SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced the appointment of William S. Dato and Richard T. Fields to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Dato and Fields were appointed to Division One and Two, respectively.

According to a Dec. 24 Imperial Valley News article, Dato was a judge at the San Diego County Superior Court, where he was appointed in 2003.

“Dato was a partner at Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes and Lerach LLP from 1998 to 2003, where he was an associate from 1994 to 1998 and from 1982 to 1984,” the Imperial Valley News article said. “He was a senior research attorney at the 4th District Court of Appeal from 1984 to 1994 and from 1981 to 1982.”

Dato also was a research attorney at the California Supreme Court from 1980 to 1981. His education includes a Juris Doctor from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and a Bachelor of Science from San Diego State University, the article reported.

Before his 2003 appointment to the San Diego Superior Court, according to an October 2003 article on metnews.com, Dato was an appellate specialist who handled class actions, private attorney general suits, stockholder derivative cases and antitrust and unfair business practice cases.

The news from the governor's office further explained that Dato is also a part-time professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and at the California Western School of Law.

“Dato fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James A. McIntyre,” the article said. “This position requires confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The Commission consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the attorney general, and Senior Presiding Justice Manuel A. Ramirez.”

Since 2000, Fields has been a judge at the Riverside County Superior Court where he served as presiding judge from 2007 to 2008, the article said.

Fields earned his Master of Laws from the University of San Diego School of Law, a Juris Doctor from the Western State University College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from California State University, Fullerton.

Fields was also the first African-American judge in Riverside County and in honor of his accomplishments, as well as encourage other African-American attorneys, the Richard T. Fields Bar Association was founded.

“The mission of RTFBA is to represent the interest of African-American Attorneys in the Inland Empire,” the organization’s website said. “Moreover, in addition to representing the interest of African-American attorneys, RTFBA promotes pipeline initiatives to increase the number of youth of color in the IE to pursue careers in the legal profession and to promote justice for communities of color in the IE.”

RTFBA’s website explained its commitment to the public to defend African-American rights in the district.

In a September 2015 interview with The Voice, Fields offered his own input into why his role in the judicial system is important.

“People want to hear what judges have to say,” he said. “We must use that opportunity to reach out to people to help them achieve their dreams — to show them the possibilities. It is quite possible that a few words of encouragement now can produce dividends beyond our wildest imaginings.”

According to the Imperial Valley News article, Fields fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Jeffrey King and will require confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments before he can take office.

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California 4th District Court of Appeal
750 B Street
San Diego, CA 92101

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