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Justice Joan K. Irion was appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, in September 2003. She was found to be exceptionally well-qualified for the position of Associate Justice by the California State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission and was unanimously confirmed at a public hearing of the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Before appointment to the Court of Appeal, Justice Irion served as a San Diego County Superior Court Judge. Justice Irion devotes substantial time to the improvement of the courts, better access for self-represented individuals within the California Court system, judicial education and community and youth civic education. She is a frequent lecturer at judicial education courses and continuing education classes for the appellate bar. She has appeared on several education panels for the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Justice Irion was instrumental in designing and implementing the high school education program for the December 2004 and September 2016 San Diego Special Sessions of the California Supreme Court. Justice Irion received her undergraduate degree, with high honors, from the University of California Davis in 1974. Two years later, she earned her master's degree in the field of public administration, with highest honors, from San Diego State University. In 1979, she received her law degree from the University of California Davis, King Hall School of Law. From 1978-1979, she served as Managing Editor of its Law Review.

After law school, Justice Irion entered private practice as a civil litigator, where she remained for more than 20 years until her appointment to the Superior Court of San Diego County. She specialized in representing clients before state taxing agencies and in litigating tax and business matters in the federal and state trial and appellate courts. She was a shareholder in the law firm of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, and its managing shareholder in the San Diego office from 1998 until her judicial appointment. Throughout her legal career, Justice Irion participated actively in teaching and lecturing at a wide variety of universities, including Stanford Law School, University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California Davis School of Law (King Hall), University of San Diego School of Law, Vanderbilt University, Georgetown University, and University of Southern California.

Prior to her judicial appointments, Justice Irion served as a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, a member of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission, President of the California Young Lawyers Association, a member of the Board of Directors of the Bar Association of San Francisco, a member of the Statewide Commission to Study Mandatory Continuing Legal Education, a delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates and a member of the American Law Institute.

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