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JUDGE DECIDES TO RETIRE AFTER 33-YEAR CAREER; JURIST'S TERM ENDS IN 2001.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

Antelope Municipal Court Judge William Seelicke has decided this will be his final term on the bench, bringing an end to a legal career that has spanned more than three decades.

``I've just put in my years. It will be over 33 years by the time I retire,'' said Seelicke, 58, whose term expires in January 2001. ``I've just done it for a long period of time and wanted to just kind of take some time away from this and find out definitely what I'm going to do from here on.''

With Seelicke opting not to seek another term, civil attorney David Bianchi and Deputy District Attorney Chris Estes have filed to run for his seat in the March 7 primary election.

Seelicke arrived in the Antelope Valley in 1967 as a deputy district attorney, making up half of the two-member staff in Lancaster. He worked 13 years as a prosecutor - heading up the Lancaster office for four years - before being appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1980.

``When I first came up here, there was just two (prosecutors), and it's grown tremendously since then,'' Seelicke said. ``It was quite a bit different than it is now, not near the volume of cases, not near the population, and the emphasis was on agriculture and aerospace. Things started to grow dramatically.''

To help deal with the tremendous volume of criminal cases, Seelicke works with prosecutors and defense attorneys in a 3-year-old program to settle cases before a preliminary hearing is held. The early disposition program has settled 60 to 75 percent of the cases, Seelicke said.

Deputy Public Defender Manuel Martinez, who worked for two years on the disposition program, said the judge is dedicated to the judicial process.

``I have a tremendous amount of respect for his work ethic. He just works tirelessly. You can set your watch by his walking into the courtroom, and he'll work at the same pace with the same degree of care and consideration and patience right on through sometimes to 7:30 at night,'' Martinez said. ``He is patiently explaining rights to people and takes time to answer everybody's questions.''

And while Seelicke appears stoic on the bench, he has another side that few get to see, said Deputy District Attorney Joseph Payne, who has known Seelicke for about 20 years.

``He has a great sense of humor, but he doesn't show it on the bench. He believes that in the courtroom, you're serious,'' Payne said. ``As soon as he gets back into chambers, he tells jokes and everything.''

Seelicke is married and has two sons. The only child of a construction foreman and a homemaker, Seelicke was born in Jamaica, N.Y., and raised in Valley Stream, a town on Long Island near New York City.

He got his bachelor's degree from Colgate University in 1963, and his law degree from Hastings College in 1966.

While studying for the bar, Seelicke worked between 1967 and 1968 as a garbage collector in San Francisco for a private firm. It was hard work but it paid the bills.

``Fortunately I passed the bar the first time around,'' Seelicke said. ``It was a break from studying. I was out doing something entirely different than what I had been doing for three years of law school. I got to see all sections of the city of San Francisco and got to know it very well.''

When not on the bench, Seelicke enjoys camping, fishing and jogging, and he also is a member of two groups that put on giant barbecues for charitable organizations - the Errea Basque Chefs and the Sherri Chefs Barbecue Group.

If there is one thing Seelicke laments, it's the inadequate court facilities.

``The court building was built in 1960 and addressed very adequately the needs of the community in 1960. But we're up to 1999 and using the same building with modifications that every inch is being used, and we are using modular courtrooms. It doesn't lend itself to an efficient handling of the volume that we're dealing with,'' Seelicke said.

He has enjoyed the people he has worked with and encountered over the years. In his office is a folding screen plastered with many photographs of family, co-workers and the people he's married - thousands over the years, he estimates.

``I've met some very nice people throughout the entire system: police officers, attorneys, public and private,'' Seelicke said. ``I'm very grateful for the opportunity to serve as a deputy district attorney and a judge and work with some very dedicated people,'' Seelicke said.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO (color) Antelope Municipal Court Judge William Seelicke stands next to pictures of some of the thousands of couples he has married.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 29, 1999
Words:796
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