Segerstrom judges

Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kate Powell Segerstrom (left) at her swearing-in ceremony in 2013, and Judge Donald Segerstrom (right) in his empty former chambers last week before the move to the new courthouse.

Tuolumne County Superior Court will soon lose two longtime judges who have decided to hang up their robes for good.

Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Seibert announced in separate news releases late Thursday afternoon that Judge Donald Segerstrom and Judge Kate Powell Segerstrom have filed for retirement prior to the expiration of their current elected six-year terms.

The releases stated Donald Segerstrom’s retirement is set to be effective on Dec. 31, while Kate Powell Segerstrom’s retirement is set to be effective on Jan. 31.

Seibert said both have agreed to participate in the “assigned judges program” and continue presiding over cases at the court until Gov. Gavin Newsom announces his appointments to fill the vacancies. 

Donald Segerstrom was serving as the county’s elected district attorney when he was appointed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in December 2011 to fill a vacancy on the court’s bench at the time. 

He’s currently the court’s longest serving judge after fending off an election challenger in 2012 to keep his seat for a full six-year term and running uncontested for reelection in 2018. His current term expires at the end of 2024.

“Losing his experience, wisdom and work ethic will certainly create a void in our court,” Seibert said in the news release.

Kate Powell Segerstrom had spent nearly 30 years as a lawyer in private practice focused mainly on civil law before she was appointed to the court’s bench by Gov. Jerry Brown in December 2013.

She ran for election uncontested in 2014 and again in 2020, with her current term set to expire at the end of 2026.

“It has been my honor and pleasure to spend 36 years in the legal profession working with her, both in our private legal practices before becoming judges and as colleagues on the bench,” Seibert said in the news release.

Kate Powell Segerstrom is married to Donald Segerstrom’s cousin, Charles. Her mother was the late Marlee Powell, a longtime member of the Sonora City Council and second woman to ever serve as the city’s mayor.

In 2019, Kate Powell Segerstrom received the prestigious Irving J. Symons Award from the Sonora Area Foundation for outstanding community service. She also served on numerous governing boards for a variety of local public agencies and private nonprofit organizations prior to becoming a judge.

The Segerstroms are one of Tuolumne County’s pioneering families, with their roots in the area dating back to the Gold Rush era.

Donald Segerstrom’s mother was a journalist and father was the former publisher of The Union Democrat in the mid-20th century. His career in public service includes serving as county’s district attorney from 2001 to 2011 and prior to that as a deputy district attorney in Stanislaus County from 1985 to 1988.

He has served in a variety of roles during his tenure on the bench, including as presiding judge and overseeing the Juvenile Justice Commission formed after the completion of the Mother Lode Regional Juvenile Detention Facility in 2017.

As presiding judge, Donald Segerstrom also was the court’s liaison to the California Judicial Council during much of the planning and construction of the new $70 million superior courthouse at the Law and Justice Center in Sonora that was funded entirely by the state and just opened on Monday.

“Having provided years of honorable and effective service to our community, he has certainly earned a happy retirement filled with travel and adventure,” Seibert said in the news release.

The two vacancies leave Seibert and Judge Laura Krieg, who took office at the start of the year after she was elected in 2020 while serving as the county’s district attorney, as the court’s only judges actively serving out elected terms.

Whoever is appointed to the vacancies will be required to run in the next election to maintain their seats.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemcorat.com or (209) 588-4541.