By Rachel Coleman
Judge David M. Hirsch grew up moving from town to town because his father’s career with the Department of Urban Housing and Development led to a new position every year. The continual moves did not keep Judge Hirsch from playing chess on a competitive level, however. From elementary through high school, Judge Hirsch played in tournaments where he competed against other chess teams from other schools. At the time of his last competition, Judge Hirsch was attending high school inBeaverton,Oregon. He says he enjoyed playing competitive level chess but has not played seriously since high school.
Judge Hirsch graduated in 1989 from U.C.L.A. with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and in 1992, he graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law. After law school, Judge Hirsch served as a volunteer trial attorney for the City ofLong Beach Prosecutor’s office, followed up by a brief stint as an insurance defense litigator.
Judge Hirsch found a passion for criminal law during his time at the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office and knew that this would be the career path he would follow. He applied throughoutCaliforniafor open positions in District Attorneys’ and Public Defenders’ offices. In 1997, he took a position inReddingas a deputy district attorney. Though at the other end of the state from where his family lived inLos AngelesCounty, Judge Hirsch enjoyed his work at the relatively small office inShastaCounty. There District Attorney Greg Scott, who would later become the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, took Judge Hirsch under his wing and allowed him to try serious cases almost immediately.
Although Judge Hirsch’s legal career was taking off, his personal life took an unexpectedly negative turn as his father became seriously ill. Despite his blossoming legal career inShastaCounty, Judge Hirsch made the tough decision to put his aspirations aside to focus on his family. In 2000 he moved back to theLos Angelesarea and opened his own practice to be closer to the family during what would be the last few years of his father’s life. Though this decision was not the best career-wise, Judge Hirsch reports that this was the best personal decision he has ever made. Fortunately, Judge Hirsch was able to spend a few more years with his father, who passed away in 2007.
In 2003, Judge Hirsch took a position with the Ventura County Public Defender’s office, where he tried many significant criminal cases including some involving serious gang allegations. Judge Hirsch enjoyed his time at the PD’s office, which he found to be challenging. He still greatly admires the former Public Defender Ken Clayman for the way he ran that office.
It was during Judge Hirsch’s tenure as a deputy public defender that his mentor and role model, Judge Ken Riley, encouraged him to pursue a position on the bench as a Commissioner. Judge Hirsch accepted the challenge and applied for one of two vacancies for commissioner for the Ventura County Superior Court. He was selected for that position in 2008. At the same time, Judge Roger Lund was also selected to be a commissioner. Both were appointed to judgeships by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. Judge Hirsch is currently assigned to Courtroom 48, where he presides over criminal matters.
Judge Hirsch went skydiving once right after graduating from law school. He reports that it was an amazing thing to experience at least once in a lifetime, but not something that he feels the need to repeat. He also enjoys fishing and motorcycle trips with groups of friends in the local canyons, though in 2003, he sold his Honda Superhawk in order to focus on spending more time with his family. “A younger man’s hobby,” he observed.
As a proud U.C.L.A. graduate, Judge Hirsch has, not surprisingly, always been a huge fan of any team that competes against U.S.C. He goes to at least one U.C.L.A. home football game a year and typically enjoys some serious tailgating with about 30 friends. In October, Judge Hirsch plans to go on what he calls “the greatest road trip ever” with a few of his friends. They will start out in Texas and then travel to New Orleans, Tennessee, Chicago and finally end up in Wisconsin to pick up a cheesehead hat or to pick up a cheesehead hat or two. Along the way they’ll see three NFL and three college football games. Judge Hirsch also enjoys attending college basketball and professional baseball games. He was recently spotted at Dodger Stadium wearing a U.C.L.A. sweatshirt. Since his step-daughter recently left the nest to attend college, Judge Hirsch spends most of his free time taking care of his three dogs: Grizzlie, a border collie who destroys everything in sight; Lily, a high maintenance mostly border collie; and Annabelle, an obedient cocker spaniel. Judge Hirsch observed that he has been extraordinarily fortunate to have the many opportunities he has enjoyed throughout his career and that as a judge, he tries to create an atmosphere in his courtroom where everyone feels welcome.
Rachel Coleman is an associate in the Law Offices of David Lehr, and a member of CITATIONS’ editorial board.