Superior Court Judge (No. 14) candidate John L. Fielder

Kern County Voter’s Guide

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Superior Court Judge (No. 14) candidate John L. FielderKern County Superior Court Judge John Fielder, a 37-year veteran on the bench, is facing his first ever campaign trail.

Initially appointed by judges in the West Kern Municipal Court, he was promoted to Superior Court judge following the sudden death of his predecessor. For the next six terms, he was unchallenged.

“So this is all new to me,” he said.

He acknowledged his opponent’s claim that he had been corrected four times by Commission on Judicial Performance.

“That just means they think something we did was not appropriate. I’ve been on the bench for a very long time, and I’m almost always in high-volume courts,” he said.

“This morning I had 190 criminal cases I did. You’re moving fast, no one is perfect — you’re going to make mistakes.

“I could have retired with full benefits 10 years ago. I do this because I care and I want to give back to my community.”

Fielder said that prior to his current assignment, he spent 10 years in family law. “That’s the hardest assignment you can have. And for eight of those years I supervised.”

Family law is where you can make the biggest difference, he said. “You see people at the worst time in their lives. Divorce is horrible — I went through one so I know it’s a horrible process.

“People do things because they are hurt, and that hurts their children. I try and help people refocus on their kids. People will put up with a lot from each other in order to protect their kids. And by the end of the process, most people are the good people they were before, and they can go on with their lives.”

Criminal cases are different, he said, because you don’t always have the ability to have that positive influence.

“My opponent speaks of his experience in the courtroom, but the vast majority of our work is not in the trial courts. Jury trials take a huge amount of time and resources, but most cases never see a jury trial.

“In family law I was in trials every single day where I would have to make a decision, and I am the only one who bears the responsibility of making sure all the property is divided, the kids are in both people’s lives and everything has been done fairly.”

Fielder added, however, that he does have experience in hearing virtually every kind of case.

“I am very efficient in my handling of the courts. I am very careful to ensure that each person has a chance to present themselves. I try very hard to make decisions based not on emotion, but the evidence presented,” he said.

“We have a lot more pro pers [unrepresented parties] now, especially in family law. I would say more than half.

“So we have this very fine line we are walking where we want to help them get their story out, but we cannot help them prepare their case — that would not be fair to the other party. So there is a delicate balance.”

He said that one of the challenges during the campaign process has been following the strict judicial canons. “We’re not allowed to say, ‘I will do this’ and ‘I will do that.’ The other three candidates have unfortunately made that mistake, and it’s a violation of the rules. And it’s probably because they don’t know.

“Quite honestly, judges have to live under a set of rules that most people could not live under. It’s that simple.”

He said the people most qualified to know whether he is doing a good job are those in the same profession. “Every other judge on the bench has endorsed me. I would explain to you that judges are very independent minded. We don’t want people telling us what to do — and we seldom agree on anything. So it’s significant that they unaniously agree on this.”

Story First Published: 2018-05-25