Court: San Francisco Superior

Elected: June 1998

Born: June 5, 1951

Law degree: Golden Gate University School of Law

Previous judicial experience: None

It’s a Wednesday morning in Judge Carol Yaggy’s chambers, and the jury — her first in her new felony trial assignment — is deliberating an attempted rape and battery case.

The jury needs Yaggy’s court reporter to read back testimony in the deliberation room. The reporter, seven months pregnant and suffering from a head cold, pokes her head in the door and shows the judge a page from the transcript. Yaggy OKs it, but before the court reporter leaves, Yaggy stops her.

“You have throat lozenges?” she asks. “You have water? Everything you need? Good. Now, you take any break you need.”

“Thanks, Judge,” the reporter replies with genuine gratitude as she ducks out of the room.

Thoughtfulness and consideration are Yaggy’s trademark qualities on and off the bench. But she is not charm with no substance. The San Francisco Superior Court judge is considered by her peers and lawyers to be a thoughtful, smart, well-prepared judge — and she has an array of increasing responsibilities on the court to prove it, including her promotion to felony trials and a second term on the court’s executive committee.

But among attorneys, it is her disposition foremost that accounts for her popularity at the Hall of Justice.

“I think she is one of the genuinely nicest, most personable judges in the building,” declares Assistant District Attorney Jerry Coleman.

Yaggy’s demeanor on the bench is serious, focused and businesslike. But she is also measured and considerate in a way that alleviates the stress that attorneys often feel in other departments.

“Her courtroom doesn’t have that anxiety level, it is not adrenaline-driven,” says Deputy Public Defender Daro Inouye. “She’s a very calm individual.”

Yaggy gives lawyers the impression she truly hears their arguments.

“What impressed me is that she reads the moving papers,” says Alexander Reisman, a defense attorney in private practice. “If you’re there to argue something and you’ve made your points and authorities, you can count on that she’s read about it and thought about it.”

She gives the same kind of consideration to defendants, taking pains to address them politely and to pronounce their names correctly, asking if she isn’t sure she’s got it right.

Yaggy says her seven-year stint as a San Francisco public defender helps her understand the conditions that defendants face, but even prosecutors say they don’t believe it left her with too much of a defense-side bent.

“She may tend to be somewhat lower on bail and on certain motion-to-suppress issues than some judges,” says Coleman, “but I don’t see reductions from her that are not arguably OK, and I don’t see her undercutting our sentences on a regular basis. So I don’t think it is a situation where she is still being a PD.”

Though Yaggy’s star seems unimpeded now, that wasn’t always the case. The 50-year-old jurist has taken some hits in her career.

In 1987 Yaggy resigned from the public defender’s office after her boss, Jeff Brown, wrote a letter to the First District Court of Appeal stating that Yaggy had provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to advise a client of the immigration consequences of his case.

The First District, in People v. Soriano, 194 Cal.App.3d 1470, ultimately agreed with Brown. Yaggy says she was following standard office procedure and that the court’s opinion in the case set a new standard for an attorney’s duties in such cases.

Yaggy was quickly snapped up by the superior court judges, who hired her as a commissioner. But Yaggy suffered another setback five years later. After a promising interview with the governor’s appointment secretary, Yaggy waited for a judgeship. As happened to all other openly gay judicial applicants during Gov. Pete Wilson’s term, Yaggy never got the nod. Yaggy refused to challenge a sitting judge, ultimately serving 10 1/2 years as a commissioner until winning an open seat in 1998.

Now, Yaggy seems to be making up for lost time. Earlier this year, she was elected to her second term on the court’s executive committee — a rare honor for so new a judge. Yaggy also recently began a three-year appointment to the four-judge appellate committee at the court. And she has already acted as a mentor to several judges newer than herself, including Mary Wiss and Peter Busch.

“For a judge who is relatively new, she has well established herself in the eyes of her colleagues,” says Presiding Judge Ronald Quidachay. “They really think she’s got talent.”

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