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Meet the Commissioners of the SJ Superior Court

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Meet the Commissioners

Jonathan Fattarsi    Tameem Mardini     Cheryl McCann    Michael J. Rasmussen

What/Who are (were) the major influences in your life, why?

My mom was a writer. She worked very hard on her books and I remember being told that it was nearly impossible to get one published. Her first book was published when I was in high school. It was the first time I came to believe that if you worked really hard on something, you could accomplish just about anything. I think about that any time I am about to take on something hard. She went on to publish 13 books, in several different languages.

Did you have a special mentor early in your career?

Miriam Lyell. She was my supervisor when I started at the Public Defender’s Office and remained constant presence throughout my time at the Public Defender’s Office. She inspired my curiosity for the practice of law, helped me find my confidence in a courtroom, and encouraged me to take on difficult and challenging cases.

Commissioner Fattarsi

Commissioner Jonathan Fattarsi

What is your greatest extravagance?

A good pair of running shoes. I spare no expense.

If you didn’t go into law, what profession would you have liked to do?

Software engineer. One of my first jobs was working at a software company. I learned to write a little code. It’s still kind of a hobby. While I was working at the Public Defender’s Office, I wrote a webapp that could calculate felony sentences. I think there are a few people out there that still use it.

What made you choose law as your profession?

My dad. He was a deputy public defender for over 25 years. He did a lot of trial work and handled some very serious cases. We talked about his work at the dinner table almost every night. I watched him in court a few times. There was nothing more exciting than being in a courtroom. I still get a thrill out of it today.

What is your least favorite word?

Can’t. And it especially bothers me that it is a contraction. Having an abbreviated form of the word cannot only makes it that much easier for you to give up on things.

What is your greatest fear?

Going to the dentist. Bats kind of freak me out too, but going to the dentist is the worst.

If you had the chance to play any song when the deputies announce your arrival, what would it be?

“Here Comes Your Man” by the Pixies

One thing we would never guess about you?

I was really shy growing up.




What has been your greatest accomplishment in your legal career? In your personal life?

Being able to help others when they were often at a low point in their lives was a great privilege that I was fortunate enough to experience and accomplish in my career as an attorney. Being selected by our bench as a Commissioner among the many very accomplished candidates was also a great honor and something that I am extremely proud of.

What/Who are (were) the major influences in your life, why?

My parents. Knowing the sacrifices and efforts my parents made in immigrating to this country as a young couple without much to their name has been incredibly inspiring and motivating to me and my siblings. Our parents’ accomplishments despite the many challenges they faced along the way have given us a great sense of pride and a real-life example that anything is possible with hard work and determination.

Did you have a special mentor early in your career?

Commissioner Tameem Mardini

Commissioner Tameem Mardini

I was fortunate to have two great mentors at the start of my career as an attorney. During law school I interned at the Carash Law Office with Joel and Julian Carash. That internship turned into a 12 year career with the firm and a lifelong relationship. I still benefit today from the very many tools I picked up during my time spent with Joel and Julian.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I’d have to say food. At some point my wife and I stopped looking for places to go to for dinner and started trying to put together fun and interesting tasting/pairing menus at home. We can get a little carried away with the menus, which can be a blow to the pocket and to the belt line.

What are the pros and cons of going to the bench as compared to practicing law?

As a lawyer I really enjoyed being able to help others. It is such a great feeling to be able to help someone get through difficulty in their life that they may not have overcome on their own. Although I may no longer have that individual experience on the bench, I am honored to now serve our broader community in my new role as a Commissioner.

Is there a need for more mandatory mediation and settlement efforts? Give us your honest thoughts.

Mediation is a great tool for dispute resolution when the parties are ready and willing to participate. Having mediators available in Court for matters involving small claims or restraining orders, for example, has been particularly helpful for parties that are motivated to resolve their cases on their own terms.

What made you choose law as your profession?

