Tulare County Superior Court Judge Elisabeth Krant Latronico, a fixture of the county's judicial scene for more than two decades, died Sunday after a nearly yearlong battle with cancer. She was 59.
At the time of her death, Judge Krant was on medical leave from her post as the supervising judge for the Tulare County Superior Court's Porterville division. She was the county's juvenile court commissioner from 1991 to 1994, when she was elected to the municipal judgeship in Exeter. When municipal and superior courts in California were merged in 1998, Judge Krant became the juvenile court judge in Tulare County. During her years as a Superior Court judge, she supervised cases in the Visalia, Tulare and Porterville courthouses.
She was diagnosed in February with a rare form of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, said her husband, Richard Latronico. She was in remission for a time following strenuous treatment including radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer ultimately returned.
"Her struggle was a long and hard one, and while the past 10 months of her illness were grueling, she exited this world as a person unafraid and very determined," Richard Latronico said Monday. "Fortunately, we were able to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas at home this year with close family in the comfort of our own home."
Judge Krant died at a Fresno hospital.
"We are all saddened by the passing of Judge Elisabeth Krant Latronico," presiding Tulare County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Hicks said in a prepared statement. "Judge Krant was devoted to her job. She was conscientious, very bright and always working to improve the administration of justice. She will be missed by all."
Judge Krant earned her law degree in 1980 from West Los Angeles School of Law, and had built a successful criminal law practice in Los Angeles when she met her future husband. She and Richard Latronico celebrated their 30th anniversary in September.
Judge Krant was a juvenile court referee in Los Angeles for several years before she and her family moved to Exeter. "We decided to get out of the Los Angeles area and promised each other that the first one who got the chance would take it," she told The Bee in 1991.
In 1994, Judge Krant was recognized with a Commitment to Juvenile Court award from the Juvenile Court Judges of California. She also was named to the governing board of the California Judges Association. The Visalia Business & Professional Women honored Judge Krant for her work with juvenile offenders in 1997 when the organization presented her its Woman of Achievement Award.
Among her accomplishments were establishing a free tattoo-removal program for ex-gang members, launching a program to put juvenile offenders to work painting over graffiti in Tulare County communities, and establishing the College of the Sequoias/Juvenile Court Mentor program.
In April 2000, Judge Krant filed a lawsuit against Tulare County, alleging that toxic mold in the courthouse, including the ceiling tiles of her courtroom chambers, caused her to become sick for more than a year starting in 1998. In court documents, she said that she had already undergone successful treatment for breast cancer and was susceptible to diseases from the mold. The lawsuit was settled in late 2003 when the county agreed to pay Judge Krant $40,000.
Judge Krant's recent illness spurred her husband and family to launch a drive to find a stem-cell donor for possible treatment of her cancer. "After the cancer came back from remission, the only cure was going to be a stem cell transplant," Richard Latronico said. He had organized bone-marrow and stem-cell registration drives, including about a half-dozen events in recent months.
"We were successful in getting donors, but we didn't have a match for Elisabeth," he said. "We were looking for a donor up to the time she died."
Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalized, but Richard Latronico said the family would probably have a private service in Los Angeles next week, followed by a public memorial service in Tulare County in late January to coincide with what would have been her 60th birthday on Feb. 3.
Judge Elisabeth Krant
Born: Feb. 3, 1954
Died: Dec. 29, 2013
Survivors: Husband Richard Latronico of Exeter; daughter Emily Neithardt of Visalia; mother Jannie Krant of Visalia; brother Jerry Krant of Irvine.
Arrangements: Pending through Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel in Visalia. Richard Latronico said that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Judge Krant's memory to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or to the American Cancer Society.
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