J. Richard Couzens is a retired Placer County Superior Court Judge who has led an exciting and successful career. Judge Couzens is an accomplished legal writer who co-authored the “California Three Strikes Sentencing.” He has also written for the U.C. Davis Law review, California Continuing Education of the Bar, and Administrative Office of the Courts.
Couzens, a Placer County native, graduated from Sierra College in 1964 with his Associate of Arts degree, where he met his future wife, Sherry Harder. From there, he moved to the University of Washington to complete his undergraduate work and received his Bachelors’ degree in 1966. He received his legal degree from U.C. Davis in 1969.
He began his legal career in 1969 as a law clerk to Chief Justices Roger Traynor and Donald Wright of the California Supreme Court. Couzens then went on to practice general and criminal law as a sole practitioner and partner in the firm of Couzens and Johanson in Auburn from 1970 to 1978.
Couzens’ judicial career began in 1977 when he was selected to serve as a Lincoln Justice Court Judge. In 1978, he was selected to serve as Auburn Justice Court Judge. Couzens performed both of these positions until 1980 when he was appointed to the post of Placer County Superior Court Judge.
As a Placer County Superior Court Judge, Couzens was re-elected four times before he retired in January of 2005. During his tenure as a Superior Court Judge he served as a member of many California Judicial Council Advisory committees, State-federal Judicial Council committees, and California Center for Judicial Education and Research committees.
In 1991 he commenced work on the Placer County Peer Court Project. The Peer Court project was selected by the California Attorney General’s Office, the Judicial Council and the California State Bar Foundation as the model for California youth courts. In 1997 the project was honored with the California Judicial Council Ralph N. Klepps Award.
Not only has he acted as a civil servant, but as an educator as well. Couzens was an Adjunct Professor of Business Law here at Sierra College from 1975-1977 and then again from 1997-2000. He has also been a faculty member of California Center for Judicial Education and Research.
Judge J. Richard Couzens’ excellence in service has garnered him many accolades. In 1994 he received the “Outstanding Citizen Award” from the National Association of Social Workers, Sacramento Local Unit. In 2008, he received the Presidents Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Youth Courts as well as the 2008 Jurist of the Year from the California Judicial Council, just to name a few.
Although he is retired, Couzens still continues his civil service today in the Assigned Judges Program.
Favorite Professor: Dr. Raymond Underhill
Favorite Class: Dr. Underhill’s Life Science, “He almost had me convinced to go into a career of Life Science”
Best Advice: “Coming from high school to college I was on the border as to whether or not to take English A or English 1A. My counselor convinced me to take A and I really believed this changed my future and helped to shape my legal career.”
Fondest Memory: Meeting my future wife, during the 12th Night play with Mr. Tomijin. We played brother and sister and I finally worked up the courage to ask her out on the last night of the play.”