New Judge Relishes Tackling Problems
Traveling around the State of
California, one of the professional
accomplishments of Sacramento Superior
Court Judge Robert C. Hight is not so much
what you see, as what you don’t see.
Hight, age 58, spent 28 years with the
State Lands Commission-first as staff attorney,
then as Chief Counsel, and, finally, as
Executive Officer. He has spent the last five
years heading the CA Department of Fish
During those years he helped shepherd
the acquisition of more than 50,000 acres,
valued at approximately $1 billion. He is
proud to have “left a legacy for the people of
the State of California of a vast amount of
open space that will never be developed and
will always be pristine.”
According to those who know Hight
and have worked with him, he is a person
who relishes solving problems and resolving
California Department of Fish & Game
General Counsel Michael R. Valentine said
Hight was particularly good at being “a
problem solver, using the law and policy to
resolve conflicts that are sometimes very
large and very complex. Solving problems is
very much his focus.”
Appointed to the bench by former
Gov. Gray Davis, Hight worked for the
State Lands Commission from 1971 to
1999. From 1974 to 1994 he was Chief
Counsel at the Commission and then
Executive Officer from 1994 to 1999. In
1999, then Gov. Gray Davis asked him
serve as the Director at the Department of
Fish and Game.
During those years, he was involved in
helping resolve many of the disputes in part
generated by the State’s increasing population.
California is increasing by 1,000,000
people each year, which requires 250,000
new housing units.
This influx of people and homes creates
great pressure on California’s species and
wildlife, Hight said. The only way to resolve
these issues is through cooperative planning,
He particularly enjoyed “trying to make
the system work to resolve” problems and
issues, he said. “If you work hard enough,
study hard enough, you can make the system
It is no surprise that he has a low-key,
friendly upbeat manner that is a little reminiscent
of the Jimmy Stewart character from “It’s A Wonderful Life.” He grew up in the
small town of Alturas in Northern California.
His parents owned a restaurant called Hight’s
Cafe a block from the Alturas courthouse.
“It was like a big family,” he said of growing
up in a small town. “You literally knew
everybody. I think that made me more
attuned to people’s feelings, needs and
Attorneys and judges ate at the restaurant.
One judge often had three meals a day. “It took some of the mystery out of the legal
system,” he said.
After obtaining an undergraduate degree
from Pacific University in Oregon, he went to
McGeorge School of Law with an idea that he
might become a prosecutor. He was also a
friend of the District Attorney.
“It looked interesting and it looked like
he was having lots of fun,” he said. Instead,
he accepted a job with the State Lands
Commission. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years Hight was able to forge
a consensus on issues through “sheer persistence
and patience to recognize and separate
out the legitimate needs from people’s
negotiating positions, and see that everyone’s
needs are to some extent met,” Valentine said.
He added that Hight’s strength is not only
“a strong ability to deal with people,” but also
“a very strong analytical ability.”
The day Hight took over at the
Department of Fish and Game he reportedly
told employees, “I’m here to work with you.
I’m here to see what we can do to facilitate
the programs that are important to this State.
I’m here to break down the barriers to get
things done. I’m here and I’m accessible.”
The same style will likely mark Hight’s
tenure on the bench. He is “very low-key
but down-to-earth and pragmatic,” said
attorney Louis J. Anapolsky, who knows
Hight, personally, through exercising with
him and working alongside him in a community
organization. “He will be very
respectful of counsel and litigants appearing
before him. He has the ability to manage
people” and will run his courtroom
with an abundance of “patience and temperance.”
Hight said he has been “very impressed
with the attorneys who have appeared before
me. The bar that has appeared before me has
been very professional.” His suggestion for
attorneys was to “state the issue succinctly
and give your suggested answer.”
Hight said there has been a “great camaraderie”
among the Sacramento Superior
Court judges. “Everybody here goes out of
their way to be helpful,” he said.