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San Luis Obispo attorney is our newest Superior Court judge

San Luis Obispo-based attorney Tana Coates, 58, was appointed to one of San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s 13 sitting judgeships by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday.
San Luis Obispo-based attorney Tana Coates, 58, was appointed to one of San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s 13 sitting judgeships by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday.

A San Luis Obispo attorney has been named the newest judge on the local Superior Court, the Governor’s Office said in a news release Monday.

Tana Coates, 58 — who, as part of her practice, represents the county as independent counsel in wrongful termination, dangerous condition of property and other civil matters — was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to serve as one of San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s 13 judges.

“I am absolutely honored and thrilled to represent our county on the bench,” Coates said late Monday. “I’m humbled and honored to be selected.”

Coates has been a partner at Coates & Coates LLP with husband Greg Coates since 2009, specializing in civil law such as business litigation, personal injury, elder abuse and construction defect, according to the firm’s website.

Before that, she worked for about 18 years as an associate, and later partner, in a practice with Arroyo Grande-based attorney James Murphy. During her tenure there, she represented the family of Kristin Smart — the Cal Poly freshman who disappeared in 1996 — in their ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against the “person of interest” last seen with Smart.

Coates holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Houston Law Center and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, according to the Governor’s Office.

At the San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Coates will fill the vacancy created when Judge Martin Tangeman was appointed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in December 2015.

Total compensation for the position is $191,612.

San Luis Obispo County Counsel Rita Neal said Monday that Coates & Coates LLP is one of a panel of law firms who handle third-party litigation in which damages are being sought against the county or its employees for alleged injury or damage.

Coates said that she will wrap up her work on the firm’s existing cases over the next month or so before she and Greg Coates dissolve the existing firm. She said her husband will continue to run the firm as the Law Offices of Greg A. Coates, which is expected to remain as an legal contractor for the county.

Coates said she will start out presiding over the court’s misdemeanor calendar and is excited to return to criminal law, which she practiced prior to joining Murphy.

Two of the Superior Court’s long-serving judges are expected to announce their retirement in the coming months, but Superior Court CEO Michael Powell said that Coates’ appointment brings the court’s current roster of sitting judges to 11, with two vacancies remaining.

Coates is a registered Democrat.

A date for her official swearing-in ceremony at the San Luis Obispo Superior Courthouse had not been finalized.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1

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