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Gov. Gray Davis named two lawyers to the Alameda County bench Thursday, including C. Don Clay, second-in-command in the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office. Clay’s sudden departure leaves U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan casting about for a new right-hand man. There was no early word on who might replace Clay. “I love it here,” Clay said. “That’s the hardest part [of leaving]. This is a great, great opportunity here.” The governor also appointed John True III, an Oakland employment lawyer and mediator. True is a partner at Oakland’s Leonard Carder. Clay joined the U.S. attorney’s office just a year ago. But he said his decision to quit for the bench didn’t stem from dissatisfaction. “Kevin’s my guy,” he said. “He’s doing a fabulous job getting this office together.” Ryan said he would miss Clay. “He’s been instrumental to my administration. I consider him invaluable and will miss him greatly,” said Ryan. “The bench and the greater community will now benefit from his wisdom as I have.” Clay had turned down a judgeship so he could go to work for Ryan. But with the recall threatening to toss Davis from office, his window of opportunity was closing fast. So Clay’s name was added to a long list of judicial appointments made by Davis in recent months. Both Clay and True have long had their names in for judicial appointments, and both were previously vetted by California’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission. Since the recall election was certified for Oct. 7 — a date now in question after Monday’s Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision canceling the election — Davis has been filling seats on the state bench at a fast clip. Davis focused first on the appellate courts and has now begun to fill the few dozen seats remaining on the trial courts. Like Clay, True said he is looking forward to his judgeship. “I’m pleased and excited at the new challenge and look forward to being a help to the Alameda County bench,” True said. “I applied some time ago and am pleased that it finally happened,” said True, who is married to U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken. “I’m quite pleased that my objections will no longer be overruled at the dinner table,” he said. True, 59, has spent most of his career in the field of labor law, including an eight-year stint at the San Francisco Legal Aid Society filing class actions on behalf of low-income clients. He has lectured at Boalt Hall School of Law and Santa Clara University School of Law. Before attending Boalt, True spent time in Nepal and Afghanistan with the Peace Corps. He replaces Judge David Lee, who retired. Clay, 48, has spent most of his 21-year career as a defense attorney in Alameda County. He has also spent time in San Francisco politics, serving on various city commissions from 1989 to 1996. Clay went to law school at Hastings College of the Law. Clay replaces the late Judge Richard Iglehart. Both will receive a salary of $139,476.

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