Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
COURT: Contra Costa County Superior APPOINTED: 1997, by Gov. Pete Wilson DATE OF BIRTH: April 1, 1948 LAW SCHOOL: Chicago-Kent College of Law PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Contra Costa County Municipal Court judge. Appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994 Contra Costa County juvenile court Judge William Kolin may be a former Oakland cop, but he has no soft spot for government workers. The judge will hold county workers’ feet to the fire when they drop the ball, one attorney said. “When you want Kolin is when [social service agencies] have not done their job,” said Stuart Willis, a Martinez attorney who also sits pro tem in juvenile court . “He will not be shy about calling them out about it.” Steven Moawad, a prosecutor who frequently appears before Kolin, said, “It’s not just social services.” The judge takes on any department he feels isn’t pulling its weight, Moawad said. Moawad gave this hypothetical example: Suppose the probation department was asked to screen a child for placement in a group home, but the job wasn’t done well enough or by the right person. “He will ask them to go back and order them specifically to do it,” Moawad said, adding that it wouldn’t be unusual for Kolin to follow up with a department supervisor. Kolin also holds prosecutors to a high standard, Moawad said. “Our job is not just to advocate, but to see that justice is done,” the prosecutor said. Kolin said he doesn’t go out of his way to chastise social workers — but, he added, the stakes are too high in juvenile court to allow sloppiness. “These are parents who are fighting to get their kids back,” the judge said. Government agencies “have to give them the services that they need to do that.” Those stakes and the toll of presiding over emotionally wrenching issues are reasons why many jurists steer their careers away from juvenile court. But Kolin, who supervised the civil court after 2 1/2 years in juvenile court, decided to return to the trenches. “I wanted to come back to juvenile,” said Kolin, who has a bulletin board covered with Polaroids of children whose adoptions he’s handled. “It’s probably the most fulfilling assignment.” Kolin already had his law degree when he joined the Oakland police force in 1979. He was on the force for five years before returning to his practice. Kolin worked at several civil law firms, including King, Shapiro, Mittelman & Kolin and Morgan & Kolin, before he was appointed to the municipal court bench in 1994. Several attorneys said preparation is key when appearing before Kolin. Contra Costa County prosecutor Robert Burke advised colleagues to make sure they are on time — Kolin steps out to the bench at 8:30 a.m. sharp. Both Burke and Moawad said Kolin does meticulous legal research. Occasionally, a family law or criminal practitioner may wander into juvenile court to handle part of a larger case. “Don’t do it,” Willis cautioned. A small cadre of experienced Contra Costa attorneys specializes in juvenile court work, so Kolin expects to preside over cases where lawyers know what they are doing, Willis said. Kolin also asks for details. If a lawyer says he or she has met with a child client, Kolin will pin down exactly when the lawyer saw the child and whether the attorney or the firm’s investigator made the visit, several attorneys said. “Dependency law is a fertile area for appellate law,” Kolin explained. “You have a mental checklist because so many of the cases are appealed.” Kolin said he doesn’t have a long list of rules for attorneys. The most important thing is for lawyers to be honest about “the good, the bad and the ugly” in their cases, he said, because an attorney’s reputation is hard to repair if the person hasn’t been forthright. When he first joined the bench, Kolin said, it was hard to let go of his role as an advocate. As a judge, sometimes you have to let attorneys make some mistakes, he said. During a recent court session Kolin made it clear that advice applies to minors, too. A Laotian teenager, who was a former member of the Sons of Death gang, appeared in court with his family and probation officer. Kolin praised him for distancing himself from gang life, but warned him there would be tough consequences if he slid back into his old ways. “You understand that if you get back involved with the Sons of Death you will go to adult court and adult jail?,” the judge said. “Do you understand?” “Yes,” the boy said.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.