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San Francisco Superior Court Judge Lenard Louie, an icon of the city’s criminal courts, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 68. Known for his talent at settling cases, Louie served as a mentor for attorneys and his fellow jurists. “A lot of people come and go through that building, but Lenard Louie was an institution,” said San Francisco solo Randall Knox, a former prosecutor when Louie was on the bench. Louie worked at the San Francisco district attorney’s office from 1969 until 1985, when then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the municipal court. He appointed him to the superior court in 1988. Judges and lawyers said Wednesday they can’t recall a time since his appointment when Louie wasn’t presiding in the criminal courts. “He’s an institution,” said Judge Julie Tang. Louie was an expert at settling cases, lawyers and judges said. “He was a great trial judge, too, but his greatest strength was to get people to compromise,” Knox said. “He knew the worth of a case within a minute of talking about it,” said criminal defense and personal injury lawyer Frank Passaglia, who worked in the DA’s office for about 18 years and played tennis with Louie for many years. And Louie could make each side see the reasonableness of an opponent’s position, said Judge Jerome Benson, who worked with Louie in the DA’s office. “Everybody knew he was a straight shooter, very honest,” said Judge Teri Jackson, a former prosecutor and among the judges who count Louie as a mentor. Louie was a font of advice for jurists and lawyers alike, many said. Judges would often point each other toward Louie, said Judge Tang. “He was the one prime person to go to for advice,” Tang said, adding that he would also offer support, encouraging his fellow judges to trust their judgment and do the right thing. “Whenever you would go and talk to Lenard, as a DA or as a judge, you always felt better afterward,” said Assistant DA John Dwyer, who knew Louie for more than 30 years. “He always had something funny to say, he always had some good idea.” “Everyone came to him to have him evaluate cases,” said retired Superior Court Judge Alfred Chiantelli, now with Action Dispute Resolution Services. “He can size up people really well. He had a big heart.” Judges and lawyers also remember Louie as friendly, funny, competitive, humble and down to earth. When Louie was a prosecutor, “He would always needle me when I was doing cases against him,” said Judge Newton Lam, a former deputy public defender. “But he was doggone fair and very common-sensical,” Lam added. “He was also smart as hell.” And a couple of people remember Louie’s performances in front of a crowd. “People loved to get him to speak at public functions, because he was so good at humor, insight, and human nature,” Knox said. Louie worked as a chemist in Washington, D.C. before coming to San Francisco to become a lawyer, said Judge Chiantelli, who shared an office with him when both were prosecutors. Louie graduated from Hastings College of the Law in 1967. After joining the DA’s office, he worked his way up until he was handling felony jury trials, including gang crimes, robberies and homicides, Chiantelli said. “He was known in the DA’s office as getting the job done,” said criminal defense solo Bill Fazio, a former prosecutor. “One year he told me he had tried 26 felony cases to completion.” Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who is Japanese American, remembers Louie as one of his first role models. “When Judge Louie was a prosecutor, he was one of the few Asian lawyers in the city.” Outside of work, Louie was active in the Chinese-American community and devoted to his spiritual organization, Sukyo Mahikari, said Judge Lillian Sing, who knew Louie before he became a judge. Most recently, Louie had been out of the courthouse for some months due to his illness, though he came back at least once, Sing said. “He loved his work so much, he sat and presided over a case even when he was sick.” Louie is survived by his wife, Lily Louie, daughters Teresa Louie and Karen Louie Gee, and three grandchildren. A wake is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 5 at the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, 1044 Stockton St. in San Francisco. A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 6 at the same location.

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