Judge Timothy Staffel, who for the past 24 years banged the gavel in Santa Maria’s Department 3, stepped down from the bench this week after a judicial career that spanned everything from small claims cases to death penalty trials. Staffel was appointed to the bench in 1998 by then-Governor Pete Wilson after having served two terms representing Lompoc at the Board of Supervisors.
A former sports writer for the Lompoc Record, Staffel — a conservative-leaning Republican — contended that Lompoc and the North County in general got the short end of the stick from the then-liberal majority dominated by the South Coast. For a brief stretch of time, Staffel helped tip the supervisors’ balance of power in favor of the North County, teaming up with fellow conservatives Mike Stoker and Willy Chamberlin.
Staffel distinguished himself with his keen attention to detail, careful readings of staff reports, and probing questions. He served 10 years as the North County Supervising Civil Judge and as a member of the Superior Court Appellate Panel. Staffel is not walking away from the bench completely and will still function as a substitute judge.