Judicial candidate Stephen W. Valentine liked things the way they were when he was a court commissioner, saying that, as of late, court dealings have “moved away from public service.”
Valentine had originally intended to run for judge in two or three years, he said in an interview with the Mountain Democrat, after a superior court judge or two had retired. Instead, he is running now, saying that there are “appointee problems” and that “now is a good time to run.”
He is coming out of retirement where he tended to his goats, managed a “honey-do” list from his wife, and managing Burke Junction because of negative comments he has heard concerning the current judge, including from “attorneys and citizens who felt they weren’t being listened to” and that they were “not allowed to speak” during court to defend themselves. He has also heard that the current judge runs late, while in the six and a half years Valentine was Superior Court Commissioner in El Dorado County, he was late “once or twice.”
“It’s bad management. He’s been in the seat over a year. He should’ve worked it out by now,” Valentine said.
Valentine, who graduated from the B.E. Witkin Judicial College in 2004, has experience with the Courthouse, having been both referee and commissioner for the El Dorado County Superior Court from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe, as well as having been a judge pro tem. He handled cases on small claims, traffic, jury compliance, family law and juvenile delinquency, and attended many seminars on the topics.
He spent 13 years in law enforcement after graduating high school as a dispatcher, reserve deputy and reserve officer in Ventura County, also working with children and teaching them about law enforcement. He was on the Ventura County Grand Jury for a year and has also owned Labrador retriever dog kennels.
The candidate was proud to say that he had lowered the amount of jury noncompliance from thousands to less than 500, focusing more on compliance than punishing for lack thereof — a principle he carried through with most cases.
During family law cases, such as divorce, where the parties have no legal counsel — a type of case that Valentine was often specially given — Valentine said he would “take time to explain things,” going over a timeline with them. “It doesn’t just happen,” he said, referring to the concept held by many that the divorce happens quickly and easily.
Neighbors disputing over a barking dog or a broken mailbox may have other underlying issues, he said, and it is important to hear them out.
“They are very volatile situations,” he said. “It’s really about the music one neighbor plays loudly every Saturday morning. If there’s time, I listen to all the superfluous info, let them get it out, it makes them feel better. It’s not a decision on a $20 mailbox; it’s that these problems have come to a head.”
Both of these concepts are what being a superior court judge is about, Valentine said.
“It’s part of the job, educating people. That’s what a superior court judge does, handle problems, enforce the Constitution and protect the people from the government,” he said. “It’s the Constitution and then the laws.”
He originally retired because “Six and a half years is a long time, with six different bosses and a weekly trip to South Lake Tahoe (often in the winter),” the Shingle Springs resident said. “It got a little hairy. Originally, I was really looking forward to the drive, but near the end, it was drag.” He would have to be in Tahoe for 8 a.m. cases, something that wore him down.