Backed by her predecessor as well as the rest of the judges on the Yolo County Superior Court bench, Commissioner Janene Beronio, who has been in that position handling arraignments since 1989, announced her candidacy to replace Judge Stephen Mock, who announced last Thursday he would retire at the end of the year.
“For the past 25 years I have dedicated my life to the law and to the people of this county, serving as a Yolo Superior Court Commissioner,” she said in a prepared statement on the Courthouse steps. “With the support of Judge Mock and the entire Yolo Bench, I have decided to run for the judicial position that Judge Mock is vacating.”
“I am honored to have Judge Mock’s endorsement, and the endorsement of all my colleagues on the Bench. I am excited about the opportunity to continue serving this community as a Superior Court Judge,” she added. “If elected, it will be my goal to carry on the noble tradition of the superb Judges who have served this great county.”
Ms. Beronio told reporters that she began thinking about running for the seat when Judge Mock announced his retirement on Thursday.
Judge Mock told the gathered media and supports, “When I decided to retire I wanted to make sure that the voters chose who is going to replace me.”
He said that he had no idea who was likely to run for his position. “I was looking for someone who had three qualities. First, I wanted someone who had broad experience in many areas of the law. Second I wanted someone who had, what I’ll call, judicial temperament. Third, I wanted someone who fit well with the other judges on the bench.”
“This bench, unlike many benches, has an incredible amount of camaraderie, and that helps us all as we do our work,” Judge Mock added. “I was gratified when Janene Beronio told me that she was going to run for this position.”
“She has all those qualities,” he said. “She has well over 20 years’ experience handling every judicial assignment that we can give her as a commissioner. She clearly has judicial temperament, she has shown that for many years. She fits in well on this bench and she’s one of those people who has contributed to the camaraderie.”
Janene Beronio, 63, was born in Chicago and moved to Texas in the late 1950s, ultimately ending up in Southern California.
She attended Loma Linda University and received a BA in 1971. Upon graduation, she moved to Sacramento, becoming a legal secretary at a law firm.
Ms. Beronio attended law school at the University of the Pacific, finally receiving her JD from McGeorge School of Law, and was admitted to the bar in 1978.
In November 1980, she was hired by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, where she worked on the felony trial team and supervised both the Davis and Broderick Offices.
In July 1989, she was appointed as the first Yolo County Court Commissioner. According to her bio, she had a number of assignments including master calendar, felony arraignments, misdemeanor arraignments, juvenile dependency court, juvenile delinquency court, juvenile traffic court, juvenile drug court, adult traffic court, small claims court, unlawful detainer trials, misdemeanor pre-trial conferences, felony pre-hearing conferences, preliminary hearings, and civil settlements.
According to her bio, she “was also instrumental in restructuring the misdemeanor department to reduce the backlog of case.” It states, “Subsequently, the Yolo model was recommended to other courts who then sent judicial officers to observe Janene’s court to see if they could achieve the same results by implementing Yolo’s model.”
For her supporters, what stood out was her experience as a commissioner which sets her apart from other candidates, in their view.
“Janene (Beronio) has also served as a mentor to new judges and she has been on the bench longer than any other judicial officer in Yolo County,” her bio notes.
Presiding Judge Steve Basha also spoke on her behalf on Tuesday. “As you’ve heard, every one of the judges on the Yolo Superior Court is very pleased that Commissioner Beronio has agreed to run for Judge Mock’s judicial position. She is exceptionally well qualified.”
Judge Dan Maguire in 2012, as many will recall, was the last judge to face an electoral challenge. Deputy DA Clinton Parish challenged him, but his challenge ended in controversy when he fired off an attack mailer that turned out to be factually inaccurate. Judge Maguire would be reelected with 75% of the vote and Deputy DA Parish was forced to take a position as a Deputy DA in Tuolumne County.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone being better qualified for Superior Court Judge than Janene Beronio,” Judge Maguire stated. “For more than 20 years she served as a judicial officer in this county. She’s handled cases by the thousands, she’s worked side by side with all of the judges.”
“As the judges of Yolo County, we know what it takes to be a good judge. And we know Janene Beronio, she is the right person for this job,” he added.
As Judge Tim Fall, who in 2008 faced an electoral challenge from Deputy DA James Walker and won handily, explained, Janene Beronio has been given “the entire set of cases that the law allows us to. She has already shown herself capable to take on the cases.”
Judge David Rosenberg explained that the law allows three types of judicial officers: Judges, Commissioners, and Referees.
He pointed out that, while judges are normally appointed by the governor, the law allows for elections for an open seat. “The last election was Judge Mock’s,” he said.
Commissioners are appointed by the judges, as are referees.
The election will be held in June and Judge Mock will step down in January 2015. The winner of the judicial election would be sworn in when all other elected officials are sworn in.
This is a contested election. Frederick (Rick) Cohen, a Sacramento-based family law attorney formally announced his candidacy this week as well, in a letter to supporters.
Rick Cohen received his BA from the University of Michigan before getting his law degree from the UC Davis School of Law in 1989. Since 1996, he is the founder and principal of a two-attorney family law litigation firm, the Law Offices of Fredrick Cohen.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
The following is the video of Commissioner Janene Baronio’s announcement of her candidacy to replace Judge Mock on the Yolo County bench: