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Throughout this election season, The Recorder is giving judicial candidates in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties an opportunity to speak to our readers in their own voices. Last week The Recorder sat down with each of the four candidates for Contra Costa County Superior Court: Malcolm Sher, Cheryl Mills, Joel Golub and Stacey Grassini. Today we present excerpts of the interview with Golub, a superior court commissioner based at the Walnut Creek courthouse. Recorder: Why should the voters choose you in this election? Golub: Well, I’ve been on the bench for the last nine years, as a superior and municipal court commissioner here in Contra Costa County. So I’ve been doing the job. I’ve handled thousands of trials, both civil and criminal. My assignments are varied. I’ve handled the domestic violence calendar in Walnut Creek. I do family law in Martinez. I’ve done trials. I’ve done landlord-tenant calendar. I do my own law-and-motion calendar. So I’m the most experienced candidate, the only candidate that has full-time judicial experience. Recorder: What judge in Contra Costa County, either present or former, would you most like to emulate if you were elected to the bench. Golub: Well I’m on the bench already, the last nine years. Recorder: If you were elected judge. Golub: OK. And I sit as a judge part time, depending on my assignment. I wouldn’t like to be anyone else but myself. What I would do, though, is take some of the best qualities of some of the judges and incorporate them. But you have to be yourself. You can’t be somebody else. Recorder: What are some of those best qualities you see out there? Golub: One of the most important qualities a bench officer has to have is the ability to deal fairly and be perceived as dealing fairly with the public. It’s not just enough to say, “I treat everyone with respect and courtesy.” You need to do it, and they have to understand that’s what you’re doing. Judge [Merle] Eaton, I think, handles himself very well on the bench, and I’ve learned a lot from watching him, from having him as my supervising judge. Recorder: What are some of your best ideas about what you would bring to the bench, in terms of effecting change? Golub: We’re on to the next question? Recorder: I’m sorry, were you not finished? Golub: I don’t know, I don’t know how lengthy you want me to be. Judicial temperament is very important. … The other things that a judge needs to do, and I like to think that I do it as well, you need to be a hard worker, a diligent worker. You have to have pride in what you’re doing, you have to have pride in wanting to do better. No matter what you do you want to do a little bit better. There are many judges on the bench who work very hard, who I’d like to emulate in that regard. I do think that I’m a hard worker. I think temperament, hard work. You have to have interest in what you’re doing. This is a tough job. You can’t just be experienced, you’ve got to be interested in it. Because if you’re not interested in this job, it just becomes a task. You have to have leadership on the job. Just not coming to work and doing your best. You need to be creative, you need to be innovative. You’re a leader in the community, very well respected by being on the bench. And you need to show those leadership qualities. … Recorder: Going back to that question, you mentioned being creative and innovative – Golub: See, I’m not the only one that’s gone back to the question. Recorder: — as a goal, so can you tell us about some creative or innovative project you propounded while on the bench? Golub: Sure. I could tell you three specific things that I’ve done since being on the bench. In 1994 I set up the juvenile diversion program for first-time alcohol and drug offenders, another calendar that I handled. In 1998 I set up and I still preside over the domestic violence court in Walnut Creek. And in 2001 I set up and I [administer] the small claims mediation program. Recorder: Could you tell us a little about them? Golub: The public needs access to the courts. And these are the types of programs that provide greater efficiency for the courts, and therefore more access to the public. Recorder: Could you tell us a little about the alcohol diversion program? Golub: Right now the statute reads that alcohol and drug offenses for juveniles are a one-year mandatory license suspension. The diversion program gives them a second chance. And they have to complete an alcohol-drug awareness class, as well as comply with community service and other requirements. The license is suspended for a period of time, but at least there’s a way to be diverted eventually on this charge. And I find that most young people who make mistakes in this area do very well with the diversion program. I supervise them, make sure they come back, accountable, directly to me. It’s not some generalized person, it’s me. It deals with me. And I make them sign off on the deal with me. … Recorder: Are there further steps to be taken to further unify the trial courts in Contra Costa? For example, should felony matters be heard in the outlying courts, Richmond and East County? Golub: Right now we have branch courts, because traditionally we were the muni courts. And geographically there’s a distance to go. So we handle certain things geographically. Now we’re courts of limited jurisdiction. So we handle civil as well as criminal matters. As far as unification of the courts, consolidation, which was in 1998, we’ve made great strides to consolidate the courts and the functions of the courts, to make it more efficient, to make it more user friendly, to make it more accessible to the public. Recorder: Are there more steps to be taken? Golub: There’s always more steps to be