Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Kellee Westbrook, a Modesto-based attorney, to be the newest judge in the Stanislaus Superior Court.
Westbrook, 44, of Turlock joins her husband, Robert Westbook, who was appointed by Brown to the Stanislaus Superior Court bench five years ago.
This isn’t the first time a wife and her husband have been appointed to serve as judges on the same bench in Stanislaus County. Westbook said she pushed her husband to apply for the job first, and she’s glad she did. After her husband went through it, she said, she was ready for it when her time came.
“It’s a very arduous, grueling vetting process,” Westbrook said about applying to become a judge in California.
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The Governor’s Office on Dec. 22 named Westbrook among 33 newly appointed judges to superior courts throughout the state. The annual salary for the new judges is $200,042.
Westbrook said she was honored and grateful to receive the appointment, and she looks forward to serving the court and the community. She wrote in her application that she wanted her courtroom to be a place where people are heard, regardless of their background or situation.
“It’s very important that litigants are being heard,” she said.
Since 2008, Westbrook worked as an associate attorney at the Perry and Associates law firm in Modesto. There, she took on juvenile dependency cases for the firm.
From 2000 to 2008, she worked as a deputy public defender at the Stanislaus County Public Defender’s Office. She was an instructor at Heald College from 2011 to 2013.
Westbook also worked at the Napa County Public Defender’s Office in 2000 and as a research attorney at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office from 1999 to 2000.
She earned a juris doctor degree from the University of California at Davis School of Law and a bachelor of arts degree from California State University, San Francisco.
“I have known Judge Westbrook for a number of years and am confident she will be an excellent judge,” said Presiding Judge Ricardo Córdova of Stanislaus Superior Court.
Westbrook’s appointment filled the vacancy created by retiring Judge William Mayhew. Hers and the recent appointment of Judge Stacy Speiller means the Stansislaus bench is fully staffed.
It’s unclear what Westbrook’s courthouse assignment will be. She said her experience as a criminal defense attorney could lead to the criminal court division.
For now, Westbrook is expected to continue filling in for judges who are ill, on vacation or on a scheduled absence.
Westbrook took the oath of office and was sworn in by her husband on Jan. 5. Court officials invited the public to her formal swearing-in ceremony at 4 p.m. on Feb. 2 in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at 1010 10th St. in downtown Modesto.