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Editorial: Colin, Sevely best choices for judgeship

Five in running for two Superior Court seats

Editor's Note: The Palo Alto Weekly initially endorsed Steven Pogue instead of Cynthia Sevely, but rescinded it on May 25 after learning that Pogue had been a financial backer of Prop. 8, the measure changing the California constitution to ban gay marriage. See May 25 story explaining the rescission.

Along with the more publicized races for state legislative offices and county supervisor, Santa Clara County voters also will elect two Superior Court judges when they go to the polls June 5. By tradition, judicial candidates run quiet, relatively inexpensive campaigns, preferring to stay out of the limelight. Judgeships are often filled by gubernatorial appointment due to a judge resigning in the middle of a six-year term. When a judge retires effective at the end of their term, voters get to decide. The top vote-getter for each seat will be elected on June 5.

In this race, Paul Colin, Chris Cobey and Alex Cerul are vying for the seat held by retiring Judge Jerome E. Brock, while Cynthia A. Sevely and Steven R. Pogue are seeking to replace Neal A. Cabrinha, who is also retiring.

In the race to replace Brock, the Palo Alto Weekly finds Paul Colin and Chris Cobey equally qualified but believe Colin's solid experience and reputation as a deputy district attorney edges out Cobey's many years at a large business firm. Colin has prosecuted a wide range of cases, including sexual assault, sexual predators, drug dealing, DUIs and complex economic crimes such as fraud involving mortgages and real estate, the elderly, securities and insurance. Law is Colin's third career, after stints in bookkeeping and high-tech. He graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston in 1992 and began work with the Santa Clara County District Attorney.

Colin sees moving to the bench as a public service and pledges to hold true to his reputation for fairness and integrity. He is endorsed by the incumbent and numerous other sitting judges, public officials and attorneys.

Chris Cobey is a litigator who represents small to large private companies and public-sector clients in various aspects of workplace law. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford in 1971 and a law degree from UC Davis in 1974 and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the northern and eastern districts of the U.S. District Court.

Shortly after leaving law school he served as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles and later San Mateo County, bringing more than 60 misdemeanor and felony cases to a jury verdict before moving on to a civil law career. Cobey has numerous endorsements from public officials and sitting and retired judges and has served as a temporary judge, an arbitrator and on many bar-association committees.

As one of four research attorneys serving the Superior Court, Alexis Cerul works for Santa Clara County judges on complex cases. He said his position is not to advocate for either side but to provide judges the information they need to make a fair decision.

Cerul focused on criminal law at the University of San Francisco School of Law and after internships with the district attorney and public defender began his career as a court attorney, becoming supervisor after three years. He oversees three other attorneys who work with judges to update local and statewide rules and procedures for the court.

Cerul is endorsed by a number of sitting and retired judges, various labor groups, some public officials and numerous individuals and community leaders.

In the race for the second judgeship, our choice is Steve Pogue, a general-practice attorney who said it has always been his goal to become a judge. Many of Pogue's clients are immigrants, perhaps because he is a fluent in Spanish and can get along in several other languages. He said sitting on the bench requires a great sensibility as more and more persons before the court are seeking justice without lawyers. He said as an attorney he tries to never forget that when people seek his help they often are at a crossroads in their lives.

Pogue graduated from San Jose State and Lincoln University Law School in San Jose and also worked at Lockheed, where he was a union steward and member of the negotiating committee. He also obtained a masters degree in taxation from Lincoln. He is active in Scouting and was a longtime volunteer with the Independence High School Marching Band, repairing equipment and helping to transport instruments to concerts.

We believe Pogue would bring a unique background to the court as well as a sensitivity to the average citizen that we find refreshing and needed on the bench.

Pogue's opponent, Cynthia Sevely, is a deputy district attorney and an experienced prosecutor who has specialized in rape cases, child molestation, physical abuse and homicides involving children and the elderly. She is director of the law clerk and college internship program in the District Attorney's office and is a mentor to students. She has supervised the misdemeanor team and been in charge of newly hired attorneys.

Sevely attended Santa Clara University and Santa Clara's College of Law. She is endorsed by many Superior Court judges and law enforcement officials.

Related column:

Editorial: Hill, Gordon, Simitian best choices in local races

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