State Judge Marian Gaston, who has spent all of her pre-bench career as a public defender, has now been nominated to the federal bench in San Diego.
Marian Gaston received a Bachelor of Arts from Emory University in 1993 and then a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1996.
Gaston then joined the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office. She held that position until Governor Edmund Brown appointed Gaston to the San Diego County Superior Court in 2015, where she currently serves.
History of the Seat
Gaston has been nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on August 1, 2021, by Judge William Hayes’ move to senior status.
Before she was appointed to the state bench, Gaston spent nineteen years, her entire legal career, as a public defender.in San Diego. Among the cases she handled there, Gaston represented Jason Williams, who pleaded guilty to a hate crime for attacking a black neighbor with a flamethrower. See Escondido Man Sentenced to Prison for Hate Attack, A.P. State & Local Wire, June 28, 2000.
In other matters, Gaston represented Matthew Hedge, who was alleged with violating his release as a sexually violent prisoner. See Kelly Wheeler, Polygraph Expert: Sexually Violent Predator Lied During Routine Test, City News Service, Dec. 9, 2009. She also represented Philong Huynh, charging with sexually assaulting multiple heterosexual men in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and with killing one. See Kelly Wheeler, Prosectuor: Accused Killer Targeted Heterosexual Men, City News Service, June 1, 2011.
Since 2015, Gaston has served as a judge on the San Diego Superior Court. In this role, she presides over trial court matters in criminal, civil, family, and other state law matters. Among the cases she handled, Gaston terminated the parental relationships for juvenile M.P., finding that the father’s drug addiction and the mother’s inability to care for the minor justified termination, a decision that was upheld on appeal. See In re M.P., 2021 WL 1960088 (Cal. App. 4th May 17, 2021).
In 2000, Gaston was interviewed about her work as a public defender by Renee Harrison. Renee Harrison, Part Two: Domestic Violence: Representing Defendants in Domestic Violence Prosecutions: Interview with a Public Defender, 11 J. Contemp. Legal Issues 63 (2000). The interview focused specifically on domestic violence cases, and, during the interview, Gaston elaborated on her strategies for fighting and winning domestic violence cases. In the interview, Gaston criticizes mandatory arrest for domestic violence, stating that such laws place the burden of arrest on men. See id. (“The police always arrest men, so men are usually the ones on trial.”). Gaston also defended individuals charged with domestic violence, noting:
“Most of the men cry over what has happened. About half of our clients are in mutually abusive, pathetic relationships. Both people in the relationship are alcoholics or drug addicts, and/or emotionally undeveloped, and/or uncommunicative.” Id. i
Gaston has made a handful of political contributions during her time as a public defender, including one to President Obama in 2008.
With over 25 years of legal experience, Gaston certainly has the base level of qualifications to be a federal judge. She will likely draw opposition for her time in public defense and some may draw questions as well about her statements on domestic violence, although Gaston can reasonably argue that she was speaking as part of her role as an advocate.