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Court: Santa Clara Superior Date of Birth: July 2, 1942 Elected: Nov. 4, 1998 Law School: Santa Clara University School of Law, 1976 Previous Judicial Experience: none SAN JOSE — Ask prosecutors about Judge Joyce Allegro and they’ll say their former colleague is one of the most competent on the Santa Clara Superior Court. But you’ll have a tougher time finding a public defender willing to go to trial in front of her. Defense attorneys say her prosecution bias is so strong it borders on an ideology. And while deputy PDs are no longer systematically challenging Allegro as they did when she handled a domestic violence calendar in 2000, defense attorneys are still fleeing her courtroom en masse. “Many of the attorneys in the public defender’s office feel Judge Allegro reaches decisions that are adverse to the defense and does so based on entrenched views on her part — versus based on the merits of the case,” said Assistant PD Mary Greenwood. Greenwood said there’s no blanket policy to boot Allegro but acknowledges “many defense attorneys feel she simply has a bias against criminal defendants and criminal defense attorneys and if you don’t feel what’s happening is fair, basically it pollutes the entire process.” But deputy DAs and the judge herself say rumor has overshadowed reality. Prosecutors say she’s smart and decisive, knows the law and keeps on top of new developments. “She is actually one of the best judges in the county,” said Deputy DA Steven Fein. “She is always willing to read whatever research or paperwork is submitted from either side. She obviously has some perceived prosecutorial leanings, but she absolutely follows the law.” Allegro, a career prosecutor, was elected judge in 1998 while supervising the DA’s domestic violence unit. Allegro, who at one time served as chairwoman of the Support Network for Battered Women, campaigned on tough sentences for abusers. Defense attorneys, cringing at her campaign promise and her strong advocacy, began booting her almost immediately after she was assigned the domestic violence calendar as a rookie judge. The presiding judge eventually switched her assignment. Allegro now handles felony trials in the Santa Clara satellite courthouse and will switch to preliminary examinations in January, but her reputation has followed her. “There are a lot of people assuming I am not going to be fair because I was a hard-nosed prosecutor,” Allegro said, noting that deputy PDs who have never even appeared before her are bouncing her. “Obviously, if they never try it out they’ll never know.” Deputy DA Charles Gillingham, who tried two sex assault cases in front of Allegro in 2002, contends she’s getting a bad rap. “There was an acquittal in her department in one of the cases that I thought should have gotten a conviction,” Gillingham said. Gillingham said in the other trial he scored a conviction and a 90-years-plus sentence for a child molester. But he said Allegro didn’t hesitate to penalize the prosecution when a crucial piece of evidence surfaced mid-trial because the investigating police officer was sick and failed to hand it over before trial. “She allowed the evidence in but she sanctioned us with the late jury instruction,” Gillingham said. “It was a pretty important piece of evidence. She thought in all fairness the defense should get that instruction.” Allegro says the defense challenges may be explained by a string of sex cases where she imposed triple-digit sentences, and her policy not to undercut plea offers from judges handling the felony advanced resolution calendar. “I’ve imposed some very significant sentences in child molest cases — but the law is very strict. You have to sentence consecutively,” she said. Fein, who scored a conviction and a 273- year sentence after a child molest trial, argues Allegro was compassionate with victims and fair to the defense. “She is doing frankly what the system experts her to do. In other words, she does not allow herself to be manipulated by the defense,” Fein said. But Greenwood said it’s not stiff sentences or holding the line on plea offers that keep her deputy PDs out of her courtroom. “There have been actual cases where she has convened the jury with the prosecution present but where the defense attorney and the defendant is not present,” Greenwood said, referring to a trial where Allegro started a jury’s tour of the crime scene before defense arrived in separate automobiles. Greenwood said she also is quick to disallow defense experts. “All lawyers really want to do is present their case to a fact-finder — and that’s the jury, not the judge. If you are in a situation where you are not confident you can present your defense, that’s not fair. And it’s not in one or two cases. It’s widespread.” Salinas solo practitioner Miguel Hernandez tried a child molest case in Allegro’s courtroom in June. His client was convicted and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. “When they assigned me to her court, someone took me aside and said she was a terrible judge,” Hernandez said. “I found, to my surprise, she was not the demon she was made out to be. She treated me with courtesy and respect and professionalism,” said Hernandez, explaining that she was fair about giving him additional time to prepare and line up witnesses. “On the other hand, I couldn’t get to first base with any of my motions that had legal merit. Her rulings were not outrageous but I would have liked her to be more compassionate.”

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