There’s a lot riding on Candice Garcia-Rodrigo’s shoulders. Parents vying for custody of their children in Riverside County’s Family Law Court look to her to make fair, nuanced rulings. And women in the Inland Empire’s Hispanic community look to her as an important role model.
Garcia-Rodrigo is court commissioner for the Riverside County Superior Court. Appointed in November, she’s the first Latina to hold the post.
“The bench should represent the community it serves,” Garcia-Rodrigo said. “Hispanics comprise more than 50 percent of the Inland Empire population, but only a small percentage are represented in the legal field. I am honored to be part of the change.”
A court commissioner is elected by county judges to serve as a judicial officer. Garcia-Rodrigo was one of a dozen candidates to be considered for the job in 2018. During the interview process, she was questioned by a panel of nine judges.
“When I received the call that I was selected to the bench, I was humbled and excited,” she said.
A three-time University of La Verne alumna, Garcia-Rodrigo earned her law degree in 2006, then received a Master of Public Administration in 2008, and a Master of Science in Leadership and Management in 2009. Currently, she is also an adjunct law professor at the University of La Verne.
Even as an undergraduate, she was fascinated by the law.
“It required attention to detail, following rules, and interpretation,” she said.
It also required poise and confidence.
As a young litigator, Garcia-Rodrigo remembers watching how judges and attorneys interacted. She learned the importance of speaking up.
“In the beginning I would shy away, especially when I was challenged by a vocal male,” Garcia-Rodrigo recalled.
“Most of the judges and attorneys were male and Caucasian. I knew that in order to succeed, I had to be assertive, fair, and knowledgeable in my practice.”
Over the past decade, Garcia-Rodrigo has gained wide experience in the legal system. A certified specialist in estate planning, probate, and trust law, she has also practiced family, corporate, civil, and appellate law in partnership with her husband, Aruna Rodrigo, at the Rodrigo Law Firm in Ontario, California.
In 2015, Garcia-Rodrigo decided to expand her legal experience to the bench.
“I wanted to challenge myself as a professional and use the hands-on skills I obtained at University of La Verne,” said the seasoned litigator, who was recognized by her peers as a SuperLawyer and one of Southern California’s Rising Stars for 2015–2018.
She started volunteering as a judge protem, presiding over unlawful detainers, probate, child support, and small claims cases.
“The first time I sat on the bench I fell in love with the justice system all over again,” Garcia-Rodrigo said. “My goal is to be a judge one day.”
As court commissioner, she usually hears 25 matters a day. It’s fast-paced and important work.
“I approach each ruling with an open mind,” Garcia-Rodrigo said. “I draw on my own experience as a working professional and a mother of three tackling everyday challenges to appreciate and understand the circumstances of similarly situated individuals coming into my courtroom.”
She credits the education she received at the University of La Verne as key to her success.
“The degrees I earned helped set me on an amazing career path,” she said.