Introducing Sacramento’s New Judges
During the 13 months before he left office, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed seven new judges to the Sacramento Superior Court – three in late 2017 and then, in the final months of 2018, four others as they concluded service in key positions in the Brown Administration. Four are women; three are men. Two are of South Asian ancestry. They range in ages between 37 and 57. Most, but not all, are registered Democrats. And so – with “thanks for the assist” to Presiding Judge David De Alba, to Public Information Officer Kim Pedersen, and to the seven judges themselves – the SCBA welcomes and introduces these new bench officers.
Peter K. Southworth was appointed to the bench in December 2018. He served as Chief Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary from 2014 until Gov. Brown left office. From 2013 to 2014, he served as Deputy Secretary and General Counsel for the Secretary of Transportation.
Southworth earned his law degree from Columbia Law School and his undergraduate degree from Haverford College. After law school, he was a law clerk for Judge Ronald M. Whyte at the US District Court, Northern District of California from 1992 to 1993, and then joined Downey Brand as an associate for the next four years. Southworth moved to the Attorney General’s Office in 1997, where he served in various capacities conducting governmental and environmental/land use/natural resources litigation.
“I thoroughly enjoyed litigating all kinds of cases as a lawyer,” said Southworth. “In doing so, I came to really appreciate those judges who strived their hardest to correctly and fairly adjudicate every single case, whether it was mine or someone else’s. I will strive to bring that level of effort (and hopefully some competence) to that important service to the public.”
Southworth has been married for 20 years and has two teenage boys. He lives in rural southern El Dorado County and describes as one of his hobbies “managing/maintaining a water system for a small community in the Sierras.” Southworth is assigned to Department 45 (trials) for 2019.
Jill H. Talley was appointed to the Sacramento Superior Court in December 2017. At that time, she had been serving since 2014 as Chief Counsel to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Talley attended Rutgers University as an undergraduate and then Pepperdine for her law degree. She began her legal career in Los Angeles and became a partner in the small civil litigation firm of Feldman & Talley, LLP (which was later acquired by Loeb & Loeb, LLP). In 2002, Talley moved to Sacramento and joined the Attorney General’s Office in the Employment, Administration, and Mandate Section. She became a Supervising Deputy Attorney General in 2012.
Asked what she misses about the practice of law, Talley responded, “I miss the thrill of victory (but not so much the agony of defeat). Most of all, I miss my last job assisting the people of California in recovering from disasters.” Talley credits Judge David De Alba for encouraging her to apply to become a judge after she tried a case in his court. “Had he not given me that nudge, I would not have applied when I did.” “I also enjoy teaching,” she notes. “I have been teaching remedies at Lincoln Law School since 2012, and I just began teaching at UC Davis Law School this year.”
Talley is the mother of three teenagers and the spouse of Sacramento attorney Stuart Talley. Her 2019 assignment is to family court, Department 122.
Daniel J. Calabretta was appointed to the Sacramento Superior Court in November 2018. He graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude in 2000, where he had an independent concentration in bioethics. He attended law school at the University of Chicago, graduating magna cum laude in 2003. Calabretta had a clerkship with Judge William A. Fletcher on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals from 2003-2004, followed by a clerkship for Justice John Paul Stevens from 2004-2005.
Clerkships completed, Calabretta moved to San Francisco as a litigation associate for Munger, Tolles & Olson. In 2007, he joined the Government Law Section of the California Attorney General’s Office. Among other matters, Calabretta was counsel of record for the challenge to Proposition 8 (barring same-sex couples from marrying) in appellate proceedings. In August 2013, he joined the Brown Administration as a Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary, where he handled pardons, conflicts, appointments, cannabis, and matters related to the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency and the Government Operations Agency.
Asked what he hopes to accomplish most as a judge, Calabretta responded, “I hope that the litigants who come before me, even if they disagree with my rulings, will walk away feeling that they have been heard and respected, and the attorneys will leave believing I was prepared and considered their arguments. More broadly, I hope I contribute to the reputation the Sacramento bench already has for being impartial, ethical, and highly competent.”
Calabretta and his husband are raising two young boys, “as well as our rescue corgi-mix, Shorty.” He mentioned that he “really want[s] to perform work that would have an impact on specific individuals in specific matters.” He has that opportunity now in his assignment to dependency court, Department 130.
