Honorable Joni T. Hiramoto — Department 32

Biographical Information

  • Education: Undergrad: Harvard-Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA; Law school: Boalt Hall, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Pre-bench Legal Experience: Litigation Associate, McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, San Francisco, 1987-1992; Branch Chief, Enforcement Division, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, San Francisco, 1992-1998.
  • Political Affiliation: Democrat


Judicial Experience

Appointed, Pete Wilson, March 11, 1998, Municipal Court, Contra Costa County, Elevated by Unification to Superior Court, June 1998.


Pre-bench Civic & Professional Activities

Before taking the bench, Judge Hiramoto served as President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, and held officer or director positions with the San Francisco Women Lawyers Alliance, the Asian Law Caucus and the Bar Association of San Francisco.


Current Civic & Professional Activities

Judge Hiramoto is a Sunday School Teacher at the Buddhist Church of Oakland. She is currently a co-chair of the Harvard Alumni Committee for Contra Costa County, and is active with parent groups at El Cerrito High School. In March of 2004 Judge Hiramoto was named El Cerrito West Contra Costa County’s Women Inspiring Hope and Inspiration Awards.


Continuing Legal Education Faculty

Judge Hiramoto has served on the faculty of the Bernard E. Witkin Judicial College of California (1999, 2001-2004, 2008, 2009), the New Judges’ Orientation program, and the State Judges’ Qualifying Ethics II Program. She has also served as faculty with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ Enhancing Judicial Skills in Domestic Violence Workshop, in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in San Francisco, California.


Courtroom Policies

Counsel should observe the usual formalities in Court, including requesting permission to approach a witness or enter the well.



Be brief. Eschew the boilerplate.



Judge Hiramoto expects all discovery disputes to be resolved in advance of trial. In criminal cases, Judge Hiramoto takes the view that a counsel’s obligation to disclose witness statements extends to all statements, oral, written or recorded, unless the applicable statute specifics that such statements must be “written or recorded.” (See, e.g., Pipes & Gagen’s California Criminal Discovery, (Lexis Law Publishing, 2nd ed., 1999), Sections 3:9 and 4:9.)


Settlement Conferences

Judge Hiramoto expects civil settlement conferences to be attended personally by all parties, counsel and insurance adjusters. Phone appearances must be requested in writing in advance of all appearances, with notice to all parties, and approved by the Court in advance. In criminal cases, Judge Hiramoto expects defendants to be personally present at the “pretrial” conference, unless advance permission is granted by the Court.



Judge Hiramoto prefers that parties participate in some form of ADR as soon as practicable after the case is at issue.


In Limine Motions

Judge Hiramoto prefers these to be in writing and served on opposing counsel.


Voir Dire

Judge Hiramoto prefers to conduct the bulk of voir dire herself, and will allow each party an equal amount of time for voir dire.


Jury Instructions

Judge Hiramoto prefers to receive written lists of requested jury instructions on the first day of trial. Only the CalJic or CACI number and title need be included in a request for standard jury instructions. If counsel requests a Special Instruction, Judge Hiramoto prefers to receive a copy of all case law cited in support of the instruction.



Judge Hiramoto expects witnesses to be treated with respect and that counsel will address witnesses by their surnames, unless permission is sought in advance for special cases, e.g. minors. Judge Hiramoto prefers to be notified in advance of any special needs or requests of witnesses, including interpreters, moral support persons, health issues, timing issues, or the need for special equipment such as assistive listening devices.



In general, Judge Hiramoto does not consider, “My secretary mis-calendared (sic) my appearance,” as good cause in response to an Order to Show Cause for a missed court appearance. Judge Hiramoto will not hesitate to impose sanctions in the appropriate situation, but happily, these have been rare in her judicial career.



Judge Hiramoto prefers Exhibits to be pre-marked for identification. Any exhibits that require special handling, including firearms, weapons of any sort, needles, narcotics or other contraband should be cleared and secured by the Court bailiff immediately upon entry into the courtroom and outside the presence of the jury.



The Court is not a church. But it is not inappropriate to observe a similar degree of respect for the Court as an institution, the people present and the proceedings as if one were in church. Men should remove hats. People should refrain from eating, smoking, sleeping, chewing gum and foul language while in Court. Electronic devices such as cell phones and pagers should be turned off or put on silent mode. Dress need not be formal, as long as it is clean and presentable. The Court expects everyone to treat each other with respect.


Court Reporters & Translators

When a court interpreter is interpreting proceedings, Judge Hiramoto requires attorneys and witnesses to speak slowly and to pause between questions and answers. When examining a witness who is speaking through an interpreter, Judge Hiramoto advises counsel to avoid figures of speech and to use short sentences to achieve the greatest clarity for the record.


Computers in the Courtroom

Judge Hiramoto will allow the use of computers as long as it is not disruptive of the proceedings.



With advance notice, Judge Hiramoto will allow the use of audio-visual aids in the courtroom.


Cameras in the Courtroom

The Court may grant access pursuant to C.R.C. 980.



A lawyer’s professional reputation is his or her greatest capital. Do not compromise yourself or your reputation. Treat opposing counsel civilly as professionals, if not as friends.