taken. Recorder: What are some? Golub: There is an executive committee which constantly reviews the process of the courts. We have monthly meetings so that we coordinate with Martinez what we’re doing, whether it’s in-custody misdemeanor arraignments, or in-custody arraignments for any other matters, and we coordinate with the presiding judge as well as the judge who handles it up in Martinez. We’re constantly, constantly fine-tuning it to make sure that we’re more effective and efficient. … Recorder: There’s been a suggestion that some felony [trials] should be heard in Richmond. Do you think that’s a problem that needs to be addressed – the transportation issue and the jury pool issue? Golub: Well, you ask me a lot of questions where I don’t have the factual information. You know, what are the problems, the logistical issues. [The transportation issue] is something that we work with the sheriff’s department. Here in Walnut Creek there are transportation issues. At our monthly meetings we work with security and the officials that are charged with the responsibility for transportation. The idea of meeting together and meeting on a regular basis is the way you take care of problems. It doesn’t mean they’re eliminated. It means you address them, so if a problem comes up it becomes a smaller problem, not a larger problem, and that’s a good way to address that issue. Recorder: So I’m hearing that you don’t feel that the system needs to be restructured so that felony trials get pushed outside of the central [areas]. Golub: Well, the executive committee of the court makes the decision on that based on the information that they have. To think that I have the information to make a qualified opinion on the situation in Richmond regarding jury trials and transportation presupposes information that I just don’t have. To comment on it would be speculative — unless you have more information to provide me. Recorder: How do you feel about the process you’re going through right now, the election process? Do you think this is a good way to select judges? Do you have a feeling about going to an all-appointment process, which some advocate? Golub: Well, there are two ways to go about becoming a judge: appointive and elective. And they’re different. Appointive is through the governor’s office, and you would know more about how he appoints judges than I do. Elective gives the people the right and the opportunity to vote for their judges. Of course, the judges that are appointed are also subject to election. I think that the processes are different. I think they’re both fine. I like the fact that we have two different processes, two different ways to do that. I like that the public has an opportunity to cast their vote. Recorder: There was a televised debate a couple of weeks ago in Martinez. In the opening remarks, you said that in your courtroom criminals would be “punished to the fullest extent of the law.” Given that we’ve got a determinate sentencing scheme, what exactly did you mean by that? Golub: You have a scheme, as you know, sentencing. You have statutory guidelines that you have to have. I believe that convicted criminals should be held accountable. And you need to look at each case individually … because each set of cases, of facts, of circumstances, are unique. And each case or crime is unique. When you look at it individually that way, then you make a decision on what the sentencing should be. Recorder: How do you feel about private mediation and arbitration, both as a process and in terms of luring qualified people from the bench? Golub: Well, mediation and arbitration are different. Recorder: I know that. Golub: I know you know that. OK. [I'll] answer it differently as to each one. Mediation, as I mentioned, I helped set up the [small claims] mediation program in Walnut Creek, and I’m very supportive of the mediation program. Mediation, of course, is where the parties come to their own resolution as to what should be done. And of course when they do that they come up with the best agreements, because they’re their agreements and they tend to live up to them. So I like mediation. But it’s upon the voluntary agreement of the parties. Arbitration, if the parties once again want to go to an arbitration, which is basically someone making the decision in the case, that’s fine too. But it has to be upon the agreement of the parties. … Recorder: Each courtroom of the superior court has its own individual rules. Do you think there needs to be more uniformity among those rules, or alternatively is there something the courts can do to better communicate to the bar so the lawyers know what to expect? Golub: There [is] uniqueness as to each court. When I go to Martinez, sometimes I’ll cover someone else’s calendar, I’ll notice that they do it differently than the way I do it. I never even thought about it. And of course immediately I take their good idea, proclaim it as mine and use it. There’s a certain value in sharing your information, your ideas, your creative suggestions with other bench officers, and to utilize those suggestions. Uniformity is good in a lot of regards [but] every case, every court is a little bit uniquely different. … There was a luncheon about two weeks ago, the family law bar. Had all the family law judges and commissioners there. … And I got up there and told them exactly some very specific things I do in my courtroom to make trials go quicker and smoother. Although this is not the official forum, you need to get the information out every opportunity you can. You can put it in writing, but sometimes you say it at a luncheon, with these 250 family law lawyers there, they’ll actually hear it better than if you post it on the wall or mail it out in a mailer.

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