Paul Matson: Justice Butz is coming home |

Paul Matson: Justice Butz is coming home

Paul Matson

We have many impressive residents here in Nevada County. One of them is about to retire from her job in Sacramento, and then spend all that newfound time here in her hometown, Nevada City.

Kathleen (Kathy) Butz is wrapping up her duties as an Associate Justice in the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, State of California.

The Butz family has deep roots in our region and its history, going back to the Gold Rush era. In 1853, Kathy’s great-great grandfather Peter took a ship around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and then walked from there to Sacramento, on to Hangtown, and then on to Celestial Valley. His son Peter Joseph Butz was born in Celestial Valley in 1865 and lived there his entire life. With his wife Sophia Jane (Jennie) Baden of Camptonville, they raised five sons including Kathy’s grandfather Chester, on their 160-acre ranch just over the Nevada County line across the Middle Fork of the Yuba River, on Oregon Creek.

Her father’s sister, Marian Butz married Peter Lavezzola, whose family owned and worked the Lavezzola Ranch in Sierra County. There is a monument to “Pete” Lavezzola at Big Springs in Sierra County on Highway 49.

Kathy’s father Elmer was a logger and as kids the family spent every summer at Goodyears Bar to be near him and his work.

And today her second cousin, Carl Butz, has had the courage, gumption and bravado to recently take over publishing the Mountain Messenger in Downieville!

Kathy grew up in Auburn. She spent a Placer High School year abroad in Brazil as an AFS Exchange student. Then she headed off to UC Davis to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations, and later a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. She was admitted to the California Bar on June 10, 1982. She joined the law firm of Berliner and Spiller, and later became a partner in the firm of Spiller, McProud and Butz of Nevada City. While in private practice she volunteered as a Director on the Nevada Theatre Commission, and did pro bono legal work for the Sierra Adoption Agency and Sierra Nevada Children’s Services.

In 1996 Kathy was elected to the Nevada County Superior Court, reelected in 2002, and served a term as our Presiding Judge. In 2003, Justice Butz was elevated by Gov. Gray Davis to Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal.

In addition to her official duties as a Justice, she was very busy contributing as a volunteer on many levels. During her nearly 24 years on the bench, Justice Butz served as an instructor of judicial education for the California Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) and the B. E. Witkin Judicial College of California. Additionally, she chaired the CJER’s Rural Courts Education Committee, was a member of the Appellate Justices Education Committee and the Judicial Council’s Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Advisory Committee, CJER’s Appellate Practice Curriculum Committee and the Executive Board of the California Judges Association. She also chaired the Appellate Mediation Committee of the Third Appellate District during her tenure in Sacramento.

Serving as a California Associate Justice is a serious and complex task and a big responsibility, dealing with trial court appeals, criminal, civil and juvenile matters, as well as writs of Habeus Corpus from people in state prisons within the 23 counties of the Third Appellate District.

Once her official duties are completely wrapped up in Sacramento, she is looking forward to once again being a full-time Nevada County resident. She and her husband Len Berardi are excited by the opportunity to rigorously catch up with their children and many grandchildren.

And then, following that, she will consider doing some nonprofit volunteer work right here in Nevada County.

Congratulations, Kathy, and welcome home!

Paul Matson, who lives in Nevada City, is a former Nevada City City Council member and current member of The Union Editorial Board. His opinion is his own and does not reflect the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board. Write to him at

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