Irma E. Gonzalez, a federal magistrate, was picked Thursday to fill the final open spot on the 71-judge San Diego Superior Court.
Gonzalez, 42, of Coronado, who had been a magistrate for six years, was selected by Gov. George Deukmejian to fill the vacancy created by the death March 21 of Judge Andrew Wagner.
San Diego Municipal Judge Larry Stirling, a former state senator, and Vista Municipal Judge Marguerite Wagner, Andrew Wagner's widow, were also believed to have been in the running for the vacancy.
"Certainly that was the rumor I had heard, that those were the two other people in contention," Gonzalez said Thursday. "But, for some reason, the governor chose me. What can I say? I'm glad about it."
Gonzalez is scheduled to be sworn in today. Judge Judith McConnell, presiding judge of the San Diego Superior Court, said Gonzalez will be assigned at first to the court's Vista branch.
Gonzalez's departure from the federal bench will leave the U.S. District Court, already shy two of its seven full-time judges, short one of its four currently allotted magistrates.
Federal magistrates arraign and set bail for accused felons, who then go on to trial before a U.S. district judge. A magistrate also tries misdemeanor cases and, occasionally, civil cases.
"I want to try more cases," Gonzalez said. "I want to be exposed to different areas of the law."
Before becoming a magistrate, Gonzalez was in private practice from 1981 to 1984 with the San Diego law firm of Seltzer, Caplan, Wilkins & McMahon. She had been a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and Tucson, Ariz., from 1975-81.
She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Arizona law school.