By ANDREW HARDY & JONATHAN WHITAKER
Regina Adams did what a lot of leaders in this valley say they would like smart, talented, and driven native residents to do in their lives and careers. After she was raised in Merced and attended local schools, she left for college (and in her case, law school too), and then returned home to practice in her field of expertise.
It’s the kind of career path for locals that can help stop the brain drain to larger, more affluent areas, and perhaps improve the quality of life for disadvantaged rural communities.
Today, the 38-year-old Adams serves Merced and Madera counties as a contract public defender. She provides legal services to indigent defendants in criminal proceedings as well as minors in delinquency proceedings.
“I love being able to serve members of the community,” she says. “I am in a unique position to help people in creative ways. I love that I have access to resources that can help change people’s lives.”
Adams expresses her thoughts and ideas with the experience and vision of someone who has a deep understanding of this region and its unique challenges.
“I would like to change our juvenile delinquency system to provide more resources for minors that aren’t readily available at this time, such as substance abuse treatment programs,” she says. “I’d also like to see more early intervention to prevent minors from entering the system.”
Adams’ career trajectory has also added to diversity in the local halls of justice. She’s pretty much the only local black attorney “running around the courthouse,” she will say. There might be a few others who come from out of town, maybe the Bay Area.
However, if Adams’ next career goal is accomplished, she would be the only woman of color presiding over a courtroom as a judge in Merced County.
Yes, Adams is running for an open judicial seat in this region’s Superior Court. She is facing two other candidates, Monika Saini-Donabed (another local woman of color seeking change), and Carlos Dammeier, a state administrative law judge for an appeals board. They will all be on the ballot for the March 5 Primary election. If no candidate gets 50 percent plus 1 of the entire vote tally, the top two vote-getters will head to a runoff in the November Presidential Election.
“Many of my colleagues encouraged me to run,” she says. “When I entered the race, it was an empty seat with one person [Saini-Donabed] running. I believe in democracy and that our community should have a choice when it comes to this open seat.”
Adams says her goals as a judge would be:
- To uphold the law
- To ensure that justice is carried out
- To bring a different perspective to the bench
- To help our bench reflect our community and its values
The candidate points to her experience in social security/disability law, dependency, delinquency, probate guardianships and conservatorships, adoptions, and criminal defense. She has also engaged in some appellate practice.
Raised in Merced
Adams says she had a wonderful upbringing by two of the “hardest working people.”
“My parents instilled discipline in me to reach my goals,” she says. “I grew up playing sports (volleyball, basketball, and softball). I played softball at the collegiate level during my first year, and then I left the game to focus on my studies.”
Adams was an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, and she later earned a degree from the New England School of Law in Boston.
The candidate says her upbringing has shaped her unique perspective.
“I am biracial,” she explains. “My mother is white and my father is black. I believe that this contributes to my understanding of different cultures in a unique way.”
Her parents have owned their own business (All Pro Janitorial Systems) for more than 30 years. “I have watched them work hard for many years,” she says. “They never gave up even when times were tough. They were always persistent.”
Sports and volunteering was also important in the Adams family. “My dad (who was born and raised in Merced) has always given back to his community through coaching baseball. I grew up in his dugout. I kept the scorebook every summer and traveled with his team when I didn’t have my own tournaments. This part of my upbringing instilled in me that you should give back to your community.”
In this regard, upon her return to the region after law school, Adams became a founding member of the Merced County Unity Bar, and served as its vice president. This group of local attorneys share the common goal of promoting unity, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“I have mentored UC Merced students as well as Merced College students who wish to pursue a career in law,” she says.
Message to voters
Adams says she would like Merced County voters to know that:
- “I am passionate about my work, the community, and bringing a new perspective to our bench. I believe in integrity and honesty. I am not beholden to anyone. I will fair and impartial. I will uphold the laws of the state of California and the constitution of the state of California and the United States.
- “I believe in the rule of law and accountability.
- “I also believe in investing in our community and that justice takes many forms.
- “I hope to earn the trust of our community and that they will give me the opportunity to serve them in a new capacity.”