Commissioner will become new Stanislaus County judge

Stanislaus County has a new judge, court officials announced Monday.

Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed Superior Court Commissioner Ann Ameral to take the place of retired Judge David VanderWall.

She will be sworn in later this month.

"I'm thrilled," Ameral said Monday. "I'm joining a hard-working bench of fellow judges, and I'm looking forward to my new assignment."

It is the first time in county history that a court commissioner -- who is appointed by judges to rule on a limited number of legal matters -- has been elevated to that role.

Ameral's appointment comes nearly a year and a half after Schwarzenegger appointed Judge Dawna Reeves, the first black on the Stanislaus County Superior Court bench.

Ameral, 55, has served as court commissioner since 2007. She handles criminal arraignments, small-claims lawsuits and eviction matters, among other types of cases.

Ameral earned her law degree at the University of California at San Francisco's Hastings College of Law in 1980.

She practiced as an attorney in Modesto for more than 20 years, specializing in family law.

Ameral will earn $178,789 as one of the county's 20 Superior Court judges.

The court has two remaining judgeships to be filled by appointment, Superior Court Executive Officer Mike Tozzi said.

Those positions were approved by the state Legislature but have not been funded.

Ameral will be sworn into office at 4 p.m. April 30 at 1010 10th St.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at or 578-2337.