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Court: San Francisco Superior Court Appointed: Jan. 21, 1994Date of Birth: July 27, 1942 Previous Judicial Experience:None Law Degree: Harvard University Law School Judge John Munter enjoys few things more than engaging lawyers in a free-flowing courtroom colloquy. He will interrupt attorneys to discuss a citation or wade into matters of disputed evidence. He examines jury instructions inside out to make sure they fit the case. The San Francisco superior court judge’s mind is restless and curious. Woe to the lawyer who isn’t up to defending a position or explaining a cite. “One of the reasons I do it is to learn,” Munter said in a recent interview. “It educates me to get feedback going in both directions in open court.” Jerome Falk Jr. offers a simpler explanation. “If I were a judge, I would do the same thing, because that’s a way to stay awake,” joked Falk, a partner at Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin. On a more serious note, he added, “Engaging lawyers is a way of engaging himself and to keep stimulated by the work.” In just seven years on the bench, Munter has earned a reputation as a judge who works hard, reads everything and expects decorum. “What I hope to get from lawyers is dignity, respect and professionalism,” he said. “I’m not talking about dignity, respect and professionalism in dealing with me, because lawyers are very good at giving those things to judges. “I’m talking about dignity, respect and professionalism in their dealings with opposing counsel, with juries, with the court staff.” His first significant trial was the much publicized sexual harassment case that legal secretary Rena Weeks brought against Baker & McKenzie. She won a $6.9 million award, which Munter cut in half. But what Munter remembers most about the case is an incident involving his father, who was then 80. His father was so proud that his son had become a judge, he came to court to listen to all the testimony. Munter said he had warned him “100,000 times to be very careful and not discuss the case in or about the courtroom.” One day Baker & McKenzie lead counsel John Bartko noticed the resemblance and asked the older man if he was the judge’s father. “I can’t answer that question,” he said. One of Weeks’ attorneys, Alan Exelrod, recalled that Munter “will do everything to ensure that both parties will get a fair trial.” “He measures things through the legal screen, but also measures whether the fundamental things are fair to do,” Exelrod added. William Ohlemeyer, vice president and associate general counsel for Philip Morris Co., participated in a pair of tobacco product liability trials before Munter. Two plaintiffs won a total of $45 million in awards. He said, “although we have some differences of opinion,” Munter was fair to all parties. “He likes to resolve contested evidentiary matters without having to make a ruling so the case can be reviewed by the court of appeal,” Ohlemeyer said. “It puts a lot of pressure on you as a lawyer to make a record on the issues that need to be made for review by the court of appeal,” he added. Bartko agreed that Munter likes to make things tidy off the record. “He tries to make sure everything is resolved in chambers,” said Bartko, name partner in Bartko, Zankel, Tarrant & Miller. A Munter requirement for lawyers is for them to provide the court hard copies of all authorities they cite. “I ask them to highlight or underline the particular passage or pages that they think are particularly important,” the judge said. “The reason I do that is � because as I am reviewing their briefs and other memoranda, many times at home in the evenings or on weekends, and that way I can have a self-contained unit where I can double-check the law that they cite.” Employment law solo Kathleen Lucas says Munter “really relies on the lawyers” to provide him with the law as its pertains to their cases. “You need to know your case law,” Lucas said. “He also expects you to play it straight. Don’t clutter the courtroom or your case.” Lucas also embraced Munter’s penchant for give-and-take on issues and the law. “I felt heard,” she said. “I had done a lot of work, and I was pleased that we were going to have this discussion. I wanted it to be a clean record.” Munter said that to challenge lawyers in court sharpens his own analysis and also shows “that you’ve given it your best shot.” “People can handle an adverse decision when they think that the judge has done his or her best and has studied the matter and given it [some] thought,” he said. To which Exelrod adds, “I like to know that the judge is thinking.”

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