Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 26, 2004


Page 1


Wunderlich to Leave Sixth District Court of Appeal, Succeed Hollis Best as Yosemite Federal Magistrate


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Justice William M. Wunderlich said yesterday he will leave the Sixth District Court of Appeal in April or May to succeed the late Hollis Best as magistrate at the U.S. District Court in Yosemite National Park.

Wunderlich, 57, said he was selected for the position by the judges of the Sacramento- and Fresno-based Eastern District in December and is currently undergoing an FBI background check.

Best, a former presiding justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeal who died Aug. 15, had served as the Yosemite magistrate since 1994. Wunderlich said he closely followed Best’s career and had long hoped to succeed him.

Asked why he would leave the Court of Appeal for a magistrate’s job, Wunderlich noted that he grew up in Nebraska and cited the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

“If someone offers you a paying job living in the shadow of Yosemite Falls, you take it,” the justice said.

Wunderlich said the job will give his wife an opportunity to have a horse and him a chance to walk 200 yards to work instead of spending over an hour commuting to his Sixth District chambers in San Jose. The Yosemite job comes with a small residence for the magistrate, he pointed out.

He added that when he visited Yosemite recently, he saw a picture taken in November posted on the clerk’s bulletin board showing a bear at the front door of the courthouse.

“Fortunately, it has a back door,” he commented.

Wunderlich and Eastern District Chief Judge David F. Levi said a court committee selected five finalists for the position, which was advertised during September and October.

“We had a very good group of people,” Levi said, declining to identify the other candidates.

Wunderlich and the other finalists were interviewed by Levi and the three federal judges who are based in Fresno. The final selection, Levi said, was made by the district’s seven active judges.

Wunderlich noted that in addition to handling cases arising in the National Park, the Yosemite magistrate has a workload that includes a share of the district’s prisoner habeas and civil rights cases and social security appeals. He said he and Levi are hoping he can assume his new duties by the beginning of the tourist season in May.

An official at the Yosemite court noted that the district’s three Fresno-based magistrates have been rotating to provide coverage in the park since Best’s death.

Levi called the job a “unique position within the judiciary,” adding:

“It’s an opportunity for someone who’s had a distinguished career already to continue that career and do something somewhat different.”

The position, Levi said, “can be the capstone of a career.”

The chief judge noted that Best was a revered figure in the state’s judiciary whose love for his job in the National Park had “been communicated far and wide.”

Wunderlich, who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska and his law degree in the night program at the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, had been a deputy district attorney and a civil litigator before he was elected to the bench in 1984, defeating Monterey Superior Court Judge Maurice R. Jourdane. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson named him to the appellate court in 1993.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company