San Mateo County Superior Court judge faces a challenger for re-election

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

While Santa Clara County residents are voting on whether to recall or retain a judge, San Mateo County voters must vote whether to re-elect another judge or replace him.

Judge Gerald Buchwald, who has been on the bench since being appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in April 2005, is facing a challenge from San Carlos lawyer Richard Wilson.

Wilson, 64, retired last July as senior counsel for the UC system, where he oversaw the claims and lawsuits from the university’s medical departments and hospitals.

Wilson said that after he retired, he began considering running for a judgeship. Once deciding to do so, Wilson researched the 10 judges up for re-election this year and also went to the courthouse to observe them.

Wilson said he decided to run against Buchwald because he has never been challenged in an election, and is among the longest serving judges up for election this year.

Wilson has lived in San Carlos for the past 30 years. He and his wife, also a lawyer, raised their son and daughter in the city.

Efficient but diligent

If elected, Wilson said he will use his experience from his position at the UC system to help manage and oversee the courts in a more efficient manner.

But to Wilson, being efficient does not mean being nonchalant about cases — Wilson says he is diligent and careful, and will carry that over to the bench.

Wilson said he hopes that by being diligent and not just following whatever recommendation is put in front of him, it will lead to fewer claims of bias in the court system, or at least in his court.

Buchwald, 70, told the Post in an interview yesterday that being on the bench is his “dream job.”

Buchwald is known among lawyers to be quite loquacious, and that is because he likes to tell the parties in a case why he is ruling in a particular manner.

“You’re entitled to reasons. If you are there and have a case, the court ought to give reasons why it’s deciding one way or another,” Buchwald said.

Martins Beach

Buchwald’s penchant to explain his rulings raised some eyebrows when he issued his controversial 2013 ruling in favor of billionaire Vinod Kholsla in the Martins Beach access case. Buchwald said the beach was subject to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and required the United States to recognize Mexican land grants. Buchwald said the beach had been in private hands long before laws were passed to require public access to the coast.

Buchwald said in deciding the case he had to put his personal opinions aside and make a ruling based on the law. He pointed out in an interview that he was in his younger years an active climber and fly fisherman, as well as a former Sierra Club member (but canceled his membership when he was appointed to the bench).

Prior to becoming judge, Buchwald, a Hillsborough resident, was a partner at Redwood City firm Robers, Majecki, Kohn and Bentley. Buchwald said if a lawyer from that firm, or any other firm he worked with prior to his appointment, comes before him in a hearing, he will disclose that to the court.

A maverick

Buchwald said he can be a bit of a maverick in his rulings, but always tries to balance his rulings between statute and common law, where he’s looking for practical decisions so rulings could be applied to the real world.

Buchwald said he wanted to be a lawyer ever since seeing the 1960 movie “Inherit the Wind,” which depicts the true life story of a Tennessee teacher being prosecuted for teaching evolution in class.

After graduating from Northwestern University law school, he went into private practice, primarily practicing civil law.

In 1998, at the end of then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s term, he applied to become judge. He almost got the judgeship then — only to lose out to Quentin Kopp, who retired from the bench in 2004. Buchwald was appointed in 2005.

3 Comments

  1. It’s good to see somebody wanting to shake up the legal establishment with a challenge like this. Even if Wilson doesn’t win, it will keep the judges on their toes. Good on him.

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