Resident runs for Superior Court Judge

Roberta Winston is running for Superior Court Judge, Seat 18. (courtesy photo)

Resident runs for Superior Court Judge

Roberta Winston, an experienced lawyer, law firm partner and a Scripps Ranch resident for more than 30 years, is hoping to win election to San Diego Superior Court Judge, Seat 18 on March 3.

The election will fill a seat being vacated by retiring judge Jacqueline Stern. Winston’s opponent in the race is CJ Moody, a deputy district attorney for the last 17 years, including the last 15 in the San Diego District Attorney’s office. Since there are only two candidates running for the seat, the winner takes all on March 3.

Originally from Michigan, Winston earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Michigan State University in 1983, then headed west where she earned a juris doctorate from University of San Diego School of Law in 1986.

“I came out to thaw out,” she said.

She lived in various parts of San Diego during law school but discovered Scripps Ranch through a friend who bought a house here.

“That was in the late ’80s. At that time, Scripps Ranch was like the end of the earth, it was so far. There were deer everywhere,” she remembered. “I spent enough time here and fell in love with the area. I bought a place here in ’92 and never left.”

Her family, which includes her husband, two daughters, one son and two dogs, lost their home in the wildfire of 2003. Winston said the experience strengthened her appreciation of Scripps Ranch.

“There’s always silver linings, that’s kind of the way I look at things, and there were lots of them. Not the least of which was what it did in terms of bringing the community together,” she said. “It was extraordinary. It was a very bonding kind of experience that so many of us shared. My street looked like a war zone. We rebuilt in the same lot and we’re still there.”

According to Ballotpedia, the California Superior Courts are the trial courts of the California court system. Each of California’s 58 counties has a superior court, which handles civil and criminal cases, as well as family, probate and juvenile cases. To qualify as a superior court judge, a candidate must have been an attorney admitted to practice law (a member of the State Bar of California) or have served as a judge of a court of record in the state for at least 10 years immediately preceding election or appointment.

Winston noted that the decision of where in the San Diego County system the newly elected judges will be assigned and what type of cases they will work on is decided by the county’s presiding judge.

Winston feels that anyone qualified to run for judge can learn the rules and procedures required by the job, but factors like experience, discipline, discretion and fairness are critical for the position.

“I have 32 years of legal practice, experience. With that comes wisdom and some humility. I think both characteristics are essential for judges to have,” she said. “Because a judge that’s not humble is not serving their community in the way it needs to be served, in my opinion. And wisdom just comes from time. There’s no substitute. I have almost double the experience of my opponent.”

Since judges can be assigned to hear different types of cases than they may have practiced, Winston said the kind of law a candidate has practiced as an attorney isn’t as important as getting a sense of how a candidate will act as judge.

“People think, ‘Oh, you’ve got no criminal experience.’ Yeah, OK, and my opponent has no civil experience,” she said. “It’s more about what kind of sense do you have about (a candidate’s) sense of judgement, how that person will exercise discretion. We’re obligated to follow the law that exists, we don’t get to make it up. We’re not legislators. The evidence is the evidence, although judges have the discretion about what evidence will be admitted and what can’t be admitted. So, impartiality is critical; fairness is critical.”

For the last 20 years, Winston’s legal practice has focused on uncovering property insurance fraud and helping consumers battle fraud in the water restoration industry. As she explained, when an insurance company has identified red flags or suspicious circumstances in a claim, she talks to people under oath and renders a recommendation to the client as to how to proceed.

“They look to me to talk to that person under oath, listen to what they have to say, make a judgement on the facts, apply the law, and literally write an opinion and give it to them to tell them what to do,” she said. “Every day, I’m doing more judging than advocating. It’s exactly what I do – all the time. So, I have mastered the ability to talk to people under oath.”

She noted that clients count on her to give good advice. Bad advice could end up costing the client a lot of money.

“They are counting on me to be fair; they’re counting on me to be objective,” she said. “I’ve been practicing fairness for the last 20 years in an active way, so I feel like I have a leg up on that front, too.”

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