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COURT: Alameda County Superior APPOINTED: 1993, by Gov. Pete Wilson DATE OF BIRTH: July 17, 1940 LAW SCHOOL: Golden Gate University School of Law PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Oakland-Piedmont-Emeryville Municipal Court. Appointed 1988, by Gov. George Deukmejian Carl Morris, Alameda County’s new juvenile court presiding judge, is no new kid on the block. He comes to the assignment with experience as a juvenile court referee, a probation officer, a public defender and a criminal defense attorney. That said, the judge’s new leadership post has given him plenty of things to learn. “When I was doing juvenile [before], I was essentially just a trial judge,” Morris said, noting that the PJ has broad administrative duties. “I did not have this type of responsibility.” Other things have stayed the same. “What hasn’t changed is my belief in what we are trying to do,” he said. “It amounts to what is in the best interest of the child.” In December, Morris replaced Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, who had led the juvenile court for four years. When the news circulated, longtime juvenile court attorneys took comfort in the fact that Morris was a known quantity. Morris listens to both sides, said Arthur Mitchell, a lawyer who remembers Morris when the judge presided over juvenile cases years ago. “He does the research, he reads the cases,” said Mitchell, a criminal defense lawyer who works at Oakland attorney John Burris’ office. Two attorneys who tried a case before Morris more recently say the judge carefully weighed their case. Deputy Public Defender Cole Powell represented a boy charged with felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor gun possession. The DA alleged that the youth was part of a group that surrounded a girl and pulled a gun on her. While the accusations were grave on paper, Morris picked up that there was a “he said-she said” element to the case, Powell said. A gun was never recovered and there were no witnesses to back the girl’s account of the episode, Powell said. Morris’ ruling took the middle road: He found that the boy was guilty of false imprisonment but found the gun charge to be not true. “He could have easily said, ‘This is what the girl said and that’s it,’” Powell said. Instead the judge “sentenced the kid for what he was responsible for.” The DA who prosecuted the case was also satisfied with the result. “He’s definitely one to make an equitable decision,” said deputy DA Scott Jackson of the gun case. Morris strikes the right balance between supporting young defendants and coddling them, Jackson said. “He sees cases for what they are. He’s not one to make rash decisions.” There’s an added bonus to having Morris as the juvenile court’s presiding judge, Jackson said. Since many of the young offenders are African-American boys, it’s good to have a black male judge hearing those cases. When a young person appears before Morris, he “may be the biggest black male figure in these kids’ lives,” said Jackson, who is also African-American. Judge Morris’ career path started as a Wells Fargo loan officer. He later took a job as an Alameda County probation officer. Law school wasn’t originally part of the plan, Morris said. “I never saw myself going to law school,” the judge said. But a friend at another bank — George Holland, now an attorney in Oakland –was interested in law school. “He persuaded me to go,” Morris said. After law school, Morris worked for the San Francisco Legal Assistance Foundation. Later, he tried cases for the Alameda County public defender’s office for six years and was in private practice for nearly four years. Morris became a juvenile court referee in 1983. Five years later, Gov. George Deukmejian tapped Morris to be a municipal court judge. Gov. Pete Wilson elevated him to the Superior Court in 1993. One of his first assignments was juvenile court. Morris has a few pointers for attorneys not familiar with his department. Hearings are supposed to be a bit more relaxed than ones for adults, so attorneys should try to be less combative, Morris said. Morris likes it when defense attorneys offer useful input about the disposition of their client’s case. Sometimes, attorneys are too focused on defending their client against charges to suggest what sentencing options would work best for the child, Morris said. “Lawyers could help immensely,” Morris said. “Presumably, they know the child better than I do, or, if it’s a first offense, better than the probation department.” Attorneys who don’t usually appear in his court should remember that there are no juries, so cut down on the posturing, the judge added. “You are not trying to impress anyone,” the judge said. “It’s just me.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.therecorder.com/profiles.htmlor by calling 415-749-5523.

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