Kern County Superior Court Judge David R. Lampe isn’t afraid to take on the system, but lawyers say he’s evenhanded in court.

Original Judicial Profile of Judge Lampe

Los Angeles Daily Journal June 21, 2011

Judicial Profile

By Pat Alston
Daily Journal Staff Writer

BAKERSFIELD – The ru­mors started when Judge David R. Lampe moved from a misdemeanor calendar to an un­limited civil department a couple of years ago. “We heard he was a tort reformer,” attorney Thomas A. Brill said.

Prior to Lampe’s 2007 appoint­ment to the bench, his civil trial practice focused on tort defense and commercial litigation.

Brill’s firm, Young & Nichols, rep­resents plaintiffs in personal injury cases. So the rumors, he said, “made us a bit concerned.”

Young & Nichols immediately started cranking out peremptory challenges, commonly known as 170.6 motions, to disqualify Lampe from hearing their cases.

Despite their best efforts, how­ever, they found themselves in front of the new judge one day. But to the firm’s surprise, Brill said, the experi­ence could not have been better. “He’s a really excellent judge,” Brill said. “He’s entirely fair – and a gentleman.”

Off the bench, he is a founding director of the Alliance of California Judges, a group of nearly 400 state court bench officers that he said are seeking a greater voice for local trial courts in stale trial court manage­ment.

“Our mission is to restore a bal­ance between local courts and state­wide administration,” Lampe said. “When I became a judge, I believe I had an obligation to learn how the court was administered and how it was funded, “he said. “[The] more I learned, the more I became concerned about whether local courts were being given priority.”

In August 2009, Lampe wrote a white paper that he said lays out “why we need a new judges’ organi­zation” and submitted it to judges he knew planned to meet the following month to discuss forming an alterna­tive to the California Judges Asso­ciation in order to give trial courts a stronger voice.

It is Lampe’s intellect that at­torneys cite most often in describ­ing the judge. They also say he is patient, evenhanded and courteous. Always the professional, they say, he tends to lean toward formality but not to the point of being stuffy.

“He’s just a good legal mind,” said Stephen T. Clifford of Clifford & Brown.

“He’s well regarded by both sides of the table,” said medical malprac­tice attorney Donald A Garrard of Garrard & Davis LLP in Santa Monica.

Lampe is decisive, Brill said. “He’ll change his mind if he thinks be made a mistake… but he doesn’t flip-flop a lot on motions.”

Because of limited court resourc­es, Lampe spends two-thirds of the time in his civil assignment presid­ing over felony trials.

“He has adapted very well to criminal,” said Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman. “He conducts himself with class and courtesy and treats everyone who comes before him with respect, said Chief Assistant Public Defender Konrad Moore.

Born in Oakland, Lampe and his older sister grew up in Bakersfield. “My mom is probably the reason I [became] a lawyer,” said Lampe, 59. He was 4 when he wanted to know about “the man on the penny.” His mother, a school teacher, gave him a history lesson on Abraham Lincoln that he never has forgotten. “My admiration for him was why I wanted to be a lawyer,” he said.

Lampe, a USC Trojans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, never carried the ball for the East Bakersfield High School Blades. At 4 feet 9 and 65 pounds, “I was the football,” he joked about the small frame he had during his freshman year. “They used me as a barbell.”Although he grew a foot before he graduated, he found his niche in music rather than sports. A trumpet player, Lampe discovered there was more money to be made on the dance floor than the rock stage and formed The Lighter Side, a seven-piece band in the style of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The group was in demand for every­thing from after-theater soirees and summertime parties to formal high school dances.

Lampe, a member of the Class of 1969, spent the next two years at Bakersfield College. He paid for his books and classes by working as law library clerk at the downtown Bakersfield courthouse – the building where he now sits as a judge. In addition to shelving books, his duties included checking cases through Shepard’s Citations to make sure they hadn’t been overruled narrowed or depublished. “It was a precomputerized way of researching case history,” he said of “Shepardizing” cases.

That led to a side business for the young entrepreneur, who performed the same services for three large law firms. Lampe also worked weekends and holidays as a janitor for the Kern County Museum and Pioneer Village. He continued that job after he transferred to California State University, Bakersfield, where he received a degree in political science.

He spent another year in graduate school before starting a three-year program at Santa Clara University School of Law. His second year, he worked full time as a law clerk for Perry A. Irvine of Jarvis & Irvine, a business litigation and insurance defense firm in Palo Alto.

Lampe knew he wanted to be a tri­al lawyer, and when he graduated he went to work for Borton Petrini LLP in Bakersfield. Within three months, he took on his first civil jury trial, representing the defendant in an automobile accident. During his last few years with the firm, he handled a lot of business and administrative work for clients.

He also was one of the four original plaintiffs in a 1982 lawsuit against the State Bar that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court agreed with the plaintiffs that the bar could not use mandatory dues to support its political activities. Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990).

He returned to trial work in 1985 when he joined forces with law school classmates Bernie LeBeau and Dennis Thelen. “I’ve always liked the art or craft of storytelling,” Lampe said, “and that’s what a trial is.”

In his 22 years with LeBeau Thelen, he focused on general busi­ness and commercial litigation and professional liability cases.

“I deeply valued his input,” said LeBeau, who describes his longtime friend as a constitutional scholar. Lampe, who calls himself “a per­son of faith,” lived his Protestant be­liefs “in his attitude,” LeBeau said. “I never heard an angry or hateful thing from him toward anything.”

Lampe’s wife, Sandy, is a medical illustrator, and he has two sons, Robert and Jonathan.

To unwind, Lampe cycles and tends to his vegetable and flower gardens. He and his wife “are owned,” he said, by three cats, a border collie, a Boston terrier and a dachshund.