Terrie Roberts’ 20 Years of Service Skyrockets Her to Candidacy for San Diego Superior Court Judge.
As a little girl in 1972, I would watch Perry Mason on TV. He was so cool in court. Everyone would listen intently to every word he said. I thought to myself ‘I want to do that.’ I want to talk to jurors,” candidate for San Diego Superior Court Judge and current San Diego Superior Court Commissioner Terrie Roberts says. “But I remember thinking, ‘well, I don’t look like him, so I don’t think I can do that.’” Fortunately, she proved herself to be very wrong, to the benefit of herself and so many others.
“Over the years, my mom repeatedly said that I should become a lawyer because I loved to argue.” Commissioner Roberts became the second person in her family to graduate from college when she received her degree in Business Administration. (Her father received a B.S. and Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering). She then took a job with a bank following graduation. But after a year, she knew she needed more of a challenge, and knew it was time to pursue the thought that had lingered in the back of her mind for years. Though, she admits to being fearful of entering law school. “Despite the fear, I forged ahead. Going to law school was the best decision I ever made.” She became the first lawyer in her family. Now there are actually two in the family – her younger sister is a lawyer as well.
The Launch Pad
After her graduation from what is now known as the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, Commissioner Roberts set out to start a life in California. After passing the California Bar in 1992, she accepted a position with a small Los Angeles law firm. But while in San Diego to be sworn in, she submitted a resume to the Public Defender’s office and was hired immediately. “It was not complicated to choose San Diego over Los Angeles.” Roberts had officially launched her legal career.
For the next three years, Commissioner Roberts would defend clients charged with various crimes, including individuals with drug and alcohol addictions, and individuals with mental illnesses. After three years, in that capacity Roberts again decided to challenge herself by branching out into a new field of law, where she would hone her skills trying civil jury trials and litigating complex business arbitration matters. She was mentored and worked hand in hand with civil litigator Beatrice Kemp for more than a year in this capacity before launching her own practice, The Law Offices of Terrie Roberts in 1996. Commissioner Roberts continued to handle civil and criminal matters while in practice for herself.
Roberts remained a solo practitioner until 2001, when she returned to the public sector as a Deputy District Attorney. For the next seven years, Roberts would prosecute numerous cases, including home robberies, rape, kidnapping, mayhem and attempted murder. She achieved her childhood dream during her 16½ years of practice by standing in front of many jurors as a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney, and a civil litigator. She has never forgotten though, the self-imposed doubt she had back in 1972. Today, there are many women and people of color who have become lawyers and judges. Seeing their achievements will decrease the likelihood of young girls having the same self-limiting thoughts she had growing up. “I would like for little girls to not have that same thought (that they are limited in what they can accomplish because they are not the same gender or race of another person). I don’t want any kid to have that thought.”
In an effort to encourage kids to not only stay in school, but to excel, Commissioner Roberts has spent years talking to, mentoring, and reading to students in various schools and programs throughout the county, including in the AVID program, and at Porter, Johnson, and Laura Rodriguez Elementary Schools. Moreover, her unwavering commitment to diversity extended to her becoming a Co-Leader of the District Attorney’s Diversity Pipeline program in 2007. This tireless work in encouraging students was about to have a marked impact not only on the students Roberts was spending her time with, but on her own career as well.
Shooting for the Stars
Although Commissioner Roberts had been a highly visible public figure in the San Diego community during her legal career, in May of 2008, while serving as a Deputy District Attorney, her service to the legal field and commitment to community efforts were very publicly recognized. She was awarded the San Diego County Bar’s elite Outstanding Service by a Public Attorney Award given for a Combination of Excellence in the Practice of Law with Service to the Community, the Profession, the Association or Legal Education. Concurrent with that accolade, Commissioner Roberts was selected to serve as a San Diego Superior Court Commissioner. For the past four years, she has presided over thousands of criminal and civil matters in her South County courtroom.
Now, exactly 20 years after she launched her career, there seem to be no heights to which Commissioner Roberts can’t climb. As Election Day draws nearer, Commissioner Roberts continues to accrue endorsements for her candidacy from those she has had a direct impact on, and on those who have admired her professionalism, work ethic, sense of fairness, and commitment to diversity from afar. Sheriff William D. Gore, State Senator Christine Kehoe, State Assembly member Toni Atkins, State Assembly member Marty Block, San Diego City Council President Tony Young, San Diego City Council member Todd Gloria, and former San Diego Public Defender Steve Carroll have publicly announced their endorsement of her for Superior Court Judge.
Legal organizations that applaud her efforts in diversity and publicly support Commissioner Roberts for judge include the Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego (FALSD), the Korean American Bar Association (KABA-SD), the Pan Asian Lawyers of San Diego (PALSD), the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association (SDLRLA), the South Asian Bar Association of San Diego (SABA-SD), Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association (EBGBA), Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) and the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association. Law enforcement support, in addition to that of Sheriff Gore, has come from the Escondido Police Officers Association, the San Diego Black Police Officers Association, and the San Diego Community College Police Officers’ Association.
Commissioner Roberts has certainly come a long way from the self-doubting little girl in 1972, to having achieved an exemplary legal career, and now a judicial career. Her decision to take on a county-wide judicial race is just another example of the high goals she sets for herself. When asked if running in the judicial race is scary, she responded, “Absolutely! However, doing what scares me has always resulted in a growing opportunity – so it’s so worth it.” Although she continues to spread the message of striving for excellence and constantly challenging yourself to young people everywhere, she, along with Greg, her husband of almost 16 years, are focused on first instilling that message and habit in their two daughters at home.ν
To learn more about the campaign, contact Commissioner Roberts at:
Filed Under: Featured Stories
About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal