Judge Sotelo Reflects on 20-Year Bench Career
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo is seen on recent trip to Campostela, Spain.
(Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo on Friday—his last day on the bench—provided the remarks below.
As of today’s date, I will be retiring the commission Governor Gray Davis issued me 20 years ago as a California Superior Court judge. It seems so recent.
Besides assuring fairness and dignity to parties and witnesses in criminal and civil cases, I believe my most meaningful judicial role as judge did not involve any of the well over 20 murder trials I presided over, nor the important civil matters, including an intellectual property dispute between two adult sons of one of our greatest movie stars. The most humbling and meaningful judicial opportunity was presiding over the East Los Angeles Drug Court I helped create cooperatively with the district attorney, public defender and local treatment providers.
Before this, and before getting know the personal stories of the many individuals charged with felony drug charges, my knowledge of addiction was based on anecdotal stories, news articles, and research reports. Simple theory collided with the hard reality of human experience in Drug Court. Learning the many tragic and heart-breaking experiences that “led” our participants to addiction was a glimpse into how easily an individual’s life can change. As my bailiff at the time, a long time deputy sheriff said back then:
“If that was my story, I’d be using drugs too.”
Drug Court provided a catalyst for positive change and the opportunity to uplift the lives of our participants. Nearly two decades later I still receive phone calls from Drug Court graduates updating me on their lives and thanking me for my role as “their personal judge.”
Over my 29 years of public service to the good people of California, starting as a county prosecutor, then as court commissioner appointed by judges, and then my appointment by Governor Davis, I have had the opportunity to work with a group of extraordinary judicial colleagues. I’ve relied on them, I’ve learned from them, and I will miss them all.
As the photograph above may hint, one of my next priorities will be to see and learn more of the world and spend a lot of time with my three grandsons. I also plan to continue to participate in the court’s outreach programs and community service such as teen court.
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