Meet Bonnie Dumanis
A Trailblazer for San Diego
Judge Bonnie Dumanis has been a trailblazing woman throughout her life. Rising from a tough working class neighborhood south of Boston, to typist, to prosecutor, to judge, to District Attorney, she’s worked hard to break barriers.
For 25 years, her father was a truck driver and a proud member of the Teamsters. Her mother worked for the government’s WIC program (Women, Infants and Children), providing nutritional support to low-income families. She knows the struggles of working families because she’s a product of America’s working class.
Bonnie put herself through college and then law school, while working as a junior clerk typist in the District Attorney’s Office. During this time, she also volunteered with Legal Aid and the Women’s Legal Center. Along the way, she faced doubters and discrimination but her hard work and commitment paid off as she rose up the ranks to Deputy District Attorney.
In 1994, she was elected Judge on the San Diego Municipal Court and, in 1998, Judge on the Superior Court where she pioneered the “Domestic Violence Court” to reduce recurrences of abuse. She also created one of the first Drug Courts in San Diego County, which was recognized as a national model.
In 2003, Bonnie challenged the sitting DA, winning a race no one thought she could, while making history as the first openly gay prosecutor in the country, and the first female DA in San Diego history.
As District Attorney for nearly 15 years, Bonnie built a remarkable partnership with other law enforcement agencies and community groups to help make San Diego one of the safest big cities in America. When she left office in 2017, crime was at a 47-year low.
She was innovative in transforming the office, and her leadership of one of the largest law enforcement organizations in California earned her national recognition. She pushed new commitments to diversity throughout her department ensuring the office reflects the communities it serves and won awards for these efforts. And working with organizations like the Innocence Project, she implemented programs to help protect against wrongful convictions.
A “Victim’s DA,” Bonnie’s office maintained a 94% conviction rate and was a state leader in the passage of “Jessica’s Law” and “Chelsea’s Law,” which strengthens punishment for sex offenders. She also worked to implement innovative justice programs, such as prisoner reform, which provides non-violent offenders with job training, treatment, and wrap-around services to keep them from returning to a life of crime.
Bonnie has lived in District 4 for more than 40 years, now residing in Little Italy with her spouse, Denise, a licensed clinical social worker and expert in the issues of aging. For 18 years, Denise wrote a column (“Seniority”) on aging for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Bonnie served on the Advisory Boards for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Second Chance. She also volunteered with hospice, Big Sisters, and the Golden Hills Mediation Center. She’s been honored by the YWCA with the Tribute to Women Award, and is the recipient of many awards including the California Women in Government Law and Justice Award, the Salvation Army Women`s Auxiliary Women of Dedication Award, and the Lambda Archives Trailblazer Award. She was also inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame.
Throughout her career, Bonnie has been an innovator, recognized as being on the cutting edge with solutions to community issues. She has a long history of action and results.