There are 10 judges in the county, and two of those judges, Judge Robert Atack and Judge Michael Barton, will retire this year. Five candidates are in the running for their seats.
Below is a brief rundown of each candidate. More information can be found on their websites. The Press-Banner Editorial Board’s endorsements for judge can be found on Page 6.
Superior Court Judge Office 3 John Gallagher www.johngforjudge.com
John Gallagher, 59, served as a U.S. Army Airborne Infantry ranger for five years before joining the Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office in 1980. He spent seven years as a public defender in Santa Cruz before joining Bosso Williams as an attorney in 1987 and becoming partner in 1996. He has represented civil clients in matters from libel and slander to First Amendment issues, contract disputes, real estate disputes and corporate matters. He has represented public agencies, such as the Scotts Valley Water District, and large companies, including the Santa Cruz Seaside Co. and Santa Cruz Medical Clinic.
Gallagher, now a Scotts Valley resident, was heavily involved in coaching youth sports in Capitola and Santa Cruz while his children were young.
Gallagher said he will keep a courtroom where all feel safe and have a sense of dignity and respect. He wants to make judges more accessible and said he will continue to attend events in the community help open the courtroom to the people.
Gallagher said his broad range of experiences prepares him to take both criminal and civil cases if elected. Phil Crawford www.crawford4judge.com
Phil Crawford, 64, began his career as a police officer at the San Jose Police Department before going to law school at age 38, where he taught and took classes at the same time. He began his career handling criminal appeals and legal defense for police officers before entering the realm of family and juvenile law.
His career has included much work in juvenile and family law as a mediator and litigator. He’s also served on advisory boards dealing with family and juvenile matters. Much of his work has been in Contra Costa County, though he has lived in Santa Cruz for 40 years.
Crawford has also taught at local colleges and consulted for a number of corrections departments and law enforcement training centers.
He has secured a number of grants and plans to use his position as judge to call community meetings to help solve gang problems in the county.
Crawford said his knowledge of the court system, inside and out, and his desire to handle family and juvenile court make him good choice for judge. James Sibley www.sibleyforjudge.com
James Sibley, 50, is a high-energy career prosecutor who has participated in more than 150 jury trials in his career. He began his career in the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office. He said he left the office because he saw a manageable gang situation in the county, but his office was not making it a high priority in the early 1990s. Since then, Sibley has been a district attorney for the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office. He has prosecuted cases involving robbery and assault, career criminals, sex crimes, high-tech crime and real estate fraud.
His career has emphasized technology, as he directed a multi-agency task force called the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team that dealt with high-tech crimes.
Sibley served on the Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury last year and said it opened his eyes to the court system. He said he has an almost “encyclopedic” knowledge of the evidence code, which would allow him to hit the ground running as a judge.
Sibley prides himself on his tech savvy and said he will be able to educate other judges on tech issues.
Superior Court Judge Office 10 Rebecca Connolly www.rebeccaforjudge.org
Rebecca Connolly, 46, an Aptos resident who is a partner with the law firm Grunsky, Ebey, Farrar & Howell in Watsonville, is a high achiever who has steadily moved up the ranks. After graduating from University of California, Berkeley, with high honors, she earned a law degree from University of California, Davis, and edited the law review there.
She spent time as a law clerk in U.S. District Court, as an attorney helping farm workers with California Rural Legal Assistance, and then as a prosecutor during a short stint with the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office. She opened her own law office for four years, doing civil and business litigation, before accepting a clerkship under a chief U.S. magistrate. In 2003, she joined her present firm. She has participated in more than 20 federal cases in her career.
Connolly is fluent in Spanish and lectures on law throughout the area. She is passionate about constitutional law and wants to use her skills in the technology realm to push for electronic filing in the criminal courts in Santa Cruz.
She said she would ensure that people feel listened to in the courtroom and would make fair decisions based on the merits of the cases she heard. Steve Wright www.stevewrightforjudge.org
A Santa Cruz county resident since 1972, Wright, 58, said he has seen just about everything under the sun. As a defense attorney with the public defender’s office and then in private practice, he’s defended more than 200 cases in his career. Wright often talks about his five children, all Harbor High graduates, and his wife, a longtime employee of University of California, Santa Cruz, and his love for the community. He spent 18 years as a public defender in Santa Cruz before launching a private practice as a defense attorney, where he’s been ever since.
Wright said he is not in political circles to win high-powered endorsements, but to spend his time as a mentor to youth. His focus is helping young people become educated to keep them from falling into gangs or bad situations.
He said he can see through sob stories in the courtroom, will take any assignment and will work to run an efficient courtroom to save cash for the court system.
Wright points to his longstanding record of community involvement and his belief in the legal system as qualities that will help him be a strong judge.