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JUNE 2016 - 7 Qs with Lisa Miller
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7 Qs with Lisa Miller, Esq.

Featuring Judge Nicole Bershon




WLALA recently asked Hon. Nicole Bershon seven questions.  Here are her responses:

What is your favorite technology device? Why?

My phone.  I listen to music, read books, store family photos, make calls, and read e-mail, all with one device.  And it fits neatly in my purse.  But, it is so small, I routinely lose it, within that same purse.  Maybe I should get a neon yellow cover instead of a clear white one? 

As a mother of two school-aged children, I can’t say enough good things about the hot-glue gun.  It has dramatically changed the school-project landscape. 

What is/was your dream vacation? Why was it the best ever?

Last year, I got together in Palm Desert with ten of my friends from college to participate in a sprint triathlon.  It was so special.  All of us had been training to accomplish goals, which we reached, and we supported each other throughout the race.  I surprised myself - I completed a half-mile swim in 53-degree water.  Though I didn’t set a record, I finished with a decent time.  But perhaps most importantly, I didn’t lose any toes to frostbite. 

And the trip I took to Maui with my husband on my tenth anniversary wasn’t bad either, of course.  

Name the person you admire the most, and the quality that impresses you the most.

I have encountered a number of amazing people in my career.  A number of them were present on March 3, 2016, when the Los Angeles Superior Court held its inaugural Young Women’s Leadership Conference.  The Conference is designed to encourage young women from Los Angeles county to consider careers in the legal profession. 

From afar, I have long respected California Second District Court of Appeal Associate Justice Audrey Collins.  Despite her impressive credentials, she is very humble.  But after she addressed the 100+ high school students in the audience, recounting through stories and photos her family’s journey from humble beginnings to professional heights, and encouraging the students to dream big and shoot for the stars, my admiration for her only grew.  

The Conference featured a panel of legal trailblazers, all women whom I deeply respect: District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Alternate Public Defender Janice Fukai, defense attorney Mia Yamamoto, and District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall.  The panel included Judge Raquel Marquez and Judge Sunshine Sykes, the first Latina and Native American, respectively, appointed to the Riverside Superior Court. 

Justice Lee Smalley Edmon, another woman for whom I have tremendous admiration, moderated the presentation.  I first met Justice Edmon during her tenure as the first female presiding judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s then-132-year history.  As Presiding Judge, she presided over the biggest fiscal crisis the Los Superior Court had ever faced, resulting in a $100 million reduction to the Court's budget.  

She implemented a consolidation plan that kept the lights on and all basic court operations open.  The court is now a more efficient place because of the decisions she made during those trying times.  She is liked and respected by bench officers for whom she has served as a mentor and role model, including myself.  Like Justice Collins, she has reached the pinnacle of her profession, all the while remaining an incredibly kind person. 

What is your most significant accomplishment, and what impact did it have?

Several law school classmates and I, including my friend attorney Jollee Faber (General Counsel of the Portland School District) started the UCLA Women’s Law Journal, still going strong more than 25 years later.  

On a personal note, I am fortunate to have found a mate who is my equal partner at home.  Together, we are raising two smart, strong, independent young women who are concerned about the world around them.  I consider them my greatest accomplishment.  

If you could “fix” one global challenge, what would it be? How would you fix it?

The lack of opportunities for young women in developing countries is the single greatest global challenge I would like to address.  I think these girls and young women need to be exposed to mentors and role models who will encourage them and help them to rise above their circumstances.

If you could have a career different from the one you are now pursuing, what would it be? Why is this your alternate choice?

My alternate career choice would probably be a television or radio talk show host.  I have been “accused” of peppering people with questions upon first meeting them.  I am, apparently, very interested in how others lead their lives.

What do you hope to accomplish after you retire? Why is this meaningful to you?

Our inaugural Young Women’s Leadership Conference was a tremendous success.  I hope to make the Conference an annual court event.  In the wake of its success, we are already planning a panel discussion for students at a high school for pregnant and parenting teens.  This panel will feature bench officers who have been single parents or have had children while pursuing their educations and careers. 

Before I retire from the Superior Court bench, I hope to develop a network of mentors for new and mid-career bench officers who may be facing different challenges at various points in their careers.  Though tremendously rewarding, being a judge can be difficult and lonely.  It helps to have people with whom to talk, who have walked in those shoes.

I am a member of a number of different court committees – the Executive Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Community Outreach Committee, the Temporary Judge Committee, and the Court Security Committee.  I serve on several policy committees for the California Judges Association.  I anticipate continuing to serve on some (or all!) of these committees, in some capacity, throughout my tenure on the bench.  I’m not one to sit still.

As to retirement, that is a number of years away.  I haven't given it much thought.  I can see myself working with young people in some kind of mentoring role, helping them develop the self-confidence they need to make thoughtful choices.  I will probably reduce to paper the novel which, for years, I have been writing in my head.  I hope to do that from a balcony overlooking the ocean on the central coast of California.  With a dog at my feet.  

The Honorable Judge Nicole Bershon was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2013 by Governor Jerry Brown.  She currently sits at the Torrance courthouse where she handles a misdemeanor trial calendar; previously, she served as Site Judge for the Inglewood Courthouse, overseeing daily operations.  She was honored recently with the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Distinguished Service Award.

Before joining the bench, Judge Bershon was with the Office of the Inspector General for the Los Angeles Police Commission.  She supervised the Inspector General’s review of serious use of force incidents, including officer-involved shootings. 

Judge Bershon is a graduate of Princeton University, where she was co-captain of the women’s rugby team.  She is a proud member of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s softball team, the mighty Benchwarmers.

Lisa Miller is a member of the WLALA Board of Trustees, where she works on the legal implications of domestic violence and homelessness.  Ms. Miller is a civil litigator with the Los Angeles-based Marcin Law Firm, LLP.  Ms. Miller teaches 1st Amendment / Law of Mass Communication at the University of Southern California, writes and speaks on free speech and related subjects, and consults on trials and appeals.  She is a hearing officer for numerous California agencies, municipalities, and bar association fee dispute programs.  She serves as a commissioner with the County of Los Angeles Small Business Commission.

Ms. Miller writes the “7 Qs” column for the WLALA newsletter and is always seeking interesting interview subjects.

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