Lesbian Names to Bench
Vacationing in Tulum, Mexico with her family for the holidays, Berkeley resident Kimberly E. Colwell received an unexpected surprise. Governor Jerry Brown’s office called her Christmas Day to inform her she had been selected to fill a judicial vacancy.
Colwell, 54, is believed to be the first out lesbian to be appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court and is only the third out judicial appointment Brown is known to have announced since returning to the governor’s office in 2011.
"It was a very nice Christmas present," Colwell told the Bay Area Reporter by phone Thursday, December 27 as she was standing in the warm waters of the Caribbean.
A shareholder and head of the litigation group at Meyers Nave Riback Silver and Wilson since 2002, Colwell applied for a judicial appointment in late 2011. She is filling a vacancy created by the conversion of a court commissioner position on June 27, 2012.
"I am really excited to be an out member of the judiciary. I think the community needs to see itself and I don’t know if there are enough gay people who are judges," said Colwell, who earned a Juris Doctorate degree from UC Hastings College of the Law. "I think it is important for people who go into a courtroom that they see themselves up there."
After growing up in the North Hollywood district of the San Fernando Valley, Colwell received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Linfield College.
For nearly 13 years she has been with her wife, filmmaker Deborah Alice Craig, who is working on a project about lesbian health. The couple first married in San Francisco in 2004 and again in 2008 prior to the passage of California’s same-sex marriage ban.
According to her bio on her law firm’s website, Colwell has conducted more than 75 trials and represented a wide array of clients, from police officers and cities to school districts and private security companies. She also handled cases for the Judicial Council of California, representing judges, appellate court justices, and court employees all over northern California.
She was part of her firm’s team that conducted a confidential internal affairs investigation for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District into the officer-involved shooting death of Oscar Grant class=st>in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. The Daily Journal legal paper named Colwell one of the Top 100 Women Litigators that year.