Newly appointed judge brings more diversity to Stanislaus Superior Court

Sonny Sandhu
Sonny Sandhu jlee@modbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Sonny Sandhu, the Stanislaus County public defender, to be the newest judge in the Stanislaus Superior Court.

Sandhu said he’s excited about his new job, joining a bench of “hard-working jurists.” He also recognizes how his appointment is both ground-breaking and meaningful for the community.

“I am incredibly honored to be the first Asian-American serving on the bench and perhaps the first person of the Sikh faith to serve on the bench,” Sandhu said. “Diversity on the bench ensures all members of the community are served.”

Sandhu, 40, was one of 33 new judges throughout the state appointed by Brown, the Governor’s Office announced in a news release issued Thursday. Two new judges were appointed in Merced County, and one in San Joaquin County. The annual salary for Sandhu and the other new judges will be $200,042.

Sandhu said it’s also bittersweet to leave the Public Defender’s Office after 15 years of working with attorneys and others who have dedicated their lives to public service.

“As public defenders, we are advocates for those without a voice in the system,” he said.

Sandhu has worked for the Public Defender’s Office since 2003, including roles as deputy public defender and chief deputy public defender. He was appointed to head the office last year to replace retiring Tim Bazar.

“These past 15 years as a public defender I have gained much experience in analyzing complex criminal cases,” Sandhu said. “More importantly, I have learned that everyone in the court needs to be treated with respect and humanity.”

He said it’s unclear who will replace him on an interim basis as the head official at the Public Defender’s Office. Sandhu hopes to stay with the office through November to help with its transition.

It’s also unclear when Sandhu will start his new job as judge or which types of court cases he will be assigned to, at least initially. Court Chief Executive Officer Hugh Swift said officials have not yet scheduled Sandhu’s swearing-in ceremony, and no decisions have been made regarding court assignments.

Presiding Judge Ricardo Córdova said Sandhu is a well-respected member of the legal community in this county.

“He is known for his high degree of professionalism and commitment to his clients,” Córdova said. “Governor Brown made an excellent decision when he appointed Mr. Sandhu to the bench.”

Sandhu was born and raised in Modesto. He said he always aspired to have a career in the community he lives in, and serving as a judge is an “amazing opportunity.” He said he plans to be a judge who adheres to the law and brings compassion to the courtroom.

Sandhu earned a juris doctor degree from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He will be filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Timothy Salter.

Sandhu is the seventh judge in five years Brown has appointed to replace retiring Stanislaus Superior Court judges. Carrie Stephens was elected in June, but the governor appointed her to the bench on July 20, so she could start her new job earlier than January.

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