Judge calls it a career; Anderson known for care, patience

Alan Riquelmy / The Union
Judge Tom Anderson, from left, Deputy Taylor King and K9 Vito. Anderson is retiring from the Nevada County Superior Court bench.
Provided/Sandra Boyd via The Union

Judge Tom Anderson has been told by other, retired judges — give it a year before starting to work again.

“I don’t know if I can hold out that long,” Anderson said.

A former Nevada County public defender and Superior Court judge, Anderson is stepping away from the bench.

Visiting Judge York Punneo has received approval to serve in Nevada County through December, though Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected at some point to appoint a successor to Anderson’s seat. It’s unknown when that will occur.

Anderson, who said he turns 72 this fall, served over 22 years with the county. He was the public defender until 2007, then became a judge that year. His last working date was June 20, and his official retirement date is Aug. 8.

“He will always be known as an exceptionally patient, gentle and kind jurist who truly cared about the litigants that appeared in his court and the community he served,” said Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tice-Raskin in a statement.

Anderson said he’d been an attorney for 25 years when the judgeship opportunity arose.

“I wasn’t planning on it, but I was kind of recruited,” he said. “It allowed me to focus on some things that are important.”

Those things included programs that help lead people to recovery, not merely incarceration. Adult Drug Court, Mental Health Court and DUI Court are a few examples, as was the creation of Laura’s Law.

That law — named after Nevada County resident Laura Wilcox, who was 19 when she was shot and killed in 2001 by Scott Harlan Thorpe — compels people with severe mental illness and a history of arrest or violence to stay in treatment, as a condition of living in the community.

Anderson’s been a part of the program since its beginning.

“It’s proven to be very successful,” he said.

Anderson, like others, has heard the complaints about the “revolving door” at the jail and people’s gripes about prosecutors and judges.

However, he said, being on the inside of the justice system provides a different view.

The law mandates certain sentence ranges for someone convicted of various crimes, though it always gives some variability. The sentence can fit the defendant and the crime.

“The jury system really works,” Anderson said. “In most of the times, our jury gets it right.”

Looking back, Anderson said local courts work well, despite a pandemic, small budget and changing computers systems. Judges always are willing to help each other, and court staff are dedicated. He praised the people and organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Conflict Resolution Center of Nevada County that made his job easier.

As for his next steps, Anderson is looking at part-time judging and private mediation.

Still, there’s the advice of other retired judges to consider.

“We’ll see what comes my way,” he said.

Alan Riquelmy is the managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at or 530-477-4249

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