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James Richman, a 10-year veteran of the Alameda County Superior Court bench, was tapped by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday for the First District Court of Appeal. The governor also named Kurt Kumli, a longtime South Bay prosecutor, to a judgeship on the Santa Clara County Superior Court. The 64-year-old Richman says the elevation to the appeal court fulfills a longtime wish: He first applied for the post in 1998 when Gray Davis was governor. “I was thrilled, excited, honored, flattered � all those things,” Richman said Thursday. If confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, Richman, a Republican, will replace Justice Ignazio Ruvolo, who has become the presiding justice of the First District’s Division Four. After seven years presiding over law-and-motion cases in superior court, Richman was assigned this year to an expanded complex litigation department. It’s a tough assignment, said Presiding Judge George Hernandez Jr. on Thursday, but selecting Richman was easy. “Of all the very qualified judges, Judge Richman was the best qualified,” Hernandez said. Richman, who earned his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law, is known by his colleagues to love writing opinions and grappling with the more complicated issues in the law. Three years ago, Richman was targeted by tenant advocates who claimed he favored landlords in eviction cases, but an internal court investigation did not support the accusation, and the controversy appears to have done little to tarnish Richman’s legacy. “Jim is a very smart and a very fair and a very thoughtful person,” said Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, who taught with Richman at USF. “But the reason I always thought he was perfect for the court of appeal is because he is also a wonderful teacher.” Richman was an adjunct professor for 25 years at the USF law school, where he returned as a visiting professor in 1999 and 2000. From 1967 to 1996, he practiced civil litigation at Cooley Godward. In the 1960s, he clerked for Justice Raymond Sullivan at the First District. The position pays $170,694 a year. Kumli, who has been with the Santa Clara district attorney’s office since 1989, is currently the chief deputy in charge of the office’s juvenile delinquency and dependency unit. “I am obviously humbled by the opportunity,” said Kumli, 44. “I am up to the challenge.” Kumli began the application process for a judicial seat about six months ago and sees his appointment as a “logical extension” of a career centered on public service. He will be filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Robert Baines. Kumli doesn’t have an official start date, but anticipates he will be sworn in within the next two weeks. He hasn’t been given an assignment yet. “I will be the first person to admit that I have a lot to learn no matter where I get assigned,” Kumli said Thursday. “It’s a completely different perspective.” His duties in the juvenile unit will be split between Assistant DAs Marc Buller and Rolanda Pierre-Dixon. Kumli, a Democrat who grew up in Chico, received his undergraduate degree from UC-Berkeley and his J.D. from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. After law school, he was hired as an associate by Caulfield, Davies & Donahue, but only spent a year at the Sacramento firm before moving to the DA’s office. Kumli lives in San Francisco. Jurists don’t have to be residents in the county where they preside. Schwarzenegger announced two other judicial appointments Thursday. Diane Price, a 52-year-old civil litigator from St. Helena, was appointed to the Napa County Superior Court bench. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge W. Scott Snowden. Price has spent the past 26 years with Coombs & Dunlap. She has served as city attorney for St. Helena since 1988 and town attorney for Yountville since 1998. Price received her J.D. from Hastings College of the Law. She is a Democrat. Teresa Snodgrass-Bennett, a 52-year-old deputy public defender, was appointed to the San Bernardino County Superior Court. She fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge James Skropos. Snodgrass-Bennett has been a deputy PD with the San Bernardino County public defender’s office since 1989. Snodgrass-Bennett received her J.D. from the University of La Verne College of Law. She is a Democrat. The new judges will earn $149,160 a year.

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