By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) -- A Philippine-born lawyer is one of the two newest lawyers appointed by California Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. to fill up the vacancies in the California Superior
Benjamin T. Reyes, II, will be filling up the position left vacant by Judge Thomas M. Maddock at the Contra Costa County in northern California for the unexpired term of one year. The other appointee is Wade M. Rhyne.
Because of tight budgetary constraints, the California State Assembly cannot appropriate new funding legislation to increase the rooster of new Superior Court judges, making this sector as a “dramatically underfunded institution.”
Mr. Reyes will start handling criminal cases, notably misdemeanor, arraignment and calendar of cases, on July 17 at the Contra Costa County.
Reyes, who turns 52 on June 11, becomes one of the 15 Filipino American Superior Court judges in the Golden State and is the first Fil Am judge appointed in northern California in 30 years. The state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye based in Sacramento is also a Filipino American.
Reyes was nominated to Governor Brown by three-term Alameda County Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) of the 18th District, the first and only Filipino American member of the California State Assembly. “I am really grateful to Assemblymember Bonta for nominating me,” Mr. Reyes said in an interview with this reporter.
If nobody challenges his position in early 2018, Reyes' name will be off the ballot and he will be re-appointed for six years. Otherwise, he will be up for election in November 2018 for the position that pays a salary of $191,000 a year.
Born in Naval Station, Subic Bay, Olongapo City in the Philippines, Reyes was brought to the United States when he was three years old and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii with his parents Benjamin P. Reyes, Sr. and Edita Toledo Reyes. His family hails from San Antonio, Zambales.
SPEAKS “BASIT” ILOCANO WORDS
He said his household language is Ilocano but he only speaks “basit” (very few). But his wife, Susan San Juan Reyes, speaks fluent Tagalog.
The last time he visited his native land was in 1979 when he attended the funeral services of his Lolo (grandfather). “Most of my family is here in the United States, so I have not had many reasons to visit the Philippines.”
Prior to his appointment to the bench, Reyes was a principal partner at Meyers, Nave, Riback and Wilson PLC since 2005. He was an associate of that law office from 2001 to 2005.
At Meyers, Nave, Riback, and Wilson PLC, Reyes handled cases of clients in the areas of municipal and public agency law, energy, construction, procurement and elections.
He was also the Assistant General Counsel for the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory where he chaired the firm’s Public Contracts Practice Group, and manages the firm’s redevelopment and public finance attorneys.
Reyes had also been a City Attorney to two Bay Area cities: first with Pinole from 2004, and second, with Union City since 2010.
According to his law office’s website, Reyes also regularly teaches seminars on the Ralph M. Brown Act (local agency open meeting law), ethics, conflicts of interest and the political reform act. He has significant experience in elections and campaign finance, and has prepared several ballot measures for local sales and transactions taxes and utility users taxes.
THERE ARE 1,705 SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES
Other positions held by Reyes include Utility.com general counsel in 2001, East Bay Municipal Utility, Office of the General Counsel attorney from 1997-2000, deputy city attorney at the San Jose City Attorney’s Office in 1997, General Counsel for the Stege Sanitary District, and an associate at the Boormazian, Jensen and Garthe PC from 1993-1997, among others.
Reyes earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law and Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of California in Berkeley.
He was also in the United States Army Reserves from 1983-1987.
In 2007, the Superior Courts in California had 1,705 authorized judges and 342 (in terms of full-time equivalent) authorized commissioners and referees. The California Legislature determines the number of judges in each court. Superior court judges serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election. Vacancies are filled thru appointment by the Governor. A superior court judge must have been an attorney admitted to practice law in California or have served as a judge of a court of record in the state for at least 10 years immediately preceding election or appointment.
Superior courts have jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases. During 2012-2013, nearly eight million cases were filed in these courts.