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Raymond Fisher Picked for U.S. Appeals Court

TIMES LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

President Clinton on Monday nominated Raymond C. Fisher, the third-highest ranking official in the U.S. Justice Department and a longtime leader in the Los Angeles legal community, to a judgeship on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If confirmed by the Senate, Fisher, 59, would return to Los Angeles where he served as head of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners before becoming associate attorney general in November 1997.

The 9th Circuit is the largest federal appeals court in the nation, with slots for 28 judges. The court, which currently has seven vacancies, is responsible for hearing appeals of lower federal court rulings from nine western states, including California. The 9th Circuit has a large courthouse in Pasadena where many appeals are considered.

Fisher, who practiced law for nearly 30 years before taking the Justice Department job, served as president of the city Police Commission during its turbulent confrontation with then-Chief Willie L. Williams. The commission, which had hired Williams, an outsider from Philadelphia, to attempt to implement reforms sought in the wake of the 1992 riots, unanimously voted not to rehire Williams.

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Most political observers gave Fisher high marks for his stewardship of the commission.

Fisher, 59, said, “I’m honored to have this opportunity to return to California and to serve on a very excellent court if the Senate should be good enough to confirm me to the position.”

“I did have a very strong desire to become an appellate judge on the 9th Circuit before I became associate attorney general,” Fisher said, adding that he had not been lobbying for he position of late because “I love” the Justice Department job.

Although he specialized in complex business cases as a civil litigator, Fisher also won a noteworthy victory in the 9th Circuit in the mid-1990s, when the court upheld a verdict he had obtained for actor Clint Eastwood against the National Enquirer.

A California native, Fisher graduated with honors from UC Santa Barbara in 1962. He was recruited to attend Stanford Law School by one of its prominent graduates, Warren Christopher, a highly respected Los Angeles lawyer who later served as head of the special commission investigating the LAPD after the 1992 riots and then became secretary of state in Clinton’s first term. Fisher was a stellar student at Stanford, serving as president of the school’s law review.

Fisher then served as a law clerk to J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and later for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan.

“The nomination of Ray Fisher for the 9th Circuit is inspired,” Christopher said. “He is both a lawyer of genuine talent and a citizen who has given repeatedly of himself for the betterment of his community and his country.”


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