Honorable Susanne Fenstermacher — Department 15

Biographical Information

  • Undergrad, grad, law school, University of California, Berkeley (BA Political Science); Loyola University, New Orleans (JD).
  • General Civil Practice 1979-1998 in partnership with my father, Oliver Fenstermacher, a retired judge. General Civil Practice as a solo practitioner with an emphasis in Family Law from 1998, when my father retired, until appointment to the bench in 2005.
  • Political Affiliation: Independent


Judicial Experience

A Family Law Pro-Temp Judge since 1989. Upon my appointment in 2005, my assignment was the criminal calendar, which included misdemeanor trials, felony and misdemeanor arraignments, probation reviews and revocation hearings, and felony preliminary hearings. When the commissioner was unavailable, I heard civil harassment and domestic violence matters. I also presided over small claims trials de novo. In January 2008 was presiding over Felony Trials until July 2008 when I moved to the Family Law assignment. Assigned doing Felony Trials (since January 2011). Since January 21, 2014, I have been presiding over a “hybrid” calendar which includes Family Law, Probate, LPS and Murphy Conservatorships and the occasional criminal matter.


Pre-bench Civic & Professional Activities

I served as an arbitrator regarding civil cases filed in the Municipal Courts throughout Contra Costa County and continued to do so when these branch courts became Superior Courts of Limited Jurisdiction.

In 1992, I served as the chairperson of the Contra Costa County Bar Association Fee Arbitration Panel and I served as a fee arbitrator on numerous cases.

I was the first female President of the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce in 1985. In 1992, I was President of the Contra Costa County Bar Association.

I was on the Board of Directors of the Contra Costa Barrister Association and I was on the Board of Trustees of the Contra Costa Legal Services Foundation. I was on Panels for Family Law Seminars.


Current Civic & Professional Activities

I am a member of California Judges Association. I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the Contra Costa County Law Library.


Recent Publications

I am co-author of the workbook entitled “Family Law Litigation in California”, published by NBI Inc.


Courtroom Policies

I generally rule from the bench.
I expect all local rules and rules of procedure to be followed. Contrary to popular belief, the rules of evidence are also applicable in Family Law cases.



Teleconferencing is allowed on a case by case basis.



Generally, motions must be in writing and comply with the page limits set forth in the local rules of court. They must be timely served and filed.



Rules of procedure are to be followed.


Settlement Conferences

Attorneys should be prepared to discuss resolution of the case, which includes having a clear knowledge and understanding of the facts of the case and the applicable law.


In Limine Motions

Must be in writing and filed before trial.



When applicable, sanctions will be ordered.



To be exchanged 15 calendar days before the trial or long cause hearing and will not be considered or received in evidence until I have ruled on evidentiary objections.



I expect attorneys to treat each other and the court respectfully and to treat all parties and witnesses in the same manner.


Court Reporters & Translators

Interpreters are provided in Domestic Violence cases. In all other matters, the litigants must provide their own interpreters.


Computers in the Courtroom

They are allowed.


Cameras in the Courtroom

So far, cameras in the courtroom have not been an issue.



Be prepared and be polite and you will be treated in kind.