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COURT:Alameda County Superior APPOINTED:1998, elevated through unification. DATE OF BIRTH:Aug. 15, 1957 LAW SCHOOL:Hastings College of Law PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE:Hayward Municipal Court, appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996 Judge Julia Spain has two sides, civil attorneys say. On the bench, she handles cases with a smooth, professional touch. At the settlement table, she is a plain-spoken deal maker who can get to the heart of a case. “She was very direct,” said Kenneth Meleyco, a Stockton plaintiffs attorney. Spain presided over a settlement conference in which he represented a client whose foot had to be amputated after an on-the-job injury. “She said that I was the most unreasonable attorney that she had ever met,” he said, chuckling. “I told her to call the judges in Stockton; they would tell her the same thing.” Meleyco also praised Spain’s settlement skills. Spain saw “a glimmer of hope” that the case could be settled even after an initial mandatory settlement conference failed. Many settlement judges will move a case to trial if those talks go down the tubes, he said. Spain says she handles settlement talks and trials differently. “In court, I tend to be more formal,” the jurist said. “In settlement, I let my guard down. I give you an honest appraisal of your case. We will have a real heart-to-heart.” Litigators say Spain is an adept trial judge, and agree she runs a formal court. Several said Spain isn’t afraid to hit the books when special legal issues arise in a case. “She is a hands-on judge and was very detail-oriented,” said Theresa Muley, an associate with Pleasanton’s McNichols, Randick, O’Dea & Tooliatos, who tried a land dispute in Spain’s court. Fremont attorney Mark Cohen said Spain carefully weighed the issues when he tried a case in which factions within a Sikh religious organization feuded over who should lead the group. “In the case I tried before her, she was extremely attentive to the potential impact that this case would have on the Sikh community,” Cohen said. Although civil attorneys praise Spain, the Hayward judge took knocks from lawyers who appeared before her when she was presiding in juvenile court. When the Alameda County Bar Association released a survey of the county’s judges in 2002, more than half of the 32 attorneys surveyed said Spain should treat attorneys and litigants better. The same proportion said Spain’s temperament needed improvement. Spain, a past executive director of that bar association, pointed out in a previous interview that just 250 of the bar’s 2,000 members responded to the survey. Of those surveyed, just over 30 had appeared before her. Spain also noted that from 1999 until 2001 she was a juvenile court judge and had begun enforcing strict federal guidelines to expedite cases. That may have riled some attorneys, she said. “I was really surprised” at the bar association’s report, said Robert Slattery, a Walnut Creek civil defense attorney who tried a case in Spain’s court around the time the survey came out. “What that report said did not manifest itself in our case,” said Slattery, a name partner at McNamara, Dodge, Ney, Beatty, Slattery & Pfalzer. Judge Spain was appointed to the bench in 1996 after she spent six years as the executive director of the Alameda County Bar Association. She spent a total of 15 years in various capacities at the bar association. The posts ranged from a brief stint as a receptionist shortly after law school to running the bar’s small claims court program. Spain was also in private practice for eight years. Before she become executive director of the bar association, she was a name partner at Dublin’s McCarthy, Leonard & Spain. In an interview, the judge offered a few pointers for lawyers: She said she appreciates thorough preparation and honesty. Unlike some judges, Spain strictly enforces the court’s trial setting order, and she hands out copies to attorneys who are planning to try a case before her. In settlement conferences, Spain says she doesn’t like to hear trial-style arguments from attorneys. Instead, the judge will start by questioning the attorney whose position has raised the most questions, and probes the strengths and weaknesses of each side. Even though Spain left the bar association seven years ago, some habits have stuck with her. Back then, she compiled statistics to chart the group’s outreach efforts. These days, she tracks how many cases she has settled. “I guess I am a statistics freak,” she said, noting that her settlement rate helps her “benchmark” how she’s doing. According to Spain’s personal count, 240 cases that were assigned to her case management calendar in 2002 were resolved before trial; she personally was involved in settling 86 of them. That year, more than 1,000 cases were on her case management calendar, with nearly 400 of those transferred to her from Judge Cecilia Castellanos’ calendar. Spain took over those cases because Castellanos was transferred from the Hayward Courthouse to hear criminal cases at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland. Spain said she enjoys settling cases, adding “we are having some good results.” 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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