Professional Panel - Judge Victor M. Campilongo (Ret.)
An imposing man and a formidable figure who looks like a judge in the old “Perry Mason” TV series, Victor Campilongo is also a gentle soul underneath the fearsome veneer of stern justice. His eyes actually well with tears as he recounts a case from years ago when he was presiding over a volatile child custody matter. The child’s fate was swinging like a pendulum between an abusive father who vowed he would seek treatment and a heartbroken mother fighting substance abuse. Wisely, the judge sought the advice of the maternal grandmother, whom he perceived as the most reliable and stable family member and whom he hoped would accept custody.
The grandmother listened closely to the judge’s plea that she be the guardian, but she advised him earnestly that her daughter, in the throes of personal struggle, would still be the best choice, because she loved her child “more than anything and would, indeed, find the strength to be a good mother.” The judge complied, and awarded custody to the mother, but he says he agonized over this decision for many, many years. “I tried scores of cases that were more serious and more heinous, but this one never dislodged. I wonder to this day whether or not I made the right decision.”
Campilongo brings the same brand of sensitivity to the mediation table. “With me,” he states, “you will get a prepared and diligent mediator, and I absolutely demand the same kind of preparation from all parties. I am tough, yes, but I am also very good at defusing hostilities between people and calming tumultuous proceedings. I am very aware of the gravity of these mediation sessions and what they mean to people’s lives. I keep the meetings on course and guide them to a healthy conclusion.”
Appointed to the San Francisco Superior Court by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972, Campilongo mirrors Reagan’s legendary dualism – no-nonsense behind the desk, charming and disarming outside the office. And that’s what Campilongo brings to mediation – a fatherly sense of tough love mixed with personal magnetism.
ON THE BENCH
Judge Campilongo served in every department on the Superior Court. He settled thousands of cases by conducting a Settlement Department for several years and was a member of the Court's Three-Judge Complex Litigation Team. As a sitting judge, he heard cases in virtually every substantive area of the law, including class actions. He served on the S.F. Superior Court from 1972 to 1990, and the Municipal Court from 1970 to 1972. He also served as Master Calendar Judge of the Criminal Division for two years, commencing in 1983, and served as Presiding Judge of the Superior Court in 1985 and 1986. In 1988, Judge Campilongo was appointed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court by chief Justice Lucas and was elevated to Presiding Judge of the Division in 1989.