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Born: April 16, 1950 Appointed: Jan. 21, 1992, by Wilson Previous work of note: Judge, Santa Clara County Municipal Court, 1989-92; deputy district attorney, Santa Clara County, 1978-89 Law degree: Santa Clara University School of Law (1975)There aren’t any automatic passes in Department 29a of the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice.Translation: Attorneys know Judge John Garibaldi doesn’t give out continuances without good reasons. “When I set a case for trial,” Garibaldi states frankly, “my expectation is that it is ready for trial.”Garibaldi is in his second year at the helm of the criminal calendar. In that capacity, he’s recognized among his colleagues and both sides of the bar for being instrumental in whittling down the number of cases languishing on calendar from 1,000 several years ago to under 400 now.Garibaldi is quick to point out that factors beyond his control have helped to reduce the backlog, including unification, the formation of the drug courts and vertical prosecution in outlying areas.But it is also true that Garibaldi’s hard-nosed demeanor helps to push cases along.“Early on as presiding judge, he laid down some ground rules,” recalls Deputy Public Defender John Vaughn. “If you’re prepared, you’ll be successful. But if you’re late, you’ve got problems.”The first few months on the job were frustrating, Garibaldi says. Unprepared attorneys would routinely appear before him for Friday conferences, expecting Garibaldi to grant a continuance. Others would expect to have their matters put back on the calendar after being sent out to a department by telling the trial judge they weren’t ready, he says.Garibaldi set out to change all that. He told attorneys that they weren’t going to get more time unless they had filed a formal request to continue before their trial date was set, or if they had already been granted one continuation.“Slowly but surely the mentality has changed, by and large,” he says. Defendants were also put on notice. Garibaldi says he issues bench warrants for defendants who miss their master calendar appearances.Not surprisingly, Garibaldi’s tough talk has upset some attorneys. Speaking anonymously, several attorneys in the public defender’s office accuse Garibaldi of being insensitive. They describe him as inflexible and, at times, hot-tempered.“He can be rude to attorneys on both sides when he is flustered or in a bad mood,” says one deputy PD, asking not to be identified.But the critical attorneys add that Garibaldi, who they otherwise describe as a kind person, is likely to apologize after a flare-up.Another defense attorney says Garibaldi can be impatient, but praises the judge for recognizing when a prosecutor has a weak case and pushing for a settlement.Vaughn, who spent the past year as supervisor of the felony team working as a liaison between the public defender’s office and the court, says he never saw Garibaldi deny a continuation in a case that merited one. He added that the judge has the same expectations of attorneys on both sides.Says Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Don Shearer: “If he thinks you’ve had a fair amount of time to prepare for your trial and he senses that there is a lack of faith in the merits of the case, he will seek to have the case sent to a trial department for settlement.”Garibaldi was appointed to the municipal court bench in 1989 by Gov. Deukmejian after 11 years with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. He was the first supervising DA of the narcotics unit and also served as chief trial deputy district attorney. In 1992, Gov. Wilson elevated Garibaldi to the superior court bench.Garibaldi says he knows he has made waves.“Everyone wants to be liked,” he says. “But I think it is more important to do the people’s work.”

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