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COURT: San Francisco Superior APPOINTED: Nov. 12, 2003, by Gov. Gray Davis DATE OF BIRTH: Dec. 4, 1957 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law, 1984 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Judge Kathleen Kelly has extensive juvenile law experience, but her first assignment landed her in the adult criminal system at San Francisco’s Hall of Justice. “People who’ve known me for a long time thought, ‘Oh, you’d clamor to go to juvy,’” Kelly said. While she hopes to get there eventually, the former federal prosecutor says she’s happy starting out in the unfamiliar waters of a misdemeanor courtroom in San Francisco Superior Court. Kelly has been just five months in Department 17, so relatively few attorneys have had a chance to appear before her. For many, her relationship to a prominent California political family precedes her. She’s the granddaughter of the late Gov. Pat Brown, and a niece of the former governor and current Oakland mayor, Jerry Brown. “She’s somebody’s cousin, isn’t she?” joked solo criminal defense attorney George Beckwith. In Beckwith’s estimation, some judges with links to well-known people have turned out to be “disasters” on the bench, but he said he’s been impressed with Kelly so far. Several lawyers say she’s won points for judicial temperament. “My general impression of her is that she’s very good,” conducting her courtroom efficiently while displaying a fair amount of patience, said San Francisco criminal defense solo Lori Fuller. “She’s pretty even-tempered,” said prosecutor Heather Fee, who spent a couple of months assigned to Kelly’s courtroom. Carroll, Burdick & McDonough partner Angela Herrera, on loan to the DA’s office since March, has gone to trial before Kelly three times and says the judge has gotten noticeably more comfortable on the bench. Kelly sticks to her stated schedule, moves jury selection along expeditiously, and is “very upfront about what she expects,” Herrera said. After a series of sidebars in one trial, for example, the judge told both lawyers to ask for rulings on potential hearsay statements ahead of time to keep the proceeding running smoothly. That trial emphasized the need to be proactive at pretrial conferences, Kelly recalled. Now she makes a habit of asking lawyers before trial if they’ll need a hearing outside the jury’s presence on the admissibility of a statement, she said. And Kelly, who as a lawyer prided herself on her briefs, suggests attorneys shouldn’t skimp in that area — especially if they’re trying to make unusual arguments. “I’ve had some lawyers suggest very innovative, creative legal theories,” she said. “To posit that isn’t enough.” And, she added, “When I say �submitted,’ I appreciate when [counsel] respect that and don’t continue to argue after I’ve ruled.” One defense lawyer who asked not to be named complains Kelly orders defendants present for the littlest things. “Sometimes I get the feeling that by fighting over that, and her giving me what I was already entitled to in the beginning, that she feels that’s the break she’s going to give my client,” the lawyer said. “I really like for defendants to be there for pretrials,” so they can hear any offers and confer with their lawyer, Kelly said. “I feel it’s the most meaningful and judicious use of time.” If distance merits an exception, Kelly will ask defense counsel to discuss offers with the prosecutor beforehand, she said. A couple of defense lawyers, echoing a common complaint among defense attorneys when it comes to new judges, said Kelly sometimes favors the prosecution. But others on both sides of the courtroom have found her balanced. “Because she is new, she’s still got a tendency to stick to the sides of the pool,” said Deputy Public Defender James Higa. But as Kelly has become more familiar with her discretion, he was quick to add, “she’s becoming more even-handed.” Michael Hinckley, a partner at Stiglich, Hinckley & Burrell, agrees many new judges find “a certain comfort zone” by leaning toward the DA, but says he hasn’t seen that with Kelly. Though she recently denied Hinckley’s first contested matter before her, a motion to suppress, he says he got a fair shake. “[She] was very even-keeled throughout,” he said. “Either it comes naturally, or she tries.” “I really try to listen to both sides and to be fair,” Kelly said. “I’m just calling them as I see them right now.” The fourth-generation San Franciscan spent the bulk of her legal career in the juvenile arena, which she calls “my love and great passion.” She spent more than a decade at the city attorney’s office, representing minors and the Department of Human Services in dependency trials. She taught juvenile delinquency and dependency law as an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and served as president of a nonprofit group that provides support services to children in the city’s juvenile court system. Asked how many trials she’s completed — a dozen jury trials, plus several court trials — the judge pulled a notebook from her desk drawer in chambers where she jots down thoughts on each. Quickly scanning the pages, she remarked, “It’s helpful to see where I’ve come, where I’m going.”

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