San Diego County Judge Joel Pressman Retires

SAN DIEGO (CN) – San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman, who presided over high-profile trials including a fraud lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, retires Tuesday after 15 years on the bench.

Pressman, a graduate of the University of California Hastings College of Law, was appointed to San Diego Superior Court in January 2002 by Gov. Gray Davis. He brought to the bench 30 years of experience as a trial attorney litigating business, real estate and class action cases.

He served as supervising judge of the court’s North County division in Vista, California, from 2002 to 2010 before working from the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego.

Attorney Robert Kolodny, the founding partner of Kolodny Pressman, said Pressman was an “extremely innovative, tremendous trial lawyer and partner” when they worked together for 18 years prior to Pressman’s judicial appointment.

“He had the unique ability to take complicated matters, figure out the issues, resolve disputes and help solve major cases,” Kolodny said in a phone interview.

“Everybody who had the pleasure of working with Joel had the utmost respect for him and his capabilities, his attitude, and his respect for other attorneys he sat across the table from.”

Kolodny said Pressman would often represent clients several times in court, and said attorneys Pressman worked with as well as against would often refer new clients to him.

Pressman served on the court’s executive committee, where Presiding Judge Jeffery Barton said in a phone interview Pressman was a “well-rounded judge … not only a very good trial judge, but an excellent administrator” in handling case assignments and court budgeting while juggling other administrative tasks.

“Judge Pressman has had a distinguished career during his 15 years on the San Diego Superior Court. He always brought insight, intelligence and common sense to the cases he decided and as a result was a highly effective judge,” Barton said in a statement.

In 2015, Pressman was awarded the Bernard E. Witkin Award for Excellence in the Adjudication of the Law by the San Diego Law Library.

“It has been my privilege and honor to serve with the most outstanding bench in California. Our court community consists of dedicated and hardworking professionals who strive to serve the public day in and day out. I was proud to serve with them. Their friendship and support is special and I will always cherish it,” Pressman said in a statement.

In 2016, Pressman presided over a high-profile fraud case against San Diego law school Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the first case of its kind to make it all the way to trial.

Thomas Jefferson graduate Anna Alaburda sued her alma mater over what she said were fudged employment figures of its graduates which she relied on when deciding to attend law school there. Alaburda was never able to land a job as a full-time attorney and sued Thomas Jefferson over the student debt she was saddled with.

While a jury found the law school did not intentionally misrepresent the figures and that Alaburda was not entitled to damages, Pressman complimented attorneys on both sides for an “outstanding job.”

Pressman also presided over a high-profile case between two San Diego school districts involving millions of dollars in bond funding for a new high school.

The judge plans to spend his retirement traveling with his wife “to remote corners of the world” including an upcoming trip to see “the gorillas in the mist” in Rwanda. Pressman also plans to work in dispute resolution as a private arbitrator, according to the court.


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