Gay man confirmed to state appellate court in San Diego

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Friday June 23, 2023
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 <br>David Rubin was confirmed and sworn in June 23 to a seat on the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, in San Diego. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office

David Rubin was confirmed and sworn in June 23 to a seat on the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, in San Diego. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office

David Rubin, a gay man and Superior Court judge in San Diego County, was unanimously confirmed and sworn in Friday as a justice for the Fourth District Court of Appeal after a hearing by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Rubin in March.

Rubin will serve on the Fourth District's Division One, and he said after his swearing in that he would be the first LGBTQ person in that division. Justice Marsha Slough, a lesbian, was the first out appellate bench officer in the Fourth District, where she serves on Division Two, Rubin noted.

The hearing by the Commission on Judicial Appointments was chaired by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero and held at the Supreme Court building in San Francisco. She was joined by Attorney General Rob Bonta and Manuel A. Ramirez, presiding justice of the Fourth District's Division Two.

Rubin, who was first elected to San Diego County Superior Court in 2006, began his tenure in 2007. He has presided over civil, criminal, and family court matters, speakers told the commission.

Maureen Hallahan, assistant presiding judge of the San Diego County Superior Court, told the commission she first met Rubin when she and Rubin's husband, attorney Todd Stevens, met volunteering at an AIDS nonprofit. Rubin was the first openly gay deputy district attorney hired in San Diego County, she said, and he quickly grasped complex cases.

Rubin and Hallahan worked in family law together once both became judges. Later, he was assigned to criminal cases, she explained. When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, however, "he was the first to volunteer to hear family court cases."

Associate Justice Douglas P. Miller, who sits on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two, told the commission he considers Rubin to be his best friend. They worked together on the California Judges Association and Rubin served as president of the group from 2011-1012.

"He was the first and only openly gay president of CJA," Miller said. "He's a brilliant colleague and a true public servant." Miller added that Rubin has an approach to solving problems whereby he's "calm, patient, innovative, and resolute in knowing the goal."

The third person to speak in support of Rubin was Judith D. McConnell, administrative presiding justice for the Fourth District's Division One. She talked about Rubin's background, including that he was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and experienced both antisemitism and homophobia.

McConnell said that Rubin "acknowledged being gay in college." After earning undergraduate degrees at UC Berkeley, Rubin earned his juris doctor degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. While there, he also renewed the LGBTQ student group for law students.

"It's important for appellate justices to be compassionate, show empathy, be intellectually disciplined, remain flexible, and be open to ideas and [have] a clear sense of justice," McConnell said. "Those are all qualities he has shown in trial court."

In San Diego, Rubin has been involved with the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association.

Justin A. Palmer, chair of the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, said that after a review, Rubin was found to be "exceptionally well qualified" for the appellate bench.

Bonta asked Rubin about what he looked forward to and the challenges ahead in the new position after telling Rubin, "I love the commitment to marginalized communities."

Rubin responded that he looks forward to continuing the work of research and writing, and now being able to look at it from an appellate perspective.

"I'm looking forward to the new adventure," he said.

As for challenges, Rubin said he hopes to learn from his colleagues. "It's going to be a lot of hard work, but I don't mind," he said.

Rubin offered just a brief comment during the hearing: "I'm very humbled and honored to be here."

However, during remarks after Guerrero swore him in, Rubin thanked the many people who have helped him, including Newsom, Luis Céspedes, Newsom's judicial appointments secretary, and his staff.

"They have worked hard to create a bench that reflects California," Rubin said.

Of the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association, Rubin noted that when it was formed "it was very difficult to be out."

As he neared the end of his remarks, Rubin said he could feel tension in the audience because he had not yet mentioned his husband. "I'm not Hilary Swank forgetting to thank Chad Lowe at the Oscars" he quipped, referring to 2000 when Swank, who won best actress for "Boys Don't Cry," a film about a trans man, neglected to acknowledge Lowe, her then-husband.

"I saved the best for last," Rubin said, looking at Stevens, who was standing near him. "We've been together 33 years and I don't have the words to express how much you mean to me."

Referring to this being Pride weekend in San Francisco, Rubin said he attended his first LGBTQ Pride parade in 1982. He joked that he didn't plan for his confirmation hearing to coincide with local Pride festivities.

"Happy Pride in San Francisco," he said. "I didn't set this up."

Rubin fills the seat created by the retirement of Justice Cynthia G. Aaron. The compensation for each of the positions is $264,542.

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