It’s time to consider running for SLO County judge

Stew Jenkins


An engaged, effective and resilient San Luis Obispo County Bar Association should make a version of this announcement for its member early in every odd numbered year. Superior court judges are elected at the primary; or in a November run-off if no one candidate receives a majority. California moved up its primary; next year to March 3, 2020.

So, spring or summer this year, 2019, is the time a lawyer should start to run for judge.

In the wisdom of California’s constitutional founders, Superior Court judgeships are temporary six-year jobs. Close to the people, elected by voters in each county. The Governor has no constitutional role, other than to make temporary appointments on death or resignation.

But, when I think about the slightly undemocratic reaction that our colleagues on the bench have to the idea of lawyers running for judge at election time, it brings to mind this picture of musk ox in a rump-to-rum defensive circle.

Lawyers do file, campaign and often enough win election to a superior court seat. One who ran and prevailed against an incumbent swore me into the practice of law.

There are good reasons to run. Sometimes political connections induce a governor to mistakenly appoint someone to a vacancy without the qualities that make a good judge. And every experienced lawyer has appeared over time in front of one or another jurist and quietly concluded that she or he would do a better job than that particular judge weighing equities, ruling on evidence, assessing witnesses, and administering justice.

Candidates who win judgeships by campaigning among the people that they will serve lose biases and gain insights that serve them administering justice. Lawyers who run for judge, but don’t get elected, typically find the number and quality of their clients will sky rocket after the election.

Three San Luis Obispo County Superior Court seats are coming up for election in 2020: in alphabetical order these are the seats occupied by Rita C. Federman, Ginger E. Garrett, and Matthew Guerrero (an appointed-incumbent).

Legislative manipulation of the timing to file nomination papers for judge can catch the unwary off-guard. This cycle, lawyers running for superior court must file their Judicial Candidate Statements of Intent early: between  Oct. 28, 2019 and Nov. 6, 2019. This is an eight-business-day window that will not be extended unless one of the two incumbents or the one appointed-incumbent fail to file. It is different than for any other elective office.

There is a filing fee of a little over $2,000. But this can be reduced by pulling “Petition in Lieu” papers on or after Sept. 12, 2019, to circulate and turn in with your Judicial Candidates Statement of Intent form on or before Nov. 6, 2019. Every signature will reduce that filing fee, and the very act of collecting those signatures will help cement your relationship with voters and your campaign volunteers.

The Canons of Judicial Ethics give you a clue to when you should start your campaign. There is a required course on the ethics of running for judicial office that you must take (and frankly that every lawyer should take) online. Lawyers and Judges get continuing education credit. Canon 5(b)(3) of the Code of Judicial Ethics mandates this course be finished (and this is the clue on when to start your campaign): “no earlier than one year before or no later than 60 days after either the filing of a declaration of intention by the candidate, the formation of a campaign committee, or the receipt of any campaign contribution, whichever is earliest. This requirement does not apply to judges who are unopposed for election and will not appear on the ballot.”

It is an enlightening course. The State Bar rules of professional conduct require lawyers who run for Judge to comply with the Canons of Judicial Ethics that apply to campaigns. You can log on to take the course here. You can also find more information online.

Any lawyer with 10 years continuous active State Bar membership should consider offering the community his or her knowledge, integrity, and professionalism by running for Superior Court Judge.

Please, be respectful of others. Attack ideas, not users. Personal insults, shill or troll accusations, hate speech, and other uncivil comments will be removed. The comments posted represent the opinion of the writer and do not represent the views or policies of the website.

6 Comments about “It’s time to consider running for SLO County judge”

  1. Nicki says:

    Soon several Judges will be up for election, that is the time we the people get to use the Democratic process and constitution to elect to those who are fit to hold office, Judges need to be elected by the people not political appointees and favors.

    As Judge Child’s recently said she is running to replace one of the Judge up for election so people get out and vote for the New Candidates running for Judge. It appears as Fran says their will be several local Deputy District Attorneys and City Attorney, a Commissioner and other well qualified candidates to vote in new blood.

    Time is now to set our sights on the New ones to be our next ELECTED Judges no more political appointees or favors to the powers at be in Sacramento we now have the power to choose our own Judges.

    Vote the bums out and lets get on Board with Mr. Jenkins and elect the people choice……..

  2. Gerald KL says:

    Most interesting that some of our Judges are involved in judicial misconduct as several judges are up for election it is imperative that good honest, ethical and moral people submit for a Judicial Election.

    I implore all local Lawyers who qualify for filing for Judgeship in the up coming elections do so, we do not need hand picked [people] by the Governor or his cronies. It is we the people who need to vote them in or out. Take the politics out of the Judicial race and vote on those who are well qualified regardless of party affiliation.

    Judge Harmon, Garrett, Crandall , Hurst, Coates, commissioner Erin M Child’s all need to be replaced. This new commissioner Erin Child’s really needs to go, she has had so many complaints and her background needs to be re-vetted. Retired Judge LaBarbera needs to stop coming back as a visit5ng judge he is retired and needs to stay away as he is grooming his daughter Lisa Toke, Esq. for Judge shameful.

    Sheryl WOLCOTT, Christine Detrieck, Paul Phillips, Erin Childs, Lisa Toke, have all been seeking to be one of the next Judges. We the [people need to pick} not the judges or Governor.

  3. Fran says:

    Stew is right, it is time for real people to run, I see where Family Law Commissioner Erin Child’s is going to run and unseat at least one judge. YOU go Girl we need new blood

    1. Not So Fast says:

      Stew is 100% spot on and correct, however this out of town Lawyer Erin M Child’s has some very serious baggage that the public needs to know about. Her Law Firm in Fresno Child’s & Child’s was raided, records taken, the State Bar revoked her husband’s license to practice law.

      Jerry F. Child’s # Bar ID 218457 shows a very corrupt office with serious misconduct that included his wife Commissioner Erin M Childs, Jerry F Childs the husband was convicted of Moral Turpitude, Corruption, Patterns of Misconduct, Harming Clients, Lying, Fraud, False Testimony, concealment of wrong doings within his wife’s Firm Erin Maureen Childs Bar #222942 who is now a commissioner in San Luis Obispo ?

      How did that happen someone did a very poor or no background verification on her failing as a Lawyer and now as a Commissioner she is doing a very poor unethical Job. Violations of the State Bar Rules and Ethics as well as many violations of the B&P codes,6106,6140,6086 ++++

      Bar Cases Numbers 12-0-13459,14-0-1283, 14-0-0611 etc etc etc. the Law Firm of Erin M. Childs and her Husband X lawyer Jerry F. Childs # 218457 a state consumer alert is listed on the state site for his misconduct. How did the Law Firm of Childs & Childs of Fresno get raided and records of misconduct seized. She used all her “?” to get out of Fresno to come to SLO and conceal her background,

      She now blames her husband ? he blames her ? but she was the President and CEO of the FIRM SO SHE KNEW. If she does run she will face the facts of her background including some unsavory things a her law school…..

      As of yesterday 3 current SLO County employees who work in the court system, have witnessed her conduct on the bench and things she has said to many families that she ruined and hurt the lives and family Bond, many complaints have been filed with more soon to come.

      She is NOT a Judge even though she wants to be one, she is a locally hired commissioner not a Judge , NOT Elected, NOT appointed by the Governor just knew a few judges who are now retired she has some baggage on them so they brought her in.

      Her Husband was banned to Eastern Mountain of Kern County the hills of Tehachapi, CA close to the State Prison , we need new judges but no this one….

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