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COURT: Santa Clara Superior APPOINTED: May 1, 2000, by Gov. Gray Davis BORN: Sept. 28, 1954 LAW SCHOOL: Lincoln Law School PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Judge Linda Condron doesn’t tolerate lame excuses, and she doesn’t like delays. Attorneys who appear on her domestic violence calendar know they’d better show up ready for trial. And they’d better know the law, because chances are Condron will. Condron is known to finish two jury trials and a bench trial in a week. She revels in the minutiae of the Evidentiary Code and reads all the papers before she takes the bench. “She understand the nuances on the law,” said Deputy Public Defender Alfonso Lopez. “It’s impossible to pull a fast one on her.” “She is a no-nonsense person. She is quick on her feet. She studies. She brooks no bullshit,” said Deputy DA Edward Fernandez. Some cheer Condron’s take-no-bull approach, but others say her rebukes for attorneys who don’t meet her expectations can border on brutal. “You’d better be ready,” warned Lopez. “Otherwise she will jump down your throat. If you are prepared and professional, you will have no problem in her court. She can be one of the best judges.” Condron admits she can be harsh, but says it’s tactical. “Style makes a difference in what can happen on a particular calendar,” Condron said. “I don’t think the attorneys want to have backlog any more than the judges.” A career prosecutor, Condron ran for election to an open seat in 2000. After she won, Gov. Davis appointed her to the bench so she could take her seat early. Earlier this year she was assigned a backlogged domestic violence calendar, where she’s expected to handle cases from arraignment through trial and sentencing. She and the two other judges have cut down the number of cases waiting for trial from 80 to 20. “We love it. She got in there. She is a really hard worker,” said Rolanda Pierre Dixon, supervising deputy DA of the domestic violence unit. “She did a lot to clear up the backlog of jury trials in the department.” Condron is tough, but the former deputy DA doesn’t play favorites, defense attorneys said. “She definitely holds both counsel to the same standard,” said Deputy Public Defender Roderick O’Connor. “She knows the law and the rules of evidence. If you don’t make the proper objection, you don’t lay the proper foundation for evidence, if you are sloppy — she doesn’t tolerate it.” O’Connor credits Condron’s approach with reducing prosecution posturing. “The DA’s office wasn’t being very reasonable and things were backed up. They wanted to dig in. The cases could have settled for lesser charges,” O’Connor said. “[Condron] wouldn’t lean on a DA to reduce a charge but she insisted if a case was on the trial calendar, it had better be ready to go to trial.” If Condron isn’t available to do the trial, she’ll have the attorneys return to her courtroom every morning that week to see if she’s found another department to hear the case. Condron said this seems to help re-ignite negotiations. And if a prosecutor can’t produce a witness but doesn’t have good cause for a continuance, Lopez said, “she will make the DA dismiss” the case. “Some judges favor the district attorneys in some ways. They expect the public defender to have high standards but they let the DA off easier,” Lopez said. “She is just as hard on DAs and defense attorneys.” Condron tends to impose stiff sentences, both sides agree. But she is independent. “She will break with anyone she disagrees with, be it the prosecution, probation or defense,” said Deputy DA Timothy Moore. She’s fair, said O’Connor, but “if she feels conduct was particularly egregious and someone went to trial and lost she would not hesitate to give a sentence in excess of the pretrial offer.” Condron does have a temper. O’Connor recalls the judge grilling a deputy DA who wasn’t ready for trial. “I swear I could see steam coming out of her ears,” O’Connor said. Condron said she doesn’t try to hide her displeasure if an attorney isn’t ready or intentionally misrepresents fact in court. But the judge said she doesn’t let frustration or emotion color her decision-making. “Early on, I made a decision for exactly the wrong reasons,” Condron explained. An out-of-custody DUI defendant violated a court order, didn’t show up for a hearing, and was found sitting in a car in the court’s parking lot with a bottle of tequila. It had been a stressful day, Condron said, and when the bailiff brought the defendant into her courtroom, she remanded him into custody. Condron said she doesn’t regret the decision, just how she reached it. “None of it was cold, clear, calculated decision-making,” Condron said. She said she agonized all night and went in at 4 a.m. the next morning to make sure the defendant was on that day’s calendar. After that experience, Condron said she vowed, “I’d never, ever, in my life do this again.” These days, Condron says she strives to be dispassionate. If her temper flares, she’ll step off the bench for a few minutes and have a sip of water. Sometimes, she added, she’ll run, pointing to a treadmill in the corner of her office. Lopez said Condron’s temper is just one of her tools. “She uses her temper to express what won’t be tolerated,” he said. “She can criticize an attorney, and five minutes later be giggling about it and saying, ‘I had to do it. He wasn’t prepared.’”

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