Irene Luna had a secret to keep. On Monday night, she received a phone call telling her she was going to become a judge in the Fresno County Superior Court.
“My heart started beating (fast). I did cry because it was shocking and, you know, a lot to process. I’m still processing it,” Luna said.
She and her husband Louis had to wait until Wednesday when the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom made the official announcement.
“We couldn’t tell anyone … it’s been hard to keep it a secret. and we’re happy that we can celebrate,” Luna said.
Luna, 41, was born and raised in Fresno, attending Bullard High School and the San Joaquin College of Law.
“I started thinking about being a judge, mainly because a few judges kind of approached me to ask me if I thought about it, and thought I would make a good judge. So yeah, that’s how I got here,” Luna said.
She will fill the vacancy caused by the 2020 retirement of Judge W. Kent Hamlin. Judges are elected positions, but vacancies are appointed by the governor. Luna will have to run in 2024 to fill the remainder of the six-year term, and run again in 2028.
Luna’s start date is to be determined. The presiding judge will assign her to a particular courtroom and “beat” (such as traffic or family law).
Practiced Law With Her Father
Her father, the late Frank Ramirez, also practiced law.
“I knew early on that I wanted to practice law. I spent about half my career in civil practice working with him,” Luna said.
She started her legal career in 2007, but found civil litigation not to her liking.
“I intended to practice civil with my dad. That was my plan to just work with him forever. But at about five years into my civil career, I hadn’t had a jury trial. And at the time, the public defender’s office in Fresno was having extra help positions,” Luna said.
She took the position in Fresno County and stayed there nine months.
“I just kind of fell in love with criminal law and working with the clients,” Luna said.
The opportunity allowed her to defend cases in six jury trials.
“I went back to practice with my dad and I really missed being in the courtroom. So I love being in the courtroom … civil practice, you kind of stay at your desk most of the time and you’re not in court as often,” Luna said.
In 2014, Luna returned to public defense, working at Fitzgerald, Ciummo & Associates APC. They contract out to provide attorneys for defendants in Fresno County and San Benito County.
Moving Back to Fresno
Luna currently lives in Monterey with her husband. They plan to move back to Fresno.
“All my ties are to Fresno, so it’s comforting to go home,” Luna said.
However, judges do not have to live in the county they serve.
A Judicial Council spokesman explained, “Article VI, section 15 of the California Constitution states: A person is ineligible to be a judge of a court of record unless for 10 years immediately preceding selection, the person has been a member of the State Bar or served as a judge of a court of record in this State.”
There is no mention in the state constitution regarding local residency.
Luna, a Democrat, will earn a yearly salary of $223,829.