Teresa Caffese, formerly chief attorney at the SF public defender’s office, moderates a 2010 Public Defender’s Justice Summit’s panel. Photo by Christine Jegan 

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday named 34 new judges to California’s trial courts, chipping away at a judicial vacancy backlog that had reached a two-year high.

Brown also nominated two new appellate court justices, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Patricia Guerrero to the Fourth District Court of Appeal and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anne Egerton to the Second District. Justice Elwood Lui of the Second District will be elevated to the presiding justice of Division Two if he is confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Brown’s seven Bay Area court appointments include a range of civil practitioners, prosecutors and lawyers with experience as public defenders. Nancy Fineman, a partner at the plaintiffs firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy got the call after a two-year wait.

“It’s really an honor and I’m kind of overwhelmed,” she told The Recorder on Thursday.

Fineman was a lead attorney in lead paint litigation in Santa Clara County that resulted in a $1.1 billion judgment against manufacturers in 2013. She also represented the California State Teachers’ Retirement System in an ultimately successful multiyear securities fraud lawsuit against Homestore.

Fineman follows Cotchett Pitre alumna Susan Illston, now a San Francisco-based federal judge, and San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner to the bench. “To me, it’s a natural progression,” Fineman said. “There’s a way to give back that’s different from being an advocate.”

In San Francisco, Brown named Teresa Caffese and Eric Fleming to the bench. Caffese is a solo practitioner who worked 24 years in San Francisco’s public defender’s office, eventually rising to the position of chief attorney. Caffese represented a number of high-profile defendants, including LaShaun Harris, a mentally ill Oakland woman who threw her three sons into the San Francisco Bay in 2005, drowning them.

Fleming has served as managing attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office since 2012 and has worked as a prosecutor there since 2004. Like Caffese, Fleming has handled some of San Francisco’s big, headline-grabbing cases in recent years, including the prosecution of quintuple murder suspect Binh Thai Luc.

In Alameda County, veteran public defender Barbara Dickinson will join the superior court. She has served as assistant public defender for the last five years. She joined the office as a deputy in 1989.

Nahal Iravani-Sani is Brown’s appointment to the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Iravani-Sani has served as a deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County since 1995, and she has taught at both the Stanford Law School Trial Advocacy Clinic and Santa Clara University. She is the first Iranian-American judge appointed in Santa Clara County, according to the governor’s office.

In Marin County, family law specialist Beth Jordan was appointed to a judgeship. Jordan has been a partner at Greene Jordan Taubman & Dias since 2010. Earlier, she had been a partner at Greene & Jordan for seven years.

In Sonoma County, Superior Court Commissioner Jennifer Dollard was elevated to a judgeship. Dollard has served as a commissioner in the Sonoma County for three years and before that she was a court commissioner in Shasta County.

Superior Court judges are paid $200,042 annually. Appellate court justices are paid $228,918.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments—Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the senior presiding justice of the court where an appellate justice has been nominated—must confirm Egerton, Guerrero and Lui. A schedule for nomination hearings was not immediately announced.

Here is Brown’s news release with the full list of appointments:



Read more:

Sometimes It Pays (More Than the Gov) to Be a Judge

Brown’s 23 New Trial Judges Include Ex-Big Law, Prosecutors

Napa Judge, Accused of Stealing Business Card Holders, Faces Discipline

California Judges Are Told to Stay Away from Pot Businesses

Calif. Justice Werdegar, After 23 Years, Will Retire in August