Newsom names out judges to California courts

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday December 23, 2022
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Attorneys Michael Rhoads and Julie Swain are set to become California superior court judges. Photos: Courtesy the governor's office
Attorneys Michael Rhoads and Julie Swain are set to become California superior court judges. Photos: Courtesy the governor's office

Governor Gavin Newsom named two out lawyers to California superior courts Friday. A gay man will join the San Francisco Superior Court, while a lesbian will be joining the Orange County Superior Court.

Michael Rhoads, 38, will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Angela M. Bradstreet from the San Francisco bench. Bradstreet, a lesbian, stepped down in February after serving 11 years as a judge.

Julie Swain, 52, will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Joy W. Markman from the Orange County court. She had been appointed to the state's former municipal court bench in 1993 and was named to the superior court in 1997 by former Republican governor Pete Wilson.

According to the LGBTQ demographic data for California judges released in March, the Orange County bench had three LGBTQ judges as of the end of 2021. The San Francisco bench had seven LGBTQ judges - four gay and three lesbian — last year prior to Bradstreet's retirement.

Swain served as a deputy public defender at the Orange County Public Defender's Office from 1997 to 2010. She then went into private practice, opening a solo law firm.

Reached in the south of France, where she is vacationing with her wife of 20 years, Swain told the Bay Area Reporter that she had applied for a judicial appointment in April.

"I just moved through quick. I am super fortunate to get appointed today," said Swain, who earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law. "I am proud to represent and I also think that when somebody walks into the courtroom and sees someone familiar to them, that gives them equal access to justice in a more concrete way. The diversity can only add to equal access to justice on the bench."

Rhoads, like Swain, is a Democrat. Since 2018 he has served as the chambers attorney to California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who is retiring as of January 2.

Between 2016 and 2018 Rhoads had served as a staff attorney for the state's highest court. Prior to that he was a deputy attorney general at the California Attorney General's Office from 2015 to 2016, and from 2010 to 2012.

In between working for the AG's office, Rhoads had served as a deputy legal affairs secretary for former governor Jerry Brown. He had started out as a graduate law clerk at the San Diego County District Attorney's Office from 2009 to 2010.

Rhoads earned a Juris Doctor degree from the George Washington University Law School. In response to a request for comment from the Bay Area Reporter, Rhoads replied via an email from the governor's office.

"I am deeply honored and thankful to Governor Newsom for this appointment. I look forward to serving the people of California as a judge," stated Rhoads.

Rhoads and Swain will each earn $231,174. It is unclear when they will be sworn onto their respective courts.

Swain told the B.A.R. she first needs to close down her practice and ensure her clients' legal needs are seen to before she can hold her robing ceremony to become a judge. She intends to talk with the presiding judge on her court once she returns to the state about the timeline.

As for her desire to become a judge, Swain said having worked as a public defender before going into private practice, she felt it was important to return to public service.

"Also, I wanted to bring my level of experience I have from 26 years of being a lawyer and also diversity to the bench," said Swain, a longtime member of the Orange County Lavender Bar Association, on whose board she had served.

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