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COURT: San Francisco Superior APPOINTED: May 2002 DATE OF BIRTH: May 1, 1949 LAW SCHOOL: University of Wisconsin Law School, 1974 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None The misdemeanor offender in Department 30 is flustered. Commissioner Ron Albers tells him to calm down, but when the man claims confusion over what he was supposed to have done, Albers continues the case to give him another chance to prove he’s enrolled in first-offender classes, and methodically explains what needs to be done next. “Sometimes things get confusing, but I think now we’re all on the same page,” Albers reassures him. Albers addresses everyone with courtesy titles, and explains the proceedings — and his decisions — in plain English. “Even though somebody has technically violated the law or the terms of their probation, Ron has worked with them to get them back on track, where another judge might think, ‘After the third violation, send ‘em to jail,’” said solo Douglas Rappaport. Albers said he frequently puts special conditions on a defendant’s release. For instance, he may require a homeless person to provide a phone number where they can be called and reminded of court dates. Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Wargo said Albers “has a soft spot for clients” who show they’re trying. But “he’s very stern about it; he lets them know what will happen if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do,” she added. “It seems to make [them] want to please him.” Albers, who twice ran for judge and lost before being appointed commissioner last year, is getting strong marks from both prosecutors and defense attorneys for his courtroom conduct and knowledge of criminal law. “It’s difficult to judge how he’ll be in a courtroom where there’s more substantive issues,” Rappaport said. But “I think he has all the prerequisites for becoming a very fine judge.” He’s perceived as even-handed by attorneys who have appeared before him, which some say is notable given he was a public defender for more than 20 years. In that job, he was characterized by former co-workers and trial opponents as an aggressive, dyed-in-the-wool advocate for his clients. Yet Assistant District Attorney Michael Menesini, who leads the DA’s misdemeanor trial team, said, “I feel very confident that the people will get a fair hearing before Ron. I have no qualms.” “A lot of times public defenders that become judges will overcompensate and become tougher, or even really tough, to show that they’re not favoring a defendant,” said solo Jeffrey Schwartz. “He’s really right down the middle, just really objective.” Albers’ popularity among attorneys isn’t universal, though. At least one lawyer he supervised in the public defender’s office has some criticisms, while conceding that both of them are strong-willed people who disagreed on just about everything. “I think as a supervisor he played favorites,” said Sheila O’Gara, now a civil attorney at Becherer, Kannett & Schweitzer in Emeryville. He “was, all in all, quite difficult to deal with if you challenged his control in any way.” Managers have to make difficult decisions, and they don’t usually receive unanimous approval, Albers said. “I have, I believe, always tried to be as fair and professional as I could be in dealing with my management responsibilities.” Even O’Gara, though, echoes the compliments of former co-workers and trial opponents regarding Albers’ work ethic. “He made me proud as a public defender,” working hard for his clients amid maelstroms of office politics,” O’Gara said. “I think among the judges he has a reputation as being extremely hard-working and very competent,” said Judge Kay Tsenin, who ran against Albers for judge and now supervises the criminal master calendar. Albers has served on the State Bar’s Board of Governors and served as chairman of its Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. He was also a founding board member of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom and a co-founder of the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association. In addition to performing the duties of bail commissioner — reviewing applications for own recognizance and special releases and determining probable cause for felonies — Albers regularly presides in Department 30, where he ensures that misdemeanor offenders comply with conditions of probation. He’s also been a frequent substitute in Department 19, where misdemeanor arraignments and bench warrant returns are reviewed for custody status and assigned to judges for jury trial. Albers has handled some misdemeanor arraignments and misdemeanor legal motions which have been stipulated to by attorneys on both sides, said Judge Carol Yaggy, who beat Albers for an open seat on the bench in 1998. “They don’t stipulate unless they believe you’re going to be fair.” Though he has twice aimed for, and missed, a seat on the bench, Albers said he’s “totally satisfied” with his role as a commissioner. But “sitting as a superior court judge and having either greater challenges or opportunity would thrill me,” he said, pointing out that his predecessor, Newton Lam, was appointed judge after several years as a commissioner.

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