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COURT: Marin County Superior APPOINTED: Elevated through trial court unification, 1998 DATE OF BIRTH: Aug. 31, 1954 LAW SCHOOL: University of San Francisco School of Law, 1979 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Marin County Municipal Court, appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson There’s the real world and then there’s the world according to Marin County Superior Court Judge M. Lynn Duryee — a fun place in which ordinary words and actions take on whole new meanings. Here’s Duryee on lawyers using the term, “With all due respect”: “Have you ever heard that phrase when it meant anything other than, �You stupid, wrong-thinking, dim-witted, misguided idiot?’” On “I beg to differ”: “As if to suggest that he or she is hesitating, almost despising himself, for presuming to say a word. I mean, gag me with a gavel.” And on “As you know, your honor”: “What’s really being said is, �You’re not all that s-m-a-r-t, but we can pretend.’” These gems and others can be found in “With All Due Respect: Reflections on the Judging Life,” a book of columns Duryee has written for the California Judges Association. They reflect an offbeat sense of humor, a deep love for the judicial system, and the oft-forgotten fact that judges are human beings, too. The absurdist outlook in the book seems natural, though, for a 49-year-old woman who chuckles at the memory of a high school guidance counselor who told her the law could be an ideal career for her — in that she might make a good legal secretary. As it turns out, Duryee’s had the last laugh. She has served as president of the Marin County Bar Association, lectured at Hastings College of the Law, and not only become a judge herself but taught new judges how to do the job at the annual B.E. Witkin Judicial College of California. This year, she’s the chairwoman. “So all new judges,” she says, “now come through me.” Jon Tigar, a judge in the Alameda County Superior Court, was one of those newbies. He’s now a friend of Duryee’s and has even taught new-judge orientation with her. Duryee, he says, “cares a lot about what it means to be a great judge and she’s able to teach other judges how to feel that way about judging — in a way that is accessible and funny. And that makes her both a great judge and a great teacher.” Duryee has also won the admiration of lawyers. “She really tries to give everyone a fair shake in her courtroom,” says Charles Bonner, a Sausalito plaintiffs lawyer. “She’s always treated lawyers with respect in my presence.” Adds defense attorney Vincent McLorg, a San Francisco solo practitioner: “She is smart, she is decisive, she is no-nonsense when she’s on the bench, and you know exactly where you stand with her in the courtroom.” Duryee says she’s quite happy when lawyers come to her courtroom on time and prepared and when they maintain respect not only for the court but also for their opponents. No rolling of the eyes or mean comments. “If you’re prepared and you’re professional, you’ll do great in my courtroom,” she says. “Do what you’re supposed to do.” Even so, Duryee says she’s not quite the “rules kitten” she used to be. “I love rules,” Duryee says. “But they are just rules. They are not the Ten Commandments. We are here to make sure the right thing gets done.” She recalls the teenage girl who appeared before her for a name change. When the girl’s cell phone rang for the third time during the hearing, Duryee didn’t get mad, she just turned to the mother and asked: “Can I have your daughter’s cell phone number? I think it would go faster that way.” And when Duryee gets exasperated with an attorney, she can count on sound advice from her husband, Neil Moran, a civil trial lawyer with San Rafael’s Freitas, McCarthy, MacMahon & Keating. “He says, �Remember, honey, that guy is doing the best he can.’” Duryee’s in-born optimism suffered some four years ago, though, when she and two other Marin County judges were targeted for recall. Of the three, Duryee was the most vocal in defending herself. “The few people spearheading this campaign are dissatisfied litigants,” she wrote at the time. “They had fair and public trials before an impartial judge who treated them with respect and dignity. Now having lost their trials, motions, appeals and reviews, they ask taxpayers to spend $500,000 in a special election so they can attack the judge.” Not enough votes were gathered to put the judges up for recall, but the memory is still sore. “I grew up in Marin,” she says. “I just took for granted my good reputation and I’d run into people who’d say, �Are you still a judge?’ And I just felt like no one was making an effort to find out the truth behind the allegations.” Matthew White, president of the Marin County Bar Association, says the recall attempt, especially for Duryee, was nonsense. White also counts himself as one of the many fans of Duryee’s humorous writings. “We all think judges don’t know what lawyers are going through,” he says, “but lawyers don’t know what judges are going through either.” Duryee’s columns make it clear. Duryee says her writings often deal with lessons she’s learned on the bench — being patient, handling criticism, being unpopular, dealing with disrespectful litigants and just doing your best each day. “I come across as a total real person with insecurities and frustrations,” Duryee says. “And I think that’s a surprise to people.” Well, maybe to those who don’t know her.

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