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Born: Jan. 5, 1950Appointed: June 1989 by Gov. George Deukmejian; elevated to superior court following consolidation Previous Judicial Experience: NoneLaw degree: Boalt Hall School Of Law (1974)Judge Jamie Jacobs-May did the attorneys who practice in family court a great favor when she volunteered to transfer over last year, says attorney Lois Thornton-Hurst.“She is a breath of fresh air,” says Thornton-Hurst, a San Jose solo practitioner. “She actually reads the file before the attorneys appear before her.”Veteran family law attorney Marilyn Moreno echoes Thornton-Hurst’s compliment.“She doesn’t waste an attorney’s time,” says Moreno of San Jose’s The Moreno Family Law Firm. “She is ready for what you are there for.”In her zeal to keep things moving in a high-volume courtroom, however, Jacobs-May is short on sympathy when it comes to granting continuances to attorneys, complains John Trifilo, a solo practitioner in San Jose.“Attorneys know going into her courtroom they won’t get continuances,” Trifilo says.Delaying a case beyond its scheduled date would be a disappointment to the litigants involved, says the judge.“Absent a good cause, your case is going to be heard,” Jacobs-May says.But Trifilo does praise Jacobs-May for spending a lot of time trying to resolve a case to avert trial.Whether it’s a divorce, custody or visitation case, Jacobs-May says she tries to make the litigants who appear before her understand that going to trial will only continue the bad feelings on both sides.“Litigation is really destructive,” Jacobs-May says. “It creates a lot of name-calling.”Sometimes, when both parties are close to a resolution but there is a particular sticking point, Jacobs-May gives the litigants an opportunity to appear before her and present their arguments in their own words.After hearing from both parties, the judge will make a ruling on the point in dispute.“Sometimes people just need someone to make a call,” Jacobs-May says.Moreno says Jacobs-May makes litigants feel they’ve had a chance to make their case — almost to a fault, at times. Jacobs-May lets pro pers argue on when other judges might cut them off, she says. She notes that just the airing of dirty laundry can be cathartic.“It does a lot to alleviate the negative emotions, and it’s conducive to settling cases,” Moreno says. “A lot of people just want to be heard.”Jacobs-May wasn’t a newcomer to the family court scene last year when she replaced Judge James Stewart, who retired. During her assignment on the civil side, Jacobs-May filled in on family court matters when the court was short on judges.The judge’s first experience with family law matters came as a deputy assigned to the dependency unit in the Santa Clara County counsel’s office.Beginning in 1974, Jacobs-May spent seven years in the state attorney general’s office as a deputy working on criminal appeals.She argued on behalf of the state before the California Supreme Court on several occasions, including Bowland v. Santa Cruz County Municipal Court, 18 Cal.3d 479. In the case, three women appealed their prosecutions for unlicensed midwifery. Jacobs-May won.Between stints with the AG’s office and the county counsel’s office, Jacobs-May practiced civil litigation for three years with San Jose’s Berliner Cohen.Appointed to the muni bench in 1989, Jacobs-May said the family court assignment may be the toughest she has had so far because the caseload is so thick and the emotions so raw.“You are surrounded by a high level of fighting,” says Jacobs-May.The judge says she strives to minimize children’s exposure to fighting in custody battles.In one case that sticks with her, she recalls a young boy telling her he wished he had a twin so each of his parents would have a child and would stop fighting over him.“My mantra is that conflict is what is most destructive to children,” said Jacobs-May.The attorneys who appear before her say she does a good job of keeping her composure.“I don’t think Judge Jacobs-May would lose her temper,” Thorton-Hurst says. “She keeps good control of her courtroom.”And she isn’t unduly swayed by either side, Moreno says.“The appearance of fairness is very important, and I think she has mastered that.”

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