Candidates pass judgment on court’s incumbent

Of 22 state Superior Court judges up for re-election this year, only Judge Thomas Mellon Jr., a 14-year veteran of the bench, faces opposition.

His challengers: a Hispanic city supervisor and is lesbian city attorney — both former public defenders.

Superior Court judges preside over civil and criminal cases filed locally and can make office by either being elected to a six-year term or being appointed by the governor.

Mellon, who had spent the previous 22 years as a business-litigation attorney in a private practice, was first appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994.

But this year, termed-out Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval and criminal attorney Mary Mallen are campaigning against Mellon, questioning his judicial temperament.

Mellon had a publicized spat eight years ago with the Public Defender’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department about his courtroom demeanor, but Mellon told The Examiner that someone should have run against him in 2002 if that was a problem.

“I think I have done the job very well,” Mellon said, adding that he “couldn’t ask” for better relationships with attorneys.

Voters should look at his experience on the bench as his premier qualification for the position, he said.

“The experience of doing it provides a very valuable asset,” he said.

But it is that experience that Mellon’s opponents say is the signal for his time to leave the bench. Both Mallen and Sandoval leveled allegations against Mellon for his temperament as a judge.

Mallen, who has wanted to be a judge since her father, Judge William Mallen, died in the middle of a 1992 trial, is a former assistant district attorney, former public defender and former legislative aide to then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom.

She said she called around to attorneys who have worked with the judge and heard negative comments.

“His temperament has gotten in the way of his job,” she said.

Sandoval, a current supervisor and former public defender, went further, saying Mellon has a “well-established reputation” for being abusive and losing his temper.

Mellon said neither Mallen nor Sandoval had what it takes to be a judge.

“The depth of experience [as] lawyers for each of my opponents is not great,” he said.

Voters go to the polls June 3 to decide on the 22 races, and the elected judges will take their seats in the first week of 2009.

dsmith@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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