SANTA BARBARA – Retired Judge Frank J. Ochoa has returned to actively practicing law working in association with the law firm of Sanger Swysen & Dunkle.

His partnership with Sanger Swysen & Dunkle is of an “of counsel” capacity, a profession afforded to former judges and government officials denoting they have a working relationship with a law firm but are not considered members of the firm. As such, he plans to handle both civil and criminal cases with the law firm.

In addition to working with Sanger Swysen & Dunkle, Ochoa also plans to focus on his own practice. As a member of the American Arbitration Association, he is a proponent of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, where legal issues and disputes are resolved outside of the public court system and without litigation. Ochoa is towards continuing his work in the ADR process and has a clear goal for the future.

“My goal is to build my arbitration and mediation practice. I help people resolve disputes outside of the normal confines of the litigation process to the extent that they can benefit from that," Ochoa said during a phone interview with Northern California Record.

Prominent and well-known in Santa Barbara, Ochoa retired in 2015 after spending 32 years on the bench as a trial judge. As both an officer of the court and a community leader, Ochoa has had many accolades and accomplished much before his retirement.

During his early years as an attorney, Ochoa was involved in a number of civil rights cases and served as the executive director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County before being called to the bench.

Ochoa was appointed as the presiding judge of Santa Barbara Municipal Court in 1983 and the Santa Barbara Superior Court in 1997 and led the merger of Santa Barbara’s disjointed court system into a singular Superior Court the following year.

When asked why he had come out of retirement to practice law again, Ochoa said he was ready for a change.

“I was on the bench for 32 years and dealing with the stress of the conveyer belt of handling cases coming through is a difficult process. I think the work that state judges do is extremely difficult and I was ready to move on to something else,” he said.

Ochoa showed confidence in his past experience in mediation and openly expressed enthusiasm for the use of ADR in determining legal disputes.

“I built up a fairly good reputation and abilities, I think, at resolving cases and I would often get case from other judges that were difficult to settle and would have some success in doing that, and dispute resolution is, I think, a multifaceted kind of endeavor,” Ochoa said, “There are different ways to do that, the adjudication process is one, mediation and arbitration of the ADR process are as useful and then in some disputes more useful than the adjudication and I’m excited about those kinds of endeavors.”

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