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The Alameda County Superior Court has elected its first female presiding judge. Hayward jurist Barbara Miller, the current assistant PJ, will be the county’s next presiding judge. Oakland civil Judge Robert Freedman was elected assistant presiding judge. They both ran unopposed. According to Miller, Alameda County has had other women PJs, but 51-year-old Miller is the first to be voted into that post. Cecil Mosbacher, the county’s first female judge, was PJ in 1960, but back then the title rotated among the judges. And other women judges have had leaderships posts: Now-retired Judge Marie Collins was the PJ of the Oakland Municipal Court, Miller said. However, when the municipal and superior benches were combined in 1998 to form one superior court, the superior court PJ became a more powerful, high-profile post. Among other things, Miller will dole out assignments and speak for the court on issues affecting its 69 judges, 16 commissioners and 800 employees. Miller says coping with money woes is at the top of her agenda. “I think the challenge for the next couple years is to keep the court on an even keel given the current budget problems,” Miller said. Lawmakers have yet to adopt a final budget plan, but the Administrative Office of the Courts anticipates that, statewide, courts will have to make at least $90 million in “unspecified cuts.” Bay Area counties, such as Alameda, have begun closing courtrooms early and cutting costs. “We don’t anticipate having to lay off employees,” Miller said. Miller will also help shepherd existing plans to build a new court complex in Dublin and will play a role in plans to develop a new juvenile hall in San Leandro. On May 28, construction began on a long-awaited children’s waiting room on the third floor of the Hayward Hall of Justice. Once it is completed, a portion of filing fees will help to fund the facility. Construction of the waiting room — which has been pushed for years by the Women Lawyers of Alameda County — is being paid for with donations, Miller said. Miller was elected to the Superior Court in 1996 after she was a court commissioner for nine years. Before that, she was an attorney for 10 years, including six years with the San Francisco firm formerly known as Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges. She is the civil master calendar judge for southern Alameda County and supervises the Hayward Hall of Justice. Freedman is a member of the court executive committee. Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Freedman to the Oakland-Emeryville-Piedmont Municipal Court in 1996, and elevated him to the Superior Court in 1998. Before he joined the bench, Freedman practiced at the firm then known as Wald, Freedman, Chapman & Bendes in Oakland for more than 25 years. Freedman was out of the office and unavailable for comment Tuesday. Miller’s and Freedman’s two-year terms begin in January 2004.

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