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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
Judicial

San Mateo County Superior CourtCandidate for Judge, Office 2

Photo of Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson

Attorney at Law
35,010 votes (26.81%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • #1 -- change is needed in this judicial office, it is time. Top priority is to restore respect and proper application of the law with fairness and equity to all. This can't wait.
  • #2 -- work toward and promote improved efficiency and accessibility in court processes and services, reducing barriers, delays and associated expense and frustration for those who must use the court or participate in court proceedings.
  • #3 -- increase information and transparency. The public and those using court services can benefit from accessible information about judges, their backgrounds and performance, appointments and elections.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Attorney at Law
Senior Counsel, Litigation -- Professional Liability Program, The Regents of the University of California, Office of General Counsel (2004–2017)
Senior Counsel, Litigation, The Regents of the University of California, Office of General Counsel -- a California public entity — Appointed position (2004–2017)
Staff Counsel/Litigation Management Attorney, Judicial Council of California, Administrative Ofice of the Courts (2000–2004)
Staff Counsel - Litigation Program Attorney, Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts -- a California Public Entity — Appointed position (2000–2004)
Partner--Litigation and Trial Practice, Hassard Bonnington LLP San Francisco (1985–2000)
Partner, Litigation and Trial Practice, Hassard Bonnington LLP (1988–2000)

Education

University of Minnesota Law School Juris Doctor, Law (1979)
University of Minnesota Law School JD - Juris Doctor, Law (1979)
University of Minnesota Law School Juris Doctor, Law (1979)

Biography

I am seeking this office to fulfill an ultimate goal to serve as a superior court judge, coming off years at the University of California (UC) and Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts (JCC/AOC) overseeing litigation around the state. I want to promote awareness and discussion of issues and help effect positive change at the court. There are times when change is appropriate and healthy. I believe that stepping up -- as I am doing -- can help constructively accomplish that. My experience in private practice and in public employment, and the roles I have served, provide clear pictures of good and poor in judicial performance and court services. They also give me a passion for process improvement, efficiency, and consistent quality that I will bring to our court. 

This election is nonpartisan, and I embrace that classification. For this and other reasons, I am not seeking political endorsements or special interest support. My sense is these are out of place in this race for judicial office. I think it is healthy, however, to talk about issues. I would be pleased to hear about issues that are important to you, your area of practice, and the community.

In running, I am pointing out a systemic issue. Superior court judges serve six-year terms by Constitutional design in California and continue in office by retention elections. In practice, most never really face the electorate. They are appointed and, when their term is ending, are unopposed and their names do not appear on a ballot. The system we have favors this pattern of unopposed incumbency. Judges get accustomed to this and continue on, sometimes too long. Voters get no information and remain largely uninformed without any contested election. If you haven’t seen it, please read the working paper I wrote about this, posted at our website, richardwilsonforjudge.com.

My background is on the website and my LinkedIn profile at https://linkedin.com/in/richard-wilson-6845781. Briefly stated, my wife, Marie, and I have lived in San Carlos for 30 years and raised our children here. Marie is an attorney, making her career in-house at technology companies on the Peninsula. We love the dynamic quality and diversity of San Mateo County and have lived it as a multiracial family. As a partner at Hassard Bonnington in San Francisco, I litigated and tried cases throughout Northern California including San Mateo County. I left the firm to work for the JCC/AOC to help implement a new litigation management program for the court system. This was successfully established. I was then hired by the UC for a systemwide role as senior counsel overseeing a large litigation program. These positions brought me to courtrooms, mediation offices, and proceedings in countless cases around the state.

I aim to apply this experience and the perspectives and skills it provides to this office as judge and to the court to help with the services the court provides. I ask for your support and vote.

                                                                                    Richard W. Wilson

                                                                                    Candidate for Judge of the Superior Court

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

Working Paper on Appointment and Election of Superior Court Judges

Summary

This paper briefly describes the process of appointment and election of superior court judges. Arguments against and in favor of increased elections are presented. The system has evolved to favor successive terms, if a judge desires, with no opposition and therefore no election. This has become the pattern -- perpetual unopposed incumbancy. The result is the public and voters have little or no knowledge about judges, judicial elections, or how this system operates. There is also an effect of diminished accountability

Re:  WORKING PAPER ON APPOINTMENT AND ELECTION OF SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES

This paper briefly explains how superior court judges (also referred to as trial court judges) gain office in California and some of the opinions expressed in writings on how the judicial election system operates. Each of California’s 58 counties has a superior court. The legislature determines the number of judges in the courts. As explained below, judges serve their terms subject to reelection. The issue being highlighted here is retention elections and the always present ─ but seldom occurring ─ possibility of opposition. My perspective is outlined in Section III, below, based on experience and observation from 30 years of litigation practice.

