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Our Opinion: Annie get your robe

April 21, 2002

While we don't like many of his decisions, we don't like his tendency to politicize almost everything and we don't like the fact that in all his time in the state's highest office he has never set foot in our county, we do like Gov. Gray Davis' appointment of Annie Gutierrez to a judgeship on the Imperial County Superior Court.

Davis certainly could have made the appointment sooner — it took nearly a year and a half — to relieve our county's overcrowded, prison case-packed court system, but we can't argue with the choice he finally made.

Gutierrez is an Imperial Valley native who is respected in the profession and beyond. She will be the first woman to serve as a judge in the county's Superior Court. She also will be one more Hispanic judge in a highly Hispanic county, and that is a good thing. We already had a relatively high number of Hispanic judges in our court system and putting a Latina on the Superior Court bench makes the pool of judges even more representative of our populace here in Imperial County.

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Gutierrez's previous job was as a U.S. attorney, a position in which she served for the last seven years, pursuing drug and immigrant smugglers, tax cheats and racketeers. But her background is diverse. She grew up on a farm in the Westmorland area, was among the first group of people to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s, helped develop and manage programs for five Latin American countries while in the Peace Corps and also supervised training of Peace Corps volunteers. She served as a justice court judge for Westmorland before attending law school and then being appointed as the first executive secretary of the California Labor Relations Board.

She next was on President Jimmy Carter's staff as an adviser on justice and civil rights policy until becoming the district director for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Mexico. In 1981 she returned to the Valley to work as an attorney.

It would hard to be make up a better résumé than that. We also like that Gutierrez has been both a prosecutor and a private attorney. We love that she said when interviewed, "I believe in justice."

What better four words could a judge say?

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