Judging Candidates

Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley, left, talked Commissioner Heidi Whilden, right, into running for her seat.

When a vacancy opened on the bench in 1994, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley remembers thinking she didn’t want the job. “I was totally intimidated by the idea,” she recalls.

Now, after 20 years as a judge, having held onto her seat through two uncontested elections, Kingsley is retiring.

With her term winding down, Kingsley started thinking about who would be a good candidate to run for her seat, and she approached Commissioner Heidi Whilden. “It took some convincing,” Kingsley says. “If she’s able to take my seat, she’d be a wonderful next addition to the bench.”

Whilden has been serving in family law court since 2011 as a commissioner – effectively a judge, but with certain restrictions on caseload.

Most family members represent themselves, which Whilden says can be a challenge: “They don’t have attorneys who can prepare them. It’s important they leave feeling like justice was done, and they did have their day in court.”

If she’s elected, Monterey County Superior Court is hoping to get approval from the state Judicial Council to make her vacant seat into a judicial seat. California is 314 judges short, according to a 2012 judicial needs assessment, contributing to long wait times for cases.

It’s the second opening on the Monterey County judicial bench voters will have a say in on June 3, the primary. (If a candidate wins 50-percent-plus-one, the June election clinches it.) Judge Susan Dauphine is retiring, and has endorsed Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hulsey to run for her seat.

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