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Retired Judge Arrested as Wrong-Way Drunk Driver

Times Staff Writer

A retired San Fernando Municipal Court judge was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after she drove the wrong way in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Pyramid Lake, the California Highway Patrol said.

Leila F. Bulgrin, 60, who was the senior judge in the Los Angeles Judicial District when she retired in 1983 and who still occasionally hears cases, suffered a broken wrist during her arrest Tuesday night when she tried to break free from a “bent-wrist control hold,” CHP Officer Calma Smith said.

Bulgrin, a Tujunga resident, was treated at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and released, Smith said.

Waiting on Tests

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Deputy Dist. Atty. Elliott Fisher said he would decide whether to file charges against Bulgrin when the test results on a urine sample taken from her the night of her arrest are returned in about two weeks.

“I know the district attorney’s office will be treating her exactly the same as we would any other person,” Fisher said.

Christopher Crawford, spokesman for the court services division of the Los Angeles Judicial District, said the state Judicial Council still calls on Bulgrin occasionally to hear cases when there is a need for additional judges.

Sharon Jarvis, acting judicial assignments supervisor for the council, said Bulgrin is not now on assignment anywhere in Los Angeles County.

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Smith said a CHP officer first spotted Bulgrin’s car traveling north in the southbound fast lane of the freeway about 1 1/2 miles south of Templin Highway. He said at least one car was forced to veer out of Bulgrin’s way as she drove between 40 and 50 m.p.h.

Stopped After 7 Miles

The officer was able to stop Bulgrin’s car at Cherry Canyon Road, about seven miles north of where it was first sighted, Smith said.

“The officer told the driver to get out of the car, but she put the vehicle into low gear and started to roll forward,” Smith said. “He had to open the rear door of the car to secure the vehicle and to get the driver out. According to the officer, she appeared to be extremely intoxicated and very confused.”

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Smith said the officer arrested Bulgrin after she denied driving the wrong way on the freeway and after he smelled alcohol on her breath.

“The officer applied a bent-wrist control hold and, when the driver began to struggle and attempted to pull away, the officer applied pressure to the wrist,” Smith said. “That was apparently when the injury occurred because he heard a cracking noise when he had her by the wrist.”

Sheriff’s deputies released her on her own recognizance, Smith said. Fisher said Bulgrin has been ordered to appear at Newhall Municipal Court on July 26.

Appointed in 1960

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Crawford said Bulgrin was appointed to the bench in 1960 by former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown after 13 years as a trial lawyer with the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

She heard felony preliminary hearings at the Municipal Court’s White Oak branch in Encino and at the San Fernando Municipal Court during her 23 years as a judge, he said.

A profile published by the Los Angeles Daily Journal before Bulgrin retired quoted her as saying that the Municipal Court allowed a judge to be in “closer touch with the people” than did federal courts, which “gives us an even stronger reason to conduct ourselves in a manner above reproach.”

Department of Motor Vehicles records list no previous arrests or traffic citations for Bulgrin.

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