Court Commemorates the Assumption of Chief Judgeship by New Chief Judge George H. King

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On September 28, 2012, a ceremony was held at the Spring Street Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles to commemorate the passing of the gavel and the title and duties of Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California to District Judge George H. King.  He succeeds District Judge Audrey B. Collins, who served as Chief Judge since January 5, 2009.  He assumed his duties as Chief Judge at the close of business on September 14, 2012. 

In the Central District of California, the Chief Judge may serve up to four years in this position, although by statute a judge may serve as Chief Judge for as long as seven years.  The Central District of California is comprised of the seven counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, and serves approximately 18.6 million people – nearly half the population of the state of California.  Last year, over 16,500 cases were filed in the District.

Chief Judge King is the first Asian American to serve as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and is also the District’s first Chief Judge to have previously served as Chief Magistrate Judge, in which capacity he served in 1995.  He will lead a bench currently composed of 25 active status district judges, with another three district judge vacancies; 10 senior judges; and 24 full-time and one part-time magistrate judges.   He will continue to sit in the Court’s Western Division in downtown Los Angeles, and will continue to hear and receive cases.

Chief Judge King stated, “It is a great honor to be able to serve our Court as Chief Judge.  Without a doubt, we face significant challenges in the years ahead, ranging from ongoing vacancies, rising caseloads, and diminishing resources.  However, our court has been blessed with extraordinary judges and staff who have ensured that, first and foremost, justice is served in our District.  In particular, Chief Judge Collins has provided tireless and proactive leadership in all aspects of court administration, and especially in the creation of numerous justice enhancing programs that will continue to serve the public despite severe budgetary constraints.  I am grateful that her foresight has laid the groundwork for the Court to continue to carry out its constitutional duty.”

Chief Judge King was nominated as a United States District Judge by President William J. Clinton, and received his commission on June 30, 1995.  Prior to his appointment as a district judge, he served as a magistrate judge for the Central District of California from 1987.

Chief Judge King received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1971, graduating magna cum laude, and his law degree in 1974 from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where he was a member of the Southern California Law Review and inducted into the Order of the Coif.  Prior to his appointment as a magistrate judge, he practiced civil business litigation and was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Today’s ceremony featured a greeting from Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Raymond C. Fisher and a recap of the history of the Court delivered by Marc M. Seltzer of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society.  Tributes to former Chief Judge Audrey B. Collins were given by Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal; Chief Bankruptcy Judge Peter H. Carroll; Evan A. Jenness, President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Federal Bar Association; Assistant U.S. Attorney and Deputy Chief of the National Security Section Judith A. Heinz, who served as one of Judge Collins’s first law clerks from 1994 to 1995; and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly J. Fujie.  Judge Collins’s portrait, which will hang in the Court’s ceremonial courtroom, was unveiled and presented by her husband, son, and daughter.  On behalf of the judges, District Judge Christina A. Snyder and District Judge Virginia A. Phillips presented Judge Collins with a photograph of Audrey Hepburn – her favorite actress – signed by the late actress and by the judges.

Judge Collins stated, “It has been an honor to serve as Chief Judge of the Central District for almost four years.  The District  has faced many challenges during the past few years – vacancies, budget shortfalls, and more – and through it all I have had the support of the district and magistrate judges and our wonderful support staff in the Clerk's Office, Probation and Pretrial Services.  As we face even more severe budgetary challenges and strain on the judicial branch, the Central District is indeed fortunate to have George King as its next Chief Judge.  His knowledge of our district is unparalleled, with experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a magistrate judge and Chief Magistrate Judge, and 17 years as a district judge.  Our Court will also benefit from Chief Judge King's knowledge of the judicial administration on the national level, gained during his service as a member and chair of the Judicial Conference of the United States Committee on the Administration of Magistrate Judges System.  And Chief Judge King's personal qualities will make him a great Chief – he's super-smart, energetic, fully immersed and engaged in the issues this court is now facing, a generous and supportive friend, and more than ready to meet the truly significant challenges facing this court in the years ahead.”

Judge Audrey B. Collins will remain an active district judge, and will continue to hear and receive cases in the Court’s Western Division in downtown Los Angeles.  Judge Collins was nominated as a United States District Judge by President William J. Clinton, and received her commission on May 9, 1994.  Prior to her appointment, she held a number of positions in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office after joining the office in 1978, including Head Deputy of the Torrance branch office, Assistant Director of the Bureaus of Central and Special Operations, and Assistant District Attorney.  In 1992, she served as Deputy General Counsel on the Webster Commission, which investigated the Los Angeles Police Department’s response to the civil unrest and riots that erupted in April 1992.  Prior to joining the District Attorney’s Office, she was a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Judge Collins received her undergraduate degree in 1967 from Howard University; a master’s degree in 1969 from American University; and her law degree in 1977 from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, where she was a member of the UCLA Law Review and inducted into the Order of the Coif. 

Terry Nafisi
District Court Executive