There are many reasons and many influences that I have had over the years, but it all boils down to wanting to be in a position to help others. I grew up seeing my father help people in the medical field and along the way I learned that law was my path to be able to do something similar.

What is your most treasured possession?

I can’t say that I really treasure any possessions. I treasure experiences and relationships with family and friends over everything else. With that said my siblings all pitched in and gifted me a smoker a few years back and it has sort of become an honorary member of the family now… Especially great for Sundays during football season.

What is your least favorite word?

Anything used to convey hate or bigotry.

Who in your Courtroom is most likely to tell a joke or make you laugh?

My fellow commissioners make me laugh daily. I’m very fortunate to have such great colleagues.

Who in your Courtroom is most likely to volunteer for something?

Our clerks. They work so hard and are always up for anything.

Does anyone in your Courtroom have a special talent you would like to share?

I haven’t seen it yet but I have heard that one of our deputies does a great Elvis.

What type of pets do you and/or your courtroom staff have?

My family recently “adopted” a dog from our in-laws. After years of begging, our kids finally became owners of a little white Pomeranian named Latte.

If you had the chance to play any song when the deputies announce your arrival, what would it be?

Darth Vader’s “Imperial March” would be funny. I already have the robe, just need the helmet.

One thing we would never guess about you?

Hmmm…. Start guessing and I will let you know.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be?

“Justice for All” … That may already be taken.




What has been your greatest accomplishment in your legal career? In your personal life?

My greatest accomplishment in my legal career has been my selection as the AB1058 Commissioner for San Joaquin County Courts. I truly love my job. My greatest accomplishment in my personal life is my raising of two healthy, happy, well-adjusted, law-abiding fine young men.

Did you have a special mentor early in your career?

I had two mentors: Margaret Mary Johnston and Daniel C. Lambertson. Marggie first hired me as law clerk while I was attending Law School. She taught me to always be prepared, honestly advise your client of what they can expect, help your client to understand what is truly in the best interests of the children, and never mislead the court as clients come and go but your reputation with the court never leaves. Dan was a scholar and had the best "bed side manner:" with his clients. He never got embroiled in a case, and was always willing to assist young attorneys. And, he made me laugh. To you lucky few, you know about the poems he would write to you and hand you in the middle of your argument to the court.

Commissioner Cheryl McCann

Commissioner Cheryl McCann

What are the pros and cons of going to the bench as compared to practicing law?

As an attorney, I could almost always find a legitimate argument to make on either side of the case. It was then left to the Judge to make the final call. As the bench officer, it is my job to make correct call, and in family law when people's limited finances or their children are involved, that is sometimes very difficult. I admit that there have been some decisions that I have agonized over as there was not any good answer.

Is there a need for more mandatory mediation and settlement efforts? Give us your honest thoughts.

I would like to see some of the attorneys put more effort into their settlement offers and briefs on property issues. They should have already had the real property evaluated, the vehicles blue-booked, bank statements and credit cards statements at date of separation exchanged so that the numbers can be plugged in and the equalization payment determined.

If you didn’t go into law, what profession would you have liked to do?

Growing up, one of my four brothers and I talked about opening a private investigation business together. Later, I thought about being a sports commentator. By the time I started college, I had decided to become a history teacher.

What made you choose law as your profession?

While in college, I decided that i did not want to deal with high school students and heard about paralegal programs, so I switched majors from history to political science. At Stan State, you were required to take one winter course. The only winter course offered during the time I chose to take it was a pre-law course. Our assignment was to write a brief on Roe vs. Wade, which I did. My professor came to me afterwards and asked me if I had read the Amicus Curie briefs submitted to the United States Supreme Court, which I had not. He strongly encouraged me to go to law school. I took the LSAT and did well, and the rest is history as they say.

What is your most treasured possession?

Not including my granddaughter, it would probably my dogs.

Who in your Courtroom is most likely to tell a joke or make you laugh?

Everyone in my courtroom makes me laugh. However, the person who comes up with the best one-liners because it comes from the least expected person is Krista.

