Justice Robert L. Dondero was confirmed to his present position as an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One, on July 30, 2009. Before assuming this position, Justice Dondero was a Superior Court Judge in San Francisco, serving from February 1992. During his tenure on the trial court bench, Justice Dondero served on the criminal bench at the Hall of Justice, the Juvenile Court, and the civil trial departments. From 1998-2000, Justice Dondero was the Supervising Judge of the Criminal Courts. He was elected by his colleagues as Assistant Presiding Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court from January 2003-December 2004, and then elected Presiding Judge from January 2005-December 2006.
Justice Dondero attended Riordan High School in San Francisco. He graduated from Santa Clara University in 1967, and University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) in 1970. He joined the Office of the District Attorney in San Francisco in January 1971, serving as a Deputy District Attorney until 1978. During that period he handled a variety of trials, specializing in homicide and sexual assault prosecutions. In 1978, he became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, handling numerous federal prosecutions with an emphasis on white-collar litigation. He served with the Department of Justice until he was appointed to the bench, a total of fourteen years.
As a native San Franciscan, Justice Dondero has participated in several charity organizations, serving on the boards of Little Sisters of the Poor and the St. Thomas More Society. He received their St. Thomas More Award in 2009, an annual award given to a person who invests his time in legal outreach and social needs of the community. Justice Dondero also taught Criminal Law at San Francisco Law School from 1990-2007. He was a delegate to nations such as Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and India with the Institute for the Study and Development of Legal Systems. The purpose of this work was to assist these countries in the development of improved criminal procedure practices and legal reform generally.
Justice Dondero was selected as Trial Judge of the Year by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association in 2004; Trial Judge of the Year by the San Francisco Barristers Association in 2005; and Judge of the Year by the Italian American Bar Association in 2006.
Justice Dondero is married to Elizabeth Heffernan Dondero and has two daughters. His interests are hiking, reading, and travel.