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Born: Dec. 4, 1934Appointed: 1979, by Gov. Jerry BrownPrevious work of note: Alameda County Municipal Court judge. Elevated in 1998 through court consolidationLaw degree: Harvard Law School There’s an air of familiarity in Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carol Brosnahan’s courtroom.Half the time, she knows the defendants as well as the attorneys representing them. She knows their drug problems, their relationship problems, and their troubles with the law.“Just stay away from women, because you obviously don’t do very well with women,” she told a DUI offender last week who is also currently enrolled in a domestic violence program.Brosnahan then reminded the defendant of several restraining orders she noticed he still had in his file.At the end of her morning arraignment calendar, when Brosnahan noticed one hapless defendant who arrived several hours too early for his afternoon court date, she dug through a stack of files until she found his.“You’re here. I have your file. Everything is under control,” she said before taking his plea. “But next time, come at 2.”After 20 years on the Berkeley bench, Brosnahan stands at the core of a criminal justice community that pushes hard for rehabilitation programs and that inevitably gets to know the men and women whose lives move in and out of the courts.Brosnahan, one of only three judges assigned to Berkeley, was elevated to the superior court through court consolidation, though attorneys say she was “superior court material” long before that.Attorneys say Brosnahan, who handles everything from misdemeanor cases to felony arraignments, brings patience and compassion to each case. She’s the warm-and-fuzzy judge who takes one case at a time and listens to each defendant’s story, they say.“The type of person coming to the court here tends to have mental health or poverty issues — more so than in other parts of the county,” says criminal defense attorney Elizabeth Grossman of Berkeley’s Grossman & Gibbs. “So a good judge has to be part social worker and part psychologist as well as a judge, and she really does that.”Brosnahan says she has stuck to her philosophy of treating each defendant as an individual and of considering each case for what it’s worth. And she says she expects the attorneys who appear before her to do the same.“Part of it is we’re small enough that we know all the players,” she says, adding that many defendants are repeat offenders or are fighting substance abuse problems.She notes that she sometimes sees whole families, each member with a case file all his or her own.Brosnahan says she considers most of the public attorneys — both the DAs and PDs — to be extremely competent.“There’s much more unevenness in the private bar because you’re dealing with attorneys who don’t do this sort of thing all the time,” she says. “And in a lot of our civil cases, some attorneys don’t have a great deal of financial incentive to spend a lot of time preparing, and they don’t.”“I expect them to care. I really do. And I expect them to want to do a good job,” she says.

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