Scott Gordon: Superior Court Judge Gives Verdict on Academic Excellence at CSU Dominguez Hills
Alumnus Scott Gordon (Class of ’80, B.S., public administration/criminal justice) has achieved an illustrious law career, having worked as a prosecuting attorney in the O.J. Simpson case, volunteered as a legal specialist for a criminal tribunal for war crimes in the former country of Yugoslavia, and as of last month, being named a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. More than anything, however, he is eager to talk about his only son, Joseph, who attends Gordon’s alma mater as an undergraduate in the university’s negotiation, conflict resolution and peace building program (NCRP).
“He’s having an extraordinary experience,” Gordon says of Joseph, who is currently in Rimini, Italy, attending an NCRP summer program through a partnership between CSU Dominguez Hills and San Diego State University. “He finds, like I did, that the commuter students have a more serious attitude about school. [Being a working student] was accommodated and valued. [He likes] the small class size with very interesting and interested professors, more approachability and is gaining useable skills.”
Gordon says that the exposure to a diverse student population like the one at CSU Dominguez Hills is an important skill for negotiation and conflict resolution students.
“Being at Dominguez Hills with kids from different backgrounds [was an advantage],” recalls Gordon, who joined the Santa Monica Police Department while still an undergraduate. “It broadens your background as to why people have likes, dislikes, and fears. One of the things a police officer needs is the ability to talk to anybody. You’d be in a class about law enforcement relationships [with] a sheriff, an officer, and a kid who just got out of a gang.”
He added that college education now figures heavily in a law enforcement career compared to his days as a police officer and detective.
“Education has become more important,” he says. “It was unusual to have a degree. Now only 20 percent of officers don’t have one. And many older officers are going into masters’ programs.”
Gordon continued his education while still on the force, earning his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law, where he now serves as adjunct professor teaching community property and family law. He says that while “big-name” universities are widely thought to open doors, a school like CSU Dominguez Hills has an educational quality and mission that creates “an atmosphere of wanting the students... and the school to succeed.”
”The doors are there if you want to ask for help,” Gordon says of Dominguez Hills. “There is a work ethic that comes out of that school that I kept with me. The professors expected you to have your work done. That old adage of keeping your nose to the grindstone that was later dwarfed by ‘who you know,’ still exists there.”
Gordon began his law career in 1985 at the offices of Shield and Smith, a civil litigation firm in Los Angeles. From there he moved on to the position of Los Angeles County deputy district attorney from 1986 to 2002. While in the county district attorney’s office, he was a founding member of the Stalking and Threat Assessment Team, one of the first such prosecuting units in the nation. In 1997, he served as volunteer counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia http://www.icty.org/. Working for two months in The Hague, Netherlands, he helped evaluate for possible trial alleged war crimes that occurred during the Bosnian conflicts of the 1990s.
Gordon left his position as deputy district attorney in 2002 after being elected a Superior Court commissioner. He held that post until his appointment to the bench by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this spring.
As a commissioner and now a judge, Gordon presides over custody hearings divorce trials, and domestic violence protection orders. His many associations with this area of law include serving as a member of the Violence Against Women Education Committee for the California Center for Judicial Education and Research and as chair of the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council from 1995 to 2001. He has also provided testimony and consultation in forums for the California Assembly Select Committee on Crimes Against Women and Children, the California Senate Judiciary Committee, and the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. Gordon is co-author of the 2003 book, “Shadow Enemies: Hitler’s Secret Terrorist Plot Against the United States” (with Alex Abella). He is at work on a new book about a trial that took place in early Los Angeles history.
“From a lawyer’s perspective, [family law] is a hybrid of civil and criminal law,” says Gordon. “The system is built on keeping the government at bay. In family law, people pull the government in to decided where kids should play, go to school, their [legal] names. We have the extremely human issue of child custody and at the same time, you have business cases with the separation of property.
“Whether it’s the baker on the corner or someone who owns a multinational corporation, [family and property are] the most important things to them.”
Gordon’s commitment to family encompasses his pride in his son and in CSU Dominguez Hills. He expresses his loyalty to his alma mater and his gratitude for the quality of education and preparation for a diverse workforce that he and his son, who looks forward to a career in law enforcement and the legal profession, benefit from, a generation apart.
“I’ve always loved the school,” says Gordon. “Now that my son is there, I love it more.”
- Joanie Harmon