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SLO judges appoint deputy county counsel as court’s newest commissioner

Chandra Dee Mehlschau, of Nipomo, pleaded no contest Tuesday to a felony charge of grand theft by embezzlement for stealing from a non-profit for agriculture students.
Chandra Dee Mehlschau, of Nipomo, pleaded no contest Tuesday to a felony charge of grand theft by embezzlement for stealing from a non-profit for agriculture students. Joe Johnston

A 20-year employee with the San Luis Obispo County Counsel’s Office has been appointed to serve as San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s newest commissioner.

Leslie Kraut will take over for Commissioner Tim Covello, who was elected to the bench in a two-way race in the June primary election and will begin his role as judge in January.

Kraut was selected by a vote of the court’s judges, according to court administration.

Commissioners, unlike judges, are employees of the court and preside over a variety of cases such as traffic, small claims, juvenile drug court, family treatment court, juvenile truancy, and habeas corpus motions for incarcerated inmates, working primarily out of the Veterans Memorial Building on Grand Avenue.

She will begin her employment with the court on Jan. 7, according to a court news release.

Kraut, originally from San Diego, graduated from the UC Santa Barbara in 1988, the news release states. She worked in Washington, D.C., and Hanamaki, Japan, and attended the University of San Diego School of Law, where she chaired the Appellate Moot Court Board and received the honor of The Order of Barristers upon graduation, the news release states.

Following law school, she worked as a prosecutor with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office on various felony cases, and domestic violence and juvenile delinquency matters.

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In 1998, she began working as a deputy with the San Luis Obispo County Counsel’s Office, providing legal advice and representation to public clients including the Public Guardian, the County Grand Jury, the Department of Social Services, the District Attorney’s Office, and Child Support Services. According to the court, she has successfully litigated more than 200 writs and appeals in the California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Six, specifically practicing in the areas of child abuse and neglect and conservatorship matters.

SLO County Counsel Rita Neal, who’s worked with Kraut for her entire tenure with the office, described Kraut’s approach to the law as pragmatic and respectful, and said she will be missed at the County Government Center.

“Leslie is a bright, talented, and smart lawyer,” Neal said. “She has a wonderful judicial temperament and will be an asset to the court.”

Reached by phone Wednesday, Kraut said she is grateful considering what she said was a pool of very skilled and experienced candidates for the position.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.”

Kraut and husband Matthew — a former San Luis Obispo County prosecutor who recently formed a private practice in Shell Beach — have two sons.

According to court administration, Leslie Kraut’s annual salary will be $174,949.

Matt Fountain: 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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