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Name: Rodney Stafford Court: Santa Clara Superior Appointed: 1990 by Gov. Deukmejian, elevated by unification. Born: April 22, 1943 Law Degree: Santa Clara University School of Law Previous Judicial Experience: Commissioner 1988-1990 When assignments are shuffled this fall, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Stafford says he’s aiming for a felony trial assignment. “My favorite thing is a jury trial. I enjoy the jury selection process and getting to know the jury. It’s kind of fun to find out what people are like and it’s interesting to watch the attorneys try the case,” Stafford said. “The jury trial, so far as I am concerned, is what judges do best.” Stafford has handled primarily misdemeanor and calendar assignments during his past dozen years on the bench. The judge has been supervising misdemeanors for the last two years, pinch-hitting on calendars when other judges are out and juggling misdemeanor jury trials with administrative work. But attorneys say he could be his own worst enemy in landing a new assignment. Stafford’s tendency to start on time, and his economy of words coupled with his controlled tone makes him a comfortable fit for high-volume calendars, attorneys say. “The reason he is assigned to those is because he can handle a high-volume calendar. He can discuss 20, 30 or 40 cases. He can carry a huge caseload and keep the ball rolling,” said Deputy Public Defender Bernardo Saucedo. “That’s his forte and that’s the reason they’ve assigned him to the work.” Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Stafford to the municipal bench in 1990. He was elevated to the superior bench by court unification. Since then, Stafford’s spent time in drug court, domestic violence court, pretrial arraignments and preliminary examinations. Attorneys say Stafford’s developed a reputation for being even-handed. They say he comes across on the bench as a polite, friendly guy who’s difficult to rattle even if he has 130 items on his morning calendar. “Human nature means you have a bad day, but he doesn’t have a bad day,” said Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Sevely. “I’ve never seen him get mad at anybody.” Deputy District Attorney Malcolm Sprott said Stafford has a good grasp on the evidence and criminal codes, but he isn’t one to elaborate on his rulings. “He’s very quiet. He lets the attorneys talk. He doesn’t give a feeling of how he rules and then he rules,” Sprott said. But Stafford does occasionally slip in a few one-liners. “He has a bit of a sense of humor. He likes to keep the job light,” Sprott said. Attorneys say Stafford, a former private defense attorney, rules consistently and has a reputation for treating both sides fairly. “There’s a certain amount of consistency and predictability,” Saucedo said. “It makes it easier to handle and settle large cases because [lawyers] know which way the wind blows.” In 2000, Stafford made news when he dismissed misdemeanor child abuse charges against private school administrator Sarah Bayne. Prosecutors claimed that Bayne, headmistress of Los Gatos Hillbrook School failed to report a case of child abuse when a student came to school with a mark on his face after being slapped by a parent for not eating breakfast. In dismissing the politicized case, Stafford said no child abuse had occurred, and therefore Bayne was not required to report the incident. “He is not there to worry about the politics. He is not there to worry he is pleasing one side and angering another. He is there to make a judgment,” Saucedo said. “He is not there to do that when a lot of judges are afraid. It speaks volume about the man.” The Bayne case wasn’t Stafford’s first experience under the media microscope. When he became presiding judge of the municipal court in 1995, the court’s no-bid contract with a traffic school became a center of controversy. A series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News accused the school of not performing outside audits or abiding by a 10 percent profit cap. Judges later bid out the traffic school contract and awarded it to another provider. “It was a very traumatic year as a presiding judge,” said Stafford, who took the position just days before the controversy erupted. “In the long run, the whole episode did not amount to a lot,” said Stafford, saying quality or costs did not change with the new provider. “The long-term effect was basically zero.” Outside of court, Stafford, a ham radio aficionado, is national president of the American Radio Relay League. Ham radio operators assist law enforcement and rescue staff communications during crises. “It’s an integral part of the emergency plan for governments, counties and cities,” Stafford said. Reporter Shannon Lafferty’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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