Oki Named to Municipal Bench : Courts: The Covina attorney is the first Asian-American judge that Gov. Pete Wilson has appointed. He replaces John Nichols, who retired on disability.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Covina attorney Dan Thomas Oki was appointed Thursday as a judge in the Citrus Municipal Court, canceling his uncontested bid to win election to the vacant post.

The first Asian-American appointed to the bench by Gov. Pete Wilson, Oki, 40, replaces Judge John Nichols, who retired in December on disability after being absent from the court for nearly two years.

"I was born in Azusa, I live in West Covina, I've spent my entire life in this judicial district, that's why this is so exciting for me," Oki said Thursday. "It's an opportunity for me to be a judge in my home community."

Although Oki's name will still appear on the June 2 ballot, the results will not be counted, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar of voters said. Oki said no one else ran for the office because the legal community knew he was being considered for the appointment.

Before his consideration, "it was pretty well-known I was going to challenge the judge if there was no resolution of his disability claim," Oki said.

Nichols' absence, which began on April 20, 1990, and lasted until December, 1991, was prolonged while the state Commission on Judicial Performance decided whether to grant the judge a disability retirement.

Nichols, who declined to publicly reveal the nature of his illness, was given unlimited time off from court because no rules exist on absences or sick leaves for judges. During his time away, he received his $90,680 annual salary. His absence created a backlog of cases at the courthouse that was resolved by hiring substitute judges.

Oki said he wants to fill the vacancy as soon as possible and will begin work June 1. He will receive the same pay as Nichols.

A political science major who graduated from Stanford University in 1973, Oki received his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1977. He was in private practice in West Covina until 1982 when he began work in the Covina law firm of Jacobsohn, Christian, Stewart and Oki. He specialized in criminal defense and civil litigation.

Oki belongs to the American Bar Assn., the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. and the Japanese-American Bar Assn. He is married and has two children, 13 and 9.

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