Napa County attorneys interested in becoming Superior Court judges are waiting for Gov. Jerry Brown to make a decision on two positions. The first became available in June when Judge Francisca P. Tisher officially retired; the second position is that of Judge Michael Williams whose last day is Monday.
Williams agreed to resign after being informed that he had been caught on video stealing two Art Deco-style business card holders from a judges’ dinner in San Francisco last March.
Saying that judicial appointments are a “confidential personnel decision,” Brian Ferguson, deputy press secretary for the Office of Gov. Brown, said that he could not share details on applicants, including their names.
Superior Court judges earn $200,042 annually.
Although Brown’s office hasn’t released any information, local attorneys have confirmed that the vetting process has begun for at least one of the open positions. Potential candidates include attorneys from the Napa County District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office as well as private attorneys and the two current court commissioners.
Deputy DA Lance Hafenstein, who has worked with the prosecutor’s office for more than 20 years, confirmed Thursday that he has applied.
“It’s something I’ve been interested in doing for quite some time,” Hafenstein said. “I became a prosecutor because it gave me the ability to help people and affect people’s lives.” By becoming a judge, he said, he thinks he’ll be able to help many more people.
If he doesn’t get appointed, he said, he anticipates staying with the DA’s office.
From the Napa County Public Defender’s Office, attorney Joseph J. Solga’s name has been mentioned. Solga, however, would not confirm whether or not he has applied for the position.
“Out of respect for the integrity of the process, I would prefer not to comment at this time,” Solga said in an email to the Register on Friday.
Both Commissioner Monique Langhorne and Commissioner Victoria Wood have also been referred to as potential candidates. Neither responded to media inquiries as of Friday.
Langhorne was chosen to be commissioner in 2006, becoming the first black woman to serve on the Napa County Superior Court bench. Langhorne had previously applied to become a judge, according to Register reports from 2012.
Wood, a former research attorney at the Napa County courts, was sworn in as commissioner in 2013.
Private attorneys Stephen M. Flynn, Cynthia P. Smith, and Amanda Bevins have also been mentioned as potential candidates.
Bevins, who started her practice in Napa this year, said that she put her judicial application in about four years ago while working in Contra Costa County. Although she would be interested if considered, she said she doesn’t believe that she is being considered this time around.
Smith applied to become a Napa County Superior Court judge in 2012, according to Register reports.
Neither Smith nor Flynn responded to inquiries as of Friday.
Napa Superior Court Executive Officer Rick Feldstein said that he doesn’t know when Brown will make a decision, but he does know that the governor’s appointments usually come in batches.
“It kind of happens somewhat sporadically,” Feldstein said. It’s possible that two new judges will be named in a sort of end-of-year “flurry of appointments.”