The judges of Santa Barbara County Superior Court have appointed two new commissioners, Pauline Maxwell and Denise Motter, to fill one vacancy created by the retirement of an incumbent commissioner and to fill another vacancy created by the recent promotion of a commissioner to a vacant judgeship.

Maxwell, one of the court research attorneys, has filled the commissioner position vacated by incumbent Deborah Talmage, who retired after 27 years of service. Maxwell will handle traffic cases and various “therapeutic” calendars such as Drug Court, and the Clean and Sober calendars.

Maxwell has been a research attorney for the Santa Barbara Superior Court since August 2006. She has worked with the South County judges on civil, criminal and appellate cases. She also has been working as an adjunct professor at the Santa Barbara College of Law, where she teaches legal writing classes.

Before joining the court, Maxwell was a senior associate at Grokenberger & Smith, where she was a trial attorney. She conducted all aspects of litigation and appellate practice. She also worked as an attorney for Tenet Health Care and the Los Angeles firm of Foley & Lardner.

She received her juris doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from UCSB.

Motter has been appointed the court’s family law commissioner, effective April 19. She will succeed Colleen Sterne, who will fill the judgeship that became vacant after the recent death of Judge William McLafferty.

Motter was selected from among a highly competitive field of candidates. The family law commissioner hears family support cases and related matters in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara each week.

Motter recently served as the court’s family law facilitator in Santa Maria. That position counsels and provides information and direction to self-represented litigants relative to child support and other family law matters pending before the court.

Before her tenure with the court, Motter was a partner with the local law firm of Kirk & Simas from 2001 to 2006. She was a private family law practitioner in Lompoc from 1998 to 2001 and a staff attorney with the law office of Buddy Jaquith from 1995-98. She was a family support officer with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office from 1985 to 1995. She also held accounting positions before her career in the law.

Motter earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal State University at Long Beach and her juris doctor degree from the Santa Barbara College of the Law.

“We are fortunate we had Pauline Maxwell and Denise Motter already working for the court,” presiding Judge Arthur Garcia said. “They are able to step forward and seamlessly assume these critical roles. The court will be strengthened by their talents, and they are welcome additions to our bench.”

— Gary Blair is an executive officer for Santa Barbara County Superior Court.