Patricia D. Benke, Associate Justice

Patricia D. Benke, Associate JusticeAssociate Justice, June 3, 1987 to July 31, 2021

Governor George Deukmejian appointed Patricia Benke to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One in May of 1987. She was confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments and took her oath of office on June 3, 1987. The California State Bar Association Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation rated her at its highest level, "exceptionally well qualified" for appointment to the Court of Appeal. The Clerk of the Court confirms that at the time of her appointment Justice Benke had the distinction of being the youngest person ever appointed to any Court of Appeal in California. She was the first woman appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One.  Justice Benke was twice a candidate for the California Supreme Court.

Judicial and Professional History

Justice Benke began her legal career as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California (1974-1983). She drafted briefs and represented the State of California in cases before the United States Supreme Court, California Supreme Court and in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Divisions One (San Diego), Two (San Bernardino) and Three (Orange County). Justice Benke served as a trial attorney on special assignment to the San Diego District Attorney's Office and Imperial County District Attorney's Office. She also served as a member of the Attorney General’s Legislative Task Force, reviewing all proposed legislation affecting appellate procedure, probation and parole. She was the Attorney General’s Representative to the State Conference on the Judiciary, Blue Ribbon Task Force on Probation and Parole and served as the Attorney General’s representative to district attorney regional conferences. Justice Benke co-compiled the Peace Officers’ Penal Code, a reference book used statewide by law enforcement officers in the field. She is a former state president of the California Association of Deputy Attorneys General.

In July of 1983 Governor George Deukmejian appointed Justice Benke to the San Diego Municipal Court where she presided over special departments, felony preliminary hearings, and criminal and civil trials. In June of 1985 Governor Deukmejian appointed her to the San Diego Superior Court. As a superior court judge, she heard criminal and civil trials and presided in the departments of family law and motion, and civil law and motion. Voters elected her to the Superior Court position in 1986. For both municipal and superior court appointments Justice Benke was rated "exceptionally well qualified" by the California Bar Association's Commission on Judicial Nominees.

In May of 1987 Governor Deukmejian appointed Justice Benke to her current position as an Associate Justice. On November 6, 1990, voters confirmed Justice Benke as an associate justice. She was reconfirmed by voters on November 8, 1994, and in November of 2006.

Professional Activities

Justice Benke's judicial activities include appointment to the California Judicial Council, a statewide body charged with improving the administration of justice in California. She served on judicial advisory committees including those examining the future of appellate courts and the adequacy of payment to attorneys representing the indigent. She is a member of the Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Committee which audits the state's appellate indigent defense budget and advises on policy. Justice Benke served on the Advisory Committee on Rules for Publication of Court of Appeal Opinions.

Justice Benke is an advocate of adult and second career education. She currently serves as a core adjunct professor in National University’s Department of Criminal Justice Administration. She has also taught in the university's Leadership and Business Ethics tracks.


Selected as one of five members of the San Diego County Bar Association's "Legends of the Bar, 2018" project.

Among her recognitions, Justice Benke in 2007 received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of San Diego School of Law. She was the first recipient of the Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. Award for Judicial Excellence for "Distinguished Service to Justice and Commitment to Diversity and Community Service" presented by the Earl Gilliam Bar Association.

Community Involvement

Justice Benke is a sponsor and volunteer at one of San Diego’s therapeutic riding programs.

She is an award-winning novelist.

Before her appointments to the bench Justice Benke was a member of San Diego’s Park and Recreation Board, which advises the San Diego City Council and mayor on development and maintenance of the parks and recreation facilities in the city. She served as the Board's Chairperson for Balboa Park.

Education and Admission to Practice

Justice Benke received her law degree from The University of San Diego School of Law where she served as the managing editor of the San Diego Law Review.

She was admitted to practice before the California Bar, the Federal District Court for the Southern District of California, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Justice Benke is married and has two children.