Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Elegant Evening Celebrating Appellate Excellence

Nearly 120 appellate justices, appellate court representatives, trial court judges, and prominent lawyers filled the Pacific Club’s main dining room last night as the OCBA Appellate Law Section presented the first David G. Sills Award for Appellate Excellence to its namesake, 4/3 Presiding Justice Sills.

The 4/3 turned out in full force.  Justices Rylaarsdam, Bedsworth, Moore, Fybel, and Ikola attended the event (the other justices being out of the state or out of the country), as did managing attorney Nancy Kendrick, several staff members and a dozen research attorneys.

Fourth District Administrative Presiding Justice Judith McConnell (right)came up from San Diego to honor Justice Sills, as did Fourth District Clerk/Administrator Steve Kelly and 4/1 managing attorney Kim Stewart.

The Orange County Superior Court’s contingent included Presiding Judge Kim Dunning, Judge Gail Andler, and Judge Geoffrey Glass, among others.

OCBA Appellate Law Section Chair Ed Siebel welcomed the crowd and turned things over to emcee Bill Kopeny, who kept us laughing with his wit and self-deprecating humor, and also kept the event running smoothly.

U.S. District Judge Andy Guilford spoke of Justice Sills’ first visit to Orange County, as a Boy Scout attending the National Jamboree that would lend its name to the major thoroughfare in the town, Irvine, for which Sills would later serve as mayor.  State Bar Executive Director Joe Dunn praised Justice Sills as a true hero.  Justice William Rylaarsdam noted he and Justice Sills were appointed to the bench on the same day, and that the years spent working alongside Justice Sills were the happiest of his legal career.

Justice Rylaarsdam (left) then presented Justice Sills with the award that will bear his name.  Justice Rylaarsdam also gave him a memento from the California Judges Association to celebrate his 25 years on the bench.

Justice Sills thanked the Appellate Section and the guests for the award.  But he gave all the credit to his court family:  the research attorneys (including his lead attorney, Jeff Calkins, who kept working on cases while on vacation in Hawaii); the judicial assistants (including Rhonda Tharp, who reads his mind even before he knows what to think); the court clerks (who win kudos from attorneys across the state), and the CHP’s judicial protection service (who protect the court against ever-evolving threats).

Having celebrated appellate excellence in Orange County, we turned to celebrating appellate excellence on the other coast.  Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Professor John Eastman took turns regaling the crowd with insightful analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court, including predictions on some of the challenging cases that it will hear this term.