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Born: July 22, 1947Appointed: Dec. 3, 1996, by WilsonPrevious work of note: Private practice, San Francisco, 1972-96Law degree: University of Southern California Law School (1972)San Francisco’s Hall of Justice operates on a verbal code that took Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer awhile to decipher.District attorneys would ask him to 1385 defendants (dismiss charges in the interest of justice), or defense counsel would ask him to 1368 their clients (determine whether they were fit to stand trial).“This is the only place I’ve ever been where numbers are verbs,” Kramer said during an interview in chambers last week.“Everything around here is shorthand,” said the judge, a civil attorney for 24 years before his appointment to the bench in 1996. But he soon learned Penal Code sections are the lingua franca of the criminal courts.He has spent just six months on civil matters since donning the black robe, while learning what could be called “crime-speak” the past 31/2 years.“I kept my mouth shut until I knew what I was doing,” the judge admitted. “If you don’t say anything, people here keep talking and explaining things!… Remember, I deal with the best defense attorneys in the country.”One of his most perplexing tasks initially was to learn sentencing procedures. When lawyers told him about “sage credits,” for time served, he thought maybe they had something to do with being “wise.” Nope.People v. Sage, 26 Cal.3d 498 (1980), tells a judge how to calculate credits for time served, Kramer learned.“You’re dealing with serious stuff here,” he said. “You don’t pretend. You ask the lawyers, they cite you a case, and you go read it.”Defense attorney Ira Barg enjoys appearing before Kramer, because he knows the judge will listen to his legal arguments.“He reads the cases and comes to a decision,” said Barg. “I can live with an adverse ruling as long as I know he isn’t ruling by the seat of his pants.!… He invites you to try and change his mind.”A female defense attorney, who asked to remain anonymous, was less impressed with the judge.The veteran defense counsel complained the judge “doesn’t have any consideration for people’s time” and allows discussions to drag on for longer than necessary.“Kramer thinks he’s the smartest man in America, but he’s not as bright as he thinks he is,” she said. “He’s the slowest man in America.”Former-federal-prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney Jerrold Ladar said Kramer makes every effort to settle a case.“He’s also a trustworthy judge with great credibility with both district attorneys and defense attorneys,” Ladar said.His advice to lawyers appearing before Kramer is: “Be candid with him. Don’t play any games. When someone does that, he says, ‘I’ve done that, so don’t try to hose me.’”District Attorney Terence Hallinan’s office refused to permit prosecutors to be interviewed for this story.Perhaps an insight into the judge is a print hanging in his chambers by the contemporary painter Kostabi called “Talk to the Devil.” It depicts a blue figure looking at his shadow on a redbrick wall. The shadow is that of the devil.“There’s a potential for the devil in all of us,” the judge said with a devilish grin.

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