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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary : The Local Review / DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY : Nation’s 1st Openly Gay Judge to Retire

Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Lachs, who became the nation’s first openly gay judge when then-Gov. Edmund D. “Jerry” Brown Jr. named him to the bench in 1979, has announced that he will retire Oct. 3.

“While I’m excited about entering the world of private judgment, I can’t help but reflect on the remarkable experiences I’ve been privileged to enjoy during my 14 years of service,” said Lachs, who was a court commissioner for four years before Brown appointed him.

“There was Johnnie Cochran in front of the jury, waving the bloody shirt worn by the decedent in a wrongful-death case,” Lachs wrote in a farewell editorial in the Los Angeles Daily Journal. “There was John Collins, explaining why a baseball team is not responsible when a player throws fireworks at a crowd, and Mike Maroko explaining why it is.”

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(Lachs was referring to the time New York Mets outfielder Vince Coleman tossed a firecracker from a car into a crowd in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium in 1993).

Lachs, a graduate of the UCLA school of law, attracted national attention when Brown appointed him to the bench.

“As many know, I was the first openly gay judge in the country, if not the world,” he wrote in the Journal.

“From my first day with the Los Angeles Superior Court, I was treated with nothing but warmth and friendship by my colleagues,” he said. “I owe great thanks to all my colleagues for their fairness and support, knowing that during these years, many men and women more talented than I were exposed to intolerance and bigotry in their chosen careers only because they were gay.”

Lachs presided over a number of high-profile celebrity cases, including Tony Bennett’s divorce and Peggy Lee’s dispute with the Walt Disney Co. over royalties for her work in “The Lady and the Tramp.”

Lachs said he will remember his career fondly.

“Somehow I know that many years from now, a young whippersnapper will come up to me and say, ‘Well, old-timer, what did you do with your life?’ I’ll proudly say, ‘I was a judge with the Los Angeles Superior Court.’ ”


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