BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In the spring of 2020, Superior Court Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II was taken by surprise when a couple local attorneys asked if they could meet him in his chambers, and if it would be all right to bring a photographer.
Not sure what to expect, he agreed. He was then informed the Kern County Bar Association had selected him to receive the prestigious Bench and Bar Award, the highest honor bestowed locally among those in the legal profession. A few photos were taken to mark the occasion.
“I had my most wrinkled-looking shirt on,” Twisselman said, “but that’s me. I’m not a clothes guy anyway.”
Last year’s ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic, but on Sept. 16 Twisselman, wearing what appeared to be a freshly ironed shirt, was presented with the award during an outdoor ceremony held on what turned out to be an evening notable for its cooler temperatures. The judge said he was in favor of holding the event outdoors to prevent it from becoming known as the “Twisselman superspreader event.”
“The whole lawn area was totally shaded,” he said. “People were very spread out. It felt so much safer the way we did it.”
In attendance were a number of prominent attorneys and judges.
Defense lawyer David A. Torres called Twisselman “a judge’s judge” and said the legal profession is fortunate to have him serving the community.
“He is hard working, a mentor to his fellow bench officers and always willing to handle the more complex civil cases, such as California Environmental Quality Act cases,” Torres said. “Through the years he has presided over hundreds of jury trials to include death penalty cases, and is highly respected and revered in the legal profession amongst trial lawyers.”
Calling him an “absolutely stellar” judge, defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey said Twisselman was very deserving of the recognition.
“He saw that being a judge was different from being an attorney and he worked diligently to be a smart, fair judge,” Humphrey said. “And he accomplished that. He is one of the best trial judges and fairest jurists that we have and it will be a lesser bench when he retires.”
As for now, Twisselman, 68, has no plans to leave the bench. He said he enjoys his job and there is nothing he would rather do.
Appointed in 1988 by Gov. George Deukmejian, Twisselman, then 34, had only worked on civil cases. He had to learn how to preside over criminal cases — and promptly.
“That was a quick learning experience, like being thrown into the pool and being told to learn how to swim,” he said.
But he managed, learning more with each case, each day in the courtroom. He said he was glad the appellate court was there to correct his mistakes.
“I tried to never pretend that I know things that I don’t know,” Twisselman said. “I try to be open to constructive criticism, as long as it’s done in a respectful manner. I’m always open to that. I’m always looking for suggestions on how we can do things better.”
Also helpful were other judges who served as mentors, including Gary T. Friedman and Gerald K. Davis. He respected both for their knowledge and advice.
Friedman was one of several people who spoke at the award ceremony. Twisselman said he’s not used to being the center of attention, not in that way, with people talking about his accomplishments.
He said he was honored.
“Very emotional, but very wonderful,” he said of the evening.