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WEEKDAYS HE’S A BINGHAM STAFFER, WEEKENDS A HERO You don’t need a J.D. to make headlines at Bingham McCutchen. Jason Chavez, the Walnut Creek office’s systems administrator, was lauded in local TV news reports earlier this month for his firefighting heroics. The 32-year-old Chavez was abruptly awoken from a Sunday afternoon nap when his wife noticed smoke pouring out of a neighbor’s apartment. Still barefoot and groggy, Chavez instinctively darted to the hot spot, kicked in the door and crawled into the burning apartment to try to rescue the woman who lived there. The smoke was so thick there was only about a foot of fresh air at the bottom of the room, and the floor was strewn with broken glass. The woman was dazed and unaware of the situation. “I was crawling and yelling. Then she comes staggering into the kitchen,” Chavez recalls. He held his breath, grabbed her and pulled her out of the apartment. With firefighters still not at the scene, Chavez continued to battle the inferno along with another resident, blasting the flames with water hoses and fire extinguishers. “I splashed water on my face because I couldn’t see, my eyes were burning so bad,” says Chavez, who also vomited from inhaling the acrid smoke. According to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, the blaze is under investigation. In the meantime, Chavez has become the best-known systems administrator within 850-attorney Bingham McCutchen. His heroics were featured on the firm’s intranet site, and Chavez has received congratulatory e-mails and phone calls almost every day since the fire, including a note from Vice Chairman Donn Pickett. — Alexei Oreskovic PICKING A FIGHT If you have your heart set on a gavel, but you have to challenge a sitting judge, how would you choose whom to run against? That’s the dilemma that faced part-time court commissioner Denise Schmidt when she decided to run for a Contra Costa County judicial seat in the March 2 election. Contra Costa judges Barry Baskin, Laurel Brady, Theresa Canepa, Judith Craddick, Jill Fannin, David Flinn, John Kennedy, William Kolin and John Sugiyama are all up for re-election. So why did Schmidt pick Sugiyama? Sugiyama would not speculate on the issue, but court watchers say that he is the odd man out. “She looked at the names and picked who would be the most vulnerable,” said Judge Terence Bruiniers, who, along with most judges, is backing Sugiyama. The more senior judges, such as Brady, Craddick and Flinn, are well known to voters. Canepa, Kennedy and Baskin also are familiar to voters because of their legal practices. Jill Fannin �� one of the newest judges on the list �� seems shielded by the name of her famous father, retired Contra Costa County Judge Coleman Fannin. Sugiyama has a solid legal resume �� 25 years in the attorney general’s office and a stint as the Department of Corrections top lawyer �� but the 2002 Gov. Gray Davis appointee has virtually no local name recognition. For her part, Schmidt says she is running against Sugiyama because she has stronger community ties than he does. Schmidt is a former civil attorney who presides in the Pittsburg and Concord courthouses. “I just feel that a judge in the community should have roots in the community,” she said. — Jahna Berry BLUE MOON Former Mayor Willie Brown may be misty-eyed this week over more than his recent departure from San Francisco’s top office. Brown’s alma mater Hastings College of the Law will award him a Medal of Achievement to recognize his accomplishments in public service on Friday. Brown, Hastings Law class of �58, is one of only eight alumni in the school’s 126-year history to receive the award. The law school granted the last such honor in 1993 to Nevada Gov. Robert List. “[Brown] is among our most illustrious alumni. He’s changed the landscape of this city and has been one of most powerful figures in the state government for some 20 years,” said Fran Marsh, a Hastings spokeswoman. In fact, Brown served in the California Assembly a total of 31 years. He was the first African-American elected as Speaker of the Assembly, a position he held an unprecedented 15 years. After term limits ended his tenure in the Assembly, he served two terms as mayor of San Francisco, beginning in 1996. Marsh said Hastings generally grants its Medal of Achievement at the end of a person’s public service career or after he or she has stepped down from a major position. “But we’re not implying that his career is at an end. Far from that,” she said. — Adrienne Sanders

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