Katherine Lucero

Honorary Degrees

San José State University

The Honorable Katherine Lucero is leading California's massive transformation of its juvenile justice system. In late 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Judge Lucero director of the new Office of Youth and Community Restoration created by Senate Bill 823. In an effort to overhaul the state's juvenile justice system, the Division of Juvenile Justice was shuttered, and youths who would have been sent to its facilities were placed in juvenile facilities in their own counties. There are about 600 young men and women currently housed in the state's four facilities.

Judge Lucero is the daughter of farmworkers. She grew up with an alcoholic father who stopped drinking when she was 15. She has said she identified with families she sees before her in the dependency and delinquency courtroom.

She graduated with her bachelor's degree from the University of California, Davis and went on to earn her law degree from the Syracuse University School of Law. She was admitted to the California Bar in 1990 and served as the Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney. Judge Lucero began her career as a deputy district attorney. Beginning as a judicial officer in 2000, she led the San Jose-based child dependency division and was later supervising and presiding judge of its juvenile justice court. 

She went on to become the Santa Clara County Superior Court Commissioner before becoming a Superior Court Judge in 2012. Judge Lucero served as Superior Court Judge for 20 years and, during that time, she launched collaborative courts such as Family Treatment Court, Family Wellness Court and Teen Court—all of which are intended to provide assistance instead of punishment for families with substance abuse, custody and other issues. In 2022, she was appointed director of the Office of Youth and Community Restoration—an agency tasked with leading California toward a future without youth prisons.  

Judge Lucero supported the creation of specialty courts that approach families with a less punitive and more therapeutic approach and that aim for more lasting solutions to problems. Clients were offered mental health care, housing opportunities and a team approach to stabilizing their lives. She also fought for more time on cases, pushing the courts to better evaluate critical turning points for children and changed court schedules so parents and lawyers could meet before hearings for more thoughtful outcomes. 

In recognition of her inspiring judicial career, advocacy for families in the courtroom, and efforts to transform California's justice system, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San José State University are proud to upon Judge Katherine Lucero the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.