The information in this paper will help provide background for the June 5 election in San Mateo County where the contest will play out for the office occupied by Judge Gerald Buchwald.[i]

I.  How Superior Court Judges are Appointed and Elected

● Terms are set at six years by the California Constitution, incorporating a democratic element by requiring reelection to continue in office. Judges are thereby faced with at least the possibility of being challenged.

● A vacancy due to resignation, retirement, or death is filled by appointment of the governor through an application and selection process. The appointed judge then is subject to election when that term expires.

● If an incumbent judge decides not to seek reelection, qualified attorneys can run for the open seat.

● If an incumbent is unopposed in an election, she or he does not appear on the ballot.

● Superior court judgeships are overwhelmingly uncontested. Reelection bids by incumbents are therefore not on ballots, and there is no information or opportunity for voters to participate in the process.

II.  Views and Perspectives

A. In Support of the Way the Process Operates, Including Predominantly Unopposed Incumbency

● Retention elections expose judges to the possibility of political pressure or reacting to public crises and demands for change. Elections open the possibility of attacks by partisan and special interests, presenting a threat to judicial independence and impartiality. Although judges are subject to reelection, the pattern of unopposed incumbency protects trial court judges from such forces.

● The threat of losing retention elections might influence behavior, attitude or morale. Facing actual challenges exposes them to the burden of defending their position, campaigning, and related costs.

● The “merit-based” selection and appointment process maintains a superior bench overall. Those appointed as judges are qualified and should continue, if they choose, without facing election challenge.


 

● Voters do not know the judges or their records, and most have little interest.

B. In Support of Increased Judicial Elections on Ballots

● The claim that the merit-based selection and appointment process ensures quality is untested. It suggests those who challenge an incumbent are suspect or less qualified.

● Insulating judges and their selection from voters prevents knowledge of judges and their views and records on important issues. It is almost impossible for the public to get information unless someone runs for their seat. This eviscerates voter participation and democratic accountability envisioned by the Constitution.

● The existing appointment process does not ensure judges are chosen for their qualities and abilities without influence of political views, ideology, connections, or other agenda.

● Some judges exhibit bias, partiality, or ideology. In some cases, this is persistent.  Behavior in this regard may be apparent to attorneys and litigants, but local options for relief are unsatisfactory.

● The judicial system’s disciplinary procedures are ineffective where behavior is not of a type, or sufficiently egregious, to cause imposition of sanctions.[1]

III.  Personal Experience and Comments

The following comments come from thirty years of experience handling and overseeing cases of various types in public employment and private practice. These positions required contact with courts, judges, attorneys, and parties in proceedings around the state. My perspective is both from working for the courts and from the outside based on different roles over the years.

● Quality and performance of judges distributes along a bell-shaped curve.  By far, most judges are competent, well-motivated, and perform within expected standards. These are the judges in the center of the curve and right tail. Arguments summarized above disfavoring retention elections and risk of opposition have most credibility with respect to them. These judges do have the possibility of challenge, however, and this may provide at least a background sense of public accountability and some opportunity for discussion of issues.

● There are judges who fall in the left tail of the curve and can be a problem. The lawyers and parties who regularly use the court know it. The option of disqualifying a judge under section 170.6 is always there for the individual case. However, there are reasons why this is not always a good option in practice. Also, entities that are involved in or are behind litigation like the JCC/AOC and UC, or perhaps the public defender’s or district attorney’s office, are reluctant to play that card.

● Performance issues likely will not be addressed or treated effectively by the disciplinary system. Incumbents continue along, successive terms without opposition.

● Retention elections are one way to seek improvement and accountability, and to address significant issues. They also allow the public to have a role and receive information. This is consistent with the Constitutional design.

     Richard W. Wilson

                                                          Candidate for Judge of the San Mateo County Superior Court



[1] Statistics and decisions on disciplinary matters are available on the Commission on Judicial Performance website (https://cjp.ca.gov/).



[i] We are in a strange season on the San Francisco Peninsula. There are judicial election challenges in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties (and one in Alameda County). Other metro counties in the state also have contested elections, though reelection challenges against incumbents are very few.

Working Paper on Appointment and Election of Superior Court Judges

Summary

Ths paper explains how superior court judges attain office by appointment or election. Although the California Constitution sets terms of six years, subject then to retention election by the ovters, the system has evolved where the democratic element has been largely eliminated and judges rarely face opposition when seeking to serve another term. This bigger picture issue in our campaign can be called the question of perpetual unopposed incumbancy, which effects accountability and the information--or lack of information--available to the public and electorate. 

The paper also explains observations and perspectives from 30 plus years of litigation practice around the State of California with respect to judicial perfomanc and court operations. Based on that experience, the perspective explained in this paper is that there are times when change is appropriate and healthy for the court and public.

