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June 20, 2014, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal

Tom Jung/Daily Journal
SAN MATEO COUNTY JUDGES HONORED. Among those in attendance June 12 at the San Mateo County Bar Association’s 2014 Judges’ Night at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City were (front row " first step, left to right) Hon. Gerald J. Buchwald; Hon. Justice Linda M. Gemello (retired); Hon. Kathleen McKenna (retired); Hon. Barbara Mallach; (second row " second step, left to right) Hon. Dale A. Hahn (retired); Hon. Joseph E. Bergeron; Hon. V. Gene McDonald (retired); Hon. Lisa A. Novak; Hon. Margaret J. Kemp (retired); Hon. John W. Runde (retired); Hon. Leland Davis, III; (third row " top step, left to right) Hon. George A. Miram; Hon. V. Raymond Swope; Hon. Robert D. Foiles, Presiding Judge; Hon. Richard H. DuBois; Hon. Jonathan E. Karesh; Hon. Don R. Franchi; and Edward C. Pomeroy, Esq., President, San Mateo County Bar Association.

HOW DOES THE SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT FIT INTO THE CALIFORNIA COURT SYSTEM? The judges and commissioners of the San Mateo County Superior Court affect the lives of thousands of local residents annually. The judges preside over matters that decide who takes custody of children after a divorce, who is evicted, who inherits property and who goes to jail and, in doing so, seek to apply the law fairly to protect individual freedom and to promote the welfare of the people. These local jurists are some of the more than 2,000 judicial officers of the Superior Courts of California, about 1,500 Superior Court judges, assisted by 380 commissioners and 35 referees. California’s judicial system is one of the largest court systems in the United States. But just exactly how is this court system organized?

As mandated by the California Constitution, each of the 58 counties in California has a superior court with jurisdiction to hear and decide civil or criminal actions not specially designated to be heard in some other court or before a governmental agency. The superior courts are the lowest level of state courts in California holding general jurisdiction on civil and criminal matters. Above the Superior Courts are the six California Courts of Appeal, each with appellate jurisdiction over the superior courts within their districts, and above the Courts of Appeal is the Supreme Court of California.

Each county’s superior court is organized to reflect the type and volume of cases brought to it for resolution. The San Mateo County Superior Court has specialized divisions for different types of cases, including criminal, civil, traffic, small claims, probate, family, juvenile and complex litigation. The judges in the appellate division of the court also hear appeals from decisions of other superior court judges (or commissioners, or judges pro tem) on certain types of matters.

HOW DO LAWYERS BECOME JUDGES? In order to become a judge, a lawyer must have been a member of the State Bar of California for at least 10 years and either be appointed by the governor or run for election against a judge or for a particular judicial position. A lawyer who seeks an appointment from the governor must fill out an extensive application. Most candidates also submit letters of support from other lawyers, friends, judges, law school professors and others who know about the candidate’s qualifications. If the Governor’s Office thinks the applicant has sufficient merit, it forwards the application to the State Bar of California Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, which solicits additional information and recommendations from lawyers and judges who are familiar with the applicant. If the applicant receives high scores, the application is resubmitted to the governor, who then decides whether to grant the appointment. The governor will appoint a new judge when there is a vacancy at a particular court. In the alternative, a lawyer may seek a judicial position by running for election against a current judge or for an open position on a court’s bench. Candidates for judicial election are usually evaluated by a committee of the local bar association. Superior court judges are elected by each county’s voters to six-year terms.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE JUDGES OF THE SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT? The court’s website has a directory of the judges and their assignments http://www.sanmateocourt.org/general_info/judges/directory.php as well as judicial profiles http://www.sanmateocourt.org/general_info/judges/judicial_profiles.php.

Susan E. Cohn is a member of the State Bar of California. She may be contacted at susan@smdailyjournal.com.



Tags: court, judges, superior, california, judicial, courts,

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