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COURT: Alameda County Superior APPOINTED: Elevated through trial court unification, 1998. DATE OF BIRTH: Oct. 12, 1951 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Judge, Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin Municipal Court. Appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, Jan. 1997. Pleasanton’s courthouse is a long way from San Francisco �� physically and philosophically, says Alameda County Superior Court Judge Christine Moruza. She says that when she was an assistant district attorney in San Francisco, public defenders and prosecutors drew swords over every case. Attorneys are more realistic at the Gale/Schenone Hall of Justice where she presides, the judge says. “We don’t have a lot of true believers here,” Moruza said. “We get at the truth: How good a case is, and what’s it worth?” Moruza has paid her dues in San Francisco, where she was a court research attorney and later a San Francisco prosecutor for six years. San Francisco insurance defense firm Kinder & Wuerfel then hired Moruza as a part-time associate �� an arrangement that Moruza says was “progressive” at the time and allowed her to raise three children. Moruza became a stay-at-home mom in 1987 and had a fourth child in 1990. She returned to full-time trial work in 1994 at what is now known as Livermore’s Varni, Fraser, Hartwell & Trutner, handling environmental and real estate cases. When Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Moruza to the Livermore-Dublin-Pleasanton municipal court in 1997, she was the first female judge to serve on that bench. Moruza says she was an unknown to local court watchers when she got her gavel. “I don’t think that anyone knew her around here,” said longtime Pleasanton criminal defense attorney Harry Traback. “I think that she was confronted with a lot of strangers and had to prove herself. She’s comfortable now.” Moruza said she is pleased with the attorneys who appear before her, but has a few pointers for lawyers who are new to her courtroom: Speak up, and come on time. Also, Moruza says, it “irritates” her when she sees some attorneys dash out the door after a plea without explaining the conditions of probation to their clients. “I would like to see that attorneys make sure that their clients understand the conditions of probation,” the judge said. “I get a lot of defendants who say that they don’t understand their probation paperwork.” Defense attorneys say Moruza is knowledgeable, bright and has an independent streak. “She uses her own good sense,” Traback said. He remembers an elder abuse case in which he and the prosecutor came up with a “fairly lenient” disposition, because of several underlying factors. “We had to make sure she became very well informed of the facts,” before she would approve it, he said. On another case, a prosecutor tried to convince Moruza that the defendant should be tried for making felony terrorist threats, a case Traback thought was “overcharged.” Moruza reduced it to a misdemeanor, Traback said. “Be circumspect, and get some idea about where she is going,” Traback advises. “She can have strong opinions, and it may not be consistent with your view or the DA’s view.” One of those areas where Moruza has some strong feelings is drunk driving. While another judge might recommend that a defendant with a blood alcohol level of .20 go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings while their case is pending, Moruza would make that request even when a defendant’s blood alcohol was lower, Traback said. “She seems to be very sensitive to people who have the disease of alcoholism,” said Livermore defense attorney Timothy Rien. If a defendant’s blood alcohol level is far above the legal limit, there is a good chance they have driven drunk before and just haven’t been caught, Moruza says. “The car is a deadly weapon,” she adds. Rien said Moruza is also known to lecture defendants if she feels that their deeds not only harm the public but their own families as well. Moruza doesn’t like “collateral damage” to family members, the lawyer says. The judge makes no apologies for calling defendants on the carpet but says she refrains from scolding defendants until she announces her judgment on a case. “Someone at some point has to tell them the truth,” Moruza says. “I feel that person is me.” On a recent afternoon, Moruza played the role of judge — and cross-examiner — when she presided over a small claims case. A diabetic woman blamed her doctor for a severe infection, which, she said, could have led to her foot being amputated. The doctor apologized when he accidentally cut her during a treatment, the woman testified, but didn’t give her an antibiotic. The doctor said he didn’t cut the woman. “I just knew I would lose my foot,” the plaintiff said. “I was scared.” “Do you remember saying that [apology]?” Moruza asked. “No,” the doctor said. “Oh, man,” the plaintiff sighed. Moruza quizzed both sides to glean more details about the incident. The doctor said he couldn’t remember the office visit because he has a large practice, but the patient did. “What I am looking for from you,” Moruza told the doctor, “is to have a recollection to counter that.” Moruza says that she has a great respect for her judicial power. Increasingly, small claims courts are handling serious cases because people can’t afford attorneys, she said. “I don’t live in a gated community,” Moruza said. “I live with the people I judge. I see them when I am walking the dog.”

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