Sonoma County Court Commissioner discusses judicial system

The American multicultural studies department welcomed guest speaker Anthony Wheeldin on Wednesday. Wheeldin is the Superior Court Commissioner of Sonoma County and deals mostly with Child Protection Services and presides over traffic court. Wheeldin was sworn in in Jan. and is the second African-American jurist in Sonoma County.

Court commissioners are appointed by Supreme Court judges and deal with many aspects of the judicial system such as criminal arraignments, family law and juvenile court. Wheeldin has 30 years of experience in criminal, family and housing law. 

Wheeldin explained the judicial system to start off his speech. He spoke about Child Protective Services and how cases come up and get sent to him. He has been known for his “ability to hear all sides,” as Presiding Judge Gary Nadler said to the Press Democrat. He believes that the parent-child bond is strong and stated that this bond is recognized by the law. 

He gave an anecdotal example of two parents growing marijuana in their household and an event in which the child happens to consume the plant and passes out as a result of the effects. As a judge, Wheeldin must determine whether or not the child belongs in government custody or with the parents. In this sort of scenario, one could interpret this as a one-time accident, or parental neglect. A case would be proposed to Wheeldin’s court where it is then presented to the jury.

Wheeldin brought up more about the judicial system. He argued against common opinions of people that think the system is corrupt due to the fact that there are more black people in jail than in college. He clarified the mindset of the judicial staff and their routine of operatation including the challenges that rise. 

One challenging and sensitive issue that most judges deal with is race. 

Profiling is an accusation that people have used on federal officers. Many times an officer has to establish a firm ground when dealing with a suspected citizen. Some that are not as experienced as others will find a reason to make an arrest. 

“Judges go by experience,” said Wheeldin. They work in the system for many years before they are given the title of “honor.” Wheeldin worked as an attorney and has had more than 30 years experience with law.

Success was the second half of Wheeldin’s lecture. The court commissioner found this subject applicable especially for students in the university. In this part of the discussion Wheeldin used analogies of climbing a hill. There were no set trails for this hill, thus everyone makes their own path up to the top. 

“I could tell you how I got successful, but that’s like saying, ‘Here, wear my clothes,’ they won’t fit,” said Wheeldin.

One of the best ways he said to widen perspective was to travel, preferably to other countries where there is only one race and racism is not as much of a big issue as it is in America.

“We were very happy to have Anthony Wheeldin to come to Sonoma State University,” said class instructor, Michael Ezra. “His focus on success is an inspiration for all of us. It’s nice to know [that] we have such a caring representative in our justice system.” 

Anthony Wheeldin has held his superior position for over a year now.