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Born: Nov. 25, 1954Appointed: 1992, by Gov. Pete Wilson to the municipal court. Elected to superior Court in 1996.Law degree: Hastings College of the LawA waiting the arrival of the jury just minutes before testimony was to resume in a sexual molestation trial last week, Judge Edward Lee was passing the time with a deputy district attorney by repeating a funny line from South Park, the irreverent cartoon on Comedy Central.Lee, a former prosecutor, is known for his deadpan humor on and off the bench.But not everyone’s laughing.While Lee is admired by prosecutors, he raises the ire of some defense attorneys who say he doesn’t know when to cut the wisecracks.“He thinks his job is to be a stand-up comic,” said one deputy public defender who requested anonymity. “He is flip to the point of distraction.”While Lee is pleasant to attorneys, he isn’t sympathetic to defendants, which is evident by his stiff sentences and joke-telling in their presence, said the deputy.Lee said he welcomes feedback on his courtroom demeanor.“Humor on occasion can be a useful tool,” he said. “I try never to use humor at the expense of the participants in my courtroom.”Deputy Public Defender Susan Bernardini said Lee’s humor was welcome during long arraignment calendars in San Martin several years ago.“It is a good thing if you can make somebody in custody laugh,” Bernardini said.And Deputy District Attorney Robert Baker said he appreciates the judge’s jovial disposition.“He knows the law inside and out,” Baker said — that includes new case law. “He is very analytical about what evidence he allows in and what he doesn’t.”While most judges espouse empathy for witnesses who testify under duress, Lee knows firsthand what it is like, having once been in the hot seat himself as a former deputy district attorney.He was compelled to testify in a narcotics case in which he was prosecuting two identical twin brothers who had bitten off a police officer’s ear. They were convicted of burglary and mayhem.“That was a fun way to spend an afternoon,” Lee said.Three months after being named to the municipal court bench in 1992, Lee came under real fire. His National Guard unit, the 670 Military Police Company of Sunnyvale — of which he was the commander — was called to active duty to help quell the rioting in South Central Los Angeles.As Lee tells it, the experience was much different than any time he had spent as a Redwood City police officer or as a reserve officer in San Jose.“I’d never been shot at before,” Lee said.Lee said he enjoyed being a police officer and still enjoys being a reserve with the National Guard because it gives him an opportunity to do things he would not otherwise be able to. Last summer, he went to the Ukraine for two weeks to help train officers, and in January, he went to Japan to do the same.Lee said he enjoys having seasoned veterans in court because “you can just wind them up and they can carry on the trial themselves.” But he added that the rookies with their earnestness can also be enjoyable.Although Lee said he doesn’t harbor any particular pet peeves about lawyers’ habits, he did offer a few suggestions on how to be more successful in his courtroom.For one, keep your objections brief.”I prefer that they [counsel] keep their objections to one or two words,” Lee said.If the objection needs to be further expounded upon, Lee asks both sides to approach, as he did during this particular day of testimony.When it comes to settling cases, Lee said he wishes attorneys would know whether they have the authority to cut deals.“If we enter into talks, attorneys should have the authority to actually do so,” said Lee. “It is troublesome to spend 30 to 40 minutes trying to settle something only for an attorney to come back after talking to superiors and say, ‘Sorry judge, I can’t do it.’”

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