Another Changing of the Guard

Almost four years have passed since I took office as the Assistant Presiding Judge, and two years since becoming Presiding Judge. Every incoming PJ must expect occasional challenges on contentious issues, but two wholly unexpected challenges arose. First, the chaos of the pandemic demanded urgent solutions to complex problems, practically on a daily basis. Second, the protests in Martinez and elsewhere highlighted the need for our court to publicly adopt a policy championing the elimination of racism and bias. We are proud of our policy statement, prominently displayed on our website.

When the pandemic hit, we were the first California county to close its courts on March 16, 2020. We reopened to a new normal on May 26th and have been trying to keep everyone safe, while respecting the rights guaranteed by the court. As I write this, the pandemic is on an apparent upswing and our budget in a precipitous decline. There is no telling how much longer we will be able to offer the array of services now available.

My service was made possible by the incredible contributions of too many to list, but I must single out Kate Bieker for her tireless efforts to keep our court on track and within budget, an increasingly daunting task. Kate is a CEO who actually works in the trenches and knows how to ensure that justice is accessible.

Judge Rebecca Hardie, our incoming PJ, who so ably assisted me during my tenure, is highly qualified to lead our court for the next two years. Under her leadership, the court will truly enter the 21st century. New case management systems will be implemented. Also, she will be leading our efforts to convert to a more efficient direct calendaring system for Criminal, the last holdout with a master calendar. All other divisions have used direct calendaring for decades.

Finally, I am grateful to all of my colleagues for their support and hard work, without which our court would not have succeeded. I am also grateful for help from so many members of the Bar, especially those who advocate for judicial independence—a principle that has become critical in these trying times.

We cannot underestimate the challenges facing our judiciary in general and our court in particular. I know our strong leadership will bring our court safely, if not stronger, through this crisis. I move on to my next assignment, Civil, in 2021, and look forward to seeing many of you there.