A familiar courthouse figure has been appointed a Napa County court commissioner, a post that includes hearing a wide range of cases, including small claims, child custody motions, restraining orders and requested bench warrants.
Victoria Wood, a research attorney at the Napa County Courts for the past eight years, will fill the position left vacant in November when Gov. Jerry Brown elevated Michael S. Williams to the bench, Napa Superior Court Judge Diane Price announced Tuesday.
“I feel very lucky. There were a lot of qualified applicants,” said Wood, 40.
Unlike judges, who are elected or appointed by the governor and are state employees, commissioners work at the will of the Napa County judges and do not hear felonies.
As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, Wood did not know when she would be sworn in.
Wood said she applied for the position after enjoying her assignments as judge pro tem — or substitute judge — over the years whenever a commissioner was absent. She felt she would enjoy it on a full time basis, she said.
Wood will join the county’s other commissioner, Monique Langhorne-Johnson, once she is sworn in.
Prior to her tenure at the court, Wood served as a chambers attorney for the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco and worked in private practice.
Wood will be initially assigned to Department D of the Criminal Division, said Court Executive Officer Richard Feldstein. Her new post pays $151,980 a year, plus benefits.
Wood lives in Napa with her husband, Richard, a wedding photographer, and their two children, Eli, 11, and Eden, 8. She moved to Napa with her family when she was 9. At 14, Wood moved with her family to Angwin, where she attended Pacific Union College Preparatory and later, Pacific Union College. Wood graduated from the UC Davis School of Law. Her hobbies include golf, hiking and cooking.
Williams became judge after a decade as commissioner to complete the term of Judge Stephen Kroyer who retired in May 2011 after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Williams noted that the hours of a judge and a commissioner are similar, “but the commissioners have more cases, and the judges do much more behind-the-scenes work in research, writing opinions and issuing judgments.”
“The stress levels are probably not too different, but stem from different sources,” Williams said in an email. “The volume of cases for commissioners is stressful, whereas the complexity of each case is stressful for the judges.”
On Thursday, the Napa Courts have scheduled a ceremonial swearing in for Judge Elia Ortiz whom Brown appointed to the bench in December. Ortiz will complete the term of Judge Ray Guadagni, who retired in the fall.
Ortiz and Presiding Judge Diane Price are assigned to the civil division; Judges Francisca Tisher, Mark Boessenecker, and Williams are assigned to the criminal division; Judge Rodney Stone hears family law and juvenile cases.