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Born: Feb. 5, 1947Appointed: June 2, 1992Previous work of note: Judge, L.A. Municipal Court, 1983-92 (appt. by Brown); private practice, 1974-83Law degree: Loyola Law School (1974)It’s 8:45 on a Thursday morning, and in less than an hour Department 100, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler presiding, will have disposed of the day’s criminal calendar. This is one docket that isn’t clogged. It wouldn’t dare.The sixth defendant brought in from the lock-up faced a five-year prison sentence, with an underlying domestic violence conviction and a convoluted history of entering and leaving the country. The judge started to read aloud from the sheaf of papers before him when the deputy public defender told him she already had a copy.“Please,” the judge quietly shot back. It was not a request. “Please, Ms. Toister. I am making a record.”Later, Deputy Public Defender Tamar Toister confirms that the judge can derail an attorney in the blink of an eye — and when he does, it’s best to just move on. “He is quite intelligent, and he can be tough when he’s made up his mind,” says Toister, who has worked in Fidler’s court for some five years. “He’s quite strict when he doesn’t like you.”On the other hand, the judge also can show latitude, sometimes so quickly that it leaves an attorney still talking. “I’ll try to explain why I need an extension, and he’ll cut me off with, ‘Tell me what you need,’” says Toister, whose observations about the judge were echoed by several lawyers on both sides of the bar.If there is one thing a new attorney needs to know before coming before him, the judge says of the way he runs his court, “it is that I don’t like game playing.”“There’s advocacy, and I understand that,” says Fidler, “and then there’s being coy. Don’t try to fool me. Argue your best points, period.”There’s no question what the judge does with the sizable portion of each day that he is not on the bench. He has always been interested in court administration, and while still new to the municipal court in the 1980s, he supervised the master calendar and introduced several delay reduction programs. These days, as the supervising judge of all the criminal cases in the newly unified Los Angeles Court system, he has meetings scheduled back to back.“We have to hear from everyone, to be inclusive,” he says of the melding of 24 local courts into the massive Los Angeles system.The biggest administrative challenge of Fidler’s career comes at a time when he is overseeing the developing Rampart scandal, the most highly publicized case — or constellation of cases — to have come before him so far. Prosecutors are filing motions to free prisoners and overturn convictions on the grounds that in the mid- to late ’90s, an unknown number of LAPD officers lied under oath, planted evidence and framed suspects. So far, the judge has thrown out some three dozen cases.Fidler has commented on the scandal on network television, and his concerns are more likely to resonate with prosecutors than with the defense bar. It grieves him, he says, that clearly guilty people in totally unrelated future cases are going to walk free because jurors no longer feel they can trust the word of police officers.Like the judge’s performance in the courtroom, it isn’t a sentiment one would expect from a former high-flying criminal defense attorney.During nine years of private practice, Fidler was successful enough to become a partner of two acclaimed defense attorneys, Howard Weitzman and Donald Re, in Weitzman, Fidler & Re.But on litmus issues like the death penalty, the beliefs Fidler professes are almost uniformly right of center. He is frustrated over the fact that in non-capital cases, unanimity is required for conviction. He would like to see a reduction in the number of peremptory challenges allowed in jury selection. He’s pleased with the way that the exclusionary rule has been cut back and simplified in recent years, and, on the topic of voir dire, he observes “most potential jurors are just thrilled not to have to be questioned by the attorneys.”Fidler says he has sanctioned attorneys only twice. Once was for repeated tardiness; the other he rescinded when he found out the lawyer had a drug problem and had enrolled in counseling. He’s never held an attorney in contempt, he says. He assumes he will never have to.

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