Benitez started working as a lawyer in 1979, in the El Centro private practice of Heim and Benitez. In August 1997 Benitez was appointed to the Imperial County Superior Court by Gov. Pete Wilson.
Benitez said he will miss his colleagues at the County Courthouse in El Centro.
"I will miss the people I worked with. We, here at the Superior Court, have great judges and staff, and the lawyers are just great to work with," he said.
"I tried to do the best I could and I hope they thought I was fair," he said.
Benitez said of his new position, "I hope to bring a greater amount of service to Imperial County and do what judges get paid to do."
Said Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jones: "It's been wonderful working with him. He's extremely bright and very helpful.
"We have a wonderful group of judges and we will be sad to see him go," he added.
Lyla Corfman, executive officer for the Superior Court, said, "He's tremendous. He brought a lot of new ideas to the bench and was always very supportive."
"We're sorry to lose him," she added.
Corfman said Benitez's vacancy will be filled by Gov. Gray Davis. Presiding Superior Court Judge Christopher W. Yeager will ask Davis to appoint a successor, since Benitez left in the middle of his six- year term.
Interested candidates will apply directly to Davis and the governor will make a selection. The candidate must be local.
The federal court where Benitez will preside is in the Valley Plaza mall in El Centro.
Benitez has been married for 28 years to Kitty and they have a son, Chris, 23, and a daughter Mary, 20.
Mario Rentería can be reached at 370-8549.