 

Re:  WORKING PAPER ON APPOINTMENT AND ELECTION OF SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES

This paper briefly explains how superior court judges (also referred to as trial court judges) gain office in California and some of the opinions expressed in writings on how the judicial election system operates. Each of California’s 58 counties has a superior court. The legislature determines the number of judges in the courts. As explained below, judges serve their terms subject to reelection. The issue being highlighted here is retention elections and the always present ─ but seldom occurring ─ possibility of opposition. My perspective is outlined in Section III, below, based on experience and observation from 30 years of litigation practice.

The information in this paper will help provide background for the June 5 election in San Mateo County where the contest will play out for the office occupied by Judge Gerald Buchwald.[i]

I.  How Superior Court Judges are Appointed and Elected

● Terms are set at six years by the California Constitution, incorporating a democratic element by requiring reelection to continue in office. Judges are thereby faced with at least the possibility of being challenged.

● A vacancy due to resignation, retirement, or death is filled by appointment of the governor through an application and selection process. The appointed judge then is subject to election when that term expires.

● If an incumbent judge decides not to seek reelection, qualified attorneys can run for the open seat.

● If an incumbent is unopposed in an election, she or he does not appear on the ballot.

● Superior court judgeships are overwhelmingly uncontested. Reelection bids by incumbents are therefore not on ballots, and there is no information or opportunity for voters to participate in the process.

II.  Views and Perspectives

A. In Support of the Way the Process Operates, Including Predominantly Unopposed Incumbency

● Retention elections expose judges to the possibility of political pressure or reacting to public crises and demands for change. Elections open the possibility of attacks by partisan and special interests, presenting a threat to judicial independence and impartiality. Although judges are subject to reelection, the pattern of unopposed incumbency protects trial court judges from such forces.

● The threat of losing retention elections might influence behavior, attitude or morale. Facing actual challenges exposes them to the burden of defending their position, campaigning, and related costs.

● The “merit-based” selection and appointment process maintains a superior bench overall. Those appointed as judges are qualified and should continue, if they choose, without facing election challenge.

● Voters do not know the judges or their records, and most have little interest.

B. In Support of Increased Judicial Elections on Ballots

● The claim that the merit-based selection and appointment process ensures quality is untested. It suggests those who challenge an incumbent are suspect or less qualified.

● Insulating judges and their selection from voters prevents knowledge of judges and their views and records on important issues. It is almost impossible for the public to get information unless someone runs for their seat. This eviscerates voter participation and democratic accountability envisioned by the Constitution.

● The existing appointment process does not ensure judges are chosen for their qualities and abilities without influence of political views, ideology, connections, or other agenda.

● Some judges exhibit bias, partiality, or ideology. In some cases, this is persistent.  Behavior in this regard may be apparent to attorneys and litigants, but local options for relief are unsatisfactory.

● The judicial system’s disciplinary procedures are ineffective where behavior is not of a type, or sufficiently egregious, to cause imposition of sanctions.[1]

III.  Personal Experience and Comments

The following comments come from thirty years of experience handling and overseeing cases of various types in public employment and private practice. These positions required contact with courts, judges, attorneys, and parties in proceedings around the state. My perspective is both from working for the courts and from the outside based on different roles over the years.

● Quality and performance of judges distributes along a bell-shaped curve.  By far, most judges are competent, well-motivated, and perform within expected standards. These are the judges in the center of the curve and right tail. Arguments summarized above disfavoring retention elections and risk of opposition have most credibility with respect to them. These judges do have the possibility of challenge, however, and this may provide at least a background sense of public accountability and some opportunity for discussion of issues.

● There are judges who fall in the left tail of the curve and can be a problem. The lawyers and parties who regularly use the court know it. The option of disqualifying a judge under section 170.6 is always there for the individual case. However, there are reasons why this is not always a good option in practice. Also, entities that are involved in or are behind litigation like the JCC/AOC and UC, or perhaps the public defender’s or district attorney’s office, are reluctant to play that card.

● Performance issues likely will not be addressed or treated effectively by the disciplinary system. Incumbents continue along, successive terms without opposition.

● Retention elections are one way to seek improvement and accountability, and to address significant issues. They also allow the public to have a role and receive information. This is consistent with the Constitutional design.

Richard W. Wilson

                                                          Candidate for Judge of the San Mateo County Superior Court

 



[1] Statistics and decisions on disciplinary matters are available on the Commission on Judicial Performance website (https://cjp.ca.gov/).



[i] We are in a strange season on the San Francisco Peninsula. There are judicial election challenges in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties (and one in Alameda County). Other metro counties in the state also have contested elections, though reelection challenges against incumbents are very few.

Videos (1)

Podcast posted May 4, 2018 -- interview of Richard Wilson — May 5, 2018 Michelle Dragony, reporter and podcast producer at CoastsideBUZZ

This podcast is an informal question and answer session with Richard Wilson covering a range of topics, described by the reporter as informative and "fascinating."

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