Santa Paula | Ronda McKaig, From Hog Calling to Hall of Justice

By Sheryl Hamlin

Local lawyer Ronda McKaig has been selected for a Superior Court judgeship. Read official announcement.

As a product of five Santa Paula elementary and middle schools (Portal, Glen City, Blanchard, Mupu and Isbel), the Santa Paula High School Class of 1990 graduate wanted to be a journalist and admired Diane Sawyer. Her favorite teachers in high school were Mr. Merrill (English) and Mr. Arguelles (mock trial), both retired now.

Yes, she was a cheerleader and still retains the animation of the squad, but her passion was the 4H Club and the pigs she raised on the Geist farm on Upper Ojai Road. She and her pig would attend the annual County Fair where they attempted hog calling, a challenging feat for a distracted pig.

Ronda McKaig, Santa Paula judicial nominee


An excellent writer, Ms. McKaig developed her writing skills with the help of lawyers who taught her how to write as a young practicing lawyer. She received her JD from Loyola in 2001 and an undergraduate degree from CLU in Political Science.

Realizing how strong her childhood was in Santa Paula, she and her husband returned to Santa Paula to raise their children.

The Evaluation Process

A State of California commission “Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation” provides a 35 page application which is completed on-line to those candidates who have been first screened by the Judicial Appointment Unit, a new step added by Governor Brown. The applicant must also provide letters of recommendation. After this application is completed, the vetting process begins, which can take one year or more to be completely vetted. Read about the process here which is unique to the Brown Administration: navigating-judicial-appointments-brown-admin

Governor Brown has taken a special interest in the judicial process as shown in the above document:

”Governor Brown is looking for judicial candidates who have intellectual curiosity. Governor Brown is known to participate in some of the interviews of candidates so that he can personally explore the candidates’ undergraduate studies, what the topic of their thesis was, who their favorite authors are, the subjects of scholarly articles they may have written, and what their personal focus was on law review in law school, for example. He is interested in individuals who are well rounded, interesting, and who have rich life experiences. He learns this by asking questions such as how the candidate is engaged in his or her community and what books the candidate has read lately.”

This vetting process is the equivalent of a confirmation hearing, but much longer. At some point, there will be a “robing ceremony” held in a courtroom, when she assumes the title of judge officially. The date of this will be announced and the public may attend.

Future Terms

Because she is filling the position of a retiring judge, Ms. McKaig will not be on the next ballot. But in the future, judges are elected in California, so her name will appear with others who have gone through a local judicial vetting committee.

Legal Specialty

Judges are assigned to courtrooms based on the type of case, such as juvenile, family law, criminal, etc. At this point in time, Ms. McKaig does not know her assignment. Prospective jurors will have to state if they know Judge McKaig.

Life of a Judge

As a judge, one is always under scrutiny, she explained. One must consider the judicial code of ethics before speaking or writing, she said, but she “appreciates and wants to honor the outpouring of support from the citizens of Santa Paula”.

Clearly a judgeship is a commitment on multiple levels. Ronda McKaig is about to begin that journey.


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