Kingsbury named top county judge |

Kingsbury named top county judge

Christina Proctor

If given the choice, Suzanne Kingsbury would live a retiring, quiet life. But her opinions and beliefs just keep getting in the way.

“When I was younger I would have sooner died than get up in front of people and talk,” she explained. “I was very shy as a child.”

When it comes to something she believes in, shyness is not a problem for Judge Kingsbury.

In El Dorado County Kingsbury has been a woman of firsts. In 1996 she was the first woman in the county’s history to be elected to the superior court bench. And this month she became the first woman to be selected as the county’s presiding judge.

“In the main courthouse in Placerville there are pictures of all the superior court judges in the county’s history. It is just a sea of white male faces. When I was campaigning I was approached by a young girl in the courthouse. She told me she thought it would be cool to have a woman’s picture up there with all those guys.”

Despite her many accomplishments in law, and high praise from her peers about her fairness on the bench, Kingsbury never gave much thought to a law career. Studying criminal justice during her undergraduate years, Kingsbury planned to enter the field of law enforcement as an officer. It was a test of her brawn, not her brain that started Kingsbury looking for other avenues.

“It was a time period when women did not work out very much, and did very little to build upper body strength. I decided to take a physical performance test and I failed. It forced me to ask the question, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ “

Kingsbury said, in retrospect, her biggest influence was probably her mother. A woman who never got a chance at higher education. She was too busy raising a family alone.

“My mother took an aptitude test, and it determined she would be very strong in law. With my mother’s personality I can see that. I suspect she would have made a far better lawyer than I ever was. I think her results probably spurred my interest,” she said.

After a short stint in private practice in Sacramento, Kingsbury and her husband, Jim Ammons, a California Highway Patrol officer, moved to Tahoe in 1985, when she accepted a position with the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office. She would also spend time in the public defender’s office before running for the bench.

“I believe every lawyer at some time or another has been down at the counsel table and looked up at the judge, and thought ‘I could do that,’ ” Kingsbury said. “But in a small county a judge has to be a jack-of-all-trades. Just when you think you’ve mastered a particular portion of the law the legislature sees fit to change it. It is a job that requires you to continually learn.”

Assistant district attorney Hans Uthe said Kingsbury is more than up to the challenge of her new position and added administrative duties.

“She displays all the qualities that you hope for in a judge in such a consistent way,” he said. “People come in and they leave feeling they have been treated fairly. Even if she rules against me I know my arguments have been heard and considered.”

“She has a wide knowledge of the law and her judgment is sound,” said public defender Simon Harvey. “She is tough but fair minded. She is very concerned about the welfare of the people and children in this community.”

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