Embattled Santa Cruz County judge announces retirement

Symons: 'I am confident that I would win' 2020 election

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SANTA CRUZ—Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Ariadne Symons on Monday announced she will retire from the bench at the conclusion of her current term in 2020.

Symons issued a press release outlining her nearly four-decade career.

“Serving for more than a decade on the bench has been a great privilege,” she said. 

Symons said that then-District Attorney Art Danner recruited her to join the DA’s homicide division in 1997, an easy move because she held a similar position on the East Coast.

“…the move to Santa Cruz County was a wonderful opportunity to utilize my prosecutorial skills, and contribute to our community’s safety,” she said. “Serving in the courtroom, seeking justice and being the last voice of the victim was truly an honor.”

Symons said that she has tried “some of the most challenging and complex murder cases this county has seen.”

“As Chief Deputy District Attorney and Head of the Homicide Unit in Santa Cruz County, I am proud of having never lost a criminal case in our county,” she said. 

Symons has served as a judge since January 2009.

That time has not been without controversy. She was censured by the Commission on Judicial Performance on May 20 for four separate violations of judicial ethics, the most severe punishment a judge can receive short of removal from public office.

She was later reassigned from felony to dependency court.

Despite this, and despite several attorneys who said they refused to bring cases before her, Symons said she received support from “judges, attorneys and leading community members” who disagreed with the commission.

With reelection fast approaching in 2020, Symons said she has garnered support and more than $100,000 in contributions.

“I am confident that I would win,” she said. 

But Symons said that a recent injury, coupled with the death of two close friends prompted her decision to retire.

“After 38 years in the legal profession, the prospect of another six-year term as a judge does not actually bring me joy,” she said. “It is time for me to switch gears.”

Symons said she will continue to serve on the bench until her term expires at the end of 2020.

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