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COURT:Alameda County Superior APPOINTED: July 1998, by Gov. Pete Wilson DATE OF BIRTH: Dec. 12, 1943 LAW SCHOOL: Boalt Hall School of Law, 1968 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Municipal court, Oakland-Piedmont-Emeryville district, 1996-98 Technology is king in Judge Robert Freedman’s courtroom. Attorneys routinely e-mail courtesy copies of documents to court. Traditional blowups of evidence have been all but banished from his Alameda County courtroom �� attorneys use a multimedia projector, called Nomad, instead. “Something he really wants and enjoys are lawyers who are technically savvy,” said Walnut Creek attorney David Stromberg. The assistant presiding judge is so enthusiastic about the evidence presentation system that he offers to show unfamiliar lawyers how to use it before they try it out in his courtroom. “Most attorneys who use it, like it,” he said, adding that oversized blowups are hard for the court to store. Even off the bench, conversations with Freedman often drift to acronyms, systems and efficiency. Freedman has been deeply involved in the court’s efforts to expand Domain �� the system that provides online access to county court cases. He’s also had a hand in the state effort to establish a statewide case management system. Right now, each county in the state has one �� or several �� computer programs to track cases. Alameda County will be among the first to test the statewide system, he said. Lawyers like Stromberg say that Freedman is a refreshing change from jurists who haven’t warmed to the digital age. “You don’t need 3 by 5 feet foam core blowups” if a courtroom has Nomad, Stromberg added. “As anybody who sits in the jury box knows, in some seats you can see them, and in some seats you can’t.” Stromberg said that the equipment in Freedman’s courtroom helped him explain soil movement in a landslide case. The jury sided with Stromberg’s client, who found the city of Oakland responsible for an unstable street that damaged the plaintiff’s house. Freedman, who used to supervise the Hayward Hall of Justice, began presiding over civil trials at the county administration building in Oakland this month. Judge George Hernandez Jr. now supervises Hayward. Civil lawyers on both sides of the aisle say that Freedman has a smooth, even-handed demeanor. During a recent eviction case, a defense attorney got steamed when Freedman sustained a string of objections that hobbled the lawyer’s line of questioning. “I’d like the court’s ruling on that objection noted for the record,” the defense attorney said. Unruffled, Freedman smiled and gestured toward the court reporter. “Everything’s on the record.” Several attorneys praised the judge’s intellect. Freedman can quickly grasp complex issues, they say. “There’s always a concern when you present something technical that you will lose everyone in the process,” Stromberg said. That wasn’t an issue with Freedman, he added. “He is exceptionally bright,” said Los Angeles attorney David Bass. Bass successfully defended Laker guard Brian Shaw in a civil suit that alleged Shaw and SuperSonics guard Gary Payton allowed their names to be used to lure investors to an ill-fated business venture. Shaw and Payton were cleared, but a pro per defendant was found partially liable, Bass said. Prosecutors who have appeared before Freedman also raved about the judge. “He’s one of my favorite judges,” said Paul Pinney, a prosecutor who tried a gang case before Freedman. “For someone who was primarily civil [as an attorney], he was a quick study in criminal law.” Deputy DA Michael Nieto cautioned that the judge does not like to waste time with repetitive arguments. “He wants as much substantive work with each court session” as possible, he said. Freedman says he also prizes civility. While he praised Alameda County lawyers, the judge observed that criminal practitioners are more easygoing than their civil counterparts. Prosecutors and defenders know that “to survive, you have to get along with these people everyday.” Civil lawyers, he said, can be more antagonistic because there’s less chance they’ll later cross paths with opposing counsel. Freedman wants lawyers to stay focused on the issues and have some sympathy for the court reporter �� speak loudly, clearly and at a reasonable pace. Long before he came to the bench, Freedman’s life was poised to take a more exotic turn. After law school, Freedman made plans to join the Peace Corps and teach college courses in Liberia. When the Peace Corps dream didn’t pan out, Freedman joined a law firm. He worked there for more than 25 years, eventually rising to become a name partner at Wald, Freedman, Chapman & Bendes. The civil practitioner left the firm in 1995 to become a solo and was appointed to the muni bench about a year later. He was elevated to the superior court in 1998. Freedman knows firsthand that progress can be slow. He’d like to see Nomad in every courtroom, but only a handful are available because of budget constraints. And the courts have to take into account that some judges aren’t jazzed about technology. “One of the challenges we have,” Freedman said, “is to have a system that accommodates these different levels of enthusiasm.”

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