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LA Municipal Court Judges Recall Presiding Jurist

June 26, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The presiding judge of Los Angeles Municipal Court has been ousted from that post by her colleagues, but says she will fight to regain the job.

″I’m not giving up,″ said Judge Maxine F. Thomas after Wednesday’s 57-13 vote against her. ″I am going forward to continue fighting this matter.″

She added that she will meet with her attorneys today to decide how to proceed.

Ms. Thomas, believed to be the first Los Angeles Municipal Court presiding judge recalled from that post, retains her position as a judge.

Under the court’s rules, Assistant Presiding Judge George W. Trammell automatically succeeds Ms. Thomas, the first black woman to hold the post, said Judge James F. Nelson, who chaired the hourlong secret balloting session.

During a news conference in her office following the vote, Ms. Thomas accused her colleagues of failing to give her the chance to speak about what she called a ″campaign of false statements and misinformation.″

″There were many false statements out there,″ she said. ″I was not given an opportunity to respond to those. If I had, I feel I would have been able to clear up some misunderstandings.″

Prior to the meeting, Ms. Thomas contended a recall vote against her would be arbitrary, prejudicial and discriminatory.

Since assuming the post in January, Ms. Thomas was criticized by some of her colleagues for alleged favoritism in assigning cases and using the job as a springboard for her Superior Court bid. She also was chided for staging an unprecedented $2,900 installation ceremony.

Ms. Thomas countered that the decrease in the Municipal Court’s backlog proved she ran the court efficiently.

Ms. Thomas faces a runoff election for Superior Court in November, since her campaign to win the seat in the primary failed to gather a majority of votes. She received 32 percent of the vote among four candidates, while her November opponent, Burbank Municipal Judge Bernard Kaufman, got 37 percent.

The Los Angeles County Bar Association has rated her ″not qualified″ for the Superior Court bench, contending she lacks the judicial ability and judgment needed for the job.

Earlier this month, a deputy district attorney’s memorandum was revealed that alleged Ms. Thomas had violated the judicial code when she arranged her goddaughter’s release from custody after an arrest.

But Deputy District Attorney Steven A. Sowders, who investigated the claim, said he decided to drop the matter because it was an isolated incident based on a misunderstanding. Charges against Ms. Thomas’ goddaughter were dropped.

A petition calling for Ms. Thomas’ ouster and the special meeting was filed last week with 42 judges’ signatures. A majority of 41 was necessary to force the meeting.

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