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COURT: Alameda County Superior APPOINTED: Appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996. Elevated in 1998, by trial court unification DATE OF BIRTH: Dec. 25, 1953 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law, 1980 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Municipal court judge, Oakland-Piedmont-Emeryville judicial district. Judge Gloria Rhynes looks relapsed junkies in the eye every day. In most cases, she must decide whether they deserve another shot at staying in a Proposition 36 rehab program �� at little or no cost to them ���� or if they should be kicked out because they aren’t taking it seriously. Rhynes, who’s known for talking fast and being frank on the bench, doesn’t keep defendants in suspense for long. “I don’t know what amount of commitment you have to save your own life,” Rhynes told an incarcerated woman who was on the fence about taking advantage of Prop 36. Rhynes ended up granting the woman’s request to opt out of Prop 36. She also gave another chance to a longtime cocaine addict who had ditched several Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Rhynes scolded him for using his sister’s death as an excuse for his chronic attendance problem. “People will work with you as long as you are doing what you are supposed to do,” she said, ordering him to bring a copy of his sister’s obituary to his next NA meeting. Attorneys say that Rhynes, who took on the assignment in January, is a fast learner who keeps the cases moving. “She is very bright,” said Pamela Nunley, a deputy district attorney who appears regularly in Rhynes’ court. The judge, who is African-American, has life experiences and a no-nonsense air that has a lot of credibility with defendants, Nunley said. A common refrain from the judge is that defendants can clean up their act or end up dead or in jail, Nunley said. “She challenges people to think about their lives,” the prosecutor added. Defense attorneys also praise the judge. Rhynes is extremely courteous to clients and she lets them have their say when they are in court, said Deputy Public Defender Timothy Murphy. She’s not afraid to admit that she made a mistake on a legal issue and has incorporated attorneys’ suggestions to improve courtroom procedures, said Deputy Public Defender James Mann. Rhynes doesn’t punish defendants who don’t want to be in a Prop 36 program, Murphy said. The judge says that she doesn’t have a whole lot of rules for attorneys, but lawyers say Rhynes runs a somewhat formal courtroom. Defendants and spectators are expected to pay attention while court is in session. It’s not unusual for the judge to take people to task for chewing gum, sleeping, talking or playing with their hair. In the midst of a recent hearing, the judge peered out into the audience. “Young man in the back, sit up,” she ordered. Since it wasn’t clear whom she meant, several men bolted up in their seats. “Thank you,” the judge cooed, resuming the hearing. Rhynes has also slimmed the Prop 36 calendar since she replaced Judge David Krashna. Under Prop 36 rules, defendants have three chances to slip up before they can be kicked out of the program. Judges, however, have discretion about whether to rule that a defendant’s actions constitute one of those “violations.” Krashna was compassionate and committed to drug court, but he gave defendants too many chances, attorneys say. The calendar was clogged with people who weren’t serious about rehab, they say. Rhynes is more selective about who gets to stay in the program. That approach has lightened the calendar and focused it on people who are more committed to their recovery, said Deputy PD Mann. Krashna’s approach “gave people numerous chances that only postponed the inevitable,” Mann said. While Rhynes understands that relapses are part of the recovery process, she’s not “setting them up for failure,” he said. In an interview, Krashna praised Rhynes’ work and agreed that her style was “a little different.” “That’s absolutely correct. I am more lenient on that. Relapse is part of the recovery process,” he added. “Every judge is guided by their own discretion,” Rhynes said, sometimes shaped by life experiences. She said her drug calendar shrank in part because some of the non-Prop 36 drug cases are now handled elsewhere. When Rhynes was appointed to the bench in 1996, she was a seasoned civil litigator and veteran prosecutor. Early in her legal career, Rhynes joined the Alameda County district attorney’s office. After five years there she went to Oakland civil firm Hanna, Brophy, MacLean, McAleer & Jensen for two years, then left to work in-house at Pacific Bell for a few years and later returned to the firm in 1990. Rhynes was inspired to go to law school when she attended the 1973 law school graduation for her first cousin, Ancer Haggerty. Back then, the judge said, she was “blown away” seeing successful black people embarking on legal careers. Rhynes eventually enrolled in Hastings College of the Law, and when she became a judge, Haggerty, now a Portland federal judge, swore her in. There’s another judge in the family: U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins is Rhynes’ brother-in-law. These days, Rhynes talks passionately about the court’s community outreach committee. It’s important to introduce young people to professionals who work at the court, said Rhynes, who chairs the group. The judge knows from experience how powerful those early connections can be. Seventeen years ago, she met a Hastings law student who organized a job fair for her fellow students. In January, Rhynes was a speaker when that former student, Kamala Harris, was sworn in as San Francisco’s district attorney. Dynamic people show a spark early on, Rhynes said. “I believe that true leaders are called,” the judge said. You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at profiles.html or by calling 415-749-5523.

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