Elena J. Duarte was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments on December 10, 2010, as an Associate Justice on the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. Before she was elevated to the Court of Appeal, she was a Judge of the Sacramento County Superior Court from June 2008 to December 2010, and also a Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court from April 2007 to June 2008. Before becoming a judge, she was a federal criminal prosecutor for 14 years in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.
Active in her community, Justice Duarte regularly presides over local and national mock trial and moot court competitions for students from eighth grade through law school. She has mentored law students and young lawyers through her membership in various organizations and regularly visits high school classrooms to support government and civics education. She is a member of the steering committee of Operation Protect and Defend, a Sacramento-based organization of judges, lawyers, and teachers dedicated to promoting civics education for high school students. She is the immediate past President of the Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, an organization of judges, attorneys, and law students dedicated to promoting civility, ethics, and professionalism in the legal community, and continues as a member of the Inn’s Executive Committee.
In May 2015, Governor Brown appointed Justice Duarte to the Commission on Uniform State Laws. She is also currently a member of the Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions (CACI), the State-Federal Judicial Council, and the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) Criminal Curriculum Committee. She is on the Third Appellate District’s Technology and Outreach Committees, and was on the Board of Directors for the California Bar Foundation from 2013 through 2015.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Justice Duarte attended the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific from 1984-1986. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1989, she obtained her law degree from Stanford Law School in 1992.
Upon graduation from Stanford, Justice Duarte moved from California to Washington, D.C., as one of 12 graduating law students selected nationwide to participate in the Attorney General’s Honor Program, Criminal Division, at the United States Department of Justice. While at the Department of Justice in Washington, she served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney, where she prosecuted criminal cases in the District of Columbia Superior Court.
In 1994, Justice Duarte returned to California as an Assistant United States Attorney in Sacramento from 1994-2000, prosecuting a wide variety of federal crimes from investigation through appeal. In 2000, she relocated to the Los Angeles Office of the United States Attorney, where she worked as an Assistant United States Attorney, first in the Major Frauds Section and later in the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section, becoming Section Chief in 2005. During her time in the Los Angeles office, she prosecuted complex fraud cases as well as all types of cyber and intellectual property rights crimes from investigation through appeal. While a federal prosecutor, she received numerous awards and commendations, including her September 2005 selection by the Daily Journal as one of the top 75 female litigators in California.
Justice Duarte has been an instructor of judicial education and has taught, lectured, and presented alone or as a panel member at Stanford Law School, San Francisco School of Law, University of Southern California Law Center, Santa Clara Law School, Loyola Law School, Southwestern Law School, King Hall at U.C. Davis, and Pacific McGeorge Law School, where she was an adjunct professor 2009-2010.