When the Legislature was doling out 50 new judgeships last year, the slower-growing Bay Area didn't fare too well. In fact, the only regional trial court that gets a new black robe is Contra Costa County, and the governor filled that spot recently.
Well buck up, Bay Area judicial wannabes. Thanks to a lesser-known provision in recent legislation, the Judicial Council will be converting up to 16 subordinate judicial officer positions (SJO) into full-fledged judgeships by next June. And of the first seven conversions (.pdf), four will go to Bay Area courts — three in Contra Costa County and one in San Francisco. Los Angeles will also get two and San Luis Obispo, one.
The law says that only vacant commissioner or referee slots can be converted to judgeships — so there's no kicking out actively serving SJOs. But San Francisco and Contra Costa were lucky enough to have four current vacancies or pending retirements in subordinate bench positions, which put them in front of the line for conversions. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will go through the usual appointment process to fill the newly elevated offices.
As for the other counties, there are still nine judgeships up for grabs and Judicial Council staff will be back in February to fill them. If you want to be a judge in the Bay Area, maybe now's the time to talk to your local court commissioner about the wonders of retirement — or private practice.
— Cheryl Miller