Fairness at heart of Anderson campaign | TheUnion.com

Fairness at heart of Anderson campaign

As Nevada County’s Public Defender, Tom Anderson, 55, has a close relationship with the local superior court, experience that he hopes will help him “hit the bench running.”

A personable, easygoing man, Anderson spends his days defending an overflowing caseload of clients, managing an office of eight other defense attorneys with their endless stream of complications.

“A judge has to have a good temperament, be unbiased, nonpartisan and have a sense of fairness,” Anderson said. “You have to be respectful of people in general ” not just lawyers, but law enforcement and everyday people.”

Anderson says running an efficient, fair courtroom is no small feat, but he’s up for it. He said he knows what he’s getting into because he works with everyone at the courthouse ” judges, clerks, attorneys ” on a daily basis, and he considers himself part of a team of people working together to administer justice.

“I have an understanding of how the system works ” internally and externally,” he said.

Throughout his campaign, Anderson has been supportive of alternative court programs such as Proposition 36. That’s more effective than creating a revolving door of untreated repeat offenders, he said.

He also said it is important for the courts to determine the difference between a criminal who happens to use drugs and an addict who commits crimes to feed his addiction.

“It costs $50,000 a year to house someone in prison,” he said. “That’s $250,000 for five years behind bars, while the average prison term is more than five years. While it depends on the person, rehabilitation costs less than $15,000 a year.”

While Anderson is supportive of the alternative courts, only a small percentage of the caseload should be handled in those forums, he said.

“Most cases are the sociopaths who are treated in the traditional manner, and you’ve gotta remove them from society,” Anderson said. “The law is the law and people have to go to jail.”

As a judge, Anderson would apply the law as it is written, whether he agrees or not.

He gave the example of his days as a pro tem judge in Contra Costa County, when he was hearing a civil case between “a sweet little old lady” and man who rubbed Anderson the wrong way.

“He was a real jerk in court,” Anderson said, laughing. “I went back (to chambers) to look at the case and he was right, according to the law. I had to rule in his favor.”

The Pennsylvania native’s journey to become Nevada County’s chief defense attorney was earned with perseverance: He put himself through Golden Gate University School of Law by working in factories and on construction jobs. He graduated in 1981 and had a private practice until 1996, when he was hired to create the public defender’s office in Lassen County.

In 2000 Anderson was recruited to re-invigorate the Nevada County Public Defender’s Office, which had been experiencing its share of administrative problems.

When Anderson isn’t wrangling with case law, he’s on the field with his daughter as a youth sports soccer coach. He coaches practice twice a week after work and attends games on Saturdays.

Anderson also is a member of Nevada County’s Forensic Task Force on Mental Illness, Project Jump Start, the Nevada County Arts Council, and a Peer Court volunteer.


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.

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