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Judge Aldrich Picked for Appeals Post

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just three years after Richard D. Aldrich was appointed a Ventura County Superior Court judge, Gov. Pete Wilson picked him Thursday to become a state appeals court justice in Los Angeles.

If Aldrich passes an Aug. 29 confirmation hearing by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, he will become the newest justice in Division 3 of the 2nd District Court of Appeals. He is replacing Justice Edward Hinz, who retired in February.

“I’m very honored that the governor would have enough confidence in me and my work on the Ventura courts to have made the appointment,” Aldrich said Thursday. “I’m hopeful of making a significant contribution to the law.”

Ventura County lawyers applauded the appointment of the popular, top-ranked judge to the appeals court.

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“He is one of the most respected Superior Court judges in Ventura County, notwithstanding he’s only been on the bench for three years,” said Thomas Hinkle, president-elect of the Ventura County Bar Assn.

Hinkle called Aldrich “a gentleman” who has an excellent judicial temperament.

“He is extremely knowledgeable in the law,” Hinkle said. “He usually is able to cite to counsel appearing before him the rules of law before they cite the rules to the judge, which is not usual. He is an excellent trial judge.”

Aldrich, 56, of Westlake Village, who has called himself a moderate Republican, was appointed to the Superior Court in 1990 by departing Gov. George Deukmejian.

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For the previous 20 years, Aldrich had been president of the law corporation that bore his name, specializing in general civil litigation, business fraud, attorney and medical malpractice, insurance bad faith, personal injury and products liability.

Before that, he worked for a year as counsel for Great Western Savings & Loan in Los Angeles, after earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University and his law degree from UCLA.

In 1988, Aldrich wrote a letter asking Deukmejian to consider him for a judgeship.

Two years later, the American Board of Trial Advocates named him 1990 California trial lawyer of the year, and California Lawyer magazine listed him as one of the state’s most respected lawyers, describing him as “a smart and aggressive trial attorney.”

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Deukmejian appointed him in late December, 1990, and just 16 months after his appointment, a Ventura County Bar Assn. members’ poll ranked Aldrich the best judge in the county.

The poll awarded him the top overall score--8.35 out of a possible 10 points--and ranked him highest of all Ventura County Superior Court judges for demeanor, efficiency, knowledge of the law and integrity/courage.

And in 1993, the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Assn. named him and Municipal Judge Barry B. Klopfer the outstanding jurists of the year.

Since joining the bench, he has been instrumental in setting up the Open Door Courthouse, a program of trial alternatives including mediation and settlement conferences conducted by bar association members donating their time, said Superior Court Judge Charles W. Campbell.

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His 27 years as a civil lawyer will serve him as well as his three years judging experience when he begins ruling on the law as an appeals court justice, Campbell said.

“He’s a very intelligent, very skilled, very experienced civil litigator who’s made an excellent judge,” Campbell said. “Very few judges have his background in terms of the level of excellence and quality he had as a private practitioner.”

He added, “I’m very happy for him, but I’m deeply disappointed for the court. I know he’ll be missed.”

Aldrich said he is not sure why he won elevation to the appeals court in the relatively short span of three years.

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“Politics have always been a mystery, so I don’t know,” he said. “Although, I have done a lot of work with the (state) Judicial Council since my appointment to Ventura.”

For two years, Aldrich said, he served on a council advisory committee on civil and small claims courts and was chairman of a subcommittee on case management and delay reduction, “So perhaps some of that work came to someone’s attention.”

Aldrich, who is married and has three sons in their 20s, said he has no plans to move from Westlake Village to shorten his commute to the appeals court in Los Angeles.

But he said he will miss “the collegiality that I enjoyed in Ventura. I’m going to miss every judge in that court, and every person on that administrative staff. My personal staff was absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced.”

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There are seven divisions in the 2nd District Court of Appeals. Division 6 covers the counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, while Division 3, where Aldrich will serve, covers Los Angeles County.


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