William Bedsworth

William Bedsworth

William Bedsworth has served as an appellate judge on the California 4th District Court of Appeal since 1997. Throughout his over 30-year judicial career, he has cultivated a reputation for fairness, wit, and pragmatic rulings. However, as a sitting judge, Bedsworth has not outwardly affiliated with any political party. This article will examine Bedsworth’s background, judicial philosophy, notable rulings, and 2022 retention election to provide insight into his political views and party leanings.

Background on William Bedsworth

Education and Early Legal Career

William Bedsworth was born in 1946 in Long Beach, California. He received his bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Los Angeles in 1968 and his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1971. After law school, Bedsworth worked as a prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from 1972 to 1986.

Judicial Career

Orange County Superior Court

In 1986, Bedsworth was appointed to the Orange County Superior Court by Governor George Deukmejian. He served as a trial judge on the Superior Court for over a decade.

California 4th District Court of Appeal

In 1997, Bedsworth was elevated to the California 4th District Court of Appeal, Division 3 by appointment from Governor Pete Wilson. He has served on the appellate bench for over 25 years now.

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Notable Rulings and Opinions

On the appeals court, Bedsworth has penned opinions across a wide range of cases touching on criminal justice, environmental law, and civil rights issues.

In People v. Kelly, Bedsworth wrote an opinion upholding the felony conviction of environmental activists who trespassed on San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant property. However, in Surfrider Foundation v. California Coastal Commission, he ruled in favor of an environmental group challenging a toll road extension project.

Bedsworth authored opinions supporting same-sex marriage rights and adoptions by LGBT couples. However, he also tended to rule against criminal defendants in death penalty and sentencing appeals. This demonstrated his pragmatic, case-by-case judicial approach.

Bedsworth’s Political Views and Party Affiliation

Registered as Nonpartisan Judge

As a California judge, William Bedsworth is officially registered without a party affiliation. All state judges in California are categorized as nonpartisan. They do not publicly endorse partisan candidates or campaigns while serving on the bench.

Moderate-Conservative Judicial Philosophy

Based on his rulings, political observers categorize Bedsworth as having a centrist or moderate-conservative judicial philosophy. He takes a pragmatic, non-ideological approach to deciding cases based on the law and facts at hand.

Tough on Crime Decisions

Bedsworth built a reputation as a law-and-order judge during his time on the Superior Court bench. As an appellate judge, he has often upheld lengthy sentences and death penalty verdicts against criminal defendants’ appeals. This demonstrated his conservative leanings regarding criminal justice policies.

Environmentalist Leanings

However, Bedsworth has broken with conservative orthodoxy in some of his pro-environment rulings, such as blocking the toll road extension project. He has shown a willingness to side with environmentalist groups in cases involving land use, pollution, and wildlife habitat protection.

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Support for LGBT Rights

His opinions supporting same-sex marriage and adoption signaled Bedsworth’s more progressive stance on LGBT rights. This demonstrated his libertarian social values and commitment to equality under the law.

2022 Retention Election

Nonpartisan Campaign

In 2022, Bedsworth stood for retention election to another 12-year term on the appellate court. As a sitting judge, he conducted a low-profile, nonpartisan campaign emphasizing his qualifications and judicial independence.

Committee Formed to Oppose Retention

However, a conservative PAC formed called Californians for Equal Justice to campaign against retaining Bedsworth and other appellate judges, criticizing some of their decisions as too liberal. This represented partisan ideological opposition.

Winning Re-election

On November 8, 2022, Bedsworth won retention with 60.2% of the vote, overcoming the retention committee’s challenge. This demonstrated voters’ approval of his pragmatic centrist approach rather than rigid partisanship.


Throughout his judicial career, William Bedsworth has cultivated a reputation as a pragmatic, intellectually independent judge who decides cases based on the facts and law rather than partisan ideology. His mix of moderate-conservative and libertarian views do not align neatly with either major political party. While officially nonpartisan as a sitting California judge, Bedsworth’s rulings and electoral success reflect a centrist political philosophy. His re-election against ideological opposition demonstrated voters’ preference for impartiality over partisanship in the judiciary.


What political party is William Bedsworth affiliated with?

As a sitting judge in California, Bedsworth is officially registered as nonpartisan and does not outwardly affiliate with any political party. However, his judicial philosophy and rulings reflect a pragmatic centrist ideology that mixes some moderate-conservative and libertarian views.

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Does William Bedsworth align more with Republicans or Democrats?

Bedsworth does not fit neatly into traditional partisan lines. His tough on crime stances and some pro-business rulings align more with moderate Republicans. However, his progressive rulings on LGBT rights and environmental issues resonate more with Democrats’ values. Overall, he takes a non-ideological, case-by-case approach.

Did William Bedsworth face a partisan election in 2022?

While officially nonpartisan, Bedsworth’s 2022 retention election featured ideological opposition from a conservative PAC criticizing some of his rulings as too liberal. However, he won re-election with 60% of the vote, affirming voters’ preference for his impartial centrist approach over rigid partisanship.

Is William Bedsworth politically liberal or conservative?

Bedsworth is generally categorized as having a pragmatic centrist or moderate-conservative judicial philosophy. He avoids ideological labels, but has issued some rulings that lean libertarian on social issues and pro-business on economic issues while also supporting environmental protections. Overall, he makes rulings based on the law rather than partisan views.

What was William Bedsworth’s most controversial ruling?

Bedsworth has faced conservative criticism for some rulings favoring environmental groups, such as blocking the Foothill Toll Road extension. He also issued opinions supporting progressive issues like same-sex marriage and adoptions that some conservatives opposed. However, he maintains that he decides cases impartially based on the facts and law.

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