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COURT: Alameda County Superior APPOINTED: July 1998, elevated through trial court unification DATE OF BIRTH: March 22, 1955 LAW SCHOOL: Santa Clara University School of Law, 1980 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Municipal court judge, Fremont-Newark-Union City district To newcomers, Fremont Judge Dennis McLaughlin appears to be a cool customer. He exudes authority, he runs a formal courtroom, and his one-liners are martini dry. But don’t be fooled by the former district attorney’s conservative demeanor. McLaughlin is exceedingly fair, lawyers say. While the judge has conservative leanings �� veteran criminal defense attorney Philip Schnayerson said the judge can be “punitive” at times �� McLaughlin follows the law no matter where it takes him. “Many judges find it difficult to rule in favor of the defense on an unpopular issue. He will follow the law,” Schnayerson said. “If the law is in your favor, you get the ruling. If it’s not in your favor, you don’t get the ruling. That stability is something that lawyers really want.” McLaughlin worked as an Alameda County prosecutor for 16 years before Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the municipal court. In an interview, McLaughlin said that wearing judge’s robes requires a different mindset than prosecuting a case. Judges “have to be convinced,” the judge said. “I question more than when I was a prosecutor.” During a recent case, the judge adjourned a preliminary hearing so that the defense attorney could do additional research on assault weapons when a confiscated gun’s thumb grip became a central issue. McLaughlin listened to both sides. In the end, he decided the defendant should stand trial on the gun charge anyway. On another afternoon, the judge may have shown his punitive side. McLaughlin threw the book at a defendant with a long rap sheet who had violated probation. The judge revoked probation on the man’s seven other cases and sentenced him for all the crimes. The session stretched for a half-hour as McLaughlin piled on the jail time, peppering the hearing with tidbits from police reports. When McLaughlin noted that the defendant assaulted his mother with a stick, the defendant interrupted him. “I got shot in the head, your honor,” he said. The judge paused and scanned the report. “Mr. McCoy did suffer a head injury in that incident,” the judge conceded, but added that the gun came into play after the defendant had already committed the crimes in the first count. Attorneys say McLaughlin runs a well-organized courtroom and hates to waste time. Those are traits the judge acknowledges, noting that he uses time limits during voir dire. While McLaughlin keeps attorneys on the clock during jury selection, the judge will ask prospective jurors obvious questions first so that lawyers don’t have to waste their allotted time. Attorneys should give him jury instructions before the first witness is called, the judge said. McLaughlin revels in research, attorneys say. “He was up on the law and knew it inside and out,” said Deputy DA Donna McIntosh, a prosecutor who was assigned to McLaughlin’s felony calendar before the judge’s current general trial assignment. So don’t try bluffing your way through an argument, advised prosecutor Steven Corral. “He will decipher it quickly,” Corral said. The judge “has very little patience for attorneys who don’t have a clear idea about the law,” added criminal defense attorney Thomas Bequette. The judge agreed. “I can be hard on lawyers if it appears as though they don’t know what they are doing,” he said. “That’s because I care about the people they stand next to,” he said, referring to clients. McLaughlin says he doesn’t have a list of rules. “My goal is to give them the best trial possible,” he said. There are a few things attorneys should avoid. The judge doesn’t like lawyers who treat his staff like secretaries; he doesn’t like it when attorneys treat judges like functionaries instead of constitutional officers; and he doesn’t like lawyers who treat each other badly. “Nothing is as disappointing as seeing attorneys act like they are children in a sandbox,” said McLaughlin. While McLaughlin is tagged as formal, he has been known to loosen up on the bench if he knows the attorneys well. And the judge sheds his staid demeanor when he’s not in the courtroom. In chambers, “he is a regular guy — he’s not pompous or formal,” Schnayerson said. Added McLaughlin: “I run a fairly formal courtroom, but that does not mean that I am a formal person.”

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