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switched to plaintiffs work and unfair
business class actions. In 1998, she
moved her practice to Morison-Knox,
Holden, Melendez & Prough, where she
went back to insurance defense.
In 2000, Fannin became a mediator
Contra Costa County Superior
at JAMS, the alternative dispute resolu­
Court judge, appointed by Gov. Gray
tion center where her father was chair­
Davis, April 2003; mediator at JAMS,
man of the board at the time. The deci­
2000-2003; Morison-Knox, Holden,
sion to go that route was based on a
1\t!elendez & ?rough, 1998-2000; Farow
growing weariness of writing motions
& Bramson, 1993-1998; Bronson,
and researching cases and a desire for
Bronson & McKinn on 1989-1993; Guy

personal contact.
Kornblum & Associates, 1987-1989.
"I do Jove the analytical part of
law," the judge said. "But I wasn't hav­
By Dennis J. Opatrny
ing any people contact. Then I realized
Daily Journal Staff W riter
that I wasn't going to ifl kept doing any
MARTINEZ Contra Costa
practice area that I had done."
County Superior Court Judge Jill
She said the three-year mediator
Fannin grew up in a household where
stint at JAMS satisfied her cravings.
body parts were often the subject of
Fannin said a mediator practice is "per­
sonality-driven .... people come to a
Or family members might argue
mediator. They just don't go to JAMS."
over who is responsible if a burglar falls
Fannin said. "It always seemed so exit­ Each mediator must develop a clientele
and injures himself. ·

ing and interesting..... Plus, 'Perry based on reputation. Retired judges,

These may seem like unusual top­
Mason' was big then." who come from public courts, have the
ics, but Fannin's father, Coleman
When her father sat on the Contra advantage through name recognition,
Fannin, a retired judge and now a pri­
Costa County bench, Fannin would she said.
vate arbitrator, steeped his daughter in
bicycle down to the Martinez court­ "But lawyers have definitely come
the law.
house and watch the proceedings. into their own in the mediation field,"
"In my family we would talk about
"It was fabulous," she recalled. she added.
what's the value of an arm," Jill Fannin
Fond memories of those court­ . As a new judge, Fannin initially
recalled, smiling at the memory of her
house visits inspired her to earn a law presided over civil matters, misde­
early years.
degree at Hastings College of the Law meanor criminal trials and preliminary
Her father remembers that particu­
in 1987 after she finished her under­ hearings in the Richmond branch of the
lar discussion a bit differently.
graduate studies at UC Berkeley. court. Then she moved to Martinez to
"We discussed the value of an arm
For someone who always wanted handle high-volume criminal arraign­
that's off, not an arm," he said in a
to be a judge, Fannin's career dream ments, preliminary hearings and
recent interview.
came true in April 2003, when Gov. Proposition 36 drug court.
Looking back, Coleman Fannin
Gray Davis, a Democrat, appointed her Last December, she asked to .be
says he could see early on that his
several years after she fi r st applied. transferred to juvenile court, an assign­
daughter had the right mindset to follow
She said she still doesn't know how ment most judges try to avoid despite its
in his footsteps.
it happened. importance.
"She was always the mediator
"I think the appointment process is "I know it's not what many covet,
between [her siblings)," he said. "That's
just one big, black box," she said. but I really wanted to see what it was
why I think she brings peace, calm and
She prepared for the bench with a like, both with delinquency and helping
fair resolutions on the matters before
legal career that began in the 1980s. She families in dependency," she said.
handled insurance issues, including bad She finds her new assignment
He recalled that as a youngster, Jill
faith claims, first at San Francisco's Guy challenging and rewarding, in part
would play judge when children in her
Kornblum & Associates and later at because she faces a steep learning curve
neighborhood held a trial; her sister,
Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon. in a new area of the law.
Toni, would sometimes be the defen­
In 1993, she joined the Farrow "You see the system works .... and
Bramson firm in Walnut Creek and families get back together," the judge
"I always wanted to do it;" Jill

