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COURT: Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED: 2000, by Gov. Gray Davis DATE OF BIRTH: Aug. 23, 1946 LAW SCHOOL: University of San Francisco, 1974 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: none Newly installed California Judges Association President James Mize lives his life at warp speed. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of energy — let’s just say that,” cracks the 57-year-old judge, a self-described “off-the-chart” extrovert. “I’ve always kept very busy.” Mize, a Sacramento County family court judge, is the co-founder of the Sacramento-based Voluntary Legal Services Program, which utilizes the services of more than 800 local attorneys and paralegals to give $1 million worth of free legal services to income-eligible clients each year. He’s an active member of the American Inns of Court executive committee and of the Women Lawyers of Sacramento, which this year made him the first-ever male recipient of its Frances Newell Carr Award, given to jurists who have mentored and supported women lawyers. He’s also the founder and chief organizer of Sharing God’s Bounty, a free, no-strings-attached meal that Mize and other volunteers have served to the Sacramento community weekly for 20 years. That’s all on top of Mize’s day job as a family law judge and his leadership of CJA, the 2,500-member professional organization representing judges around the state. “Jim Mize has remarkable energy,” said Michael Belote, the CJA’s longtime lobbyist. “You’re talking about one of the most giving people I have ever met.” Mize describes himself as “boringly consistent” and says his volunteer ethic is a natural outgrowth of his youth in the 1960s-Kennedy era and the strong values of his Catholic faith. “To whom much has been given, much will be expected,” said Mize, who counters the saintly image with self-deprecation and irreverent humor. “I have been given this incredible law degree to go out and change the world. If I didn’t at least go out and do something, I would be absolutely a traitor to the reason why we’re here — to make the world a better place.” Mize says leading CJA is part of that mission. During his year tenure, he hopes to see the Administrative Office of the Courts bring to fruition a plan to let judges take early retirement. He’d like to see judges get a salary boost. But perhaps most significantly, he wants CJA to take the lead in educating the public about what he sees as a dangerous step: the effort under way to recall his colleague, Sacramento County Judge Loren McMaster, because he upheld legislation expanding domestic partner benefits. “It is this kind of challenge that strikes at the very heart of our justice system,” said Mize. “If, in fact, this is permitted to happen — if you can recall a judge based on any given opinion that is decided against your client, then the judicial system as we know it will not only not be worth saving, it will be useless.” Colleagues give the judge high marks, not only for his energy and passion, but also for bringing high standards of civility into the often-fractious world of family law — a world Mize occupied for 25 years as a solo practitioner before his appointment to the bench in 2000. “He absolutely does his best to try and bring litigants together,” said Karen Stevens, a family law attorney who has known Mize for nearly 30 years. Sometimes, those efforts mean spending what can feel like endless minutes working out the details of custody arrangements and child support payments. “He really wants the parties, the people involved, to feel he’s heard them,” says Diane Wasznicky, a family law attorney who has known Mize as both a colleague and a judge. “He really, really stresses that, perhaps — depending on the day and how long I’ve been sitting there listening to him — [he goes on] too long, but it’s important to him and he’s entitled.” Mize says he has little tolerance for incivility — whether it’s on the part of attorneys or parties. When two divorced parents start to argue over custody arrangements, Mize doesn’t hesitate to hold up his hand, kindergarten-cop style, and hush the dueling parties with a “ssssh!” “One of my pet peeves is the client that says, ‘Yes, I said that, but the child has a right to know [about a spouse's shortcomings]‘” said Mize, who has been married to his wife, Rita, for 34 years. “I say, ‘Your job is to make sure your child knows that both parties love them — and that’s it.’” Mize oversaw the custody dispute over the girl whose father, Michael Newdow, challenged the Pledge of Allegiance over the mother’s objections. Mize had granted partial custody to Newdow, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided that wasn’t enough to give him standing to sue on her behalf. Mize declined to comment publicly on the Newdow case. But he said he finds plenty of “teaching moments” for the few men and women who come into his court willing to learn from their mistakes. “I enjoyed being a lawyer, but one of the things about being a lawyer is you would get a problem on day one and it grinds on you knowing that this injustice was happening,” said Mize. “As a judge, you see that injustice for the first time, and you can immediately fix it.” — Jill Duman You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.therecorder.com/ profiles.html or by calling 415-749-5523.

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