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COURT: Northern District of California APPOINTED: April 4, 1998, by judges of Northern District DATE OF BIRTH: July 10, 1953 LAW SCHOOL: Yale Law School, 1982 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Administrative law judge, state Department of Insurance, 1991-96 Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner Edward Reines was litigating a high-tech patent dispute when U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte surprised him with some clever Post-it notes. As is typical in intellectual property cases, Reines said he and opposing counsel in ASM America, Inc. v. Genus, Inc., 01-2190, had wanted a confidentiality agreement and were set to sign a standard protective order. Reines expected a routine appearance. “We come in, and she has a copy of the order with about 20 sticky notes,” said Reines, of the firm’s Redwood Shores office. “When that happened, we realized that we were going to get more attention and focus.” Laporte suggested ways to make sure the public’s interest wasn’t shoved aside while still preserving litigants’ interests, Reines said. She also found a typo. “It really symbolized the care, thought and meticulousness that we saw for the remainder of the case,” said Reines. Reines might be a little biased — Laporte eventually granted summary judgment in favor of his client, Genus. Even so, his sentiments are echoed by other civil attorneys. Several specifically mentioned Laporte’s unusual attention to detail and preparation. Many also said they feel they can be forthcoming in her courtroom. To explain Laporte’s demeanor, the lawyers pointed to her diverse background. Laporte said her career path wasn’t part of any grand plan. “When people ask how do you get from A to Z, I say, ‘Choose what you love, and then unexpectedly one thing may lead to another.’ And that’s good,” she said. Laporte did not begin on the legal track. After graduating from Princeton University, she took a master’s in politics and economics from Oxford University. She had a brief stint working at the Federal Trade Commission before attending Yale Law School. While there, she interned at Consumers Union in San Francisco. She came back to San Francisco for a clerkship with U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. Patel, the first woman appointed to the Northern District, became Laporte’s mentor in a legal environment where women were just gaining ground. Patel and Laporte have remained close. In fact, as magistrate, Laporte has carried Patel’s innovations full circle. During her recently ended term as chief judge, Patel revitalized the role of magistrates, encouraging litigants to consent to trials in magistrate courtrooms. Now, many lawyers, including Reines, say they wouldn’t hesitate to have cases in front of Laporte or other magistrates. After her clerkship, Laporte worked for the now defunct Turner & Brorby. She then served as one of the first state Department of Insurance administrative law judges. In 1996, she joined the San Francisco city attorney’s office as chief of special litigation, where she spearheaded the city’s lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Laporte said the fact that she’s done plaintiff and defense work and been on both sides in employment battles was good preparation for being a judge because she’s seen things “from both sides.” One thing missing from Laporte’s background is significant criminal experience. Although some criminal defense attorneys were hesitant to discuss Laporte, others said she was thorough and fair. “She took the bench and had a fairly steep learning curve,” said Nanci Clarence of Clarence Snell & Dyer. “Maybe [she] was a bit tentative at first and maybe was a bit deferential to the government, but now she’s confident and trusts her instincts more. And that’s normal.” Clarence said she feels very comfortable doing detention hearings in front of Laporte now and would consent to her in a civil matter “in an instant.” Although civil consents are nice if you can get them, magistrates’ bread and butter continues to be civil settlement conferences. Judges say they like Laporte’s work, especially on complex cases. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said she’s had good luck sending Laporte patent cases. Those can be tough, Hamilton said, because patent law “is like a foreign language,” the local patent bar is acrimonious, and the high technology often at issue can add another layer of complexity. “I was impressed by an article she wrote � where she showed keen understanding of case management issues,” Hamilton added. Laporte also makes an effort to understand the people behind the cases, lawyers said. “She can ask the questions that she needs to ask � in a way that helps to move the process along but doesn’t offend the parties,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Burton, who works in the civil division of the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office and has settled several cases with Laporte. With all this adulation, it’s natural to wonder whether Laporte has her eyes on a promotion to district judge — a move that’s becoming something of a trend, if Hamilton and Judge Claudia Wilken are examples. “The political odds of that are just so long,” said Laporte, adding that her current position is satisfying in its own right. “I don’t view this job as a stepping-stone.”

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