San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson, who was raised in Livingston, passed away suddenly on September 22, in Ripon at the age of 54.
Judge Stephenson was a truly amazing man and passionate about everything in life. First and foremost among his passions was his family, his beloved wife Michelle and his three sons. He was a devoted husband and father who spent countless hours with the boys, coaching and mentoring them. Not only did he make every event, he was intimately involved in it.
Judge Stephenson was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 14, 1961. Judge Stephenson spent his childhood years on a vegetable farm in Livingston, California, where he was an outstanding athlete, receiving a scholarship for football and track at Claremont Men’s College. While in college, he served on Claremont’s Board of Directors and was Class President. After graduating from Claremont Men’s College, Judge Stephenson enrolled in law school at Humphreys College in 1985, graduating in 1988. During his law school years he worked as an intern in the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, where he played a leading role in making asset forfeiture law statewide. After passing the bar examination in 1988, he was hired by the law firm of Rishwain, Hakeem and Ellis and worked in the firm for five years before returning to the District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney. While back in the District Attorney’s Office, he rose to the position of Supervising Deputy District Attorney and pioneered the formation of what would become the Quality of Life Crimes Division. He spent many hours in the community focusing on public education and community outreach. During this time, he also served the San Joaquin County Bar Association. He served as a member of the Board of Governors from 1998-2002, and as President in 2002.
Judge Stephenson was appointed to the bench by Governor Gray Davis in 2002. He had an exemplary career as a jurist. Much of his career was spent in the Manteca Court, where he was known and truly loved as the community’s judge. This was the assignment that he loved the most. He savored being closely connected to the community that he served. He distinguished himself throughout his career by treating everyone who appeared before him with dignity, care and respect. While he could be firm when that was called for, he also used his vision and compassion to literally change the lives of hundreds that appeared before him, making the community safer. Judge Stephenson exemplified judicial fairness and will serve as an inspiration to the many that he mentored and served in the justice system. Judge Stephenson was also active in community outreach as a judge, where he was a regular contributor in the Every 15 Minutes program, spending countless volunteer hours with students.
Judge Stephenson also served as an adjunct professor of law at Humphreys College for the last eight years teaching Criminal Law and Professional Responsibility. He wanted to give back to the school that made his legal career possible. He was universally loved by his students, because he served as a mentor to them in addition to being their professor.
Judge Stephenson is preceded in death by his parents Paul and Carroll Stephenson. He is survived by his wife Michelle and sons Austin, 13, Chase, 11 and Jordan, nine. He is also survived by his sister, April Stephenson, of Alexandria, Virginia.
A celebration of Judge Steohenson’s life will be held on Saturday, October 3, at
11 a.m. at Bear Creek Community Church, 11171 N. Lower Sacramento Road, Lodi, California. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to an account that has been set up to support his sons. Donations may be made to Chase Bank, account number 769271169. Non-cash contributions using that account number will be accepted made payable to Michelle Stephenson. Deposits can be made at Chase Bank, 123 Spreckles Ave., Manteca, California, 95336, or at any Chase Bank.
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
Wednesday, September 30, 2015