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What’s in a name tag? Ask Judge Ito

Despite being more famous than any other judge at the criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, Lance Ito’s courtroom is the hardest to find.

Each courtroom is adorned with a placard at the door naming its presiding judge. But Ito’s placard holder stays woefully empty.

Since the judge became a household name more than a decade ago presiding over the O.J. Simpson murder trial, his placard has been stolen time and again.

He’s tried replacing it, he’s tried gluing it, but the darn thing just keeps disappearing.

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A few years ago, Ito finally gave up. Those looking for his courtroom now depend on the information officer in the lobby to guide them there.

The facilities staff keeps no record of requests for placard replacements -- possibly because the problem isn’t very common for other judges -- but in an e-mail to a court spokesperson, Ito confirmed the thefts.

Ito declined comment for this article, as he has with virtually every other interview request since the Simpson trial made him famous. Ito was blasted in the media at the time for failing to keep control over the proceedings. He was lampooned on late-night talk shows, most notably on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, which regularly featured a troupe of dancing Ito look-alikes.

The judge, whose signature beard has grayed in recent years, has kept a low profile since the trial ended. But the thefts are a reminder that his role in one of the most public trials in history won’t soon be forgotten.

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No investigation into the thefts has been conducted, according to the courthouse’s communications office, but the suspicion is that the perpetrators are simply passersby looking for a souvenir. The placard -- plastic, with a wood finish -- would have very little value otherwise.

For now, there are no plans to issue another replacement. So if you’re looking for Ito’s courtroom, take the elevator up to the ninth floor and turn right down the hall.

It’ll be the one with no placard.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com


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