News & Media

Annual Alumni Assoc. Judicial Officers Mixer Presents "Incredible Opportunity"

Published: October 04, 2013
6th Annual Alumni Association Judicial Officers Mixer
(Left) Hon. Roger Benitez '78

In a long standing tradition, retired Superior Court Commissioner Gary Bloch '81 gathered distinguished guests from the state and federal benches to mingle with TJSL students, faculty and alumni at the Annual Alumni Association Judicial Officers Mixer the evening of Thursday, October 3.  

“The first Judicial Officers Mixer was held in 2008,” said TJSL Alumni Relations Director Vanessa Vandever. “This event is an amazing opportunity for students to get to know and interact with judges in a less formal environment.”  

“This year it was a very special way to honor new TJSL Trustee and Federal Judge Roger Benitez '78, as well as introduce TJSL’s new Dean, Thomas Guernsey, to the local judiciary,” said Alumni Board member Renee Galente ‘08. Dean Guernsey welcomed the distinguished judicial officers and recognized Superior Court Commissioner Gary Bloch, who retired recently.  

“This school puts out quality students, quality lawyers and quality judges," said Commissioner Bloch.

Alonso Zavalasoto (3L) is one of those ‘quality students’ that Commissioner Bloch was referring to, and he proved that by making the most of this unique experience. “I had a great time at the mixer,” said Zavalasoto. “It was an amazing opportunity to talk to local judges in a social setting.” Zavalasoto said he enjoyed meeting Judge Browder Willis ’83 in this relaxed atmosphere because he has appeared before the judge and argued several motions in his Court while serving as an intern at the Office of the Public Defender. “Judge Willis stood out to me because of the way he counsels kids that are before him," explained Zavalasoto. "One of my most memorable times in his courtroom was when he cited the poem 'I am Somebody' to an African American kid in order to motivate him and provide some comfort. Juvenile Court is emotionally draining, but Judge Willis always had words of wisdom that eased the kids' anxieties.”  The mixer that brought together eight Judges and one Commissioner was held on the eighth-floor outdoor terrace of TJSL’s downtown San Diego campus.   

“As a 1L, it is important to gather advice and wisdom from successful TJSL alumni within the legal community," said Janate Valenzuela (1L). “Attending the Judicial Officers Mixer gave me the opportunity to connect with people who have chosen career paths that I wish to emulate. It was an enjoyable evening."  

“This was a great opportunity to interact with judges in a casual atmosphere,” said Andrew Halbert (3L). “There was great insight into the legal profession and, in particular, working as a judge. Additionally, it was great to have so many alumni and faculty present.  It provided a great cross-section of the legal profession.”  

“It was great to interact with TJSL alumni who are now judges in the community,” said Randy Abreu (3L). “The intersection between alma mater and professional career is important to gauge and the great judges who spoke with us have certainly made an impact in many ways. Judge David Danielsen, Assistant Presiding Judge at the Superior Court, provided enlightening advice on bar prep and the best approach to starting a successful career. Lastly, as a civics and history geek, the best part of my night was discussing and comparing with Judge Danielsen and retired Commissioner Gary Bloch the local judiciary effects of the California budget cuts versus the federal effects of the current government shutdown.” The honored guests included; The Hon. Browder Willis ’83, Hon. Cindy Davis ’75, Hon. Gary Bloch ’81, Hon. James Atkins, Hon. Randa Trapp, Hon. Patricia Garcia, Hon. David Danielsen, Hon. Garry Haehnle ’89 and Hon. Roger Benitez ‘78, who is TJSL's first graduate to sit on the federal bench. “All of the judges had nothing but positive things to say about TJSL students," said SBA President Milena Celentano 3L. “Many expressed a similar sentiment: in their experience, the most successful students are the hungry students. Their impression was that TJSL has produced many hungry, diligent clerks. It was particularly interesting to hear Hon. David J. Danielson speak on the changes that have taken place in the San Diego Superior Court within the past year and half as well as what we should expect to see in the future." “The judges who participate are incredibly gracious and receptive to talking with students and every year seem to really enjoy this event,” said Galente. “It's an incredible opportunity for the students to interact informally with the judiciary who come to support the school. Bottom line - it was, as always, a fantastic event!” The next Alumni event is the Alumni & Friends Golf Tournament being held on Friday, October 11, 2013 at Sycuan Golf Resort.