All Rise: Reflections from Newer Judges

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to transition into the role of Superior Court Judge in Contra Costa County? I polled some judges appointed over the last three years for their thoughts on the job so far. Thank you to Hon. Jennifer Lee, Hon. H. Glenn Kim, Hon. Ayana K. Young, Hon. Palvir K. Shoker, Hon. Gina Dashman, and Hon. Peter Chang for openly sharing their sentiments. Their reflections may surprise you! 

Let’s start with something fun: Please describe your favorite part of the job so far.

Judge Jennifer Lee: One of my favorite parts of the job is the interaction with the public, which includes all the parties and the jurors. I have learned so much from their backgrounds and experiences that has helped me grow as a judge and a person.

Judge Ayana Young: I love this job. Really, I do. On Sunday nights, I feel at ease about my work week because I enjoy the work so much. One of my favorite parts is helping families. I’m in a family law assignment and I am grateful to be a part of so many families resolving their issues. I see many families two or three times after a Request for Order is filed and it brings me so much joy to see them come together, forgive, and let go of pain and resentment to co-parent successfully.   

Judge Gina Dashman takes the oath of judicial officeJudge Gina Dashman: I love everything about the job so far, including the people I work with. The lawyers who work incredibly hard, and the juries. It is an honor to do what we do, and I never lose sight of that fact.

Judge Peter Chang: I have enjoyed researching the law and arriving at the correct legal decision after applying the law to the facts.

Judge Palaver Shoker: My favorite part of the job is being able to interact with litigants. I feel that I can do more to help litigants and their families when I hear from them directly during our pro-per calendars, and I am able to explain to them how the process works and the reasons for my ruling.

Judge H. Glenn Kim:  This is truly a wonderful job.  I am blessed and grateful. One of my favorite parts is hearing both sides of an argument. I enjoy seeing how strategic some parties are and how the other side responds. I appreciate out-of-the-box arguments, and how parties connect the dots of what originally appeared to be random facts. Another favorite part is working with my co-workers, court staff and judicial colleagues alike. It’s a misnomer that this is a lonely job. Our court staff are dedicated, hardworking individuals – they are just good people. I also appreciate the generosity, friendship, and mentoring of my judicial colleagues. We engage in thoughtful discussion about the law, our judicial responsibilities, our families, and we truly support one another.

Please describe an unexpected challenge to the job.

Judge Young: Hands down, night warrant duty. I remember watching movies where the police officer would go to the judge’s house in the middle of the night to get a warrant signed. It was cool in the Bad Boys movies, but in real life it definitely presents a challenge to my sleep. Thankfully we don’t have nighttime duty very often throughout the year, but because it’s such a challenge to my sleep, the dread can overtake my mood some days even if it’s scheduled a year out. When the time does come, I realize it’s not as bad as I was making it in my head, but it’s such a relief when it’s over.

Judge Shoker: I joke that I was not prepared for the sleeplessness of the week of Night Warrant and Emergency Protective Order Duty. There is no amount of coffee that can make one alert and clear headed by the third straight night of interrupted sleep.

Judge Glenn Kim takes the Oath of Office from Judge Mary Ann O'MalleyJudge Kim: As a new judge, it’s not easy to see judicial colleagues with over a decade or more of experience and to think of them as peers. It took me some time to get comfortable with calling colleagues by their first names and not by the title “Judge.” It has been a challenge to always remember that no matter how many years of judicial experience one has, we are all equals and independent judicial officers. Navigating through that and coming to know that ultimately, my decisions are my own and no one else’s, have been challenging.

Judge Chang: I didn’t expect judges to take work home so often!  Many judges work evenings and weekends to keep up with their busy dockets.

What words of wisdom do you have for members of the CCCBA?

Judge Lee: The work you do matters and makes a difference in the lives of those you serve.

Judge Chang: Be courteous and respectful to opposing counsel, the court staff, and the court. And I always appreciate attorneys who meet and confer on issues before raising them with me.  

Judge Kim: Know your judge, ask your colleagues, Google them. Better yet, look them up on the CCCBA website, which is a great resource containing most of the judges’ profiles. I’m always impressed with attorneys that have done their homework and come to my courtroom knowing my background, courtroom policies, and expectations of decorum. My biggest tip for young attorneys is to develop, cherish, and guard your reputation, both as a professional and as a person. Great attorneys have reputations that go beyond which side of the courtroom they stand on. They have integrity, subject matter expertise, are reasonable, respectful, and know how to  issue-spot. Great attorneys are zealous advocates who understand that an adversarial process does not need to be a hostile one.

Judge Shoker: We are very fortunate to have an active bar association in our county, so get involved, meet other attorneys, and just always be polite and civil to each other in court. Do not buy into the whole narrative that if you are civil to the opposing side, you are not being aggressive. A great lawyer can be an outstanding advocate and a polite human being at the same time.

Judge Young: CCCBA does a great job of keeping attorneys and the public informed. I often check the website for information myself.  As far as tips for practice in my courtroom, meet and confer before you get to court, and remember to be civil towards one another and to the parties.

Thank you again to our judges for participating. Please check out the magazine online for an extended interview.