By Allen Payton
Retired Superior Court Judge Diana Becton was sworn in as the new District Attorney for Contra Costa County on Monday, September 18th, at 4:30 p.m. The oath of office was administered by Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Federal Glover in the District Attorney’s Community Room in Martinez.
“I am honored to have been chosen by the Board of Supervisors to serve the people of Contra Costa County,” she said. “With over two decades of experience in the administration of justice and the practice of criminal law, I am excited by this new opportunity to reform our justice system and restore integrity to the DA’s office. I look forward to serving alongside law enforcement and county prosecutors to promote public safety, equality, fairness, and confidence in our courts and legal system.”
The overflow crowd included friends, colleagues and supporters, as well as her new office staff including her Deputy District Attorney overflowing into and standing in the hallway outside.
A Bay Area native, Becton attended Oakland public schools and received her B.A. in economics from S.F. State University and her J.D. from Golden Gate University Law School. She worked as the Housing Finance & Development Supervisor for the City of Richmond from 1979 to 1987. Prior to that she worked as the Housing Finance Corporation Manager Becton then worked as attorney in private practice from 1987 until 1995, first as a partner of Alexander & Becton (Brown) Law Offices which had has many as nine lawyers. Later she operated her own law practice, which according to her application for the appointment, “focused on litigation in real estate, business, landlord tenant, personal injury and criminal cases.”
Although Becton has no experience prosecuting criminal cases, in private practice she “was responsible for both criminal and juvenile cases. I appeared at arraignments and bail hearings, analyzed cases, talked to witnesses to determine what happened, identified strengths and weaknesses, participated in plea bargaining and resolution, developed trial strategies, conducted jury selection, opening statements, questioned witnesses, prepared law and motion, and presented closing arguments,” also according to her application. DBecton DA apptmt application
She was appointed to the court in 1995 by Gov. Pete Wilson and presided over a diverse collection of misdemeanor, felony, civil, mental health and juvenile cases.
In 2011, Becton was elected Presiding Judge of the Contra Costa Superior Court. In this capacity, she was responsible for leading the court and managing its staff and resources, including an annual budget of approximately $56 million. In 2012, Becton received the Rose Bird Memorial Award for judicial excellence from the California Women Lawyers. She subsequently served as President of the National Association of Women Judges.
In 2013 she obtained her Real Estate Broker’s license which expired in January. 2015, Becton earned her Master’s degree in Theology from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Upon her appointment, she became the first African American and first female Contra Costa County District Attorney.
“This job is a tremendous responsibility,” Becton said. “I am committed to restoring public trust in the DA’s office. The people of Contra Costa County need to be confident in their judicial system, and I will work tirelessly with law enforcement, deputy district attorneys, and public defenders to rebuild that trust. As District Attorney, I want to bring people together to improve our office’s accountability and encourage community engagement throughout Contra Costa County.”
According to a news release from the county, it was an informal ceremony at which the constitutional oath of office necessary for Becton to assume office was administered. The ceremonial investiture proceeding that traditionally accompanies the District Attorney’s assumption of office will be held in the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers at some point in the near future, for the public to witness. The election for District Attorney will be held next June.