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Court: San Francisco Superior CourtAppointed: Elevated Dec. 31, 1998 Date of Birth: May 10, 1951 Previous Judicial Experience: Municipal Court, appointed Jan. 27, 1994Law Degree: Boalt Hall At a law and motion hearing in a multi-defendant asbestos case, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James McBride listened patiently as two attorneys argued over a hearing date. One plaintiffs lawyer questioned why another was in the courtroom when she had a different hearing date from the other defense attorneys. The dispute seemed to amuse the judge, who reached back to the origins of jurisprudence for an observation. “I think you just described the situation at the dawn of time, which led to the first person becoming a lawyer, or the first two people,” McBride said. “That about sums it up.” It was typical of McBride, the stern-faced judge delivering legal bon mots to attorneys. “I find there are many instances … when the sweating gets pretty heavy, I think I’m tempted to lighten things up a little bit,” the judge said in an interview. “I think if lawyers see that I’m capable of seeing a little humor, it might help them loosen up and let them express themselves more effectively,” he added. McBride’s keen knowledge of the law, peppered with a playful sense of humor, has earned him the respect of lawyers. McBride says his personal troubles are behind him. He completed a 52-week domestic abuse course after a confrontation with his ex-wife led to domestic violence arrest. His record was wiped clean. The incident could have encouraged challengers to McBride’s re-election this year, but none filed against him. He won another six-year term. Although a Democrat, McBride was appointed to the municipal court bench in 1994 by former Gov. Pete Wilson. He was elevated to the superior court when the S.F. judges voted to consolidate in 1999. McBride has split his eight years on the bench evenly between civil and criminal courts. Presiding Judge Ronald Quidachay appointed McBride in January to law and motion, succeeding Judge David Garcia. The PJ said it was McBride’s turn in the court’s regular rotation of judges. “Jim just seemed to be the next person in line for law and motion,” Quidachay said. Attorney Gilbert Purcell, who has appeared before both McBride and Garcia, compares them favorably. Purcell, partner in Novato asbestos specialists Brayton & Purcell, said McBride is still learning the variety of motions that comes before the court. “Thus far, he has been more thorough and more detail-oriented,” the attorney said. “It could be he’s learning, and Garcia knew it better” after many years in law and motion. Among his most notable cases as a trial judge, McBride recalls a three-month asbestos trial where jurors awarded the plaintiff $4.6 million. He also presided over a court trial where two brothers-in-law had a legal dispute over $9 million in lottery winnings. McBride ruled that the winner used his own money to buy the winning tickets, not funds his brother-in-law gave him for traveling expenses. He was an assistant district attorney in San Francisco from 1979 to 1985 and then went into private practice until 1994. He handled business litigation, criminal defense work and personal injury cases. On the bench, McBride demands lawyers do more than just prepare for a hearing. “What I hope for more than expect is that lawyers will have given their case a kind of analysis that only results from an intimate knowledge of the facts and the law,” he said. Jennifer Cormier has appeared before McBride often as a defense attorney, especially in asbestos cases. She warns, “don’t interrupt him.” The judge agrees. “When I come out there and ask a question, listen to the question and answer the question,” he advises attorneys. “It is usually very important, even if I appear to be on the wrong page, or even in the wrong book. “Perhaps if you start to answer that question you can get to the point you really think needs to be made,” he added. Solo Daniel Berko said McBride as a trial judge has his quirks, such as asking prospective jurors what high school they attended in San Francisco, then making “asides” about their answers. McBride attended St. Ignatius. “I would say he’s the best judge I ever went before,” Berko said. “He’s conservative, and I’m not looking for a conservative judge. But his rulings are down the middle.

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