PIEDMONT -- As a child, Scott Patton, Alameda County's newest Superior Court judge, remembers his parents letting him stay up to watch the returns in the 1968 presidential election, in which Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace.
"We watched the Watergate hearings, and I also found those fascinating. The Vietnam War was going on. My parents talked about current events all the time, talked about women's and civil rights. It was a staple of dinner conversation," said the 51-year-old Piedmont resident.
No wonder that Patton, who grew up in Fair Oaks, decided early on to become a lawyer to fight for justice. He took a circuitous path, however, working three years in construction before going to law school. He worked for an interest group in Washington, D.C., while in college, then clerked at the state Attorney General's Office while in law school.
He received his undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara and his law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Patton became an Alameda County deputy district attorney in 1990, remaining in that post until Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him in late November to become an Alameda County Superior Court judge. Patton replaced retired Judge Beverly Daniels-Greenberg.
"Scott Patton will be an excellent jurist," said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley. "He is highly intelligent coupled with great common sense. His character is extraordinary; he respects everyone and treats people fairly and honestly. He genuinely likes people in his practice of law -- that made him very popular and valued."
Patton enjoyed his years as a trial lawyer before deciding to apply for a judgeship. It took 18 months to be vetted and accepted.
"I tried 50 jury trials over the years that I look on with pride," said the father of three.
For four years before becoming a judge, he did civil work for the Alameda County consumer fraud division. While working for the fraud unit, Patton handled the far-reaching false-advertising case involving Intelligent Beauty's Sensa "sprinkle diet," in which the company claimed that users would lose weight by sprinkling their "tastants" on food.
An $800,000 settlement ensued in Alameda County, after investigations into the efficacy of the product. District attorneys for 10 counties joined in the suit to "protect the consumer from deceptive advertising in the dietary supplement marketplace," O'Malley said.
The defendants did not admit fault but agreed to abide by court orders to prevent any future unfair or deceptive business practices.
Patton was also involved in the highly publicized murder trial of former Oakland Tribune and Oakland Post journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was investigating the activities of Your Black Muslim Bakery members at the time of his death. Bailey was gunned down Aug. 2, 2007, on his morning walk to work.
"Dramatic things happened. It (the trial) dragged out so long," Patton said.
These days, Patton will be on the bench conducting preliminary hearings on everything from carjackings to robberies to drug sales.
"Witnesses, bare bones, no jury. The judge decides the probable cause the crime was committed," Patton said. "Unlike lawyers preparing cases, these are cases you have not seen before. I have to be nimble on my feet and absorb very quickly. I have to understand the law in a more comprehensive way on a level playing field."
As he did when he was a deputy district attorney, Patton will spend 14 hours a day working. To unwind, he cycles, golfs, skis and travels. During his workdays, he steps out for walks to the farmers market.
"His success is due to his hard work, his intellect, his commitment to truth and justice and due to his personality," O'Malley said.