©Daily Journal Corporation 2006-2


said. But not always, she added. ingness to help the boy quit drugs and
Sometimes Fannin has to make the escape a life that could tum to serious In the matter of minor AZ, J05-
heart-wrenching decision to remove a crime. 0l885, dependency
child from a family because of abuse or The judge said it was unusual in Deputy County Counsel Patricia
some other dangerous situtation. Some her court for youngsters to remain hand­ Lowe
of those kids are adopted and others sent cuffed while they sit with their defense Alternate Public Defender Peggy
to foster homes. lawyers. Fannin said she wants the Stone
"It's what we do," she said. youths to have their hands free while Walnut Creek sole practitioner J.C.
She said the purpose of her court is talking to her. Borgman
to try to reunify families that have bro­ But leg chains are standard, even Concord sole practitioner Robert
ken up, mostly because the parents are for the girls who come to court. And for Kosloff
not doing what the court has told them good reason: During Fannin's first week Deputy Public Defender Sung Ae
they must to retain their child. on the job, she prepared to order a Choi
"After a certain period of time, if young man into custody, when he bolt­ Martinez attorney Judith Lawrence
the parents don't get their act together, ed. of Willis & Lawrence
then the burden changes and it becomes "The kid just pushed back his chair
what is in the best interest of the child," and took. off," she recalled. "He got In the matter of minor C, JOS-
she said. about six blocks down the street until 01856, dependency
But Fannin has had to teach herself security poured out of the courthouse to Deputy County Counsel Melinda
to stay emotionally detached from the get.him." Frey
decisions she has to make. It didn't She also spoke of an incident in Alternate Public Defender Robert
come easily. which a young man lunged across the Gendreau
"At first I kept having flashbacks bench to get at a judge, one of her col­ Richmond sole practitioner
of everybody's traumatic lives," she leagues. Terrence Andrews
said. "It's unpredictable," she said. Deputy Public Defender Sally
"The hardest is when you have to "They tend to be impulsive individu­ Martin
make the decision that a set of parents als."
intentionally hurt their child," she said. Deputy District Attorney Stacey In the matter of minor B, J05-
Deputy County Counsel Noel Grassini said Fannin has "the right 0l77 l, dependency
Plummer, who appears often in depend­ demeanor for the right situation" iii Deputy County Counsel Noel
ency matters, said Fannin brings a good delinquency court. "She's used to the Plummer
temperament to bench criminal part." Deputy Public Defender Leslie (
"She never loses her temper and Deputy Public Defender Rob Bialik
keeps her sense of humor," Plummer Gendreau said Fannin has adjusted to Oakland sole practitioner David
said . "She's gentle with the children." dealing with juveniles with a sincere Washington
Martinez attorney Judith Lawrence interest in what happens to them.
said Fannin has picked up the intricacies "She is more interested in the equi­ In the matter of minor UH, JOS-
of the dependency court quickly. ties.... the people and their problems and 02039, assault
"She's one of those judges who, she wants to solve them," he said. Deputy District Attorney Stacey
when she needs something, she'll ask," All the lawyers said they enjoyed Grassini
said Lawrence of Willis & Lawrence. appearing before Fannin. Deputy Public Defender Jack Funk
The other part of her assignment is She said she tries to keep her court­
dealing with juvenile delinquents, many room relaxed to reduce tension. In the matter of minor MC, J05-
of whom commit serious felonies and But she won't tolerate tardy attor­ 0l 253, assault
come to court with attitudes picked up neys. The first time, she hauls them into Deputy District Attorney
on the mean streets they know all too chambers to privately tell them "to Dominique Yancy
well. knock it off." The second offense gets Alternate Public Defender
In a recent court session, a 16-year­ an admonishment from the bench. The Elizabeth Harrigan
old with a drug habit and charged with a third infraction will hit the lawyer in the
misdemeanor firearm violation sat in pocketbook, when she imposes sanc­ This profile appeared in the San
court handcuffed with legs chained. tions. Francisco Daily Journal on May 5,
Fannin said she was reluctant to Fannin is married with three chil­ 2006. It appeared in the Los Angeles
release him to the custody of his uncle dren, including two boys, 13 and 11, Daily Journal on May 9, 2006.
because of the drug habit. So she and a girl, 8. Her husband, Ed Bachman,
referred him to a detention ranch in sells industrial products.
Contra Costa County, where he could The judge said she has no time for
get drug treatment. hobbies.
"You can get out in four months, if "I spend almost all my time doing
you perform well," the judge told the , my kids' activities, from sports to piano
youth. "If you don't perform well, you'll to whatever is going on," she said.
have to do six months."
Fannin then congratulated the Here are some of Judge Fannin's
µncle, who came to court, for his will- recent cases and lawyers involved.

2006-2 ©Daily Journal. Corporation



Court: Superior Court of California

County of Contra Costa
Title: Judge
Dates: 2003 to Present
Status: A ppointed
Appoi nted by: Governor Gray Davis
Date: April 1, 2003


Law School: Hastings College of the

Location: San Francisco, CA
Date: 1987
Degree: J.D.

College: University of California -

Location: Berkeley, CA
Degree: B.A.


JAMS - Mediator
From: 2000 to 2003

Morison-Knox, Holden, Melendez &

From: 1998 to 2000

Farow & Bramson

From: 1993 to 1998

Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon

From: 1989 to 1993

Gut Kornblum & Associates

From: 1987 to 1989



Admitted to California State Bar,



Spouse: Ed Bachman
Children: Two boys and one girl
Recreation: Doing her kids' activities
(sports, piano, etc.)

©Daily Journal Corporation 2006-2