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Judge Jean High Wetenkamp Court: Santa Clara Superior Appointment: Santa Clara Municipal Court, March 28, 1989, by Gov. Deukmejian, elevated through consolidation Date of Birth: Dec. 29, 1946 Law School: Santa Clara University School of Law Prior Judicial Experience: Santa Clara Municipal Court When it comes to trials, attorneys compare Jean High Wetenkamp to a maestro. Timing is everything for the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge. So attorneys had better start on time and have witnesses and evidence lined up to avoid unnecessary pauses. “I’ve seen her from both sides of the aisle, and I thought she was reasonable to my clients,” said William Butler, a former deputy DA who now does white-collar defense work as a senior associate at Thelen Reid & Priest. “But as an attorney, you’d better have witnesses ready. I would sweat it when I was trying to choreograph a case. She made it abundantly clear she didn’t want the jurors to wait.” “She’ll just kind of flick your nose for not having people there and not being smart enough to get them there,” said San Jose criminal defense attorney Philip Pennypacker. “She wants to use jury time constructively.” Wetenkamp, a former deputy DA, agrees that she doesn’t like to wait. “It reflects poorly on the system and how I manage my courtroom,” Wetenkamp said. “When I was an attorney, Judge [Paul] Teilh wanted to have witnesses lined up in the hallway. It would be 4:45 p.m. on a Friday, and he’d called a new witness. I guess I have a little Judge Teihl in me.” Wetenkamp is now finishing up her first year in the Sunnyvale courthouse, where she alternates between felony trials and case management with fellow judge John Garibaldi. Wetenkamp, who was appointed to the municipal court in 1989 and elevated in 1998 under unification, is one of a handful of muni judges to receive and retain a felony assignment. Wetenkamp has spent her entire career in criminal and said she won’t be changing up for a civil calendar anytime soon. “What we do not only has impact on the court, but on both victims and defendants. I find it very interesting. It’s really human life,” Wetenkamp said. Despite her testiness with tardy attorneys, litigators who frequent her courtroom said she’s not one to fly off the handle. “She has a very good judicial temperament. That is something that is sorely lacking in a few of our judges,” said San Jose criminal defense attorney Esau Herrera. Herrera said Wetenkamp, a former law school colleague at Santa Clara University, is good with pretrial motions and applying the law — often researching issues before ruling. “She is well-respected in her rulings. She has shown herself to be a scholar of the law,” said Herrera, with San Jose’s Morales Castro Herrera & Campos. Herrera said Wetenkamp has earned a reputation as being very fair despite her prosecution background. Herrera points to a trial in 2000 where Wetenkamp threw out a guilty verdict in an attempted murder case after learning that during deliberations the jury discussed the fact that the 21-year-old defendant did not take the stand in his own defense. The defendant, represented by Herrera, later pleaded guilty before the second trial. “The general sense is most judges are reluctant to grant a motion for a new trial, especially for jury misconduct. They don’t want to undo what the jury has done,” Herrera said. “It requires a judge who listens well to the evidence and makes a decision based on the law. It requires some judicial courage and she has that.” “She has a good attitude. She will dig in on the legal issues,” Pennypacker said. Butler, who prosecuted a high-tech crime in front of the judge, said Wetenkamp also went to great lengths to understand the case and make sure jurors did, as well. “It was a six-week-long trial involving computer tampering and trade secrets,” Butler said. “She ramped up to speed really quickly without having the benefit of months of preparation.” Wetenkamp says she struggles with some of the technology in high-tech prosecutions, but takes the time to make sure she understands the evidence and witnesses she is hearing in court. “I had to ask a lot of questions; I knew I had to look ignorant,” Wetenkamp said. Butler, who recently represented a defendant in a high-tech case, said Wetenkamp employed the same thorough techniques and showed a lot of patience for his client, who during sentencing gave a long, intense statement that — in front of another judge — might have increased his sentence. “Most judges would have shut him down — and it might have made some judges pause on the sentence,” Butler said.

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