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Ioana Petrou, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District, was formally sworn in as an Alameda County judge last night at the Claremont Country Club in Oakland.

There was no shortage of people wanting to say nice things about the newly minted judge. Attendees included Northern District Judge Marilyn Patel, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, former U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello, and Berkeley criminal defense attorney Cris Arguedas.

Arguedas told the story of meeting Petrou for the first time to discuss the government’s case health care fraud case against her client. She said she was blown away after hearing Petrou converse fluently and openly about it, drawing from fields like pharmacology and economics. “I went back to the office and assigned two more lawyers to the case,” Arguedas said.

Alex Tse, a former AUSA now with the San Francisco city attorney’s office (who worked alongside Petrou on the off-label drug marketing case of InterMune CEO Scott Harkonen), advised lawyers who appear in front of Judge Petrou to be prepared. “You have to be on your toes,” he said. “She’s not going to stand by and she’s not going to wait for you, either.”

A couple of the speakers also gave the tip that Petrou loves good food – so if you ever have lunch with her, let her pick the place.

It is always great to learn about our new California judges, especially what to expect from them on the bench.  For those of you paralegals who have attorneys who practice in Alameda County and will be going before Judge Petrou, you might want to let them know to be well prepared and ready to go when they walk into her courtroom!

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We Californians love to be first, just try driving down the freeway and you will see what I mean.  While voters did not approve Proposition 19 which would have legalized pot, making us the first state to do so, we have elected the nation’s first transgender Superior Court Trial Judge.

As reported in LGBTQNation.com , Victoria Kolakowski, who is 49, was elected in Alameda County as a new judge.

Victoria Kolakowski

In an interview with student journalist Alexa Sasanow of The Tuft’s Daily newspaper, Kolakowski said:

“The trans thing isn’t the first thing I talk about.  I talk about my experience, things I’ve done as a lawyer, things I want to do as a judge, and when there’s time, I say something about being transgender.  It’s not what I lead with, and a lot of people don’t know.  I’m not hiding it, but it’s one of the things that is difficult when you’re running a race; how do you address this issue? You don’t want to be hiding something about who you are, if you’re out, but you also don’t want to say, ‘Vote for me. I’m wearing a rainbow flag.”

Kolakowski was part of a group of transgender candidates across the nation that was recently profiled in the New York Times, and she cited some of the online comments on the article as indicative of a culture of homophobia and transphobia that still exists in the United States in many forms.

While I don’t know Ms. Kolakowski and Alameda is not the county in which I assist attorneys at this time, I think she will bring some great life lessons into the courtroom with her.  I would love to hear from paralegals and their attorneys in Alameda on their thoughts  about this election and on Ms. Kolakowski herself.

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