Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte

Retired Judge Brenda F. Harbin-Forte was appointed to the Alameda County (Oakland) Municipal Court in 1992, and became an Alameda County Superior Court judge in 1998. She retired in November 2019, after 27 years on the bench, with judicial experience ranging from civil jury trials, criminal jury trials, the drug court, Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court, Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, and full-time settlement judge for civil and family law cases.  Her leadership positions in California’s judiciary include serving on the California Judicial Council, serving as the first African American woman Dean of the B.E. Witkin Judicial College and Chair of the New Judge Education Committee, and serving as Chair and Treasurer of the Judicial Council of the California Association of Black Lawyers. She has served as a consultant on various bench books and benchguides for judges, and has planned and taught judicial education courses in California, Nevada, New York, Fiji, Jamaica, and Panama.  She has worked tirelessly on efforts to diversify the judiciary and the bar, including convening California’s first Summit on Judicial Diversity in 2006 as part of her work on the State Bar’s Diversity Pipeline Task Force, and later serving as Chair of the State Bar’s Council on Access and Fairness.  Before her judicial appointment, she was an equity partner at Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges in Oakland and San Francisco. She received her Bachelor’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in 1976, and her law degree from U.C. Berkeley’s (Boalt Hall) Law School in 1979. She was admitted to the California Bar in 1979. Before joining the bench, she was the first African American woman President of the Alameda County Bar Association, and was President of Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California. Her current community activities include serving as a member of the Oakland Police Commission, which oversees the practices and procedures of the Oakland Police Department to ensure that they meet or exceed constitutional standards, serving as Vice President of the Bernard E. and Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation, and serving as a member of the Leadership Council of the Center for Youth Development through Law. She has received numerous honors and awards over her long career as a member of the legal profession and the judiciary.