Stanislaus County gets 2 new judges

Freeland Unknown

Stanislaus County has two new Superior Court judges. John D. Freeland and Nan C. Jacobs, both Modesto private practice attorneys, were named to the court Monday by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Freeland, 51, is an associate and shareholder with Curtis & Arata law firm, and Jacobs, 57, is a partner with Crabtree, Schmidt & Jacobs. They were appointed to judgeships created by Senate Bill 56, which added 50 positions statewide.

"I'm very happy and honored that Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed me," Freeland said. "I've been looking forward to this; it's been a long process."

Freeland said he applied for the judgeship in February 2007.

"I'm thrilled. It's an incredible honor," said Jacobs, who admitted that keeping the news secret until it was formally announced Monday was difficult.

"I wanted to shout it from the rooftops," she said. "It's a new challenge; I'll be learning something new."

Freeland's practice has focused on personal injury litigation, on plaintiff and defendant sides. He does some civil litigation and has one year of criminal law experience from early in his career.

Jacobs' practice has been in family law. She said she will miss the personal contact her practice allowed her. "I'm kind of a people person, and there are clients I've gotten to know really well. I will definitely miss that," she said.

Freeland earned his law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law. Jacobs earned her law degree from Indiana University School of Law.

Both were busy Monday starting the process of notifying clients of the change. Jacobs said she expects that she and Freeland will be on the bench in late August.

A third new Stanislaus judge is expected to be named this year under the legislation, and two more in 2009.

"We are working to fill all the vacancies as quickly as possible with the best, brightest and most qualified candidates," said Rachel Cameron, deputy press secretary in the governor's office. "It can take several months to get through the process."

"We certainly hope they expedite the process," said Stanislaus Superior Court Executive Officer Mike Tozzi. "We do need the third position."

The state's budget crisis caused most of the delay in appointing the new judges. The judges were supposed to have been named last year, but were held over to this year as part of last year's budget agreement. The appointments were delayed from March to July this year because of the state's budget troubles.

In addition to the five new judges coming aboard this year and next, a sixth judgeship will be created next year when one of the four appointed court commissioner positions will be converted to a judgeship. The commissioners are appointed by the court and have the same qualifications as a judge, but don't have the authority of a judge, Tozzi said. The commissioners are paid 85 percent of a judge's salary. The judges make an annual salary of $178,789.

Tozzi said it has been at least 10 years since Stanislaus had a new judgeship, and the court caseload has grown along with the population.

The new judges will go through a brief training, including being assigned to a mentor judge and given a bench book. Some sit in on the court they have been assigned to before taking the bench, although that is optional, Tozzi said.

A weeklong new judge's orientation also is part of the process. It's sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Courts Center for Judicial Education and Research.

In anticipation of the judicial appointments, the Superior Court opened two new courtrooms earlier this year in the City Towers building at 801 10th Street in downtown Modesto.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.