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Before James Herman was appointed to the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in May 2005, he and his wife drove only a few blocks to get to work. Not any more. Not since Herman and Denise de Bellefeuille, who’s also a judge, decided to sell their house in downtown Santa Barbara and move 35 miles north. It was the perfect decision for two judges who share a marriage, but not a courthouse. De Bellefeuille, who was appointed in 1994, holds court in the main county courthouse � a few blocks from the couple’s former home of 14 years � while Herman sits in Santa Maria, about 70 miles north. “So we did the very fair, judicial thing of moving to a house directly between our courts,” de Bellefeuille says. “But it took him a little bit to pry me away from my very comfy nine-tenths of a mile drive.” So goes life in a judicial household. While rare even 15 years ago, homes in which each spouse is a judge seem on the rise in California. The California Judges Association confirms at least 20 couples composed of current or retired judicial officers are scattered about the state. Sixteen couples serve on superior courts, one on an appellate court and four on mixed courts, such as Socrates Manoukian on the Santa Clara County Superior Court and his wife, Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, on San Jose’s Sixth District Court of Appeal. And there might even be more out there. No one keeps exact figures of married judges, and most people only find out about judge couples by word of mouth. There also are no statistics on the number of same-sex couples who sit on the California bench, which would include San Francisco Superior Court Judges Donna Hitchens and Nancy Davis. “We’re spawning like tadpoles,” jokes Charles Vogel, a justice on Los Angeles’ Second District until he retired in 2003. Vogel’s wife, Miriam, still sits on that court, leading her husband to refer to her lovingly as “the real Justice Vogel.” Charles Vogel � who served at the same time as his wife for years, but in a different division of the court � says it still surprises people to encounter married couples who are both judges. “We always got an, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re both justices. Did that influence your decisions?’” he says. “You get the same old questions.” (Take, for instance, ethical rules (.pdf) 3B(7) and 3B(7)(b).) Herman, a former State Bar president, thinks judge couples won’t be anything unusual in the near future. “As the bench becomes more diversified,” he says, “I think it’s going to be more common.” Meanwhile, current couples share a unique existence, being married to a fellow “your honor” with whom they can bounce ideas off and discuss legal issues � something they couldn’t do when only one was a judge. Ethical canons prohibit judges from discussing cases with attorneys or other non-judges. Herman experienced that problem during the 11 years his wife served on the bench prior to his arrival. But now, there are no red lights. “We do talk about legal issues,” Herman notes. “Just generally what our cases are, what our jury issues are, which issues might come up and also branch-wide issues. Right now, the independence of the judiciary is something we’re both into.” Miriam Vogel said there were a few restrictions on conversations when her husband served as the Second District’s administrative presiding justice. “Some of what he did on personnel matters,” she relates, “he couldn’t discuss with me or anyone else.”
‘Once or twice, I got the feeling that an attorney might be a little nervous going into my courtroom if they had what they considered a bad experience in my wife’s courtroom.’

WILLIAM PATE retired San Diego County Superior Court judge married to another judge

The Vogels would have been the first judge couple in California if Charles hadn’t taken temporary retirement in 1977. Instead, that honor went to William and Christine Pate. William Pate had been on the San Diego County Superior Court for 18 months when Christine joined him in February 1988. They were informed by the staff of then-Gov. George Deukmejian � who appointed both of them � that they were the state’s first judge couple, and they were besieged by calls from newspapers around the country.
Judges in Love, UpdatedThe ink was barely dry on a story in the Dec. 18 Recorder about married judge couples in California when a few e-mails and phone calls came in saying, “You left out so and so.”It was to be expected. The Recorder’s search for judges who are married to other judges was far from scientific. Names were gathered by word of mouth or from the California Judges Association, then verified through phone calls to various sources.All told, we found 21couples. But, according to lawyers in Oakland, San Francisco and Irvine, we need to add three more to the original list at the bottom of this story. Judge John True IIIAlameda County Superior CourtJudge Claudia WilkenU.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Maxine Mackler ChesneyU.S. District Court for the Northern District of CaliforniaRetired Judge Edward SternSan Francisco Superior Court Judge Alicemarie StotlerU.S. District Court for the Central District of CaliforniaJudge James StotlerOrange County Superior Court So make that at least 24 judge couples in California. If there are more, please let us know.

