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COURT:Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED:Jan. 23, 1992 DATE OF BIRTH:April 11, 1948 LAW SCHOOL:McGeorge School of Law at University of the Pacific PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE:Sacramento Municipal Court, from 1989 to 1992 For a politically connected lawyer, becoming a judge can be a mixed blessing. “It’s very strange to be appointed because of your political activities and then, from the moment you get here, untying those connections,” said Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cecil. Cecil doesn’t miss his old career, which culminated with him being one of the top managers at the Department of Consumer Affairs. He likes the life of a jurist and prefers running his own show to pushing someone else’s policy. Cecil, who has been on the bench since 1989, has spent most of his time in criminal departments and has won a reputation for being even-handed and letting “intellectual honesty” outweigh personal opinions. He’s also a quick wit. “He has a very dry, engaging sense of humor,” said Sacramento Supervising Deputy District Attorney Marvin Stern. “A lot of times cutting that [courtroom] tension can bring a lot of relief.” Cecil’s demeanor and work ethic were showcased recently when he presided over one of California’s most notorious cases, the prosecution of four former members of the radical Symbionese Liberation Army. After nearly 30 years of stalled investigation, the gang appeared headed to trial for a murder committed during a suburban Sacramento bank robbery. Then a deal was announced in November that sent the defendants to prison for terms ranging from six to eight years. Cecil watched over several days of hard negotiations. One defense attorney said the judge even offered to have the court bring in food so everyone could stay focused. “We feel that we couldn’t have drawn a better judge,” said the attorney, Charles Bourdon of San Francisco’s Bourdon & Reisman, who represented William Harris. “I think that his political astuteness comes to bear on the entire process.” Throughout the case, Bourdon explained, Cecil had to keep in mind the concerns of the murder victim’s family, the Sacramento district attorney and prosecutors from outside the area, the families of the defendants and even the Board of Prison Terms, which could have the final say in the deal. “When you’re talking about a collection of people with varying interests all coming to the table, it’s an extremely difficult process,” Bourdon said. Cecil is used to juggling a lot of plates. After graduating from University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in 1975, Cecil went to work for California’s Republican Assembly caucus. That led to consulting for a Senate committee and then a job with state Sen. Robert Beverly, R-Redondo Beach. In 1979, Cecil left the Legislature and practiced with Chip Nielsen, who went on to form one of the premier political firms in the state, Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor. After some time as a corporate lawyer and more political gigs, in 1983, Gov. George Deukmejian named Cecil deputy director of legal affairs for Consumer Affairs. But he grew to dislike that work. So Cecil began volunteering as a judge pro tem in small claims court and found that he “thoroughly” enjoyed investigating the law and resolving disputes. “I was allowed to develop my own expertise and use my own talents, which you can’t do in government work,” the judge said. Cecil, 54, has held virtually every criminal assignment, including death penalty trials, and has served as presiding judge. Later this month, he moves to the civil law and motion department. He wants to get some non-criminal experience to help him figure out what to do after retirement, which is still several years away, he said. During a conversation about the judge, Tommy Clinkenbeard, an assistant public defender in Sacramento, mentioned that both he and Cecil have sons attending law school at McGeorge. (Cecil’s wife is also a lawyer, and his daughter is leaning that way too.) Clinkenbeard said he thinks both sons are considering getting into some sort of “social justice” practice, just like Clinkenbeard did. So are the son of a former Republican lawyer and the son of a true believer really heading down the same legal path? Cecil considered the question a moment, then laughed. “I don’t think so,” he said. 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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