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Born: Nov. 1, 1938Appointed: Feb. 28, 1997, by Wilson Previous judicial experience: Private practice, 1968-97; Senior counsel, Bank of America, 1963-68Law degree: Boalt Hall School of Law (1963)You’ve heard of the blue book value of your car?Well, you might want to start thinking about the blue book value of your case — at least when you’re scheduled to appear before Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge David Flinn.The fairly new addition to the bench, who was appointed by Gov. Wilson in 1997, says one of his most important pretrial roles is helping attorneys snap out of their trance and take a good hard look at the facts of the matter. “One of the main mistakes I see made among attorneys is in evaluating their own cases when they’re unwilling to settle or are stuck at vast extremes,” said Flinn. “They are not looking at the blue book value of their lawsuit.”Flinn is one of Contra Costa’s five civil fast-track judges, handling his own law and motion calendar and most other matters. It was about a year ago that he left his initial assignment in criminal to take over Robert McGrath’s calendar after the widely admired judge left the bench to fight liver cancer. McGrath passed away in February.Attorneys say it would have been a challenge for anyone to carry on in McGrath’s role. But after 29 years with San Francisco’s Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Flinn, Matzger & Melnick and as senior counsel for Bank of America for five years prior to that, Flinn brought a treasure of litigation experience to the bench that attorneys say quickly earned the respect of the bar.“When he evaluates a case, I give it a lot of credibility,” said Michael Brown, CEO — or partner — with Morgan, Miller & Blair.“Sometimes it can be hard to be objective and if the judge only takes 50 seconds to look over a case it doesn’t help,” said Brown. “But a judge like Flinn who does his homework and speaks frankly and moves toward settlement — that’s what civil lawyers need both for their own interest and the interest of their clients.”Other attorneys note Flinn not only does his homework on cases but will often surprise counsel by knowing specifics — and by calling them on the particulars.At argument, said Richard Raines of Danville’s Gagen, McCoy, McMahon & Armstrong, Flinn “certainly doesn’t want you to regurgitate the material presented in the trial briefs.” Raines also noted that Flinn isn’t afraid to make tough calls. In one recent foreclosure action, the judge had granted the defendant’s request for additional time to hire a new attorney. But after repeated delays in what was becoming an increasingly time-sensitive case, the judge said no. “It was entirely justified,” said Raines, who wasn’t involved in the case but observed the judge’s actions. “I think it was a good example of how he is an extremely compassionate person but he has a limit.”Flinn said his real pet peeve is when attorneys let litigation get personal. For his part, he said he intends to ensure that all attorneys who appear before him are comfortable. He will sometimes recount anecdotes from his own days in litigation to loosen them up — “like when I was a lawyer and I got a call from the California Supreme Court asking where I was.”Flinn had marked the date he was scheduled to appear as the following day, but after the call he made it to the court in time for the 2 p.m. hearing.“I will occasionally tell that story,” said Flinn. “I just like attorneys to be comfortable. Really, we’re all working toward the same goal.”

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