ALAMEDA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT CANDIDATE WOULD BE FIRST OPENLY TRANSGENDER JUDGE IN U.S. HISTORY
By Steven Tavares
“My commitment to public service and equal rights leads me to seek election to Judge of the Alameda Superior Court,” Victoria Kolakowski wrote in her candidates’ statement. “Less than a third of the judges currently serving on the Alameda County Superior Court are women, and it is time for another experienced woman to be added to the Court.” Except that Kolakowski is a woman bent on U.S. judicial history.
If elected next week, she will become the first openly transgender judicial court judge in U.S. history. She faces Alameda County Deputy District Attorney John Creighton in a runoff for Office 9 of the court. Kolakowski garnered 46 percent of the vote during the June primary over Creighton’s 32 percent, but failed to win an outright majority setting up Tuesday’s runoff.
Despite the background of Kolakowski, 49, the race has been largely without controversy. Judicial races lack the negative campaigning of other races. Candidate typically sign pledges to refrain from partisan bickering. Nevertheless, it is not Kolakowski’s sexuality that has been criticized but her campaign description of herself as a judge. A group of county attorneys banded together to protest signage that depicts Kolakowski as “judge,” which she contends is true. Some have said the argument is a proxy for her gender. Kolakowski is currently an administrative judge for the California Public Utilities Commission.
She told the gay rights’ forum change.org her unique personal experiences give her depth in understanding human nature and also allows her to shuffle around certain ingrained prejudices. “I believe that wisdom lies in being aware of these potential impacts, and distinguishing between helpful experience and biased preconceptions,” she said. “We have to be aware of when we are making value judgments, and be self-critical in evaluating whether that is helping or harming. This is why not just anyone with legal experience should be a judge. Wisdom and a good temperament are at least as important as knowledge of the evidence code in the courtroom.”
Kolakowski is not the only local candidate aspiring for history next Tuesday. Across the bay where Harvey Milk became the first openly gay official in U.S. history, Theresa Sparks hopes to become their first transgender board member. Openly transgender candidates are also on the ballot in Oklahoma, Oregon and Hawaii.
Creighton, though, hopes to stand in front of history. With a vast majority of the county judiciary in support of his candidacy along with that of his primary opponent, Louis Goodman, Creighton has the power to erase the large lead gained by Kolakowski during the primary. One of his platform positions calls for the creation of a gang court that would mete out punishment for offenders and help rehabilitate them. Creighton was also one of the attorneys who crafted the county’s prosecution of former BART cop Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of killing Oscar Grant.