Ken Fuller had a fairly satisfying academic life until he got to La Cañada High School 7/8.
That's when the bright, accomplished student known for asking a lot of questions in his elementary private school classes and arguing both sides of an issue hit a roadblock — the academic rigor at La Cañada's public middle school was just too much.
"It was an entirely different ballgame," he recalled. "It was like jumping onto a treadmill. There was no coddling. You really had to get organized."
Not wanting the transition to public school to start a downward spiral, Fuller took summer school classes to get up to speed. He found his legs and graduated from LCHS in 1998, going on to major in film production and political science at USC before graduating from USC's Gould School of Law in 2005.
Today the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney and U.S. Air Force reserve captain credits La Cañada High School, and the lesson in perseverance it provided, as a touchstone in a career he hopes will take him all the way to the judge's bench.
Fuller is running for Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Seat No. 126 in the June 5 election. It's a tricky proposition, since getting candidate statements into the sample ballot can be costly for countywide races like judgeships.
The 37-year-old Fullerton resident and father of three hopes his track record and willingness to overcome challenges will make an impression on anyone inclined to Google him or look at his campaign page, fullerforjudge.com.
A youth who enjoyed the limelight — whether in speeches, debates or improv and stand-up comedy — Fuller discovered his true calling was the courtroom.
"When I'm up there, I guess my brain is operating at a different level," he said of trying cases. "It's exhausting sometimes, but it's very exhilarating."
In 2004, drawn to the district attorney's office because there "your only job is the truth," Fuller volunteered as a law clerk. After finishing law school, he became a deputy district attorney in 2006 and tried cases in Torrance, Compton, Norwalk and Long Beach before landing in Downtown Los Angeles.
There, he prosecuted abuse and sex crimes in the Victim Impact Program before seeking out the high caseloads associated with the office's Central Bureau and then moving onto the Hardcore Gang and Environmental Crime units. He credits wife and fellow Deputy District Atty. Roshni Gandhi for helping him maintain equilibrium through especially intense cases.
Despite his success, Fuller looked for new challenges and opportunities to grow. In 2012, he entered the U.S. Air Force's Judge Advocate General's Corps and once again experienced a learning curve.
"At first I kind of struggled a little bit, similar to La Cañada, getting my bearings," he said. "But failing in the beginning was the impetus, just like junior high was. It was a kick in the rear to say, 'you've seen the bottom, now it's time to really push the gas.'"
Fuller graduated at the top of his class and today volunteers about 15% to 20% of his overall work hours representing servicemen and women in the military. Though his schedule is busy, he's excited to once again reach beyond his comfort zone in the June 5 election.
"I always wanted to run for office in some capacity and found myself at the Registrar's door with my wife and figured, you've just got to jump in the pool," he said of his filing. "It's a different skill set, but I'm ready to do that."