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Changes Afoot in Alameda's Complex CourtOakland Superior Court Judge Steven Brick is leaving the department to fill in on the appeal court.
2013-07-17 06:08:13 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — One of Alameda County's two complex litigation judges has been assigned to sit pro tem at the First District Court of Appeal.
Judge Steven Brick will start a three-month stint Aug. 1 in the Division Two seat vacated by retiring Justice James Lambden. Former Alameda County Presiding Judge George Hernandez Jr. will succeed Brick in the complex litigation department. Judge Wynne Carvill is Alameda's other complex lit judge.
Brick said Wednesday he is approaching his five-year anniversary in complex litigation next month, so it was time for him to move on anyway. "When I come back to superior court, I'll be reassigned," he said.
His pro tem stint will cost the court a judicial resource for 90 days — no small matter in the current judicial economy — but Brick noted that Governor Jerry Brown just appointed three new judges to the court last week. "I think that made it easier to part with me for a few months," he said.
Business litigator Kathleen Carpenter said she and her colleagues at Danville's Shannon B. Jones Law Group have enjoyed appearing before Brick. "Given the stresses on the courts and people being overworked, Judge Brick's attention to detail and ability to manage the interests of different parties has been fantastic," she said. "
He's also personable, said Anne Lawlor Goyette of Griffiths, Castle, Goyette & Dekker, who has worked with the complex litigation department as a special master. She recalls seeing Brick step off the bench and personally shake hands with every attorney, party and insurance rep at a mandatory settlement conference.
Hernandez's broad base of judicial experience, including his stint as PJ in 2006 and 2007, makes him a good choice for the complex litigation role, Carpenter said. She described Hernandez as conscientious and willing to be tough on lawyers when necessary. "His ability to force counsel to do things they should have done before they appeared will serve him well in complex litigation," she quipped.
Brick was appointed to superior court by Governor Gray Davis in 2001 and is in his mid-60s. In addition to his complex litigation work, the former Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner also has served as Alameda County's law and motion judge. He has long been regarded as a potential candidate for a permanent court of appeal gig.
Both individual judges and their trial courts benefit from pro tem opportunities at the court of appeal, said Brian Walsh, presiding judge of Santa Clara County Superior Court. Walsh served as a pro tem on the Sixth District last year. "I don't pretend to be an expert on appellate procedure" following that experience, "but I can generally give my colleagues some sense of how things work there," Walsh said.
Superior courts can call on retired judges to fill vacancies created by a pro tem assignment, he added. Replacing a complex litigation judge mid-tenure could be difficult, but with Brick ready to pass the torch, "giving Judge Hernandez a running head start seems like a good way to go."
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