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Born: Jan. 23, 1945Appointed: Feb. 28, 1997, by Wilson Previous work of note: Santa Clara County Municipal Court, 1983-98 Law degree: Boalt Hall School Of Law (1969)Judge Robert Baines doesn’t carry a magician’s wand, but he does have a knack for bringing forth a settlement in a seemingly trial-bound case.“It is truly a challenge when attorneys come in here and say this case can’t be settled,” the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge said. But that doesn’t discourage Baines’ will.That is how Paul Caputo described one recent medical malpractice case assigned for trial before Baines.Caputo said the defense was offering an amount he felt was unacceptable. When a delay in the proceedings occurred, the judge offered to hold settlement talks between the two parties.After a full day of wrangling, a settlement was reached by a compromise. Caputo, of San Jose’s Caputo & Caputo, credited the agreement to Baines’ compassion, understanding and straight talk.For accomplishments such as that, Baines wins admiration among the county bar and his colleagues.Baines was honored with the John D. Foley Trial Judge of the Year award by the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association on May 2. He is the first former municipal court judge to receive the honor. Caputo, president of the association, had nominated Baines.U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel introduced Baines at the awards dinner and referred to him as his mentor. Fogel quoted other superior court judges who said they admired Baines for his gentle, courteous manner.Jan Champion, a plaintiff’s attorney who appeared before Baines on different occasions when he heard the law-and-motion calendar two years ago, said the judge exhibited great patience in allowing attorneys a chance to state their arguments.“Even if he ruled against you, you got a sense that he ruled on the merits of the case and not on what may have been the popular or the most expeditious thing to do,” Champion said.Attorneys who want Baines to rule in their favor had better count on more than luck. Ninety percent of the time, Baines said he had made up his mind about motions before hearing arguments from the attorneys.“I always did my homework,” said Baines.He also carries his share of the load, according to an incident recalled by Caputo. When it came to reworking the jury instructions in a personal injury trial to make them better suited for the case, the judge did the lengthy task himself rather than ask the two attorneys to do it, Caputo said.“That hasn’t ever happened to me before,” the lawyer said.Baines became a superior court judge in 1997 when the two courts swapped judges a year prior to consolidation. A year later, he was named to the law-and-motion team. The assignment was an honor, Baines said, for a former judge of the municipal court — which lacked the visibility and prestige of superior court.Baines first came to Santa Clara County as a volunteer for VISTA — a federal program that places volunteers in impoverished communities — after graduating from Boalt Hall School of Law in 1969. He was assigned to work for the Santa Clara County Legal Aid Program for one year and stayed on for another five.Baines left in 1975 and became the directing attorney of the newly formed Santa Clara County Bar Association Public Interest Law Foundation. He fought for equal treatment for female inmates in county facilities and also against jail overcrowding.In 1980, Baines decided to try things from the other side of the table and joined the city attorney’s office, heading up the litigation department.On a Sunday night in January 1983, Baines became one of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s midnight appointments. Actually the call came about 7 p.m., and it was from Brown himself, Baines said.Baines now presides over trials and says he really enjoys the process. After each case, he takes an anonymous survey of his jurors to get their input as to how the process might be improved.For the most part, the feedback is positive. One juror however had some constructive personal criticism for Baines.“They suggested that I trim my mustache.”

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