Associate Justice Franklin D. Elia received his undergraduate degree in 1972 from Santa Clara University. He received his law degree in 1975 from Santa Clara University Law School.
He was admitted to the California Bar in December 1975.
From 1975 to 1980 he was a deputy attorney general in Sacramento and San Francisco Offices of the California Attorney General where he represented the People of the State of California in Criminal prosecutions and appeals. He additionally served as a deputy district attorney in the Sacramento District Attorneys Office while on special assignment from the Office of the Attorney General. From 1980 to 1983 he was senior assistant city attorney for the City of Palo Alto where he represented the City of Palo Alto and its various departments as legal counsel in civil trial matters.
In 1983 Governor Deukmejian appointed him to the position of Santa Clara County Municipal Court Judge where he served in the court's criminal and civil departments. In 1986, he was elevated to the Santa Clara County Superior Court where he served in the criminal, family law and juvenile divisions. In October 1988, Justice Elia was appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to a newly-created position on the Court of Appeal, Sixth District. The voters of the State of California elected him to a full term in 1990 and again in 2002.
Before assuming judicial office, Justice Elia was actively involved in the Santa Clara County Bar Association and served as chief counsel to the State Bar of California's Committee on Moral Character. Since assuming judicial office Justice Elia has served on the Judicial Council's Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Committee and the Standing Subcommittee on Appellate Courts. He is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Santa Clara and a member of the Law School's Appellate Advisory Committee. He is active in the Trial Advocacy Program at Stanford Law School and the University of San Francisco School of Law. His additional involvement in legal education has included the Traynor Moot Court Competition at University of California Berkeley and Hastings College of Law.