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This election season, The Recorder is giving judicial candidates an opportunity to speak with their own voices. On Feb. 5, The Recorder and the Santa Clara County Bar Association co-sponsored a forum for the four candidates for superior court seat No. 9. They are civil and criminal defense attorneys Ronald Berki and Arthur Bocanegra, Deputy District Attorney George Chadwick and civil litigator William Priest. Following are excerpts from part 1 of the forum, which was moderated by Recorder Editor in Chief Scott Graham. Part 2 will appear in Tuesday’s Recorder. Recorder: Why should the voters choose you in this race? Arthur Bocanegra: I have 21 years working in Santa Clara County. I have extensive experience in both civil and criminal litigation. I worked for the Santa Clara County public defender’s office for seven years, handled hundreds of criminal cases. When I left I was supervising and training newly hired lawyers. I went to the city attorney’s office, where I did primarily defense work. I also did the city’s prosecutions. I then went into private practice, where I’ve done civil and criminal litigation. And I don’t only have 21 years as a lawyer, but I have 21 years of extensive, in-court experience. I go to court almost on a daily basis. I see what goes on on a daily basis. And quite frankly I think I have the experience to be an excellent judge. I’m 48 years old, have a lot of energy, and been married for 26 years, with two children. Thank you. William Priest: The real difference in this particular race is experience. I have been an attorney for 33 years. I’ve practiced in this county for 30 years. I have extensive experience in criminal and civil practice. I was a prosecutor in the Navy during the Vietnam period, for 3 1/2 years in Southeast Asia. Since coming to San Jose I’ve practiced in criminal defense, as well as virtually every department of civil practice in the Santa Clara County courts. Not only that, I’ve been a judge pro tem in Santa Clara County courts for over 25 years, and I’ve done that on a regular, continuing basis. I served as a justice court judge before coming to San Jose for three years, and I’ve served as a superior court arbitrator for almost 25 years. I served as the presiding hearing officer for the San Jose Civil Service Commission for 12 years … hearing all the disciplinary cases for the public safety officers in the city … My focus for the last 30 years while practicing in our community has been on community service … George Chadwick: First, my ability. I have an outstanding trial record in criminal law as a prosecutor; it speaks for itself. I’ve always remained on felony jury trial teams until this past fall’s campaign started, and even now I’m in court every day. So civil law, more important because my record doesn’t necessarily speak for itself. I was entrusted with complex matters. I took two cases to trial, as an associate, alone without partner supervision. Both settled at the courthouse, but this is unusual for a large firm associate. I researched, wrote and argued an arbitration matter on behalf of a major media entity. It caused the arbitrator to change his advice to his own client, caused the plaintiff to drop the suit three days later. This was on a novel point of law that had never been brought up in any case. I read all 120 related cases, came up with my own theory. It was a correct theory. It was a case of first impression … I worked in real estate law, patent law, employment law, franchisee law, all kinds of contract law and tort … I received an unsolicited offer to be the No. 2 lawyer for a high-tech company who was my client. It involved a raise and stock options, and instead I came to the DA’s office to take a 42 percent pay cut and begin a life of public service. And I’m again seeking to further my life of public service, with yet another pay cut, because once you begin a life of public service it’s hard to stop. Ronald Berki: I too have a broad base of experience in the law. For 22 years I’ve practiced law in Santa Clara County. I’ve practiced in the areas of criminal defense, plaintiffs personal injury, probate – I’ve also practiced in the area of bankruptcy and real estate. I have represented literally hundreds and hundreds of people in the county since 1979. I put myself through law school as well as college, and so I remember where I came from. It’s this kind of sensitivity that I think I would bring to the bench … I also have been a judge pro tem in the courts here in Santa Clara County, hearing hundreds of cases over the last several years … As well as that I’ve also been a legal educator. I’ve served as an instructor at the Heald business college, teaching other lawyers how to be effective for their clients, as well as teaching paralegals … Recorder: What Santa Clara County judge, past or present, would you like to emulate if you were elected to the bench? Chadwick: Bits and pieces of many different judges. There are the old guard judges who’ve been here a long time, and I would hope to emulate them until I would have at least 10 to 15 years on the bench. Among the newer judges, Dolores Carr is a new judge with a sexual assault background like myself. She’s professional, she’s hard working, responsible … With regard to other issues, [retired] Judge [LaDoris] Cordell used the bench as a bully pulpit, which I believe in. Judge [William] Martin probably has the style I will naturally have, which is injecting common sense into the law. You have the technicians in the law, who are very precise in the law, which I would like to be like. Judge [Leon] Fox [Jr.], Judge [Thang] Barrett, Judge [Alden] Danner, Judge [Kevin] Murphy, Judge [Gilbert] Brown, Judge [John] Herlihy, Judge [Edward] Lee and Judge [Marliese] Kim. Judge [Sharon] Chatman for hard work. … Judge [Ray] Cunningham has teaching instincts like I do. I taught the criminal procedure course at San Jose City College twice. And for judicial temperament I would like to be like Judge [Kenneth] Shapero, Judge [Raymond] Davilla [Jr.], Judge [Neal] Cabrinha, Judge [Leslie] Nichols and Judge [Catherine] Gallagher. And finally, Judge [Robert] Ambrose for understanding when a judge is not on the bench, that judge is to be accessible to police officers for search warrants, and to be accessible to his or her fellow judges to help share the load. Recorder:. You’ve given us quite a few there. Is there any one in particular that you would really like to emulate? Chadwick: The one that I would most like to emulate is the one that’s the most different from me, which is Judge Barrett. Because he is such a precise technician, such a good protector of the record and he thinks very carefully before he acts or speaks. And those are attributes that I would like to work on and be sure I do as a judge. Berki: Over the 22 years I’ve practiced law I’ve known many, many judges that I admired. One in particular