SLO County judge came here from Nicaragua. Now he's a justice on California's appeals court




  • In US
  • 2022-08-08 19:20:00Z
  • By San Luis Obispo Tribune
 

A San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge was sworn in to serve on a California Court of Appeal on Aug. 3, according to a news release from the Judicial Branch of California.

Hernaldo J. Baltodano was confirmed as an associate justice on the Second District Court of Appeal, Division 6 in Ventura, after a unanimous vote by a three-member panel from California's Commission on Judicial Appointments, the release said.

Baltodano was nominated to the position by Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 3, but his appointment was not official until Wednesday, after his confirmation hearing. The Division 6 Court of Appeal, where Baltodano will now officially be serving, oversees appeals for San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara superior courts.

Previously, Baltodano had served on the bench at the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court since his appointment in 2017. During his tenure as a Superior Court judge for over four years, Baltodano led the efforts to create mental health diversion treatment and to implement a misdemeanor diversion program and was the supervising criminal judge for nine months.

Fellow SLO County Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn H. Duffy, who spoke as a witness during Baltodano's confirmation hearing, highlighted Baltodano's "extraordinary work ethic" and "dedication and integrity" as well as his "cultural awareness" stemming from his experiences as child of immigrants, according to a preliminary transcript of the hearing given to The Tribune by a spokesperson for the Judicial Council of California.

"When I first learned of Hernaldo's nomination to the Court of Appeal, Division 6, I had mixed feelings," Duffy said at the hearing. "I, along with all of his colleagues here in San Luis Obispo, feel (the) personal loss of a friend and colleague who has had an enormous impact on our court and legal community. However, we all recognize that he will be an exceptional justice if confirmed, (and) the greater legal community will benefit from his humanity, wisdom and commitment to justice."

After being sworn in, Baltodano spoke of how his family's experiences when they immigrated to the U.S. paved the way for his future as an appellate justice. Baltodano's family left Nicaragua when he was 15 months old because of the growing "political violence and turmoil" in their home country, a situation which continued to grow as they made a life for themselves in California.

"In the almost five decades since I was born, Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the northern hemisphere, has been mired in civil war, economic and political turmoil and a complete disregard for the rule of law," Baltodano said at the hearing.

Baltodano said that while in California, his father wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter asking for political asylum for the family, which was granted by immigration officials, setting in motion a 15-year period that culminated in the family receiving American citizenship when Baltodano was 19.

"I would not be standing here today but for my mother and father's foundational contributions born from their desire to come, as the governor proclaimed, to this land, to work hard, to seek opportunity and protection and give a better life to their children," Baltodano said.

At the hearing, Baltodano also thanked the deputy judicial appointment secretary for their work on behalf of Gov. Newsom "to help ensure judiciary that reflects the broad and rich diversity of life experiences in California."

"A judiciary that mirrors the diverse people of our state instills confidence and trust in our government, and democratic institutions," Baltodano said. "We need that now more than ever."

Elizabeth J. Macias, president of the California Latino Judges Association, of which Baltodano is a member, told The Tribune that Baltodano "serves as a role model for all" and expressed CLJA's hopes that SLO County's Superior Court would continue to ensure Latinx representation in the county's courts.

"With Justice Baltodano's elevation, we hope the governor will appoint another Latinx judge to the Superior Court of San Luis Obispo to carry on Justice Baltodano's legacy," Macias said.

In his new position, Baltodano fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Martin J. Tangeman.

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