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Judge Lance Ito gives up after thieves repeatedly swipe his nameplate from court

November 24, 2009 |  3:11 pm

Despite being more famous than any other judge at the criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, Lance Ito’s courtroom is also the hardest to find.

Each courtroom is adorned with a name placard outside the door with the name of its presiding judge. But on the ninth floor, Ito’s placard holder stays woefully empty.

Since the bearded judge became a household name more than a decade ago while presiding over the O.J. Simpson murder trial, his placard has been stolen time and again. He’s tried replacing it, he’s tried gluing it, but the darn thing just keeps disappearing. 

A few years ago, Ito finally gave up. Those looking for his courtroom now depend on the information officer in the lobby to guide them there.

Facilities staff keeps no record of requests for placard replacements – possibly because the problem isn’t very common for other judges. But in an e-mail to a court spokesperson Ito confirmed the thefts. The judge  declined comment for this article, as he has with virtually every other interview request since the Simpson trial made him famous. He was blasted in the media at the time for failing to keep control over the proceedings.

He was lampooned on late-night shows, most notably on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," which regularly featured a troupe of dancing Ito lookalikes. The judge, whose signature beard has grayed in recent years, has kept a low-profile since.

But the thefts are a reminder that his role in one of the most followed trials in history won’t soon be forgotten. No investigation into the thefts has been conducted, according to the courthouse’s communications office, but the suspicion is the perpetrators are simply passers-by looking for a souvenir.

The placard – plastic, with a wood finish – would have very little value otherwise. For now, there are no plans to issue another replacement. So if you’re looking for Ito’s courtroom, take the elevator up to the ninth floor and turn right down the hall.

It’ll be the one with no placard.

--Robert Faturechi