This is the property of the Daily Journal Corporation and fully protected by copyright. It is made available only to Daily Journal subscribers for personal or collaborative purposes and may not be distributed, reproduced, modified, stored or transferred without written permission. Please click "Reprint" to order presentation-ready copies to distribute to clients or use in commercial marketing materials or for permission to post on a website. and copyright (showing year of publication) at the bottom.

Judges and Judiciary,

Jan. 2, 2024

2 Orange County judge hopefuls aim to strengthen family court

The judicial race is between family law attorney Daniel J. Kern and Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney L. Bokosky.

The judicial race for Superior Court Office No. 35 in Orange County consists of two candidates who are pushing for more family law experienced attorneys on the bench.

The candidates are 21-year family law attorney Daniel J. Kern and 17-year Deputy District Attorney Whitney L. Bokosky.

Kern, who represents clients in divorce, child support, custody and domestic violence disputes, said in a phone call that having this experience is “vital in distinguishing legal issues from personal issues … which is missing from the family bench.”

The Orange County Superior Court website lists 20 judges on its family law panel. Only five litigated family law before their appointments, according to the Daily Journal’s research. Yet, in many counties, brand new judges are often assigned family law calendars.

An email to the Orange County Superior Court media office requesting comment on the situation produced no reply by press time Friday.

Kern said his campaign is aimed at raising awareness of this discrepancy and recruiting other family law attorneys to the judiciary.

According to the Judicial Council, Orange County has 12 Superior Court judge vacancies — the second highest in California behind Los Angeles, with 24.

“While a staffing shortage in this area of law is not the fault of the judiciary, if we fail as a legal community to address this problem then we are all to blame,” Kern said. “It is an access to justice issue that family law is regarded as an undesirable bench assignment. It is not acceptable that bench officers who would not consider themselves competent to practice family law as attorneys are assigned to family law benches as if it is a good rookie assignment for them where they can learn the ropes without doing too much harm.”

Bokosky, who has been prosecuting abusers, rapists and murderers in child, domestic and elder cases since 2006, also said she wants to use her experience to increase access to the justice system.

“As a prosecutor, my role was to really be an advocate for the victims. As a judicial officer, I want to make sure that every single person that comes into my courtroom does have a voice whether or not they’re the accused or the victim,” she said.

Bokosky, who is currently assigned to District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s family protection unit, said she has conducted 89 jury trials throughout her career.

She refers to herself as a “tough prosecutor,” but said she always made it a point to understand the ethical responsibility she had to those on both sides in the cases she prosecutes.

“I think that not only in the courtroom setting, but kind of everywhere in life, it seems like rules don’t apply equally to people. We kind of see it, unfortunately, in the judicial system at times. What I really want to stress is the importance of applying the law equally,” she said.

Kern said a significant portion of his family court concerns derive from his experience with judicial turnover.

“A case will start with a judge who got it assigned to them, and then they move off of the family law panel and the case gets transferred to another judge who probably just got assigned to the family panel, so they’re new,” he said.

He referred to a case he’s currently trying which is on its fourth judge, causing stress and frustration to his clients.

“That’s probably the most extreme case, but it certainly hasn’t been my only case where there has been a lot of ping-ponging between judges. That’s not what’s supposed to happen,” he said.


Devon Belcher

Daily Journal Staff Writer

For reprint rights or to order a copy of your photo:

Email for prices.
Direct dial: 949-702-5390

Send a letter to the editor: