Hon. Risë Jones Pichon (Ret.) joined JAMS after a distinguished judicial career spanning more than 35 years. Most recently, she was a superior court judge for the County of Santa Clara (Calif.) for over 20 years.
Paving the Way
Coming up in the 1970s, Judge Pichon was very aware that there weren’t many women or people of color who were judges or lawyers.
Because there was so much focus on her being different, Judge Pichon knew that she had to do the very best she could so that the people who followed in her footsteps would be painted by what she had done and be accepted and respected for their knowledge and abilities.
An Acclaimed Career
Judge Pichon’s first job was with the public defender’s office in Santa Clara County.
“I was in the courtroom every day, and I found I rather enjoyed it and I think I did very well.”
Judge Pichon then went on to work for the county counsel’s office doing civil and probate law, and then became a commissioner with the court.
After a time, she debated continuing to work as a lawyer or applying to be a judge. With some encouragement, she decided to make the transition to the bench.
“At the time, the governor was enthusiastic about promoting commissioners to judges, so I was in the right place at the right time.”
As a judge, she spent time with the municipal and superior courts, handling criminal, civil and probate matters.
When it comes to barriers that she has faced in her career, Judge Pichon feels that other people’s assumptions are at the top of the list.
“Throughout my career, I heard many assumptions about what a lawyer or a judge is supposed to be like. I had many people assume that, because I’m rather reserved and soft-spoken, I probably didn’t have the strength and the courage to succeed.”
Not only did she deal with those assumptions, she also found that there were prejudices about whether a minority would “have what it takes to do a good job,” and those things gave her the fuel to move forward and not allow assumptions to hold her back.
“Even though I was aware of these assumptions, I was always taught that you have to believe in yourself and do your very best. It was on me to prepare, prepare, prepare, and just carry myself in the best way possible.”
Judge Pichon knows that she didn’t get to where she is without the help of others, so it’s very important to her to give back.
Her favorite way to do this is to impart information while participating on panels. In addition, she is passionate about encouraging young people to think about the field of dispute resolution.
Recipe for Success
When it comes to her recipe for success, Judge Pichon says that there are the three words that come to mind: listening, confidence and respect. These three things have shaped her career and contributed toward a life of which she is proud.
Judge Pichon is pleased with where she is at this point in her life and career and felt she retired from the court at a good time.
“I felt that I was successful, I was able to be presiding judge of both courts that I was on and I felt that I left on a high note.”
She’s now enjoying her role as a JAMS neutral.
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