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COURT: Marin County Superior APPOINTED: 1995, by Gov. Pete Wilson DATE OF BIRTH: Sept. 27, 1943 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law, 1968 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None The case was a nightmare. A cult-like group called the “family” headed by an iron-fisted patriarch lording over a bevy of concubines stood accused of the starvation death of a 19-month-old boy and the severe neglect of 12 other children. There were “a lot of defendants and a lot of bad facts and a lot of exposure and a lot of media interest,” recalls San Francisco lawyer Douglas Horngrad, who represented one of the women at the heart of the sensational Marin County case that ended last year. “It was about abuse and kids and death and cults. It was a white-hot case.” And one that few were looking forward to litigating. At the defense’s request, Superior Court Judge Terrence Boren, a former high-ranking prosecutor in the county, stepped in, reviewed the situation and promptly told each side what their cases were worth, prompting negotiations that avoided a prolonged and nasty trial. Winifred Wright, the patriarch of the “family,” was sentenced to nearly 17 years in prison for child endangerment, with an enhancement for the 2001 death of little Ndigo Campisi-Nyah-Wright. Two of the women who bore Wright’s herd of children also got substantial jail time. “That case was going to be an absolute circus — very hard on the kids, a lot of exposure to the parents,” Horngrad recalls, “and [Boren], whiff, he cleaned that up.” High praise for Boren, now the presiding judge, isn’t hard to come by. Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike call him the most qualified judge in the county. Even former opponents from Boren’s days in the district attorney’s office say he’s a “real gentleman” who knows his job. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word mouthed by any member of the bar about Terry Boren,” says San Rafael solo practitioner Robert Carrow, who successfully represented Luis “Bato” Talamantez in the famous mid-’70s trial of the San Quentin Six, accused in the deaths of three guards and three inmates in a 1971 prison takeover. Boren was one of the prosecutors. Boren, 61, was born in Oakley, Idaho, but his family wound up 10 years later in the East Bay, where his mother worked for the state Department of Employment and his father for the U.S. Postal Service after a short stint selling Volkswagen Beetles. Boren had no interest in the law until an adviser at Brigham Young University suggested he enhance his accounting degree with a law degree. And a career was quietly born, starting in 1969 with a job in the Riverside County DA’s office right after graduation from Hastings College of the Law. Boren’s older brother Roger went into the law, too. He’s now a justice on Los Angeles’ Second District Court of Appeal, and as a prosecutor won the conviction of Angelo Buono Jr., the infamous “Hillside Strangler.” Ronald George, now the chief justice of California, presided over that trial. Boren has a reputation as an intelligent, thoughtful and courteous judge with an extraordinary ability to render a fair and balanced decision. But it was a reputation he had to earn. Immediately after being appointed to the bench by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1995, he was frequently challenged by defense lawyers fearful that he hadn’t left behind his days as Marin County’s second-highest ranked prosecutor. “But after the word got out that he was a good, thoughtful judge, that stopped real quick,” says Marin County Chief Deputy DA Barry Borden. San Francisco defense lawyer Laurence Lichter agrees that Boren has no outside agendas. “He never deviates from his best estimate of what is fair,” Lichter says, “and his true interpretation of the law.” Lichter defended David Torrente, who stabbed his father to death and was sentenced by Boren in 2001. “He let both sides try their cases,” Lichter says. “He never sacrificed justice for expediency.” Charles Cacciatore, the prosecutor in that case, agrees, noting that the case — featuring two sanity phases and a trial — took months to try. It was Boren, he says, who recommended that Torrente be sent to a mental health facility, rather than prison. Boren, a calm, almost stoical man, prides himself on being fair and impartial. However, he expects attorneys appearing before him to be prepared, prompt, reasonable, efficient and courteous to opposing counsel and witnesses. And he can be tough if those rules aren’t followed. Boren recalls fining a lawyer $500 once for making inappropriate comments about an opponent in front of a jury. He had admonished the guy for similar conduct previously. In the “family” case, Boren, a devout Mormon, reportedly glared when the main defendant, Wright, declared at sentencing that his 19-month-old son’s starvation death was the will of God. “It has been said that God’s work on Earth must truly be our own,” Boren was quoted as saying, “and it just seems to me that should have been carried to the raising of these children.” Boren knows tragedy. On Aug. 21, 1985, his wife, Betsy, was savagely assaulted by a teenage boy while jogging near their home. Boren says she suffered brain injury, a broken arm and shattered facial bones. She was hospitalized for a month, in a coma for a couple of weeks and has permanent injuries. “It was just a difficult time,” says Boren, “and it’s something we’ll never quite get over.” He and his wife are helped in that regard by their two daughters — one in Sonoma and another in Spokane, Wash. — and their five grandchildren. And he’s got his dream job as a judge. “This is a job,” he says, “I’ve always enjoyed coming to every day.” And many are glad he feels that way.

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