Beronio Announces Candidacy to Replace Judge Mock

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Janene Beronio announces her candidacy for Yolo Superior Court Judge on the courthouse steps on Tuesday
Janene Beronio announces her candidacy for Yolo Superior Court Judge on the courthouse steps on Tuesday

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.

Janene Baronio talks to reporters after announcement, flanked by Judge Fall (left) and Judge Rosenberg (right)
Janene Beronio talks to reporters after announcement, flanked by Judge Fall (left) and Judge Rosenberg (right)

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:

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 thoughts on “Beronio Announces Candidacy to Replace Judge Mock”

  1. Davis Progressive

    one of the most important elections we face. reposting from yesterday:

    wonder how many readers understand how significant the retirement of Mock will be from a judicial perspective?

    very disappointed to hear that the judges are backing beronio. some of my friends in the legal field who practice in yolo have deep trouble with her.

    look at her record – she spent ten years as a deputy da. she became commissioner in 1990. since then, she has been a quasi-judicial official and yet over the last 23 years, the majority with republican governors, she has never been elevated to the bench. call that a huge red flag.

    1. Phil Coleman

      I’d be very interested in more specifics about the collective claim of “deep trouble” with Commissioner Beronio. And your friends in the legal field, who may the be? That way, we can be a “judge” as well, assessing the credibility of who it was that said it, and what is was that so disturbed them you felt compelled to make this post.

      1. Davis Progressive

        my friends are primarily defense attorneys. there is a former public defender who really does not like her. another one of my friends claims she threw him out of her courtroom.

        the odd thing is the claims of expertise, for the most part she handles arraignments, that’s not exactly making rulings based on law.

  2. iPad Guy

    ““I am honored to have Judge Mock’s endorsement, and the endorsement of all my colleagues on the Bench….”

    This is the oddest announcement of an elected judgeship candidacy I think I’ve seen. Without even considering who might end up competing for position, all of our sitting judges express their unconditional support?

    Such an endorsement appears overwhelming. even if unseemly. The whole idea of having judges running for office like regular politicians seems like a bad idea in the first place. But, this takes the politics of judgeships to a new level.

    Such a clear-the-decks-of-any-completion strategy by sitting judges also seems risky. Consider the way Clint Parish embarrassed his sincere endorsers in 2012.

    With respect to the question of how the rest of the legal community views her, the charges already are flying (in the Enterprise comments).

  3. SODA

    Good comment iPad guy, in fact in general regarding current incumbants endorsing candidates either before all have announced OR if they are presently serving. I found it odd that 2 councilpersons endorsed Dan Wolk given the situation that everyone is working together. Not a conflict of interest certainly, but seemingly unseemly.

  4. iPad Guy

    What is the job description for Court Administrator? I get no results searching the Superior Court’s Yolo County site either for Ms. Beronio or her title. Her bio information suggests she serves as traffic court judge and juvenile court judge, along with her administrative duties. Two decades of judging these cases without problems certainly would weigh in her favor for moving up. However, Davis Progressive’s observation that she hasn’t been selected for a judgeship given the long-time service does make one wonder why.

  5. Tia Will

    “However, Davis Progressive’s observation that she hasn’t been selected for a judgeship given the long-time service does make one wonder why.”

    I think that this is a reasonable question. There are many reasons for not “advancing” in one’s career. One very important reason is one’s own perception that they are a good fit for the position at that point in their career.
    Family factors, other personal interests, or a host of other non professionally related reasons may come into play as I can attest to having turned down suggestions for “advancement” in the past. I think the best person to address this question to would be Ms. Baronio. Perhaps in an interview or at a candidate forum.

      1. Tia Will

        Or maybe just a “last chance” to do something different or make a different contribution before retirement. I know that I took that opportunity at age 57.

        1. Davis Progressive

          she’s been passed over at least twice by governors. she’s 63, so obviously she is a short-term judge, this just seems like a golden parachute to me.

  6. Chase Tinsley

    Reporting from earlier this week (with some additions at the end):

    The Commissioner has a lot more on her plate than meets the bystander’s eye. It shows a lot more of her character that she has not only chosen, but been ALLOWED to remain in the position she sits in. My two main arguments here:

    If you just read the full judicial assignment, you’ll see that at least since the implementation of AB-109, the Commissioner makes some very important decisions regarding type of violation, perceived vs actual threat of incarcerated criminals to the public, etc. She is in charge of Yolo’s AB-109 re-sentencing. No offense, but that is something a clerical person doesn’t, and shouldn’t be doing.

    If you think about things a little harder, or if you’ve ever been in front of her in that small courtroom, you may realize that she may single handedly have more control over a particular suspect’s case than any intake prosecutor, trial ADA, or the presiding judge. She has sat at that post since 1989. She sits there to arraign you with a overtly broad charge doc given to her by prosecutors of all ranks, but she also can be seen reading through pages, subtly, and when that charge doc is three sentences,my bet is she is reading the initial discovery. She knows what she will be doing to a particular suspect if she puts him/her in front of Judge Rosenberg versus [starting this year in felony] Judge McAdams. Whether she is consciously making any of these decisions, and the ethical questions that surround that are beside the point – she does a lot of work, can be trusted with a lot of power, and doesn’t seem to take or expect much praise for it.

    —–

    To add:

    The brief experience I had in front of her and, consequently watching her fly through a number of arraignments and plea decisions gives me some hope for the bench. She was, IMO, very fair to everyone before her, regardlessof if they were in shackles or a suit, and was very knowledgeable at the same time. She allowed generous continuances for pleas, given an argument was attempted by counsel. And those without counsel, she never tried to persuade them into taking the DA’s standard plea agreement without counsel. Cautious optimism is my stance.

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