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Municipal Court Gets 5 New Judges Day After 7 Other Appointments

Times Staff Writer

For the second straight day, Gov. George Deukmejian Tuesday filled vacancies on San Diego County’s overburdened courts, appointing three men and two women to seats on the Municipal Court bench.

Reflecting a pattern present in Deukmejian’s previous judicial appointments in San Diego, three of the five new judges--Allan J. Preckel, Gale E. Kaneshiro and Terry J. Knoepp--are current or former prosecutors.

The remaining appointees, Marguerite L. Wagner and Timothy W. Tower, have considerable civil law experience, as does Knoepp, who has been in private practice since 1978.

All but one of the new judges will sit on the San Diego bench. Wagner will fill a new position on the North County Municipal Court in Vista.

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In Wake of 7 Appointments

The appointments come just one day after the governor named seven new Superior Court judges, including four he elevated from the San Diego Municipal Court. Those appointments brought relief to Superior Court officials--who last month postponed all new civil trials because of a glut of pressing criminal cases--but sparked worries that the Municipal Court might have trouble shouldering its caseload.

Those concerns were alleviated by mid-morning Tuesday, when word of the appointments reached San Diego.

“I’m certainly pleased that the governor saw fit to fill our vacancies as quickly as he did,” said E. Mac Amos Jr., presiding judge of the San Diego Municipal Court. “That brings us back up to 25 judges. We can manage with that number. There will be a little delay bringing them on board, but I’m very pleased.”

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Under a new state funding program for trial courts, the municipal bench is scheduled to receive another three judges sometime in 1989, Amos said. Currently, there is little room for those jurists in the cramped downtown courthouse on Broadway. But Amos said remodeling--which has been held up by an asbestos problem plaguing the building--will create space for future appointees.

“We’re splitting one courtroom and converting a judge’s chambers, among other things,” Amos said. “We’ll be ready.”

Preckel, 42, is a career prosecutor with the San Diego County district attorney’s office, where he has served as chief of special operations for four years. His most highly publicized case in recent years was the prosecution of former San Diego City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez, who pleaded guilty in 1987 to two felony counts in connection with his misuse of a city credit card.

Relishes the Challenge

“I certainly look forward to the challenge and appreciate the governor’s confidence in me,” said Preckel, a graduate of the University of Santa Clara and the University of Chicago. “But you don’t spend 17 years in this office . . . without bonding very tightly with the people here.”

Kaneshiro, 37, has been a deputy district attorney since 1978 and previously was a deputy city attorney in San Diego. She is a graduate of Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis.

Knoepp, 51, is a graduate of UC Berkeley and the Boalt Hall law school there, and is the third appointee with a prosecutorial background. He was a deputy district attorney from 1966 to 1975, when he became the U.S. attorney in San Diego. He held that post for three years and then became a partner in the firm of Smith, Bollman & Knoepp. Most recently, he practiced law with the firm Worley, Schwartz, Garfield & Rice.

Tower, 43, is senior counsel for San Diego Gas & Electric Co., a position he has held since 1979. Previously, he spent three years as a partner with the law firm Legro, Renetto, Pate and Tower and also worked for Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye for five years. Tower is a graduate of UC Davis and Boalt Hall.

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A Vista lawyer who has maintained her own practice since 1983, Wagner is a Rancho La Costa resident and graduate of San Jose State University and Western State College of Law. Wagner, 49, was a partner in the Oceanside law firm Wagner and Griswold from 1981 to 1983.

The salary for municipal judges is $77,409. The new judges are expected to be sworn in today and should be on the job within a few weeks.


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