Mike McKee

“They just noted that it was unusual,” says William Pate, who retired earlier this year, “although there didn’t seem to be any problem with it in terms of conflicts. The governor’s office didn’t raise any issues.” But there have been times, Pate says, when lawyers might have felt uncomfortable about the situation. “Once or twice,” he says, “I got the feeling that an attorney might be a little nervous going into my courtroom if they had what they considered a bad experience in my wife’s courtroom.” Christine Pate referred calls to her husband, who noted an obvious benefit of having two judges in a household. If the sheriff calls up while one or the other is on bail duty, William says, either one can respond. For some reason, San Diego is the hotbed of judicial couples. Besides the Pates, court officials there count five other couples now serving on the bench or with one spouse retired. “You’d think L.A. would have the most,” William Pate says. “I don’t know. We’re a big city, [and a] small bar in a way and so that may be a part of it.” Being part of a judicial couple presents some interesting social situations, too � mostly when someone thinks there’s only one judge in the family. “They just don’t assume my wife is a judge,” Pate notes. “There’s still an assumption the man’s going to be a judge.” Judges Yolanda Northridge and Robert McGuiness, a married couple that works in different courthouses for the Alameda County Superior Court, said the same thing happens to them. But they also surprise some people by answering in unison. “It’s really unique when someone says, ‘judge,’ and we’re both together,” Northridge says. “We both look or respond.” Miriam Vogel says she often “provokes a dead silence” by answering “yes, speaking,” when she gets calls at home to speak to “Justice Vogel.” And the letters that arrive at their home reveal more confusion. “Sometimes they say ‘Justice and Mrs.,’ which ignores me,” Miriam Vogel says. “Or two lines � Justice Charles Vogel and Justice Miriam Vogel, or Justice Miriam Vogel and Chuck. We’ve had every variation on the theme.” Living with a spouse who has been on the bench longer or serves on a higher court can provoke some humor too, especially considering junior judges are thought to be somewhat deferential to more experienced judges. Herman says he is “careful to point out [de Bellefeuille] is my senior judge. I also say she’s the presiding judge in my household.” Socrates Manoukian, a trial court judge in San Jose whose wife of 30 years sits on the appellate court in his district, has a stock answer when asked about who wears the pants in his household. “I’m the only judge in California who gets overruled at work and at home by the same person,” he says. “I was smart enough to marry a woman smarter than I am, and man enough to admit it.” In reality, though, Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian never participates in any cases appealed to her court from her husband’s courtroom. “They screen the files for those,” Manoukian says. “And they just give my cases to others.” A possibly unexpected byproduct of having two judicial minds under one roof could be finishing each other’s sentences � in legal terms. Take this exchange between Northridge and McGuiness, whose brother is William McGuiness, administrative presiding justice of San Francisco’s First District. Robert McGuiness: “It’s a great job and we’ve enjoyed being judges jointly out in the community. We love meeting people in the communities in which we practice.” Northridge: “And I would concur in that.” McGuiness: “We concur in most things.” Northridge: “We really do.” All in all, judge couples say they’re grateful to have their spouses in the same line of work � for one, they like the similar work schedules and holidays � and they advise future couples not to hesitate if they get the opportunity. Even Herman and de Bellefeuille, with their longer work commutes of about 33 miles each, have few complaints. “My drive’s a little more scenic and a little more treacherous [going through mountain passes],” de Bellefeuille says. “And his goes through the vineyards.” The couple now resides five miles east of the Santa Ynez Valley, near Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and in the heart of the area made famous in the 2004 movie “Sideways.” They already had friends in the valley before moving and are only a half-hour from those back in Santa Barbara. And they’ve got each other for moral � and judging � “This is great,” de Bellefeuille says. “There is no downside to it.”

Judge Couples in CaliforniaSuperior CourtsJudge Robert McGuinessJudge Yolanda NorthridgeAlameda County Superior CourtJudge Mary Ann O’MalleyRetired Judge William O’MalleyContra Costa County Superior CourtJudge John KronstadtJudge Helen BendixLos Angeles County Superior CourtJudge William HighbergerJudge Carolyn KuhlLos Angeles County Superior CourtRetired Judge John WoolleyRetired Commissioner Eleanor PalkOrange County Superior CourtJudge Frederick HornJudge Carolyn KirkwoodOrange County Superior CourtJudge Jan GoldsmithJudge Christine GoldsmithSan Diego County Superior CourtJudge Charles HayesJudge Judith HayesSan Diego County Superior CourtJudge Lillian LimRetired Judge Eugene “Mac” Amos Jr.San Diego County Superior CourtJudge David OberholtzerJudge Stephanie SontagSan Diego County Superior CourtJudge Christine PateRetired Judge William PateSan Diego County Superior CourtReferee Hideo ChinoRetired Judge Sheridan ReedSan Diego County Superior CourtJudge George Abdallah Jr.Judge Elizabeth HumphreysSan Joaquin County Superior CourtJudge James HermanJudge Denise de BellefeuilleSanta Barbara County Superior CourtJudge Catherine GallagherFormer Judge William DanserSanta Clara County Superior CourtJudge Kenneth RileyJudge Rebecca RileyVentura County Superior CourtAppellate CourtsJustice Miriam VogelRetired Justice Charles VogelSecond District Court of AppealMixed CourtsJustice Paul BolandSecond District Court of AppealJudge Margaret MorrowU.S. District Court for the Central District of CaliforniaRetired Judge John Kennedy Jr.San Bernardino County Superior CourtRetired Judge Ann KoughLos Angeles County Superior CourtJudge Socrates ManoukianSanta Clara County Superior CourtJustice Patricia Bamattre-ManoukianSixth District Court of AppealJustice Conrad RushingSixth District Court of AppealJudge Elaine RushingSonoma County Superior Court

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