Judge who overturned Measure J retiring from bench

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet, who overturned the voter-approved Measure J nearly two years ago, is retiring from the bench after 16 years of service, effective Tuesday.

Picquet, 62, made the announcement in an article on the county Bar Association’s Web site.

He said he intends to sit on the bench in San Luis Obispo and other counties as an assigned judge who fills in to help out the overcrowded court system.

Picquet’s most well-known recent decision was his invalidation in February 2008 of Measure J, the contentious ballot initiative approved by voters countywide in November 2006 that would have led to a shopping center complex on the Dalidio Ranch southwest of San Luis Obispo.

In vacating the ballot measure, Picquet wrote: “Measure J is not a proper subject for an initiative.”

The state Court of Appeal later overturned Picquet’s decision after rancher-developer Ernie Dalidio appealed. The state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of that decision.

Picquet also has been involved in other high profile local cases, including the Paso Robles water-rate litigation, Sheriff Pat Hedges’ taping of his subordinates and the double murder-suicide shooting in 2006 at Denny’s restaurant in Pismo Beach.

In his retirement announcement, Picquet stressed “how much I have learned from and enjoyed the members of our local legal community.”

“They are (perhaps with an occasional exception) as intelligent, professional, compassionate and caring a group of people that one could ever hope to be with,” he wrote.

Before being appointed on Dec. 3, 1993, Picquet spent 16 years as a lawyer specializing in municipal and public agency law with an emphasis on environmental, contract and personnel matters.

Immediately prior to his appointment, he was in private practice; his two primary clients were the cities of Grover Beach and Paso Robles. As a Municipal Court judge, Picquet oversaw misdemeanor and limited civil calendars, and for a year and a half was on a felony assignment.

In 1998, the Municipal and Superior Courts merged, after which Picquet handled general civil, felony and juvenile matters.