A San Joaquin County judge who has served as a visiting judge in Stanislaus County died Tuesday after suffering a medical condition while driving on Highway 99 south of Manteca.
Franklin Mars Stephenson, 54, is believed to have suffered a heart attack while driving home to Ripon from the Manteca courthouse, Presiding Judge Lesley Holland told The Record of Stockton.
He was south of Austin Road when his vehicle veered off the roadway and hit a guardrail, according to the California Highway Patrol. Witnesses pulled Stephenson from the car and began providing medical aid but he was later pronounced dead at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
A former deputy district attorney, Stephenson was a judge for 13 years, serving both in Manteca and Stockton, according to the newspaper.
He leaves behind his wife, Michelle Stephenson, and three school-aged boys.
Stephenson was the visiting judge in Stanislaus Superior Court in 2006 and 2007. He declared a mistrial in the case against former Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino, accused of misusing his mayoral office and employees at his restaurant.
“Franklin was really an outstanding judge and a very great friend,” Holland told The Record. “He was intelligent, articulate and unfailingly cheerful no matter the circumstances. He was always willing to be a mentor to new judges. He cared deeply about public safety and justice issues.”