DA’s Office Appears to Be Papering the Only Latina Judge in Yolo County

Judge Sonia Cortes was appointed in 2015 by Governor Brown and is the only person of color on the Yolo County Bench

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Judge Sonia Cortes is the only person of color sitting on the bench in Yolo County.  She has not had a criminal calendar since prior to the pandemic, yet the Vanguard learned this week that the DA’s office has used Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6 to disqualify a judge from presiding over a matter if that judge “seems to be prejudiced” against the attorneys.

Judge Cortes will be replacing Judge Fall starting in January.

Deputy DA Frits van der Hoek filed one of the motions on November 2 in a matter that is scheduled for January 12, 2023, in Department 11.

Deputy DA Robin Johnson filed the other on November 3 in a co-defendant case.

In her declaration, “I am the attorney for The People in the above-entitled action. That the Honorable Judge Cortes, the judge before whom a jury trial in the aforesaid action is pending, is prejudiced against The People or the interests of The People so that affiant believes that The People cannot have a fair and impartial hearing before the judge.”

Under the law, 170.6, each side gets one such challenge against a judge in a given case.  The challenge must be made in a timely matter.

Moreover, under the law, they don’t have to actually prove that the  judge is biased or present factual reasons for their claim.

While 170.6 is a routine matter, the practice of “papering a judge” to remove cases from appearing before them has been used at various times to intimidate, retaliate and, in one case a few years ago, effectively remove a judge from a criminal calendar.

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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