Hon. Franklin D. Elia is a retired Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, where he was the longest serving Justice in the Court’s history. His service as a judicial officer spans 39 years, including 34 years for the Court of Appeal and 5 years for the Santa Clara County Superior and Municipal Courts. Justice Elia has sat in every level of the California judiciary, including the California Supreme Court by assignment of the Chief Justice.
Justice Elia began his legal career in 1975 as a Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the California Attorney General. He represented the People of the State of California in hundreds of criminal prosecutions and appeals, in addition to representing the Attorney General in civil litigation. ln 1980, Justice Elia became the Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Palo Alto, where he represented the city and its various departments in civil litigation. He was honored by the Mayor and the City Council by a resolution of commendation for his service in defending the city with distinction and for his outstanding public service to the community.
In 1983, at the age of 33, Justice Elia was appointed to the Santa Clara County Municipal Court, where he served in the court’s civil division and as Supervising Judge of the criminal division. He received an award for outstanding service as a municipal court judge by the judges and commissioners of the Santa Clara County Judicial District. In 1986, he was elevated to the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he served in the criminal, family law, juvenile and civil divisions. He was recognized for his outstanding service as a juvenile court judge by the Santa Clara County Juvenile Justice Commission, and for his “dedicated leadership and pursuit of excellence in family court” by the Family Law Section of the Santa Clara County Bar Association.
In 1988, Justice Elia was appointed to serve as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District. During his tenure, he participated in 11,930 appellate decisions and authored 3,793 opinions, including 330 published opinions. He served on the Judicial Council’s Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Committee and the Standing Subcommittee on Appellate Courts. In 2015, he was voted Justice of the Year for Judicial Excellence by the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association.
Justice Elia has served as an adjunct professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law and a member of the law school’s Appellate Advisory Committee. He was active in the Trial Advocacy Program at Stanford Law School and the University of San Francisco School of Law, teaching trial techniques and advocacy from discovery to jury selection to verdict. His involvement in legal education has also included the Traynor Moot Court Competition at the University of California Berkeley and UC Hastings College of the Law.
Justice Elia enjoys helping local high schools in their moot court programs, is an avid polo fan, having given up active participation in the game in recent years, and enjoys opera at the Met in New York as well as the San Francisco Opera, in addition to the symphony and local theater.
CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEAL, San Jose, CA
Associate Justice, Sixth Appellate District, 1988-2022
SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, San Jose, CA
Judge of the Superior Court, 1986-1988
MUNICIPAL COURT OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, San Jose, CA
Judge of the Municipal Court, 1983-1986
CITY OF PALO ALTO
Senior Assistant City Attorney in charge of litigation, 1980-1983
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, CALIFORNIA
Deputy Attorney General, 1975-1980