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NAME:Allan Hymer COURT:Alameda County Superior APPOINTED:1998, through trial court unification DATE OF BIRTH:Oct. 31, 1939 LAW SCHOOL:Stanford University, 1965 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE:Appointed by Gov. Wilson in 1997, Alameda County Municipal Court It may be commonplace for a harried judge to ask a bailiff where “the bodies” are, but you won’t hear Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer refer to defendants that way. “It is dehumanizing to call a human being a body,” the judge said recently. “I try to do what I can to treat people in the audience and people who are charged with respect.” Hymer has compassion and superior trial instincts because he spent his legal career in the Alameda County public defender’s office, attorneys say. But defense attorneys are quick to add that they don’t expect any special favors. That’s because, Hymer says, “I know all of the tricks.” Hymer joined the bench after two stints as an Alameda County public defender. He was staff attorney from 1968 to 1974, but left the office for three years to try his hand at private practice. Hymer then returned to the PD’s office, and worked there for 20 years. The longtime Democrat switched to no party affiliation in 1995, shortly before he was appointed. Some critics speculated that Hymer and other hopefuls tinkered with their party affiliation at the time to curry favor with Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. In an interview, Hymer brought up the subject without being asked, saying his lack of affiliation reflected that he doesn’t lean either way politically. Former criminal defense lawyers face peculiar political pressures on the bench, Hymer and trial attorneys say. Some feel that they must come down hard on defendants to prove that they aren’t doormats, while at the same time the defense bar may expect that those judges will have a liberal streak that will help their clients. Hymer, attorneys say, strikes the right balance. “He is one of the best judges in terms of knowledge of the law,” said Deputy DA Annie Saad. “He makes fair rulings.” Most lawyers praise Hymer for his trial acumen. Some judges aren’t familiar with criminal law when they come to the bench and are nervous about making a tough call. Hymer trusts his own judgment, they say. “He is as prepared as a judge as you would be as an attorney, said Berkeley criminal defense attorney Colin Cooper. Cooper pointed out that Hymer had reduced bail when it was set too high and had “ORed people when they deserved it.” Hymer says defense attorneys were doing “handsprings up and down the state” when he was appointed, but he notes — with a hint of pride in his voice –that he has given neither DAs nor defenders exactly what they want. While the judge says he is compassionate, he points out that he’s also tossed OR defendants in jail for being late for a court appearance. One public defender, Cole Powell, says he remembers a preliminary hearing a few years ago where Hymer appeared to go out of his way for the prosecution. In that case, Powell represented a defendant who was accused of selling drugs. Often prosecutors use police officers to testify whether they think a quantity of narcotics the defendant possessed could have been for sale or personal use. On that day, Powell said, the DA didn’t have that witness, and Hymer took “judicial notice” that the defendant had enough drugs to be considered for sale. The defendant was bound over for trial. Jurists usually take judicial notice of less controversial facts, such as that a certain date fell on a Tuesday, the public defender said, adding, “It was an improper overreach on his part.” Hymer remembers the case differently. The police observed the defendant, through binoculars, going back and forth from his stash to sell drugs, Hymer said. The judge said Powell was upset because he had strayed from what the attorney saw as standard procedure. “I think that attorneys are accustomed to calling a witness to establish” sale or personal use, the judge said. Hymer said that he doesn’t take such judicial notice often. He did in that case because of the specific facts, he said, and added that if he presided over the case today, he’d make the same decision. Hymer has a deft political touch when it comes to supervising the adjacent Wiley W. Manuel and the Allen E. Broussard courthouses in Oakland. To keep misdemeanor cases moving and to give rookie attorneys trial experience, Hymer has made sure that at least two misdemeanor trials are in progress at the court complex at one time. He has also swayed judges at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, who usually hear felonies, to preside over misdemeanor trials, said Stuart Hing, who supervises prosecutors at the Wiley-Broussard complex. Hymer convinced Judge Julie Conger to hear a misdemeanor trial, which became the first such trial to go to a jury verdict at Davidson in years, said Hing. Another time, Hymer talked Judge Philip Sarkisian, a death penalty judge, into taking a misdemeanor case, Hing said. Conger said that at the time, she had a two-day hiatus in one of her trials. She and Hymer help each other when they need it, Conger said. Hymer said he is proud that he has been able to get more judges to hear misdemeanor cases. “For too long we have had the split between municipal court and superior court,” Hymer said. “With unification that shadow remains — that only certain courthouses hear certain cases.” Now, he said, “the unification culture is seeping in.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.therecorder.com/profiles.htmlor by calling 415-749-5523.

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