Story Highlights

Judge Kolakowski has been elected to office twice.

She had to sue to pass the bar after coming out as Transgender.

(EW)- Meet Judge Victoria Kolakowski. She started life as Michael Kolakowski of Staten Island, New York. Kolakowski graduated from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a juris doctor in 1989 as Michael, and she began her transition during her last semester of law school. Kolakowski underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1991, she then had to sue to take the bar exam in Louisiana after coming out as transgender. She won.


Kolakowski married Cynthia Laird, news editor of the Bay Area Reporter, on June 16, 2008.
Judge Kolakowski first made news in 2010, when she won a tight race against John Creighton, a prosecutor for 25 years, who had been endorsed by most of the county’s judges. Her campaign focused on younger voters, women, people of color and especially the LGBT community. She was endorsed by the Equality California PAC, the “nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society.”

As a judge, she has served in both civil (asbestos and unlawful detainer) and criminal trial assignments. She currently presides over misdemeanor trials, felony preliminary hearings, and hears small claims appeals for northern Alameda county.

She is passionate about ensuring and expanding access to justice, particularly for those with limited resources. She serves on the Judicial Council of California’s Advisory Committee on Providing Access and Fairness, and is the California Council of Churches’s appointee to the California Commission on Access to Justice, where she co-chairs its court fees committee. She chairs the Alameda County Superior Court’s Self Represented Litigants Committee.
She is the President of the International Association of LGBT Judges, and is the immediate past President of the Earl Warren American Inn of Court chapter.
She was an attorney for twenty one years in Louisiana and California, serving as a sole practitioner, attorney in a small firm, as general counsel for a publicly traded company, as a senior government utility regulatory attorney, and as an administrative law judge for two different California agencies.
Since coming out publicly in 1989, she has been a leader in numerous local, state and national LGBT legal, political and spiritual organizations. Her many accomplishments include co-authoring Berkeley, California’s domestic partner public registration ordinance in 1991 and co-chairing the board of directors of the Transgender Law Center, an organization focused on the well-being and protection of transgender individuals.
In 2011, she served as a Community Grand Marshal for San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride, was named by the Equality Forum as one of 31 international Icons for LGBT History Month, and received Equality California’s Equality and Justice Award. In 2012, she received the Vanguard Award from the Transgender Law Center. In 2014, she received the first “Pioneer in the Law Award” from California Women Lawyers, was the honored guest of Transgender Equality Network Ireland’s at Dublin Pride, and was Special Guest at Greater Palm Springs (California) Pride. And finally, in 2015 she was honored by the Alameda County Bar Association with its annual Distinguished Service Award for a Judge.
She lives in Oakland with her wife Cynthia, their Pembroke Welsh Corgi Darby, and cat Espresso.