Beth Norman, a prosecutor who was once appointed to serve as acting District Attorney for Mendocino County in the middle of a contentious election, was celebrated Saturday night by her colleagues, family, and friends at a retirement party.
While Beth’s long legal career is worthy of applause, count me among those who honor Beth for her honesty, integrity, kindness, and compassion.
I was present on Jan. 12, 2007, when the county Board of Supervisors named Beth acting district attorney of an office under stress.
Everyone was relieved that an individual with immense character and a strong sense of duty was temporarily taking the reins in an office buffeted by politics.
The late District Attorney Norman Vroman, a maverick lawman who had once served a federal prison term for tax evasion, suddenly died a few weeks before the November general election and threw things into turmoil.
Keith Faulder, now a Superior Court judge but then a prosecutor for Vroman, was named interim DA in the wake of Vroman’s death. But then he decided to seek the office and challenged then County Clerk Marsha Wharff and the Board of Supervisors’ initial decision not to call a special election after Vroman died.
A state appeals court ordered Mendocino County to hold a new election for district attorney and seal the results of the Nov. 7 election because the incumbent died shortly before the vote.
A state law passed 20 years before Vroman’s death requires a special election whenever an incumbent and a single challenger are running for a nonpartisan office such as a district attorney and one of them dies within 68 days of the election, according to the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Vroman, 69, died of a heart attack 47 days before his hotly contested re-election bid with Lintott in the November election. Lintott received the most votes among three candidates in the June primary, but she fell short of a majority. The state court ruling allowed Faulder, Vroman’s former assistant who has been acting district attorney since Vroman’s death, to run against Lintott. Faulder had not run in the primary.
Lintott eventually won the special election and named Beth her assistant.
Politics again intervened in Beth’s career when current DA Dave Eyster defeated Lintott and took office. He demoted Beth and brought in his own assistants.
Beth has continued to serve as a senior deputy district attorney in the office. She continued to be a mentor to many younger prosecutors starting out. Beth was known to organize post-work gatherings at watering holes across from the downtown Ukiah courthouse for fun, or stress relief.
In total Beth served 34 years in the DA’s office, managing virtually every type of case. She routinely appeared at state Parole Board hearings, arguing successfully against the release of inmates who were responsible for some of the most heinous crimes in Mendocino County.
Former District Attorney Susan Massini, retired and living in Oregon, calls Beth a ‘trailblazer.’
Massini believes Beth successfully prosecuted the first case in California and achieved a second-degree murder conviction in a groundbreaking DUI case. Beth also reported the first delayed reporting child sexual assault case in the state, Massini recalled.
“Beth was one of two beginning attorneys who grew up in the North County that I hired. Both women, and daughters of law enforcement officers. I am proud to have hired her, and I count her as a friend,” said Massini.
In 2019, Beth was honored by the Women’s Bar Association, and described her life and accomplishments:
“Beth Norman was born in Ukiah but grew up in Willits where her parents resided. Her father worked for the California Highway Patrol, and her mother was a registered nurse.
During high school, she was the student body President. After high school, Beth furthered her education and attended the University of the Pacific. Upon graduating, she began her legal education at the University of North Dakota.
Prior to starting at the Mendocino District Attorney’s Office, Beth worked as a law clerk in various Civil Law firms. Then, in January of 1988, she began her first job as a Lawyer at the District Attorney’s Office and has been there since.
During Beth’s career, she has had the opportunity to grow tremendously in her profession. In 2007, she was the appointed District Attorney for three months until the election. Thereafter, she served as the Assistant District Attorney for three years. Currently, Beth serves as a Deputy District Attorney IV. As such, she has worked on a variety of different cases: Homicide, Molestation, and Domestic Violence to name a few.
Additionally, Beth has worked on a grant for three years for child abuse prosecution; as well as serving on a state-wide committee for child molestation issues and prosecution. Furthermore, she served in the Drug Court for many years. Over the past three years, she has been with the Behavioral Health Court.
On a personal level, Beth is married and has two dogs and two cats. Her favorite hobbies include open water swimming (including swimming from Alcatraz), running marathons, beer tasting, and golfing.”
So, here’s to Beth, a homegrown individual who serves her community well.
Mike Geniella’s incisive voice and watchful eye have been aimed at Mendocino County for many decades as a long-standing reporter for the Press Democrat and the spokesman for Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. Now retired, Geniella finds the writing habit hard to shake. We’re excited to host a column from him sharing his thoughts, comments, and concerns about life here in Mendocino County