Fresno State Alum Continues Climb in California Judicial Ranks

Dec 21, 2012 No Comments by

FRESNO, Calif. – One of California’s newest appellate court justices is a Fresno State Bulldog ­– the Hon. Rosendo Peña, Jr. was confirmed today in San Francisco as associate justice of the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (Fresno) by the California Commission on Judicial Appointments. He is the first Latino appointed to the Fifth Appellate District.

Justice Peña was sworn in by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye. Nearly 90 of Peña’s friends and family observed, including his wife Rosa, mother Maria Elena Pena, and sister Frances Pena-Olgín, director of University Outreach Services at Fresno State.  

Peña, 57, is Parlier native who graduated from Fresno State with a bachelor of arts in political science in 1977. He graduated from UCLA School of Law in 1980.

Peña was appointed to serve on the Court of Appeal by Gov. Jerry Brown last month and begins his new appellate position immediately.

Judge Peña first worked with the California Fifth  District Court of Appeals as an attorney from 1984 until his 2002 appointment to the Fresno County Superior Court  by then-Gov. Gray Davis.

Previously he served as a deputy attorney for the California State Public Defenders Office from 1981-83; deputy attorney general for the California Attorney General’s office from 1990-92; and an associate attorney in private practice with the Law Firm of Hernandez and Ramirez from 1992-94.

While at Fresno State Peña was actively involved in the campus community. He co-founded the Chicanos in Law student organization, danced with Los Danzantes de Aztlán, was a member of MEChA and volunteered with the United Farm Workers union.

Peña was a member of Pi Gamma Mu, the College of Social Sciences honor society, and was a participant in the first Chicano Commencement Celebration in 1977 held at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

The guest speaker at that first Chicano Commencement was the Hon. Armando Rodriguez who helped open the judicial doors for many other Latinos. Rodriguez was among the supporters who attended the hearing to witness what he called a historic moment.

“I am obviously overjoyed to see this historic moment happen today and with a fellow Fresno State alum,” said Rodriguez, a 1959 graduate of Fresno State who practiced law in Fresno before becoming the first Latino elected to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors of Fresno County in 1972.

“It has been a long time coming with many people working very hard to get the opportunity for Latino justices in California. There is now at least one in all six appellate districts,” Judge Rodriguez added.

Justice Peña fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Justice Betty L. Dawson. Also sworn-in as associate justices today were Judge Adrienne M. Grover, Sixth Appellate District (San Jose), and Mr. James M. Humes, First Appellate District, Division Four (San Francisco).

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