Honorable Christopher Bowen — Department 40

Biographical Information

  • Education: Santa Clara University, BS; University of Virginia School of Law, JD
  • Pre-bench Legal Experience: Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office, 1993-2010
  • Political Affiliation: Democrat


Judicial Experience

  • Richmond Branch Court: 2 years.
  • Family Law (Martinez): 4 years


Pre-bench Civic & Professional Activities

  • City of Richmond Historic Preservation Advisory Committee
  • Contra Costa County Bar Association
  • Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom
  • Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court


Current Civic & Professional Activities

  • Volunteer Judge, Berkeley Law School Civil Trial Practice Classes
  • Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court
  • California Judges Association
  • International Association of LGBT Judges


Continuing Legal Education Faculty

Frequent Presenter on Family Law topics (CCCBA Family Law Section, AAML, ACFLS).


Typical weekly schedule

  • Alternating short and long-cause weeks;
  • Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and Emergency Orders: 8:30 a.m.
  • Self-Represented litigants only: Friday mornings
  • Short cause calendars at begin between 8:30 and 9:00, with a second calendar at 10:00 a.m.
  • Trials: 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on long-cause weeks
  • Court ends by 4:30 p.m.


Courtroom Policies

  • Generally rules from bench on short cause matters.
  • Issues pre-trial orders for most long-cause hearings.
  • Attorneys and parties are required to comply with meet and confer requirements in all appropriate cases (other than Domestic Violence Restraining Order cases)



Court will allow attorneys and parties to appear telephonically on a case-by-case basis and only with advance approval.


Motions/Requests for Order

  • Page limitations contained in the California Rules of Court are strictly enforced.
  • Parties and attorneys should not attach confidential documents to pleadings that will be in the public section of any file. If necessary, confidential documents may be lodged with the court, or a motion may be made to file such documents under seal.



To be filed pursuant to the pretrial order with courtesy copies delivered to the department.


Settlement Conferences

Mandatory before trials.


In Limine Motions

May be made in writing or orally at any hearing.



Witness are not often presented at short-cause hearings. Long-cause hearings do sometimes involve witnesses in addition to the parties themselves.



Imposed only in the most egregious of cases unless otherwise appropriate or required by law.



Notwithstanding the more relaxed atmosphere of Family Law, parties and attorneys are reminded not to interrupt each other and not to interrupt the judge.


Court Reporters & Translators

Court reporters are no longer provided by the court in Family Law cases, but the parties are allowed to arrange for their own court reporter at their expense. Spoken Language and Sign Language Interpreters are provided to all litigants upon prior request.


Computers in the Courtroom

Computers are allowed in the courtroom.



Audio-visual equipment may be used with advance court approval.


Cameras in the Courtroom

Cameras and recording devices are not allowed in the courtroom absent prior court order or other administrative approval.


Does this Court prefer courtesy copies delivered to the department prior to hearing?

For more involved pleadings the court does prefer courtesy copies to be delivered to the department prior to the hearing.


Does this Court use the Contra Costa Standard Family Law Pre-Trial order or have its own Pre-Trial order?

Department 40 uses the Contra Costa Standard Family Law Pre-Trial order, sometimes with minor modifications for case-specific issues.



Unnecessary repetition of each point raised in written pleadings is not encouraged. Often it is more effective to focus on one or two key points that are most important.