Clarence Westra Jr., remembered as a no-nonsense, highly capable judge who had little patience for unprepared attorneys, died Dec. 9 at age 71.
Westra worked as a deputy district attorney in Kern County from 1972 to 1983, when he was appointed a judge in Kern County Superior Court. He retired in 2008.
Prosecutor John Mitchell got to know Westra in 1982, when both worked in the D.A.'s office.
"He was the best trial lawyer I ever saw, and I've seen a bunch," Mitchell said.
Michael C. Lukehart, a veteran defense attorney who tried a number of cases before Westra, called him an "outstanding" judge.
"He went through things very carefully," Lukehart said Tuesday. "If you cited a case to him, you had better have read it, because he would have."
But Westra was publicly admonished by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for being discourteous to court staff after numerous private rebukes for similar behavior.
While not speaking to the specific incidents resulting in the admonishment, Kern County Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman said Westra took the job seriously and expected others to perform at a high standard.
"When people did things he disliked or were unprepared, he was not slow to react," Spielman said.