Mark Bacciarini received a phone call from the governor's office Wednesday that was music to his ears.
The 52-year-old chief deputy district attorney and former high school music teacher was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve as a judge at the Merced County Superior Court. He'll be the 12th judicial officer for the court, which includes nine judges and three commissioners.
Bacciarini, who's worked at the Merced County District Attorney's Office since 2000, was at work when he received the news Wednesday morning. "It's going to be an exciting change for me," said Bacciarini. "It hasn't sunk in all the way yet."
Born and raised in Merced and a 1976 graduate of Merced High School, Bacciarini graduated with a bachelor's degree in music from University of the Pacific. He worked 16 years as a high school music teacher and band instructor in Manteca, Merced and Clovis.
During the mid-1990s, Bacciarini decided to switch gears in his career and attend law school. He graduated with a Juris Doctorate degree from San Joaquin College of Law in 1998, and worked as an associate attorney for the law firm Morse, Morse & Morse from 1998 to 2000. He was promoted to chief deputy district attorney last year.
Among Bacciarini's career highlights, he and Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II successfully prosecuted cop-killer Cuitlahuac Tahua "Tao" Rivera in 2007. A Colusa County jury found Rivera guilty of killing Merced Police Officer Stephan Gray in 2004, and he was sentenced to death.
This month, Bacciarini also prosecuted $1.6 million embezzler Kim Sziraki, who pleaded no contest to four felony counts of embezzlement and theft. She's scheduled to be sentenced July 23.
Those who've worked with Bacciarini said he's known for his calm, collected demeanor, in addition to a profound depth of legal knowledge and experience that's well regarded inside and outside the courtroom.
Morse said he was overjoyed for Bacciarini's appointment, although he joked the news is a tad bittersweet. "The governor keeps stealing my chief deputies! And I mean that in the nicest way possible," Morse said. Bacciarini in 2009 replaced Dave Moranda as chief deputy district attorney, after Moranda was appointed to the Merced County Superior Court.
Morse said Bacciarini is one of the "finest legal minds" he ever had the pleasure of working with. Morse shared how he and Bacciarini worked three months together on the Rivera case, often putting in 16-hour days, working into the late-night hours. "He's richly deserving of this judicial appointment and will be an exceptional judge," Morse said. "He is someone who will be sorely missed, by me more than anyone."
Merced County Public Defender Michael Pro, who has defended clients in cases Bacciarini prosecuted, said he was a "good choice" for the court. Pro said Bacciarini is a professional who "doesn't let things get personal."
"I think he's been a voice of reason in the District Attorney's Office, and I assume he will carry it over to the bench," Pro said.
Bacciarini will fill the seat vacated by Judge Frank Dougherty, who retired last year. Bacciarini said it's unknown when he will take the seat on the court. Morse said a new chief deputy district attorney hasn't been named.
In addition to being a new judge, Bacciarini said he plays trombone "well" and can also play a wide variety of brass instruments. In his free time, he also judges high school band competitions.
He is married to wife Lynda, and they have three children.
The compensation for the position is $178,789 according to the governor's office. Bacciarini is a Republican.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.