Chief Deputy District Attorney Alan K. Cassidy and defense attorney and Modesto City Schools board member Rubén Villalobos will be entering court from the judge’s chambers, taking gavels in Stanislaus Superior Court. The announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown came at noon Wednesday. The compensation for each of these positions is $184,610.
Cassidy said there is no set date for him and Villalobos to be sworn in. “Whenever we can leave our current situations and be available,” he said. “I have my responsibilities to finalize with the District Attorney’s Office and Rubén needs to wind up what he has to with his practice.”
As junior members on the bench, he also does not know in which departments the new judges will be needed. “There are a lot of different needs the court has now,” Cassidy said, noting that their positions could be with criminal court, family law or elsewhere.
Cassidy, 57, of Modesto has served as chief deputy district attorney since 2008, having previously been senior deputy district attorney since 1998.
In 2002, he was among seven candidates who faced off in a March primary for a seat opened up by the retirement of Judge Edward Lacy Jr. Cassidy and fellow Deputy District Attorney Linda McFadden emerged from that field, with McFadden defeating Cassidy.
Cassidy was an associate at Perry and Wildman from 1994 to 1998 and at Grisez, Orenstein and Hertle from 1991 to 1994. He served as a deputy district attorney at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from 1990 to 1991.
Cassidy earned a juris doctor degree from Southwestern Law School and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Irvine. A Democrat, he fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Susan D. Siefkin.
Cassidy said his emotions are mixed as he prepares to take the bench. “I’m very happy to have served in the District Attorney’s Office for about 17 years ... in a number of different capacities. I’ve really enjoyed the service I’ve done there there. I’m, of course, also very pleased and honored to serve our community in this new capacity.”
Villalobos, 41, of Modesto has been partner with his brother at Villalobos 2 Legal Group since 2012. He was a partner at the Law Office of Villalobos, Meyer and Borthwick from 2002 to 2012 and served as a deputy public defender at the Stanislaus County Public Defender’s Office in 2002 and from 2000 to 2001.
Villalobos served as an assistant federal public defender at the Federal Public Defender Office, District of Nevada, from 2001 to 2002, where he was a research and writing attorney from 1999 to 2000. He served as a research attorney at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office from 1998 to 1999.
A Modesto High grad and Modesto Junior College alum, Villalobos earned a juris doctor degree from the University of California at Davis School of Law and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley. A Democrat, he fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Hurl W. Johnson.
“I had a great career, taking part in more than 150 jury trials. I most enjoyed interacting with citizens appearing in my juries. I’ll be doing the same thing (as judge), just in a different way,” Villalobos said.
In his application for the post, he wrote of his work on the school board to put videos of board meetings on YouTube and ensure board member votes were always listed.
“Perhaps the most important thing an attorney or judge can do is work to make the law more accessible to the general public. As the first lawyer in my family, I understand why the greater community feels a disconnect with the Bar and the bench,” he wrote. At times, he has seen courtrooms closed to the general public, he said. “For the sake of expediency and decorum, these courts have forgotten that the public’s work is best done in public.”
Villalobos will have to resign his school board post with three years left in his term. He was first elected to the Modesto board in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.
Bee local news editor Deke Farrow contributed to this report.