Presiding judge serves last day on bench
Dec. 18, 2012 — After serving as a Lassen County Superior Court Judge since 2007, presiding judge F. Donald Sokol is stepping down from the local bench.
While he still has work to finish, Sokol heard his last court proceeding at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13 and a small surprise was in store, as his wife Debra, friends and colleagues filled up one side of the room for the event. His term ends Jan. 7.
After the brief hearing concluded, Lassen County District Attorney Bob Burns, who was among those in the audience, took the opportunity to share a few words.
Burns told Sokol he thought he saw a flicker of surprise when he walked into the courtroom and saw a number of people he wasn’t anticipating that day.
Sokol confirmed Burns’ assessment.
When word got out it was going to be Sokol’s last hearing, Burns said a few people wanted to come forward and give him the respect due for his service.
Burns reminisced that he tried his first jury trial in 1993 with Sokol as the defense attorney. The jury returned a not guilty verdict.
According to Burns, since then, he and Sokol started a 20-year relationship in practice and then as a district attorney and a judge.
Burns told Sokol he appreciated his temperament and civility in which he conducted court proceedings and those are things he aspires to.
Lassen County resident Dave Reger said he never associated with Sokol in the professional level in court, except for the repeated times he was called to serve on the grand jury.
Sokol has been a pilot for 70 years and Reger, a fellow pilot, said they met many years ago in a group “euphemistically referred to as airport bums,” and they “converged at the airport numerous times.”
Sokol became a first lieutenant in the United States Army Corp and Reger, who also served in the Army, said they are honor bound to do the best they could to do the right thing every day.
Reger said, in his mind, Sokol epitomizes someone who gets up every morning to do the right thing, even though the right thing may not be easy.
Sokol said, “I appreciate each and every one of you who showed up today. I think it’s really great.”
Court staff held a luncheon for him that day, too, and Sokol expressed appreciation the word retirement wasn’t used.
Sokol plans to become an assigned retired judge who will travel to different courtrooms in California to oversee proceedings.
When asked to describe his time serving as judge, Sokol said, “The word that comes to mind is rewarding. Any judge in any part of the country would agree with me, a very rewarding experience.”
With Sokol leaving, Lassen County Superior Court Judge Michelle Verderosa will become the presiding judge.
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