For the first time in 15 years, a sitting judge in Santa Clara County who is running for re-election has drawn an opponent.

Criminal defense attorney Annrae Angel announced late Monday that she will run against embattled Superior Court Judge Diane Ritchie in the June primary.

No one has taken on a sitting judge in Santa Clara County for 15 years -- unlike in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, where sometimes-successful challenges have been mounted. The odds of winning are considered long, and few attorneys want to face other judges in court who sit on the same bench if they lose the election.

Angel said she has long wanted to be a judge and chose this race because Ritchie appears vulnerable. Ritchie is running for a second six-year term.

Angel, 53, lives in Santa Cruz County, but her practice is based in San Jose.

"I definitely think I can do a better job," Angel said. "I've appeared in front of her. It's hard to watch. Someone should run against her. The reality is, someone has to try."

Ritchie could not be reached late Monday for comment. But she has said she plans to be a judge for "a long time." In an interview last month with this newspaper, she said she'd give her performance as a judge since her upset victory in 2008 a "B" grade, adding everyone has room to improve.


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Despite extensive training and mentoring, Ritchie's first term has been marked by a string of odd incidents as she seeks to adjust to being a judge. In one case, Ritchie asked a landlord to serve as a translator for a tenant who was complaining about substandard conditions; in another, she publicly asked a former client appearing before her on petty theft charges for his phone number so they could meet socially.

Angel said she had been hoping Gov. Jerry Brown would appoint her to the bench but has not heard anything since she submitted her name more than two years ago.

In addition to her private practice, she works as a panel attorney for the Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDO), which represents defendants when the public defender's office has a conflict of interest.

She is a graduate of Cal State Sonoma and McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. Angel has two children, 15 and 18, and is married to Keith Sugar, a former Santa Cruz mayor and civil lawyer.

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482.