Fall 2012 • Issue 45, page 1

Judge Luis A. Lavin Joins LA Dept. 82

By Singer, Kevin*

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing the Honorable Judge Lavin, who has joined the panel of esteemed Writs and Receivers Judges at the Los Angeles City Central Division Court. Judge Lavin was humble about his incredible accomplishments and the impressive career path that led him to the bench. Judge Lavin is an accomplished scholar and graduated from the finest schools in the country. He has practiced law in both the private and public sectors and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the bench. Judge Lavin has been assigned to one of the busiest receivership courts in the country and has already proven to be an excellent addition.

Below are some excerpts from our interview:

Singer: I have noticed you have practiced law on both the East and West Coasts. Where are you originally from?

Judge: Cuba. I immigrated to the United States in 1962. I am fluent in Spanish, which is my first language.

Singer: Can you tell us about your educational background?

Judge: I attended Cornell University for my undergraduate degree where I majored in industrial and labor relations. I then attended Harvard Law School where I met a lot of interesting and bright people and had wonderful professors. It was a good choice.

Singer: What areas of law did you practice in while you were in private practice from 1985 to 1990?

Judge: I practiced general litigation.

Singer: Following private practice, then where did you practice?

Judge: From 1990 to 1992, I worked with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. I was an Assistant Attorney General with the Government Bureau, where most of my work involved defending the policies of the Governor in trial and appellate litigation. This was done under Governor Michael Dukakis and Governor William Weld. This was a good experience. Then, from 1992 to 1995, I was the Associate General Counsel for the Directors Guild of America. I’ve always had an interest in labor and employment issues. I represented the Guild and its members at arbitrations, as well as in state and federal court proceedings involving compensation disputes, claims for residuals, film directors’ creative rights in editing of films, against production companies and studios. It was an interesting introduction into the entertainment industry. After that, from 1995 to 1999, I worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. I was in the employment litigation section where I represented the United States in federal litigation involving violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other federal fair employment laws.

Singer: I understand you were Director of Enforcement and General Counsel for the Los Angeles Ethics Commission from approximately 1999 to 2000. Were you involved in any ethics violation rulings?

Judge: I can’t talk about specifics since the work of the Ethics Commission is confidential, unless public charges are brought. We did investigate many matters that could result in criminal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or District Attorney’s office.

Singer: Since 2001, you have been appointed as a Judge to the Los Angeles Superior Court. What types of cases have you been handling?

Judge: Family law, criminal, and general civil.

Singer: When did the Los Angeles Superior Court, Central Division request that you handle receivership cases, and how did you feel about the assignment?

Judge: June of 2012. I was excited to get this assignment since this was something that I was interested in for a while.

Singer: Did you have any past experience handling receivership cases?

Judge: I handled several in family law. In family law, by the time you appoint a receiver, something has gone terribly wrong or the parties can’t get along.

Singer: How have you been able to educate yourself on receivership procedures and law?

Judge: I am a quick study, and I try to do research. I talk to Judge Chalfont and Judge Jones if I have a question. Both are very helpful and bright.

Singer: Have you appointed many receivers since you have been given this assignment?

Judge: I have appointed receivers, but not a lot.

Singer: What qualifications do you like to see in the receivers that you appoint to your cases?

Judge: I have rarely seen a motion for a receiver where I have been given a choice of two or three receivers. It would be nice if attorneys gave me a choice of receivers to evaluate. That being said, I primarily look at their credentials, how well they are regarded, and whether they have broad experience in the area of the appointment.

Singer: What are your thoughts on ex parte motions to appoint receivers?

Judge: They are generally not well taken. They should be reserved for true emergencies. This means more than a statement in a loan document or a deed of trust that a receiver may be appointed on an ex parte basis. It should be a real emergency.

Singer: With motions to appoint receivers, what should be in the pleadings to persuade you to make an appointment?

Judge: I take the proposed court order to appoint the receiver very seriously. I want to know exactly what the receiver is going to be doing, why they need to do it, and real estimates of time and money for the receivership. It has to make sense.

Singer: What is the most common mistake you see in pleadings?

Judge: Proofs of service not filed, pleadings not signed, and lack of competent and admissible evidence in declarations.

Singer: Once you have appointed a receiver, how much communication and what kind of updates would you like to receive from the receiver?

Judge: I stay in touch through status conferences. The receiver is my agent. What they serve on the parties, I would like to get a copy of as well.

Singer: What is your position on receivers bringing ex parte motions when there are urgent issues that could impact the receivership estate?

Judge: There needs to be a real emergency. I certainly understand that there are situations that would require a receiver to bring an ex parte motion to seek immediate relief.

Singer: Have you overseen a receivership sale of real property? Do you have an opinion on receivers selling real property?

Judge: No. I want the order appointing to be specific if the receiver is going to sell real property, and I want to see pleadings and law that supports the sale.

Singer: How will a case be assigned to Department 82, and what types of receivership cases will be heard in this department?

Judge: They are randomly assigned to the three judges. Cases ending in 1,2,3 and 4 will go to Judge Chalfont in Department 85; 5,6, and 7 to Judge Jones in Department 86; and 8,9,0 to me. We will hear all types of cases in the department.

Singer: Do you want to see receivers who are not attorneys retain counsel?

Judge: Only when necessary. I want to know why the receiver needs counsel, who it is going to be, and what they are going to charge?

Singer: At the end of a receivership assignment, if a receiver files a final accounting and discharge motion, what information do you want to see in this pleading?

Judge: I look at the accounting to see what the receiver did, why they did it, and specificity of the billing.

Judge Lavin also shared his concerns regarding the impact of the State budget cuts on the court system. He noted that it had been stated that Los Angeles Superior Court could see budgets cuts before the end of the current fiscal year of between $50 and $70 million dollars. If the State goes forward with these budget cuts, it is going to mean fewer resources, longer waits, and an increase in the cost of litigation. The civil courts will most certainly be hit the hardest. Due to the last round of budget cuts, the Los Angeles receivership departments now share staff and have part time court reporters. As professionals whose livelihood is directly affected by the state of the court system, we should all be contacting our local and state representatives and voice our positions on preserving the resources of this vital American institution.

*Kevin Singer is a member of the Board of Directors for the California Receivers Forum, Director and Education Chair for the Los Angeles/Orange County Chapter of the California Receivers Forum, Sponsorship Chair for Loyola V, and a practicing Court Receiver for the last 12 years.