that comes to mind to me very readily and that’s Judge [Jerome] Brock. He’s the kind of judge that I would certainly like to be. He’s a man that knows the law, and he’s filled with common sense, and he’s able to cut to the chase real quickly. He’s able to size up a case like no other judge I’ve ever seen, and really fashion a proper result to the cases before him … He’s also a man that’s full of compassion and sensitivity like I would like to be on the bench … There’s also a kind of personal favorite of mine, a guy by the name of Dick Turrone, who’s the presiding judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Because he is the kind of man who is so dedicated to his job, he works such long hours trying to do not only the best he can for the litigants and the lawyers, but for everybody on the staff too. Bocanegra: A judge that’s no longer in our county that I would hope to emulate is [Sixth District Court of Appeal] Justice [Franklin] Elia. I had the opportunity to work with him extensively when he was still in our county, and he demonstrated respect for everyone, he demonstrated consideration and sensitivity to everyone. That man never lost his temper. We worked together on just large, large calendars, and I saw things that occurred in his courtroom that should have made both individuals lose their temper. But he demonstrated the temperament that is appropriate for a judge. And the respect and other qualities I indicated were not just limited to attorneys, but it was to witnesses, to jurors, to defendants, to litigants. Across the board he treated everyone with respect. Priest: Like the other candidates, very difficult for any of us who have extensive experience in our court in this county to pick one … All the ones that have been mentioned I have a very high regard for. The ones that come quickly to mind, though, would be Judge Ed Nelson, the late Judge Nelson, who I knew and appeared in front of for many, many years, who had a tremendous presence, a tremendous personality, gathered a tremendous amount of respect for his courtroom, was a good listener, had a good judicial temperament, and was a striking personality in my opinion. Another one who comes to mind is Judge Jack Komar, who was presiding judge when I was president of the county bar association, and I had the opportunity to work very closely with him on the bench-bar committee … The one I would pick, though, in terms of who I would most like to emulate, is one that’s a real classic in our county and that’s Judge Paul Teilh. Judge Teilh actually passed the bar the same year I graduated from high school, and he was on the bench on the muni court when I came to San Jose 30 years ago. I’ve tried many, many cases in his courtroom. There is nobody in our county who is a better judicial presence than Judge Teilh. Recorder: How in general do you feel the Three Strikes law is being applied in Santa Clara County? Chadwick: If the Three Strikes law has to be the law – and I’m not going to comment on the wisdom of it, either for this county or for the state – the way this county does it I’m proud of. We have a committee of the six top prosecutors in the office, who meet every Friday to discuss every case to ensure that similarly situated defendants would be treated similarly. It’s not a perfect system, it can never be a perfect system. And as a prosecutor I found that our office, right off the bat, charges fewer than 50 percent of the criminals – alleged criminals – eligible for the Three Strikes law with Three Strikes. And the 47 percent or so remaining percent, the judges further reduce that. I think a judge has tremendous discretion under the Romero and Williams decisions to decide whether someone’s fully within or partly within the spirit of the Three Strikes law. … Berki: I believe in the Three Strike law. But I would like to see the Legislature make some changes to the Three Strike law so that it applies to violent criminals only. I think that violent criminals should be put away and put away for a long time. But oftentimes I’ve seen in my years working in the criminal justice system where there have been abuses of the Three Strike law, and I think that because of those abuses the Legislature ought to take a second look at it and eliminate … minor theft cases, or cases where there’s not any violence at all perpetrated. As a judge you have to follow the law. … [but] I think in appropriate cases I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to exercise my authority. Bocanegra: My concern about that particular law is the way it’s applied, the fact that it’s applied differently in different counties. And that’s unfortunate, but that’s my concern. When that particular law was passed I think that people were under the impression that it was addressing people who commit violent crimes and who have a violent criminal history. And since then I think that there’s been a lot of attention to the fact that people who’ve committed minor, nonviolent offenses are subjected to 25-to-life sentences, depending on what county you’re charged in. And I think that when there is a problem it has to be looked at … Fortunately there is discretion, the court has discretion, if the prosecution chooses to charge someone with Three Strikes even if it’s a nonviolent offense. And we have a lot of guidelines, there [is] case law on the discretion of the judge, which is fortunate. I think a judge must have discretion. Priest: It doesn’t really matter very much what the judges feel about the wisdom of the Three Strike law. The fact of the matter is that roughly half the states in our country have a Three Strikes law. California is the only state that has one that doesn’t classify the third strike as being required to be a violent offense. A lot of people were very concerned about that aspect of it in the beginning. But it’s a fact that also when the measure went to a vote a year or so after it was adopted [by the Legislature], over 70 percent of the voters in California strongly favored the Three Strikes law, and I don’t see that it’s going to change very soon. There was a bill introduced last year in the state Senate to change that aspect of it … and it failed miserably, and it’s my understanding that it won’t be reintroduced. So we’re stuck with it, if you will, and we live with it. I do agree that in our county it has been administered quite well and has accomplished the purpose for which it’s intended to a great extent. The district attorney’s team of attorneys who look at and evaluate these cases on an ongoing basis have done an excellent job. It’s still a fact that roughly 50 percent of the Three Strikes prisoners in Santa Clara County, like the same statistic with the rest of the state, are nonviolent third offenders. Nevertheless, it has accomplished the desired result of taking career, violent criminals off the streets, and I do support that.

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