Off the Bench: Valley voters can retain three local Appellate Justices

Justices Brad Hill, Bert Levy, and Jennifer Detjen manage thousands of cases from Stanislaus to Kern counties. Now, voters in the region have the chance to keep them on the bench.

Three local judges in the Fifth District Court of Appeal are up for retention in the November election. 

The Fifth District Court of Appeal, created in 1961, spans across Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties and has 10 judges. 

The three judges that voters have an opportunity to retain in November are Presiding Justice Brad Hill, Associate Justice Bert Levy, and Associate Justice Jennifer Detjen. 

Like California Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeal justices are retained to 12 year terms.

In a legal system often bogged down by delays, the Fifth District managed to avoid a considerable amount of added logjam during the coronavirus pandemic by maintaining staving off court closures and rendered a whopping 4,000 decisions during the pandemic era.

Hill earned his undergraduate and master’s degree from Fresno State before graduating from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1983. 

Following an eight years as a partner at McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Wayte and Carruth, Hill was appointed to the Fresno County Municipal Court in 1991 by Gov. Pete Wilson and to the Fresno County Superior Court in 1998. 

In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Hill to the Presiding Justice post on the Fifth District Court of Appeals. 

Throughout his tenure Hill has served on various committees and boards, including the Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal, the Task Force on Mental Health and Criminal Justice Issues, the California Judicial Education Program, the California Judges Association and many others. 

Levy, the most senior member of the Fresno-based appellate court, completed his undergraduate studies at UC Davis and received his law degree in 1977 from the University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law, after which he entered private practice in Fresno where he primarily focused in the family and business law fields. 

Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Levy to the Fresno County Municipal Court in 1998 and to the Fresno County Superior Court in 1989. 

Gov. Wilson elevated Deukmejian to the appeals court in 1997. 

Levy, a graduate of Fresno High School, has been active in the local community as the initial organizer of the Fresno County Domestic Violence Roundtable. He was also the recipient of the Mentor Award from the Fresno County Young Lawyers Association in 1993. 

Levy was one of the original organizers of the YWCA Marjaree Mason Center and recognized as Public Servant of the Year by the Marjaree Mason Center in 2001. 

Detjen was initially appointed to the Madera County Superior Court in 2000 by Gov. Gray Davis, and in 2010, Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed her to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. 

The Lancaster native earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and completed her legal studies at the University of San Diego. 

She served on include the Labor and Information Dispute Panel and also as Special Master on proceedings instituted by the Commission on Judicial Performance. 

Detjen has also filled in pro tempore on the California Supreme Court.

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