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Ask lawyers about Judge Conrad Rushing, and they’ll rush to offer superlatives. “A terrific judge — probably the best they have over there,” says a veteran trial lawyer. “Smart, decisive and practical,” says a Silicon Valley litigation partner. “In many ways, he is the remaining jewel of our civil system,” offered a plaintiffs lawyer, after lamenting the recent departures of widely acclaimed Judges Jeremy Fogel, John Flaherty and Peter Stone. Not everyone is a Rushing fan. Some defense lawyers say he is too quick to side with plaintiffs. And an insurance defense lawyer who tried a case before him found him too arrogant for her taste. “I think he’s a very bright man, but I think he has to let everyone know that,” this lawyer said, adding that his willingness to heap scorn on a lawyer could sway juries. Even one of Rushing’s biggest boosters acknowledges that the judge’s “big ego might put some people off.” The 61-year-old Jerry Brown appointee is best known for his labors in the so- called Technical Equities litigation, a cluster of securities cases that spawned multi-million dollar verdicts and kept him busy for much of the late ’80s and early ’90s. In the end, the court of appeal flipped the verdicts after finding Rushing had erred in several key rulings. One lawyer close to the case questioned Rushing’s decision to let a chunk of the litigation go before a jury at the same time the basis for that ruling was on appeal. “The way he allowed months and months of resources to be spent when he knew there was a real question. . . . What was he thinking?” But another lawyer familiar with the case said Rushing deserved credit for his handling of it. “In fairness to him,” this attorney added, “he was traveling in uncharted waters.” Rushing’s willingness to engage the unknown is one of the qualities lawyers speak most highly of when discussing his approach to his job. “He is one of the most intellectually curious people I’ve ever met,” says the veteran trial lawyer. Indeed, it’s no accident that Rushing finds himself presiding over so many complex disputes. “He’s the guy they send the tough cases to,” says one lawyer. That’s because “he’s capable of handling them,” explains another lawyer who spent several months in trial before the judge. A number of lawyers commented on Rushing’s habit of compiling data on the juries that get assembled in his courtroom. The judge takes meticulous notes during jury selection and makes a private prediction as to which way the jury will go. He hones his handicapping skills by comparing his prediction to the actual result. “I don’t think it’s a scientific study, but it’s interesting,” said one lawyer. “He can call the way the jury’s going to go.” As for Rushing’s periodic displays of displeasure, including one that led to a recent complaint of gender bias by a female litigator? “I think he’s less likely to put up with mediocre lawyering, and he might become acerbic if that were to occur,” reasoned one lawyer. “But he’s a good judge.”

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