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SLO Superior Court welcomes a new judge

Judge Dodie Harman swears in Craig Van Rooyen, 49, Friday at San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Van Rooyen was appointed to the bench June 28 after spending nine years as a deputy district attorney.
Judge Dodie Harman swears in Craig Van Rooyen, 49, Friday at San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Van Rooyen was appointed to the bench June 28 after spending nine years as a deputy district attorney. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Most of the San Luis Obispo legal community gathered Friday to witness San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s newest judge being sworn into office.

Craig Van Rooyen, 49, accepted his robe in front of a packed crowd at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse.

Van Rooyen was appointed to the local judgeship by Gov. Jerry Brown last month after serving with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for nearly a decade.

At Friday’s ceremony, he was introduced by presiding Judge Barry LaBarbera; his father, J.C. Smuts Van Rooyen; and longtime colleague and friend Jesse Marino, who described Craig Van Rooyen as thoughtful, well-rounded and humble.

“He’s the genuine article,” Marino said.

Craig van Rooyen was sworn in as a Superior Court judge on Friday, July 29, 2016, at the courthouse in San Luis Obispo.

The husband and father of two young girls thanked his well-wishers and pledged to work in good faith with both prosecutors and defense attorneys to dispense even-handed justice to the residents of San Luis Obispo County.

“You can be assured that I am working as hard as you all are toward a fair outcome,” Van Rooyen said.

Van Rooyen officially began presiding over criminal cases this week.

Before joining the District Attorney’s Office as a deputy district attorney in 2007, Van Rooyen served as a deputy district attorney in the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office for four years and later was a partner at the law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP.

He earned his Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Andrews University in Michigan. He is a Democrat.

During his time as a local prosecutor, Van Rooyen successfully tried several notable cases, including the murder trial of Los Angeles gang member Armando Yepez for the 2011 drive-by shooting of Gabriel Salgado in Oceano.

A cyclist, surfer and poet in his spare time, Van Rooyen’s work can be found online, where he wrote, “I write poetry for the same reason a frog croaks — I want to be a rock star, but I can’t sing. It’s an uncomfortable situation. ... Religious people may find this blasphemous, but for a frog or a poet, the process feels very sacred. In fact, it feels downright redemptive.”

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1

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