soon as he could.
PP STEVE DAY reminded Rotarians of the Paul Harris Celebration which will be held on November 4th at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. PP STEVE said he brought envelopes for everyone which were outside which include raffle tickets and an auction donation form. The cost of the event is $100 per person. An enclosed envelope should be returned to the WVRC with payment.
PE CHRIS reminded everyone of the Auxilliary 70th Anniversary Party which will take place at Lawry's Prime Rib, Beverly Hills on September24th. Invitations have been sent.
PP STEVE introduced a special guest, his niece Mallory Zickfeld, who participated in the Japan Exchange Program in Japan this summer. Mallory, a sophmore at a local high school, is an excellent student and plays the cello. He noted that Mallory is the granddaughter of RAY ZICKFELD.
Mallory, who was in Japan for five months, presented a slide show which summarized some of the highlight of her trip The highlights included staying with her host families, visiting various sites including shrines, temples, gardens, factories, plantations, movie studios, museums, pre-schools, and attending festivals. She described a typical (healthy) Japanese meal which is comprised of fish (sometimes in its entirety), rice, noodles, and soup. Mallory also showed a picture of a pre-war building in Hiroshima which was destroyed by the atomic bomb and its replaement. She showed a statue of a girl who died from radiation at age 12 which is revered by young Japanese students in particular. At the conclusion of her excellent presentation, she thanked Rotary for sending her to Japan and which enables young people like her to explore different cultures. Mallory was then designated a Paul Harris Fellow because of her contribution to Rotary by PP STEVE through a generous contribution by the Zickfeld family. She was then presented with the awards that accompany the Fellowship.
MARK introduced Judge Anthony Mohr who is a sitting Judge for the Superior Court of California. MARK noted his impressive background including graduating from Columbia Law, working in private practice, and being a Municipal Court Judge.
Judge Mohr then took the podium, alluding to MARK's resume presentation. He noted that he recently read a resume that went on for some nine pages, including the raising of the flag in kindergarten which was a bit much. The Judge noted that he had been the Preident of the Berverly Hills Young Lawyers' Club.
Jude Mohr went on to say that he would focus his talk on becoming a Judge since few people know how a Judge becomes a Judge. He noted that there were two ways in California to become a Judge, the first being appointed by the Governor and the second running for election. (With respect to Federal Judges, they are appointed by the President of the United States, are confirmed by the Senate, and have lifetime tenure.) Superior Court Judges are up for reelection periodically and, therefore, can be voted out of office. Judges can also be impeached or removed for judicial misconduct but both are rare and difficult to effect.
Regarding Governmental appointments, and notwithstanding the mystery surrounding them, a lot of machinery is in place to ensure proper selection. Indeed, the screening process is formidable, including comletion of a long questionaire. The applicant's name is distributed to the local bar, state bar, and local area committee (the most controversial). Names (references) included in the completed questionaire are contacted. The applicant is rated on judicial temperment, bias, etc. After tabulation, an interview is held. Any criticisms are addressed which can very from a few to many (in one case, 21). Sometimes, someone has an ax to grind resulting in many criticisms. The applicant is then rated qualified or not qualified. The name is then sent to the Governor's Office for action (approval). For every 10 applicants, only one is selected. Judges are non-partisan.
The second way to become a Judge is to run for election by challenging an incumbent or a vacancy. This alternative is rare, however. Judge Mohr referred to a recent election in which a very competent sitting Judge with a foreign name was defeated by a "non-qualified" individual. The Governor reappointed the incumbent to a Judgeship.
Judge Mohr then covered a Judge's first days on the bench. Judges are given a notebook and receive "judicial support." He noted that security is a concern, but only one Judge has been shot. Judges need to maintain a low profile although trouble is rare. For example, children of Judges should not advertise their parent is a Judge, the house should be reasonably secured, vanity license plates are eschewed, name badges at conferences should not contain names, etc.
For the first two weeks, new Judges witness various trials. The first assisnment is usually a misdeamor such as a traffic case. Judges have to make quick decisions, particularly with the filing of motions. With respect to friendships once a Judge, real friends step back and fake friends become more aggreswsive. Judges themselves become close friends.
Rules regarding gifts are stringent. Indeed, only limited gifts can be accepted. Normally, a Judge will say no to gifts.
The most difficult case to judge is the small traffic case. Tesitmony is short, the case is normally one on one, the gallery may contain some 100 people, and the credibilty of both sides is questionable. It is helpful to be able to read people to determine who may be lying, etc. Judge Mohr emphasized that just because he has a robe on, he is not infallible. Mistakes occur. Bad calls exist. He recounted some tough calls he has had to make. He noted that some painful cases included those where time has elaspsed and individuals could not afford financially to continue.
One case that Judge Mohr discussed was a vehicular manslaughter case. It was close to Thanksgiving and a 75 year old man stopped at a traffic light with a car full of turkeys for delivery. Trying to cross the street was a 92 year old women and her 61 year old daughter, both coming from church. The driver's foot slipped and the car bumped into the older woman, killing her. Obviously, there was no intent to harm but the gentleman was clearly at fault. Judge Mohr worked out plea bargaining with the gentleman, putting him on probation and instructing him to make a contribution to the church.
The floor then entertained questions. DONN CONNER wanted to know the difference in the incidence of appealed cases between new and old Judges. Judge Mohr said that he did not know the answer but that new Judges normally rule on small cases which would be less likely to be appealed while older judges take on more complicated cases which are more likely to be appealed.
ELLIOT TURNER wanted to know what a commissioner was, that is, one who is hired by the court to be a Judge. Judge Mohr said that the vast majority of commissioners may become Judges. As an aside, the Judge said that the system of selecting Judgeships has all but eliminated ethnicity in the pool and that the pool does not rely primarily on law firm partners and DAs as it did in the past. PP STEVE asked about the jury selcetion process. Judge Mohr answered by saying it was working. Everyone is called, excuses are kept to a minimum, and, interestingly, jurists seem to enjoy their assignment. PP DON NELSON asked about the length of backup in court cases. The Judge said that the time has been reduced with some 90% of cases going to trial within 18 months.
A question was asked about judicial elections, Judge Mohr reverted back to the recent sistuation wherein a sitting Judge was voted out of office. He said that this situation represented a perfect storm. The The opponent's campaign manager wanted to unseat the incumbent and ran a racist campaign which cost $120,000. No one had heard of the challenger. The Governor stepped in and reappointed the incumbent. SHANE WAARBROECK asked about the role of Judges in redistricting. Judge Mohr said it has been relatively limited.
PE CHRIS noted that next week the speaker will be Lance Miller, who is a world champion public speaker. PE CHIS then closed the luncheon by relating to the concept of "billions." For example, it takes a billion seconds to take us back to 1959, minutes to Jesus Christ, etc., but the Government spends a billion dollars in eight minutes and 20 seconds.