Judge named to state-level judicial oversight position
In September, Judge Suzanne Kingsbury will be a small fish in a small, but crucial, pond.
Kingsbury, the presiding judge of the relatively diminutive El Dorado County, was selected to the prominent Judicial Council of California, which oversees the entire court system in the state.
While it’s a recognition that would make any judge elated, the appointment is unique for Kingsbury.
“It is a big honor and a big responsibility,” said Chief Justice Ronald George.
The council sets policy and distributes the $2.6 billion designated for California courts, the nation’s largest judicial system. It attempts to improve jury service and quicken the pace of litigation.
George said he was impressed by Kingsbury being elected among her peers as the county’s presiding judge for the past five years.
“That’s a great expression of confidence in her,” George said.
Kingsbury said she nominated herself for one of the five open seats on the 27-member board. Others contributed in the process, such as fellow South Lake Tahoe Judge Jerald Lasarow, who wrote a letter of support.
“I’m glad she got it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be good for the county.”
Kingsbury became the first female judge in El Dorado County when she was first elected in 1996. She first worked as a deputy district attorney for the county in 1985 but switched sides when she joined the public defender’s office five years later in 1990.
Although she serves on several lower committees for the council, Kingsbury admitted the appointment will take her away from her bench “a little bit.”
The state court system is going through a time of change, Kingsbury said, with the funding source moving from the county to the state.
Although the switch is good in Kingsbury’s mind because it redistributes funding more evenly, the state court system is facing budget cuts this year because of California’s fiscal crisis.
Despite the cuts, Kingsbury has ideas. She would like to see court hours fully restored and a program that teaches self-representation.
Besides Judge Eric DuTemple, who presides over Tuolumne County Superior Courts, Kingsbury will be a rural judge among council members from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Kingsbury begins her three-year term Sept. 15.