WOODLAND — After nearly 25 years as a Yolo County court commissioner, Janene Beronio says she’s ready to take her public service to the next level.
On the steps of the historic courthouse in Woodland, Beronio announced Tuesday her plans to run for the Yolo Superior Court seat being vacated by longtime Judge Stephen L. Mock, who is retiring next January after 24 years on the bench.
“I have the criminal law experience, I have trial experience and I have judicial experience,” said Beronio, 63, who served nine years as a Yolo County prosecutor before her appointment to commissioner in July 1989. “I have a lot to offer, and I need to do this.”
The job of commissioner is a court-appointed position, while judges must be either elected or appointed by the governor and require voter approval to retain their seat after each six-year term.
Beronio currently oversees the court’s arraignment calendar. While she has undertaken numerous assignments in her commissioner’s role — from traffic, juvenile and family court to misdemeanor and felony criminal proceedings — as a judge, Beronio if elected would enjoy a wider range of authority such as presiding over felony trials, which comprise a significant portion of the court’s calendar.
So far, Beronio is expected to have at least one competitor in the June 3 election: Fredrick S. Cohen, a UC Davis law school graduate and Sacramento-based family law attorney. It will be the first contested race for an open judicial seat since 1990, when Mock prevailed over longtime attorney and former Davis Mayor Jerry Adler.
Beronio already has the backing of the entire Yolo Superior Court bench, all of whom joined her for Tuesday’s announcement to proclaim her uniquely qualified for the judge’s position.
Mock, who informed colleagues of his pending retirement just last week, said it is important to him that the county’s voters choose their next judge. He added that he sought out three qualities in a potential successor: someone with broad experience in the law, an even judicial temperament and who meshed well with other members of the bench.
“This bench, unlike many benches, has an incredible amount of camaraderie, and that helps us all as we do our work,” Mock said. With more than two decades as a commissioner under her belt, Beronio “has all those qualities. … She clearly has the judicial temperament — she’s shown that for many years — and she is one of those people who has contributed to the camaraderie we have.”
Judge Tim Fall, meanwhile, noted that Beronio, while a member of the county’s then-municipal court system, had the distinction of presiding for nearly five years over juvenile law matters — a rigorous assignment typically reserved for Superior Court judges.
“The judges here knew that she had what it takes,” Fall said. “Juvenile court is a very, very hard assignment — it makes some of the other things we do pale in comparison for how intense the issues can become, because you’re talking about kids.”
Beronio said she was honored to have the endorsement of the judges — particularly Mock, whom she called “a dedicated public servant who will leave incredibly large shoes to fill.”
Born in Chicago and raised in various areas of the country while her father served in the U.S. Air Force, Beronio and her family eventually ended up on Southern California, where she attended Loma Linda University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1971.
Beronio then moved to Sacramento, working as a legal secretary for a law firm and later the Legal Aid Society, earning her law degree in 1978 from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. She worked as a staff attorney for the System for the Electronic Analysis and Retrieval of Criminal History Records (SEARCH Group Inc.) before joining the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in November 1980.
As a prosecutor, Beronio was a member of the office’s felony trial team and supervised both the Davis and Broderick branch offices.
Beronio lives near Winters in rural Solano County and is married to Robert Beronio, a retired law-enforcement officer who served with the Davis Police Department.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene