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Born: Feb. 25, 1948Appointed: April 10, 1984, by DeukmejianPrevious work of note: Judge, Alameda County Municipal Court, 1980-84Law degree: University of California-Davis School of Law (1972)Ask around about Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco and you’ll hear the adjective “meticulous” used quite a bit.Those who regularly appear before him will tell you the 19-year veteran of the bench is a stickler for procedure. And apparently he’s famous — or notorious, depending on whom you ask — for his expectation that attorneys ask precise and intelligible questions of witnesses who take the stand.“You can spend half your time rephrasing a question to get it right,” said one attorney, only a little exasperated. “He’s like a house with seven doors, and you have to figure out which one is going to open.”But attorneys on both sides of the aisle say Baranco has earned broad respect. Some go so far as to say Baranco is among Alameda County’s brightest stars with a record of impartial and informed rulings — and a future in a higher court should he ever choose to apply.“I didn’t like him much as a judge at first. He was in law and motion at the time and he came across really abrupt and short,” said one Oakland-based attorney. “But now I think he may be one of the best judges. He still can be abrupt — he has his bad days and his good days. But he’s consistent in the way he rules, which is always fair-handed.”Baranco declined to be interviewed for this story, though he remained cordial — even inviting the reporter into his chambers to chat casually and submitting to a photograph. He was appointed to the municipal bench by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1980 and was elevated by Gov. George Deukmejian four years later.After earning his undergraduate and law degrees from UC-Davis, he worked for the state Department of Justice, the San Francisco district attorney’s office, the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation and, briefly, the Oakland city attorney’s office. The Oakland native (he played trumpet in the Oakland High band and was on the basketball team) remains active in the community.Attorneys say Baranco is the kind of judge who calls his own shots. Indeed, his demeanor on the bench is pretty direct.In a recent personal injury case against the Union Pacific Railroad Co., he sat listening to Martinez plaintiff’s attorney Donald Jageman question his client about how she fell from a moving train as she tried to cross the tracks in Oakland’s Jack London Square.“Can you describe the train?” asked Jageman, prompting an immediate objection from Union Pacific’s John Feeney that the question was speculative. Baranco sustained.“Technically, ‘Can you describe the train?’ asks for a yes-or-no answer, but if you’re asking her to describe the train, then please rephrase the question,” Baranco said.A little later, Jageman asked, “Did you think you could get across safely?” and Feeney again piped up that it was speculative.“No, it’s not speculative. But it’s a leading question, so the objection is sustained on those grounds,” said Baranco. After a few false starts by Jageman trying to rephrase, Baranco finally cut in.“I don’t know if you want to just ask her why she crossed. OK?” Baranco said.Berkeley attorney William Taylor said Baranco may come across as sharp-tongued — but that may simply be because he’s sharp. “He’s smart and he’s decisive, and I think he’s actually penetrating in his analysis — he reaches right into the guts of a case,” Taylor said. “Somebody who is assigned to him had better be prepared to know the facts of the case, to know the law, and to be prepared to stand up and talk.”

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