â€œAll Rise! His Honor, Judge Kenneth Lee Chotiner…â€
He describes it as â€œtotally exhaustingâ€ . He and his hiking partner began at 12:01 A.M. to conquer Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet), highest peak in the
contiguous United States. They hiked through the night, the morning, and into the afternoon. The seemingly endless switchbacks threading up the steepest slopes were hardest. But the reward…the accomplishment…the â€œtotal exhilarationâ€ of the summit made it all worthwhile! Who was this mountaineer? None other than distinguished jurist, lecturer, teacher, and Bearded-Guy-About-Brentwood, Ken Chotiner.
A Los Angeles native, Ken’s family moved to Brentwood in 1943. On V.J. Day (Victory over Japan, August 14, 1945), he and his friends paraded on Anita with drum, bugle, and unlimited enthusiasm…all age 10 or less. Ken carried the Flag and waved it proudly.
He had completed his first year in UCLA’s Law School when he was called to active duty in the Air Force. He spent the next five years serving his country at various bases. One stop was Alaska.
While in Alaska, he visited Denali National Park. At the McKinley Park Hotel, the pretty and cheerful hostess of the dining room caught his eye. Chatting, he discovered they had been at UCLA together though they had never met. Later, back in Los Angeles, he contacted her and lovely Flo was soon Mrs. Chotiner.
After graduating from Loyola’s School of Law, Ken specialized in criminal defense. He had many notable victories. For example, he served as lead defense counsel in the Norton Sound Eight hearings. In the first years of assigning women sailors to ships at sea, eight young women aboard the U.S.S. Norton Sound were accused of â€œlesbian conductâ€ . Many thought it was simply a ploy to force them off the ship. Ken’s clever defense won that highly- publicized case.
In 1981, Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court Bench. As a judge in the turbulent â€˜80s, he was called upon by the State Judicial Council to travel many times to other venues, to sit at arraignments and trials of large groups of peaceful protestors. His fairness and common-sense approach won respect from both sides. The â€œDefense of Necessityâ€ , committing a criminal act in order to prevent a greater harm when there is no other legal remedy, was granted in all those hearings, a tribute to our valued right to protest.
On his â€œhome benchâ€ , there were two cases he is particularly proud of. La Montana was a two-year effort to get a literal mountain of debris created by the Northridge earthquake removed from Huntington Park where the harmful dust blown from it was causing health problems for both children and adults. The other was the Ruiz-Taylor case, an impressive victory of civil rights over mis-used authority. Look it up on the Internet; it’s a compelling story.
For many years Ken was the Project Director for the development of CCHRS (Consolidated Criminal History Reporting System), a much-needed computerized program to gather all criminal history information from different systems and display it in an easily-understood format to judges and criminal justice agencies. CCHRS is now used by all local and federal law enforcement agencies in many Southern California counties as well as the State Department of Justice.
Retired since 2001, Ken is a constant reader, avid history buff, hiker at least once a week, and a lifelong birdwatcher. He also lavishes love and attention on his backyard garden and the little denizens that visit it, be they feral cats, squirrels, raccoons, birds…even an occasional surprise. They are not his only fans, however…consider me a charter member.