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COURT: San Mateo County Superior APPOINTED: April 5, 2000, by Gov. Gray Davis DATE OF BIRTH: Nov. 20, 1946 LAW SCHOOL: San Francisco Law School, 1977 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None A nervous-looking man stands before San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina one morning in late June, accused of using illegal barbed hooks while fishing off the San Mateo County coast. He and two buddies watching from their seats in the Redwood City courtroom could be hit with six months in jail and a $1,000 fine — but not this day. Firmly, but gently, Dylina asks the man whether he was aware that barbed hooks are against the law. When he says no, the judge makes him promise he’ll never do it again and then chants in a scolding, almost fatherly, tone: “No more hooks like this, no more hooks like this.” Dylina fines the man the minimum of $178.75 and sends him on his way. The two other defendants, who were literally in the same boat, get identical treatment. It’s a typical move for Dylina, who says he wants to ensure that everyone — rich or poor, court savvy or not — gets a fair shake in his courtroom. “Court is an intimidating process for anybody,” he says, “so I really make an effort to make it a friendly environment.” Dylina says he wanted to be sure the three fishermen recognized what they did was wrong and not to repeat it. “In all honesty,” he says, “I’m sure these were three men who didn’t realize they couldn’t use barbed hooks.” John Digiacinto, executive director of the San Mateo County Bar Association, says that gentlemanly approach is Dylina’s trademark. “He hasn’t lost track of the fact that people are in his courtroom because things aren’t going superbly for them,” Digiacinto says. “He understands what a real violation of the law is, and he’s always been a down-to-earth, unpretentious man.” Dylina, 57, is the son of a former federal prison guard. He was born in Spokane, Wash., but his dad’s job took the family all around the West and Midwest. Dylina eventually landed in California, where he got a bachelor’s degree in 1970 from what was then San Jose State College and briefly pursued a master’s in economics before joining General Electric Co. as a finance and service manager. His ultimate decision to seek a legal career was made for him indirectly by his General Electric bosses. “My next stop was to go to Schenectady, N.Y.,” he says, “and I realized as long as I worked for a corporation, I was subject to where they wanted me to live. And the thought of a winter lasting from September to mid-June was not something that I liked.” So he took night courses at San Francisco Law School where he met his wife, Ann. After graduating in 1977, they practiced together in San Mateo for 14 years — he doing criminal defense and civil plaintiffs work and she probate and family law. (Dylina’s wife is now executive director and general counsel for the Marelich Mechanical Co. in Hayward.) Dylina joined the San Mateo County counsel’s office in 1990, doing general tort litigation, handling cases for the public guardian and for children’s protective services. County Counsel Thomas Casey III, who was Dylina’s boss for about 10 years, calls his former employee “one of those nice people that tries to treat everybody well regardless of the circumstances.” “We are dealing with vulnerable people,” Casey says. “And Steve had a really good feel for the human side of stuff, not just the legal stuff.” That was evident to criminal defense lawyer Paul DeMeester, who in mid-June completed a 26-day attempted murder trial before Dylina. DeMeester, who has offices in Redwood City, San Francisco and Maui, says he never saw Dylina get mad — even though he thinks he gave him reason at times — and was astonished when the jury forewoman thanked the judge. “That is a first for me,” he says, “that a jury, collectively through their foreperson, thanked their judge for his kindness and with the way he dealt with them.” Nancy Mugg, a 66-year-old Redwood City resident, was on that jury and would like to keep in contact with Dylina. The jurors all plan to get together soon, she said, and they might invite Dylina and the opposing lawyers. Dylina went out of his way to be considerate of the jurors, she says. “He was at our beck and call if anything was needed. “I’ve never known a judge,” she says, “and he’s such a gentleman.” Dylina says he can recall getting mad only once — when he was on the family court bench and a lawyer told him he didn’t know what he was talking about. “I simply left the bench, I calmed down, I got myself together and returned to the bench,” he recalls. “And the attorney apologized.” Dylina, who currently handles a general trial assignment, says he had aimed for a judgeship from the start of his legal career and finally got there at age 53. “I suffer from a legal disability,” he quips. “I’m a Democrat.” An ardent one at that. The judge’s chambers contain a copy of the painting of Marilyn Monroe serenading President John F. Kennedy on his 46th birthday and a framed, almost life-sized photo of Robert Kennedy that he’s had since high school. And he has prominent Democratic friends such as state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo. “I had charted the course to being a judge very early on,” Dylina says. “I just had to wait for that period when a Democrat was elected. I knew I was so associated with the Democratic Party that I would never be appointed by a Republican governor.” He was former Gov. Gray Davis’ 17th judicial selection. One prized possession in Dylina’s office is an autographed photo of former astronaut — and childhood hero — John Glenn, who went on to serve in the U.S. Senate as a Democratic senator from Ohio. Dylina fondly recalls that years ago one of his two sons, who’s now 17, wrote a school report on Glenn. The boy said he chose the first American to orbit the earth because he was his dad’s hero, and his dad was his hero. “Whatever happens in my life,” Dylina says, “it’ll never get better than that.”

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