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Gov. Gray Davis appointed Bingham McCutchen partner James Kleinberg to the Santa Clara bench and filled three seats in the Central Valley on Monday. Kleinberg, a complex commercial litigator, is one of a string of civil attorneys to be appointed to the bench in Silicon Valley. Kleinberg, 59, said the lure of public service prompted him to leave lucrative private practice. “I am a kid of the ’60s. The opportunity to be volunteering in public service is a terrific opportunity for me,” Kleinberg said. “I think between the Kennedy era and my wife’s influence, I have been inspired.” Kleinberg is married to Palo Alto City Council Member Judy Kleinberg. He will fill retired Judge Virginia Mae Days’ seat, leaving three vacancies on the 79-judge bench. “This is as good as we’ve been since unification,” said Santa Clara Presiding Judge Richard Turrone. “This time last summer we were down nine, and we’ve been down as many as 11 judges.” Kleinberg graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1967 and worked in the Justice Department’s antitrust department for two years. Kleinberg joined Petty, Andrews, Tufts & Jackson in 1969, later joining McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen as a partner in 1983. He developed a business litigation practice, representing clients including Microsoft Corp., AT&T Corp., Big Five accounting firms and the NFL. Other civil litigators to recently join the Santa Clara bench include former McManis Faulkner & Morgan partner Erica Yew, former Skjerven Morrill partner Randolf Rice and former Huber Samuelson partner Joseph Huber. In the Central Valley, Bakersfield solo practitioner Robert Tafoya will join the Kern County Superior Court. Tafoya, 51, graduated from Hastings College of the Law and now practices as a family law specialist. He is a former president of Kern County La Raza Lawyers and served as secretary of the state organization, and is the current president of the county bar association. Tafoya will replace retired Judge Coleen Ward Ryan. Civil litigator and federal criminal defense attorney Hilary Chittick, a partner at Fresno’s Gilmore Wood Vinnard Chittick & Magness, will join the Fresno County Superior Court. Chittick, 48, graduated from Hastings and worked as a deputy public defender for nine years. Chittick will replace retired Judge James Quaschnick. Civil litigator Ronald Hansen, with Merced’s Canelo, Hansen, Wilson, Wallace & Padron will join the Merced County Superior Court. Hansen, 54, graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law. His practice focused on personal injury, real estate and business litigation. Hansen will replaced retired Judge Michael Hider. The judges will each receive a salary of $139,476.

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