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Court: Alameda County Appointed: 1996 by Gov. Pete Wilson Date of Birth: April 7, 1951 Previous Judicial Experience: Appointed court commissioner, December 1985; Appointed to the municipal court, 1989. Law Degree: Hastings College of the Law As a young attorney, Alameda County Superior Judge George Hernandez Jr. argued motions under the unnerving gaze of San Francisco’s legendary law and motion Judge Ira Brown. “He commanded a presence that made lawyers very uncomfortable,” said Hernandez of the late jurist, renowned for his ability to deflate lawyers’ bravado with a piercing comment. That experience is one reason Hernandez sets a different tone in his courtroom. “The court shouldn’t be a hurdle,” the judge said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about following a judge’s peccadilloes.” Civil attorneys say Hernandez’s courtroom is a decidedly more pleasant place to try a case. John Harding, a Pleasanton personal injury attorney, says Hernandez is the ultimate gentleman. Harding appeared before Hernandez when the judge was at the Pleasanton courthouse a few years ago. Other Tri-Valley lawyers who’ve been in Hernandez’s law and motion courtroom say the judge does his homework. When lawyers try to rattle off a point that is fleshed out in papers, Hernandez is known to politely inform them that he’s read the argument already. “We’ve all been before others where you know that they didn’t read a thing,” said Dublin plaintiffs attorney Jack Leonard. “He’s not one of them.” Hernandez typically gives lawyers room to handle their cases the way that they see fit, added Pleasanton civil attorney G. Judson Scott Jr. Scott recalled a motion in a head injury case where the defense wanted neuro-psychological tests. Scott’s client, who had the injury, wanted protection so that the defense experts could not misuse the exam or conduct it improperly. Hernandez crafted an order that allowed Scott to be present in a waiting area while the tests were done in another room. If Scott’s client had questions, she could leave the room and consult him. Hernandez “put a lot of extra effort in trying to reach a balanced result,” Scott said. “I respect that a lot.” Some civil judges have reputations for muscling reluctant parties toward settlement. Hernandez says that’s not his style. “Some mediators will say, ‘Don’t tell me about the law. Let’s talk about the money,’” said Hernandez. But “somehow a question of law is there to be resolved.” That philosophy spills into how the judge handles discovery disputes. Like Alameda County colleagues such as Judge James Richman, Hernandez asks lawyers to “meet and confer” and record the meeting. Afterward the lawyers must give him the tape and list – no longer than five pages – of the remaining items that the judge must help resolve. That forces lawyers to narrow down many disputes on their own, Hernandez said. Hernandez came to the bench after eight years of practicing civil law in San Francisco and Union City. After rising to be a name partner in the Union City civil firm Xavier, Hernandez & Lenahan (later called Xavier & Hernandez), Hernandez was tapped to be a court commissioner. After four years, he was promoted to the municipal court bench. He was later elevated by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996. For four years, Hernandez handled law and motion, case management and other civil duties at Pleasanton’s Gale/Schenone Hall of Justice. The judge has also taken leadership roles behind the scenes. From 1996 to 2000 Hernandez supervised the Pleasanton courthouse, and he currently chairs the court’s civil committee. Last year, Chief Justice Ronald George of the California Supreme Court appointed him to the panel that hears Alameda County misdemeanor and limited jurisdiction appeals. This year he is the presiding judge of that panel. Now, Hernandez presides over civil trials in Oakland at the Administration Building. In his Oakland assignment, Hernandez’s office is across the street from the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, where he witnessed court sessions first-hand as a Hastings College of the Law student. In the old courthouse, imposing courtroom furnishings, marble flourishes and an elevator attendant helped give the court a more formal air, the judge recalled. Hernandez likes to keep a few traditional touches in his courtroom, too. The bailiff will ask people to stand when the judge takes the bench, attorneys should ask permission to approach a witness, and lawyers are advised to address the court and not each other. Anyone who did well in moot court in law school will do fine in Dept. 17, the judge added. But Hernandez doesn’t take it too far. Lawyers should feel like “this is the court, these are the rules and do your lawyering,” he said. Not, “this is my court, these are my rules and do what I say,” he said.

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