Melissa Hammond made history in 2022 when she was elected to serve as a judge on the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Born and raised in Los Angeles herself, Hammond became the first in her family to graduate from college and law school. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego in 2001 before returning home to attend the UCLA School of Law, graduating in 2004. Not content to stop there, Hammond went on to obtain a graduate law degree from New York University in 2008, giving her an east coast perspective to bring back to the LA legal community.
After law school, Hammond built up her career step-by-step through hard work and determination. She first practiced as an attorney at a private firm, honing her skills in research, writing, and analysis. Looking to gain trial experience, Hammond then joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor. She steadily took on more responsibility and rose up the ranks in the office, trying major felony cases and managing teams of attorneys. This background prepared Hammond for the rigors of serving as a Superior Court judge.
Hammond Won a Competitive Race for the Open Judgeship
When a seat opened up on the Superior Court due to a retirement, Hammond decided to run for judge. She entered a crowded race, facing off against five other candidates in the nonpartisan primary election held in June 2022. Hammond stood out from the field with her balanced temperament, stellar credentials, and passion for public service. She earned the most votes in the primary, advancing to a runoff election in November against attorney Carolyn Park.
The general election saw a spirited contest between the two candidates. Hammond campaigned actively, speaking at community forums, meeting with constituent groups, and responding to questionnaires. She emphasized her experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, saying this gave her a balanced perspective. Hammond also promised to run an efficient courtroom and treat all who came before her with courtesy and respect. On November 8, 2022, Hammond defeated Park decisively, winning the Superior Court judgeship by a margin of 61.7% to 38.3%.
Hammond Brings a Fresh Voice to the Court in 2023
In January 2023, Melissa Hammond was sworn in to her first six-year term as Superior Court judge. She became one of the newest members of the court, joining a bench of distinguished jurists. With her deep roots in the Los Angeles community and wealth of legal experience, Hammond is well-prepared to handle the wide range of civil, criminal, and family law cases that will come before her. Colleagues say she will bring a fresh voice and perspective to the court at a time when new approaches are needed to tackle issues like criminal justice reform.
Hammond is known for her diligence, energy, and sharp intellect. Attorneys who have appeared before her say she runs an orderly courtroom and comes well prepared, having thoroughly reviewed the facts and law at hand. Hammond strives to give fair hearings to all parties while still keeping cases moving efficiently. She also makes a point of explaining court processes and rulings clearly so that everyone understands the basis for her decisions. These traits will serve Hammond and the citizens of Los Angeles well in her new role.
Hammond’s Judicial Philosophy Focuses on Fairness and Preparedness
In interviews, Hammond has shared insights into her judicial philosophy and approach to the job. First and foremost, she says she is dedicated to upholding the rule of law and will follow statutes and precedents faithfully when deciding cases. Hammond believes firmly that the role of a judge is to interpret and apply the law as it is written, not make new laws from the bench based on personal views.
However, Hammond tempers her belief in the letter of the law with a strong sense of fairness and compassion. She strives to ensure that everyone who comes before her court, regardless of background, is treated with dignity, courtesy, and respect. Hammond also believes judges have a duty to fully understand the facts of a case and legal issues involved before rendering well-reasoned rulings. She is known for putting in long hours poring over briefs, files, and research to prepare for hearings. This thorough, even-handed approach gives attorneys confidence that their arguments will receive full consideration.
Hammond’s Early Cases Will Set the Stage for Her Judicial Impact
As a new judge, Hammond’s body of decisions is just beginning to take shape. Her early cases and rulings on the Superior Court will set precedents that could influence Los Angeles law for years to come. Some veteran attorneys speculate Hammond may establish herself as a pragmatic centrist on the bench, while others expect her experience as a prosecutor may lead to more conservative views on criminal justice issues. Observers will be watching closely as Hammond takes on complex civil lawsuits, high-profile crimes, and major family law disputes.
Over time, her choices from the bench will reveal more about Melissa Hammond’s judicial philosophy in action. Will she tend toward broad interpretations or strict constructions of the law? Will she boldly chart new paths on evolving areas or follow precedents faithfully? How trial attorneys approach her court will be shaped significantly by the reputation Hammond earns through her early decisions. She may align with certain factions on the Superior Court or stake out independent views. One thing is certain – with her deep knowledge of the law and commitment to preparation, Hammond’s rulings will be well-grounded and reasoned.
Hammond Brings Diversity to the Court in a Changing Los Angeles
Beyond her professional credentials, Melissa Hammond’s election also has cultural significance for Los Angeles. She brings much-needed diversity to the Superior Court bench, which has historically been dominated by older white men. As a younger Latina judge raised in Los Angeles, Hammond reflects the changing face of the city. Having a judiciary that represents the full breadth of the population it serves promotes confidence in the courts, especially among groups that have felt marginalized.
Many see Hammond as a role model for women of color seeking to advance professionally in law. She has spoken of overcoming barriers through determination and hard work. Hammond recognizes that her election makes her a trailblazer in the eyes of some. More than just a symbol, however, she is committed to making tangible improvements to the legal system. Hammond has already participated in outreach programs to provide guidance to minority students interested in legal careers. Her presence on the bench helps Los Angeles move toward a more inclusive and representative justice system.
What Lies Ahead in Hammond’s Promising Judicial Career
Looking ahead, there are many possible paths for Melissa Hammond’s future judicial service. She will be up for re-election to the Superior Court in 2028 if she chooses to run again. From this initial judgeship, Hammond could be well-positioned to seek higher offices within the state judiciary. Openings on the appellate courts and California Supreme Court don’t come along often, but Hammond has the potential to follow that trailblazing path.
Beyond seeking judicial advancement, Hammond may also have opportunities to take on key leadership roles for the courts. She could be tapped to serve on significant committees addressing policy reforms or infrastructure needs. Given her reputation for administrative capabilities, Hammond might take on an administrative judgeship managing court staff and systems. In the coming decades, she will have many chances to guide improvements to California’s judicial system.
For now, Judge Melissa Hammond is focused fully on delivering justice one case at a time. With her first election behind her, she can get down to the hard work of shaping jurisprudence from the Superior Court bench. Through her work ethic, integrity, and inspiring life story, Hammond will continue to make history while building her legacy in the Los Angeles legal community.
How long is Judge Hammond’s term on the Superior Court?
Judge Hammond was elected to a full term of six years on the Superior Court. Her term began in January 2023 and will end in January 2029, unless she is re-elected.
What kinds of cases will Judge Hammond preside over?
On the Superior Court, Judge Hammond will hear a wide variety of civil, criminal, and family law cases. This includes everything from minor civil disputes and misdemeanors to major liability lawsuits and serious felony crimes. She may also oversee juvenile dependency cases as well as divorce and child custody matters.
What made Judge Hammond decide to become a judge?
In interviews, Hammond has said she felt drawn to public service and community impact, which she saw the judiciary as an avenue for. She also wanted the intellectual challenge of being a judge after a long legal career. And seeing an open seat on the court, she felt her broad experience qualified her to run.
How does Judge Hammond’s career as a prosecutor affect her approach?
While some see former prosecutors as conservative judges, Hammond says being a prosecutor actually gave her valuable perspective on the defense side as well that contributes to balance. She believes her background leads to pragmatic views, not predictably harsh or lenient stances.
Could Judge Hammond be appointed to higher courts in the future?
Yes, if Judge Hammond establishes a strong record on the Superior Court, she could be considered for openings at the appellate or state Supreme Court level. As a respected, pioneering jurist, she may well come to the attention of governors or other appointing authorities.