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Clinton Appoints Paez to U.S. Appeals Court

TIMES LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

President Clinton has nominated U.S. District Judge Richard A. Paez, the first Mexican American to serve as a federal trial judge in Los Angeles, to a seat on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nomination, announced Friday, was praised by local attorneys and Paez’s colleagues on the federal trial bench here and by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who urged Clinton to nominate Paez for the district court in 1993. Paez was confirmed by the Senate for that position in June, 1994.

“As an attorney and as a judge, Richard Paez has devoted his life to fairness, equality and justice,” Boxer said. “I am confident that he will serve on the 9th Circuit with the high level of integrity and distinction that has been so characteristic of his career.”

Paez, 48, served for nearly 13 years on the Los Angeles County Municipal Court before he became a federal judge.

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He served as presiding judge of the Municipal Court in 1989 and was chairman of the Los Angeles Municipal Court Judges Assn. in 1990-91. In 1991, Malcolm Lucas, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, appointed Paez to the first of two terms on the California Judicial Council.

Paez also filled in as a substitute judge on the state Court of Appeals, so he has some appellate experience.

A resident of Los Angeles, Paez was born in Utah and, in keeping with his Mormon faith, attended Brigham Young University. He graduated from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1972.

Paez has said he holds liberal political views and described himself as a committed family man, actively involved in raising an 11-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. His wife, Diane Erickson, works for IBM.

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Before becoming a judge, Paez was a practicing lawyer doing public interest work. He began as a field attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance in Delano, later moving to the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where he became director of litigation. His nomination to the appellate court was praised by a wide range of lawyers and other judges. “This is an extraordinarily fine appointment,” said Merrick J. Bobb, a partner at Los Angeles’ Tuttle & Taylor, who is special counsel to Los Angeles County, overseeing and monitoring changes in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department recommended by special counsel James G. Kolts.

“He’s as smart as they come, he’s as fair as they come, as unassuming as they come and as decent as they come,” Bobb said.

U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian agreed. “He’s a real decent human being, a hard worker and a very fast learner,” Tevrizian said. “I guess he’s on a real fast track. Here he was on the Municipal Court for years and now he’s about to be just one step below the Supreme Court.”

“I don’t think he would have any problem being confirmed,” said Tevrizian, a Republican.

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An aide to Boxer said he thought Paez has a good chance of being confirmed in 1996, even though the judicial confirmation process already has started to slow down because it is an election year.

“Richard clearly has the advantage of having been through a confirmation process, an ABA review and an FBI check in the relatively recent past. . . . He wasn’t controversial the first time,” Chapman said, referring to Paez’ smooth road to a district court position in 1994.


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