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COURT: San Francisco Superior APPOINTED: April 3, 2003, by Gov. Gray Davis DATE OF BIRTH: Oct. 23, 1945 LAW SCHOOL: New York University School of Law, 1972 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: San Francisco Municipal Court judge, 1981 to 1993, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown then twice elected; sat by assignment in superior court, 1996 to 2003 Attorneys say that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Morgan is exceptionally demanding and can be hard on attorneys who don’t meet her expectations, but the observation is offered as a warning to the uninitiated, not as a criticism. Though she’s the most recent appointee to San Francisco Superior Court, Morgan has had nearly 20 cumulative years in the city’s courtrooms to earn a reputation. “Woe be it to the attorney who goes in unprepared,” because Morgan will make her disappointment clear, said Assistant District Attorney James Hammer. “She does set high standards and can be impatient with lawyers who don’t meet them,” said Assistant District Attorney Linda Moore. “But I don’t find her to be unreasonable.” Morgan describes herself in similar fashion. “Part of my job is to train new lawyers, and I’m very demanding,” she said. “I don’t let people get away with doing things in a sloppy fashion. I don’t excuse mistakes.” If an attorney files a motion to amend a complaint, for example, the state Code of Civil Procedure requires that the proposed amended complaint be attached, Morgan said. “If not, it’s denied, period.” Attorneys would also be wise to study the state Evidence Code before going into her courtroom. “I think young lawyers should read the Evidence Code every day, over and over again,” she said. Though Morgan’s style has the potential to embarrass, Hammer said, he thinks it’s good for attorneys. At least two prosecutors who have recently been assigned to Morgan’s courtroom say she’s just plain constructive. “For me it just reminds me what an important job I have,” said Assistant District Attorney Rema Breall. “It’s never embarrassing. It teaches you to be prepared.” Morgan said she’s heard some complaints about her style over the years, but she makes no apologies. “If someone like me doesn’t make young lawyers aware of and abide by those rules, we’ll do nothing but turn out sloppy, unprofessional people,” she said. “She’s been a great judge to learn under,” said Manuel Perez, a volunteer public defender assigned to Department 13, where Morgan has presided over everything from misdemeanor to murder trials for the last year and a half. “Her personality is just very firm when court is in session,” said Perez. For instance, he said, late arrivals occasionally get “a stern admonishment” from Morgan. “It can catch you off guard if you’re not used to it,” Perez said, noting that outside of court, Morgan comes across as “a very cordial, very sweet woman.” Morgan explained, “It’s not so much be on time; it’s more like, don’t be unreasonably late.” She added, “I know lawyers have a lot of different things to do,” and pointed out that she practiced law for about 10 years before becoming a judge. “She understands that there are some things that you just couldn’t foresee,” said Deputy Public Defender Adam Lipson. A prime example came last Tuesday, when one frazzled deputy public defender reported to Morgan’s courtroom for trial — without the defendant. She told the judge that she didn’t know where her client was, but that he had reliably appeared for court in the past. Morgan appeared understanding — she issued a bench warrant, but stayed it for a day to give the attorney an opportunity to locate her client. “When I first met her I thought she was almost a bully, but as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve found she’s not at all,” said solo criminal defense attorney Jose Pericles Umali. Describing her as an “excellent” judge, he added, “I think she’s gotten better over the years.” Umali said that while “she’s still a very firm judge, I think she has a higher threshold, she’s more patient.” By the time Gov. Davis appointed Morgan to a seat on the San Francisco Superior Court bench April 3, she had been sitting by assignment almost continuously for about seven years. Prior to that, she had logged about 12 years on the San Francisco Municipal Court bench, where she presided over both civil and criminal courtrooms. When then-Gov. Jerry Brown first appointed Morgan in 1981, she became known as the first openly lesbian judicial appointee in the nation. She left in 1993 for three years in Washington, D.C., where she taught at American University’s Washington College of Law, and worked at the Department of Justice under then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Various private and public attorneys said Morgan is “incredibly bright,” hard-working, articulate and thoughtful, with “a sharp legal mind.” Several described her as fair and even-handed. When Morgan presided over San Francisco’s domestic violence court in 2001, Moore said, she showed compassion to both victims and defendants and was attentive to both sides. Morgan, a former certified family law specialist, said she tried to examine “both sides of the coin” as a teacher in D.C. She set up and supervised a law clinic where students spent one semester representing defendants charged with domestic violence offenses, and a second semester representing victims who wanted a restraining order. And, said Lipson, “She’s equally as hard on (prosecutors) as on us.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.therecorder.com/profiles.html or by calling 415-749-5523.

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