Before her December 2017 appointment to the bench, Lauri A. Damrell, was a partner Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in the firm’s Employment Law Group, with her practice focused on gender discrimination. She was also Co-Chair with the State Labor Commissioner of the California Pay Equity Task Force and Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls (an independent, nonpartisan state agency advocating for protecting and improving opportunities for California women and girls). She also served on the Board of the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Damrell received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and her law degree from UC Davis Law, where she was Order of the Coif. After law school and before joining Orrick, she clerked for Chief District Court Judge David F. Levi for the Eastern District of California.
Asked why she decided to become a judge, Damrell responded: “I am the daughter and granddaughter of judges and grew up with a strong appreciation for public service. My role models had a deep sense of their professional responsibility to promote civility and lay the groundwork for how we live and coexist as a society. They taught me that civility is consistent with zealous advocacy and furthers the interests of justice.” Noting that she is also married to the son and grandson of judges, Damrell said, “My family experience has encouraged me to broaden the debate rather than simply force my opinion on others without sufficient discussion, and to rationally evaluate arguments on both sides.” Damrell added, “I decided to become a judge because I see a larger purpose to my professional life and wanted to do more to see justice done and defend our Constitution and democratic institutions, particularly at this uncertain time in our history.”
Damrell is assigned to family court, Department 123.
Joginder S. Dhillon was appointed to the Sacramento Superior Court in December 2018. A 1982 graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Dhillon served on active duty in the Air Force for 20 years. His last active duty assignment was as the Legal Advisor to Headquarters, NORAD/US Space Command. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School and a Master of Laws degree in intellectual property law from the University of Houston Law Center. At the time of his appointment to the bench, Dhillon was a senior advisor to Gov. Brown. He served as Chief Counsel for the California Gambling Control Commission from 2009 to 2013 and as General Counsel for the California Emergency Management Agency from 2007 to 2009. He was Director of Academic Support at Pacific McGeorge from 2005 to 2007, and also worked as a national security policy associate for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and an attorney at the Schuering Zimmerman firm.
Dhillon is the first Sikh appointed to the court. His parents immigrated to the US from Punjab, India, in the 1950s. He is married and has two sons. Dhillon’s 2019 assignment is to Department 44 (trials).
Shama H. Mesiwala was elevated from commissioner to judge in December of 2017. After graduating from UC Davis Law in 1998, Mesiwala joined the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Sacramento and then continued her work representing indigent defendants as a staff attorney for the Central California Appellate Program. In 2004, Mesiwala started as a central staff attorney at the Third District Court of Appeal and served as a chambers attorney for Justice Ronald B. Robie from 2006 to 2017. Asked who inspired her to become a judge, Mesiwala named Justice Robie. “I had the honor and privilege of working for him for over a decade as his chambers attorney … Each day, I saw firsthand his intellect, grace, decency, and courage in the way he conducts himself both personally and professionally. He has set for me the highest standard of ethical behavior and tireless work ethic to which I aspire.”
Mesiwala and her husband have an eight-year old son. She is a co-founder of the South Asian Bar Association of Sacramento and has co-taught Appellate Advocacy for the past six years at UC Davis Law.
Mesiwala is the first South Asian-American judge appointed to the Sacramento Superior Court. Her parents were Indian Muslim immigrants to the US. It was her father, Mesiwala says, who cultivated her love of weight lifting. “He taught me and my brother the fundamentals of weight lifting in our family’s garage from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, a book my father gifted us when we were in our teens.” Mesiwala is assigned to dependency court, Department 133, for 2019.
Kristina B. Lindquist received her appointment to the Sacramento bench in December 2018. At 37, she is the youngest of the seven recent appointees.
Lindquist earned her law degree in 2007 from Pacific McGeorge and her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame with a major in philosophy and a minor in European studies. Prior to moving to Sacramento to attend law school, she worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Lindquist practiced at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Board of Equalization before going to the Governor’s Office as a Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary in 2011, where she advised Gov. Brown on grants of parole to prison inmates, commutations, and other criminal justice issues. After reflecting on her experiences in that work, Lindquist observed, “I know the stakes are high for every case in the courthouse. I am excited to take on the new challenges this position will bring.” Asked if any particular person inspired her to become a judge, Lindquist responded, “Quite a few people have mentored me and inspired me over the years, but the one I’ll single out to thank here is Gov. Brown. … He constantly challenged me (and all of his staff) to consider history and the bigger picture without losing sight of the specific issue or case at hand.”
For 2019, Lindquist is assigned to traffic court, unlawful detainers, and small claims at the Carol Miller Justice Center. “I hope to give everyone a fair chance in my courtroom, to listen carefully, and to be thoughtful in my decision making.”