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COURT: San Francisco Superior APPOINTED: Aug. 12, 2002 DATE OF BIRTH: Nov. 10, 1956 LAW SCHOOL: Georgetown University Law Center, 1980 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None There’s no personality vacuum in Judge Teri Jackson’s criminal courtroom. With just over a year on the bench, she’s dynamic, lively and in control. “She’s very charismatic,” said Francisco Rodriguez, of San Francisco’s Uthman, Katsuranis & Rodriguez. “But she’s down to business.” And attorneys on both sides of the aisle said Jackson’s fair and confident in her decision-making. After starting as a prosecutor in San Mateo County, Jackson joined the San Francisco DA’s office in 1984 and rose to head its homicide unit. She departed in 1997 to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe as of counsel, defending individuals in white-collar cases and representing companies in complex civil litigation. “Since I was 5 years old, and I saw ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ I wanted to be a lawyer,” Jackson said, adding that her father would take her to watch trials as a child. When Gov. Gray Davis appointed Jackson to the bench last year, she became the first African-American woman to sit on San Francisco’s superior court. Jackson presided over a misdemeanor trial department and briefly filled in at domestic violence court before landing in Dept. 17, where she hears trials and misdemeanor arraignments. In January, she’s slated to move to a preliminary hearing courtroom. Judges such as Jackson, who’ve represented the government as well as defendants, “know the courtroom well, and beyond that have a presence,” said Assistant DA Michael Menesini. “They’re capable of establishing themselves without holding everybody in the countryside in contempt,” and can assert control with a crook of their eyebrow, he said. Jackson runs a relatively informal court, said Deputy Public Defender Jonah Chew, who’s assigned to her department. But lawyers have picked up on some strong preferences. For instance, on in limine issues Jackson prefers written briefs, said San Francisco defense lawyer Brian Getz. She reads every case cited, so it’s best to include only those that hit right on point, he advises. Jackson says she strives to create an un-intimidating, yet highly respectful, environment. “The court is going to show respect, and you show respect for the bench.” Make sure your client shows up, Chew said. “She’s real big on clients being present.” Attorneys who come without their client or the authority to reach a disposition waste the court’s time, Jackson said. “I am very, very much about having clients present, for the sole reason, let’s try to dispose of this case,” the judge said. But she adds that she’ll stay a bench warrant if she hears a reasonable explanation. “I give people the benefit of the doubt.” Jackson also “hates clients standing at the podium with their arms folded, or leaning on the podium,” Chew said. “I guess it’s an affront to the court.” “Tell your client to be respectful � not to have a cell phone on, not to stand there drinking a cup of coffee,” Jackson said. “I don’t yell at them, but I just let them know.” Jackson banters and laughs with attorneys in court. “She’s charming, especially with jurors,” said Jean Amabile, who supervises the public defender’s misdemeanor unit. But she can turn stern in an instant. When one hapless man’s cell phone rang in her courtroom last week — a no-no in any department — Jackson immediately stopped what she was doing. “All right, who has a cell phone on?” “I shut it off,” the man said, holding it up for her to see. “No,” Jackson said. “Give it to the bailiff.” Amabile said that some new judges don’t trust their instincts, which can lead to “ridiculous” rulings. But she said Jackson isn’t like that. Nor is she pro-prosecution. “You’re ever mindful of the fact that here’s a former prosecutor � so you look for bias,” said Stephen Eckdish, a solo criminal and immigration defense lawyer in San Francisco. “I just haven’t seen any.” San Francisco solo Sean Ellis said that during a recent disorderly conduct and battery case, “I know [Jackson] was irritated with my client, but didn’t take it out on her, and didn’t take it out on me.” Jackson, who’s often active in negotiations during pretrial conferences, leans on either side if she thinks they’re doing the wrong thing, said Deputy Public Defender Brian Pearlman. “She’s equal opportunity.” And Jackson strives to improve herself as well as the relatively green lawyers who handle many misdemeanors in front of her, Pearlman said. “She’s a very good judge now,” Ellis said. “She’s going to be a great judge when she’s been there a couple of years.” “When she denies something, she gives you a basis of reason,” Pearlman said. She also gives advice. After jurors departed for a recess during one recent trial, she suggested the prosecutor pick up the pace of his questioning. “Some of the jurors were concentrating with their eyes closed.” In chambers, she said she tries not to rattle new lawyers, but to gently prod them to watch the jury. “I am evolving, as they say, a work in progress,” Jackson said. “When you feel you know it all, you’ve done it all � then you get sloppy.”

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