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Merced's newest judge takes to the bench

A new judge in the Merced County Superior Court was sworn in Friday on the steps of Courthouse Museum, and wearing a black robe in the sweltering summer heat didn't seem to bother him much.

Mark Bacciarini, 52, was notified recently that he was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill the seat vacated by Judge Frank Dougherty, who retired last year.

Bacciarini, a registered Republican, thinks his experience as a former teacher and chief deputy district attorney will allow him to serve the citizens of Merced County with "fairness, integrity and honesty," he said.

His time spent as a teacher brought him into contact with a diverse group of people, and his experiences as an attorney taught him to treat people with fairness and respect, Bacciarini said.

"I also had the opportunity to observe the judges of our court," he said. "I've learned a tremendous amount from them."

The opportunities the District Attorney's Office provided Bacciarini were "unlimited," Bacciarini said. And he's ready to take on his new position.

"I'm excited," he said. "I'm humbled that I was selected. I'm humbled that I'll be taking over the seat of Judge Frank Dougherty, who served the county so well for so many years."

Bacciarini gave a speech to more than 100 people in attendance for his swearing-in ceremony, many cooling themselves with fans and wiping sweat from their faces.

He thanked those who came to the event, despite the hot weather. It reached 103 degrees on the thermometer Friday.

"They could have made this happen at a better time of year," Bacciarini joked.

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II also spoke at the event.

"Once more, Gov. Schwarzenegger has looted the district attorney's office," Morse said to laughter from the audience. "While I am offended, shocked by the governor's larceny, I must also applaud him on his good judgment."

Morse said Bacciarini, a third-generation Mercedian, has too much legal expertise and talent not to be noticed.

"I have relied on Mark for so many professional and personal things," Morse said after the ceremony. "Mark has the most incredible and enviable work ethic of anyone I know. I've just come to accept the fact that he's a hell of a lot smarter than I am."

Now that Bacciarini has been appointed as a Superior Court judge, their relationship will change, Morse said.

"It has to," he said. "There's a sadness on some levels for me because I'm not only losing a chief deputy, I'm losing a little bit of a friendship. It will never be quite the same. It goes with the territory."

Morse expects Bacciarini to excel in his new position.

"I would challenge anyone to find a person in the legal community in Merced that would say a negative thing about Mark," Morse said. "He's very well respected and liked by everyone."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsun-star.com.

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