Judge Gary Hoff Is Retiring After Distinguished Career
Gary Hoff planned to step down from the Fresno County Superior Court bench sometime next year. He was close to serving 28 years doling out justice.
Health problems accelerated that decision.
“I was looking forward to sitting on assignment as a retired judge, traveling, volunteering my time in worthwhile organizations that are special to me, and the usual endeavors the retirees do when their career is done,” Hoff said.
“Despite being vaccinated, I did get the COVID virus in mid-October and subsequent medical (tests) revealed I have cancer. I decided to advance my retirement plans to concentrate on my immediate priorities: health, family, and faith,” Hoff said.
Hoff is in the process of filing his official retirement paperwork, expecting that to happen by the end of the month.
As a Judge, He Strived to Help Youth
That community service is among his retirement plans isn’t surprising.
One of his first assignments presiding over the juvenile court.
“When I saw kids in juvenile court, it wasn’t their first offense, it wasn’t their first-time felony,” Hoff told KSEE-24 two years ago.
So, Hoff started a “youth court” to hold young people accountable for minor offenses. Early intervention, Hoff said, would help young offenders before they turned to serious crime.
There are now youth courts at high schools throughout Fresno County. The judges who preside over the hearings are volunteers.
Hoff Reflects Upon Career
Hoff said he’s “not sure I can pinpoint a singular case” as his most memorable.
“As a prosecutor, I had many high profile homicide cases and successfully prosecuted the first spousal rape jury trial in Fresno County. As a judge, I have presided over many high-profile, complex criminal trials involving everything from violent crimes, robberies, child sexual assault, rapes, gang-related crimes, and homicides. Each is unique and somewhat memorable,” Hoff said.
“I mostly recall the emotions and human drama and trauma and dynamics involved in cases and its effects on all participants in the proceedings: victims, witnesses, defendants, families of the victims and defendants, lawyers, court staff, and even me.”
Prefers Gubernatorial Judicial Appointments Over Elections
Hoff is not up for re-election until 2024. Leaving the bench early allows Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint his successor.
Even though he is a Republican, and the governor is a Democrat, Hoff prefers an appointment to fill his vacancy, rather than an election.
“I am not a big fan of contested judicial elections. I have faith in our Governors and the Judicial Appointments Secretaries to vet and select the most qualified individuals to represent the judiciary, and the many candidates that are considered will be a representation of all the diverse people, cultures, and values that are important,” Hoff said.
“Quite frankly, the public doesn’t necessarily understand the qualities and attributes of being a fair, neutral, decisive judicial officer. A political campaign among several judicial candidates, in my opinion, is generally not informative enough to the general public to select the best-qualified person; rather it often dissolves into a popularity contest fueled by political donations,” Hoff said.
Hoff has a list of names of “lawyers who I admire” he will pass on to the governor’s office. He is keeping those names private.
With Hoff leaving, that leaves three vacancies in Fresno County, which has 45 judges when at full strength. Last month, Judge Denise Whitehead retired. There is also an open position created by Judge Jane Cardoza’s retirement in 2020.
Related Story: Fresno County Judge Retires, Leaving Opening
Appointed by Wilson
Hoff, 73, was appointed to the bench in 1994 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. He previously served as a prosecutor in the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.
He earned his undergrad degree at what is now Cal State Northridge and his law degree at the San Fernando Valley College of Law (since merged with the University of West Los Angeles).