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Born: Dec. 27, 1944Appointed: Nov. 19, 1997, by WilsonPrevious work of note: Senior deputy district attorney, Alameda County, 1979-97; private practice, Beverly Hills, 1974-77Law degree: Southwestern University School of Law (1974) When he first became a superior court judge two years ago, Kenneth Burr feared he might miss the adrenaline rush he experienced as a prosecutor.“It was something I was concerned about,” concedes Burr, the former No. 2 on the death penalty team in the Alameda County DA’s office. “I really enjoyed trying cases and could see myself doing it forever.”His colleagues also say they wondered if Burr — a triathlete who seemed to thrive on competitive trial work — would get bored sitting on the bench.But Burr, 54, says he loves his new role and has never looked back. That may be because after roughly a year on the family court and several months on the criminal calendar, things have stayed interesting.Burr set a precedent of sorts in February when he called the attorneys in a murder case back into court to continue arguing after several days of jury deliberations. Burr says jurors told him they had legal questions that needed clearing up. Alameda County veterans say it was the first time they can remember a judge taking that unusual step. “The other option was to have the judge explain it,” Burr says, “but that way [the attorneys] got their two cents worth.”A few weeks later he dinged a juror who tried to weasel out of his civic duty by refusing to recite his oath. Burr found the college student in contempt and kicked him off the jury, but ordered him to come watch the trial anyway. “Hopefully he learned something,” Burr says.Burr’s time on the family law calendar was equally eventful. He faced a disqualification motion from a lawyer representing a black woman in a messy custody battle who accused him of racial bias.San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Rosemary Pfeiffer denied the disqualification motion against Burr and the woman’s lawyer, Oakland’s Kim Robinson, later withdrew from the case.Although Burr had experience with family law early on in his career, criminal matters are his real expertise.He joined the Alameda County DA’s office in 1979 after two years as a prosecutor in Los Angeles. He launched the sexual assault unit in Alameda County and went on to try high-profile cases, such as the 1992 Huey Newton murder trial.Many attorneys who have appeared in front of Burr emphasize the same point — don’t set foot in his courtroom unless you are prepared. Deputy DA Stuart Hing, who recently tried a murder case before Burr, admits that he was a bit intimidated going before his former colleague and mentor. “This is a guy who, in my opinion, the best,” Hing says. He adds that he found himself using trial tactics that he had picked from watching Burr in action.But defense attorneys are less enthusiastic. One attorney, who preferred to remain anonymous, says when it comes to evidentiary and pretrial rulings, Burr’s “prosecutorial predisposition” has not vanished.But defense attorneys who have appeared before him also note his intelligence and say he is willing to change his mind.“You’ve got to keep working on him,” one attorney advised.While Burr admits that he is a stickler for preparation, he says he tries to cultivate a relaxed courtroom atmosphere.“I like to allow people to try cases with a minimum amount of tension,” he says.

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