MODESTO -- A veteran public defender from Hughson has been appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to become the next Stanislaus County Superior Court judge.
Robert B. Westbrook, 43, has served as a deputy public defender at the county public defender's office since 2000. He briefly left to work in San Joaquin County in 2002, but returned to Stanislaus in 2004 and has been here since.
The Colorado native earned his law degree from the University of California at Davis School of Law and a bachelor's from Yale University. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge John G. Whiteside.
Westbrook is Brown's first Stanislaus Superior Court appointment. The last appointment was Judge Valli Israels by former Gov. Schwarzenegger.
"I am very excited to be Gov. Brown's first appointment for this region," Westbrook said. "I am incredibly excited to serve the community in a different way."
Stanislaus County Public Defender Tim Bazar called Westbrook's appointment "delightful" and said he will bring a scholarly approach of the law to the bench.
"He is a very studious individual. I don't know it's always a quality you always find with a criminal defense attorney," Bazar said. "He is more of a scholar and interested in the law, interested in the cases."
While it is not rare for attorneys from the public defender's office to be appointed to Superior Court, they are more frequently picked out of the district attorney's office. Westbrook said he expects his transition to Superior Court judge to be smooth.
As an experienced felony trial attorney, Westbrook said, he has a good perspective and understanding of the community.
"As a public defender, I've had a worm's-eye view at the problems that our community faces," he said. "Any given day in Superior Court is a microcosm of what's going on in the community."
He will replace Whiteside, who was appointed in 1994.
"Judge Whiteside set the bar incredibly high. I only hope to be half as good a judge as he was," he said.
Westbrook, a Democrat, should be sworn in before the end of the year. His salary will be $178,789.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.