Justice Franklin D. Elia, the Sixth District Court of Appeal's longest-serving justice, has announced he will retire effective June 30, 2022. Justice Elia's entire 47-year legal career has been dedicated to public service. Over the course of his 34 years of service on the Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose, Justice Elia has participated in 11,930 appellate decisions and authored 3,793 opinions, including 330 published opinions, which have meaningfully advanced California's legal jurisprudence.
Justice Elia’s legal career began in 1975 when, upon graduating from Santa Clara University Law School, he joined the state Attorney General's office as a deputy attorney general in the criminal division, representing the People in criminal appeals and in trial assignments. In 1980, he joined the Palo Alto City Attorney's Office as senior assistant city attorney, where he served for three years representing the City of Palo Alto in civil trials and settlements involving various city departments.
Justice Elia’s judicial career began in 1983, at the age of 33, when he was appointed to the then Santa Clara County Municipal Court by Governor George Deukmejian. Just three years later, he was elevated to the Santa Clara County Superior Court. During his time as a trial judge, Justice Elia's assignments included the court's civil division, its criminal division as supervising judge, and the juvenile and family law divisions. He was recognized for outstanding service as a juvenile court judge by the Santa Clara County Juvenile Justice Commission and for his "dedicated leadership and pursuit of excellence in family court” by the Family Law Section of the Santa Clara County Bar Association.
In October of 1988, Governor Deukmejian appointed Justice Elia to serve as an associate justice in one of three newly created judicial positions at the Sixth District Court of Appeal. At the age of 38, Justice Elia was one of the youngest appellate court justices appointed in California. He was confirmed to three consecutive 12-year terms by the voters in 1990, 2002, and 2014. During his time at the Sixth District, Justice Elia has also served on the Judicial Council's Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Committee as well as the Judicial Council’s Standing Subcommittee on Appellate Courts.
During Justice Elia’s three decades on the appellate bench, he has mentored scores of law students and served as an adjunct professor of law at Santa Clara University Law School. He has been active in the Trial Advocacy Program at Stanford Law School and at the University of San Francisco School of Law. He has also participated in the Traynor Moot Court Competition at the University of California Berkeley Law School and Hastings College of the Law, in addition to outreach programs for both college and high school students interested in the legal process. Justice Elia’s dedication to the fair and thoughtful administration of justice was recognized by the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association in 2015 when he was honored for judicial excellence by being named Justice of the Year.
Justice Elia will be greatly missed by his colleagues and the entire legal and clerical staff of the Sixth District Court of Appeal, who join in wishing him well and thanking him for his dedicated and outstanding service to the judiciary and the public.