Governor appoints prosecutor to San Luis Obispo Superior Court

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Thursday the appointment of Jacquelyn H. Duffy to a judgeship in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

She fills the recent vacancy created by the retirement of Roger T. Picquet.

Duffy, 43, of Atascadero has served the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office as a deputy district attorney since 1997.

Previously, she was an attorney working for local lawyer Theresa Klein’s firm, as well as a sole practitioner.

Duffy earned a law degree from Loyola Law School and a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley. She is a Democrat.

She joins her husband, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy, on the bench. Her starting salary is $178,789.

As a prosecutor, Jacquelyn Duffy recently earned a conviction in the September trial of an Atascadero father, Fermin Brito Palacios, who killed his 20-month-old baby.

Duffy also negotiated a plea deal that resulted in a 20-year sentence for the child’s mother, Arianne Mercé Brito, for her role in the baby’s death.

She also prosecuted a case that resulted in a 927-year sentence in March 2008 for Bart Downey, who committed more than 30 burglaries, including gun thefts, and had an extensive, violent criminal background, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Gerald Shea and prominent San Luis Obispo defense attorney Jeff Stein both said Duffy was a good choice for the appointment.

“Jackie has been an excellent prosecutor for our office over the past 13 years, and I believe she’ll make an outstanding judicial officer for the court,” Shea said in a statement.Jerret Gran, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said Duffy deals professionally with people and has “excellent judgment and decision-making ability.”

In the 1990s, Duffy worked on the defense side representing parents and children in juvenile law cases, said Jennifer Fehlman, San Luis Obispo County Bar Association president.

“She’s a really good lawyer, and she’s incredibly hard working, very focused, and a hard fighter, but honest,” Fehlman said. “She doesn’t play just to win but to get the right results.”

Stein said that he has opposed Duffy in many criminal cases and called her a thoughtful, reflective lawyer who has made careful determinations about how to charge criminal cases.

“She has the astuteness to know how to treat the serious cases and to not treat less serious crimes the same way,” Stein said. “A vast majority of people who go through the court system are friends and neighbors who tend to be responsible participants in society.”