Who in your Courtroom is most likely to bring in treats/decorate for the holidays?

I am the one who cooks and bakes for the staff, although my first bailiff Gary Yip would make us omelets in the morning and make cookies on the barbecue when we were at the 540 building. The aroma would waft through the building into the other departments. Krista brings the decorations.

Who in your Courtroom is most likely to volunteer for something?

Krista as she has the kindest heart.

Does anyone in your Courtroom have a special talent you would like to share?

My current bailiff, Jeff Reed, can ride a unicycle.

What type of pets do you and/or your courtroom staff have?

I have two boxers: Buster and Maddie (as in Posey and Madbum), Krista shares a multipoo Gigi with her mom, Mai has three chickens (Chicken Chicken, Verdugo, and Henrietta, Carol has a pit bull named Kenpatchi and a Calico cat named Mintz , and Jeff has several dogs that irritate him.

What is the craziest thing you’ve seen from the bench?

One day when I was hearing the restraining order calendar, I had just granted a restraining order against a lady when on her way out she propelled herself over the benches and attacked the other party's friend in the back of the court room. My bailiff went running towards the two of them and her and the lady ended up on the floor. By this time, my staff had pushed the panic button requesting assistance and I had to leave the courtroom.

If you had the chance to play any song when the deputies announce your arrival, what would it be?

Centerfield by John Fogarty

One thing we would never guess about you?

I think it is that I hate being the center of attention and public speaking, which is ironic based on what I do. My staff says that under my tough exterior I am big softy.




What has been your greatest accomplishment in your legal career?

My greatest legal accomplishment was being selected to be a commissioner by the San Joaquin County Superior Court Judges in 2020. After serving this county as a Deputy District Attorney for 22 years I decided I needed a new challenge and applied for the position. I was very nervous about actually making the move because I started just as the county was being hit by the 1st wave of the pandemic. I made the right choice.

What/Who are (were) the major influences in your life, why?

The major influences in my life were my parents and siblings. I am the youngest of six and it was instilled in me at a very early age that hard work, doing the right thing, and kindness is how your life should be lived. I have tried to live by their examples my entire life.

If you didn’t go into law, what profession would you have liked to do?

If I did not pursue a career in law, I would have been a firefighter. Everyone loves a firefighter! I have a brother-in-law who retired as a fire captain after serving 20 years in the fire department. He has told many stories how he has been able to help people over the years and how fulfilling that is. Also, he retired with full benefits after 30 years at age 50!!

Commissioner Michael J. Rasmussen

Commissioner Michael J. Rasmussen

Why would mediation benefit your courtroom?

I believe that mediation is a great tool for small claims, unlawful detainers, and civil restraining order calendars. The litigants, most who are unrepresented, are given an opportunity to participate with a mediator in a less intimidating and formal setting to discuss their grievances. This setting allows the participants an opportunity to present their case and agree to a stipulated agreement that they are more likely to buy into without having the court hear the matter and make its ruling. In my experience, when parties come back into court with their agreement, they both are satisfied with the outcome.

What made you choose law as your profession?

In the weeks before the beginning of my junior year at San Diego State University, I was selected to be on a civil jury. The trial was about 2 weeks long and the attorneys were just not that good. During the trial the judge had to constantly remind the two attorneys to speak up because the jurors could not hear them. I thought to myself, I can do this! I immediately changed from a Business major to Political Science major. (The matter was heard in Santa Clara County and did not involve any attorneys from San Joaquin County).

What is your greatest fear?

Throughout my legal career (and my life, for that matter) my biggest fear is not being prepared. This was true when I was a Deputy District Attorney and as carried on a commissioner. This drives me to ensure make sure to prepare for each calendar and read up on the cases before taking the bench. If there are issues that I can see with a case, I make sure to research on the appropriate laws and cases to ensure my readiness.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be?

My motto was instilled in me by a former Chief Deputy District Attorney early on in my career as a prosecutor, “Do the right thing”. I still think of this to this day.

 

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