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COURT: San Mateo Superior APPOINTED: Elevated via court consolidation, June 10, 1998 DATE OF BIRTH: March 12, 1956 LAW SCHOOL: McGeorge School of Law at University of the Pacific PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: San Mateo County Municipal Court, 1995-1998 The dispute between two neighbors over a property easement had boiled and bubbled all the way into San Mateo County Superior Court, and there were no signs that either was going to back down. “They had really come to loggerheads,” says Mark Watson, a Burlingame lawyer who represented one of the litigants. That’s when Judge George Miram decided enough was enough. “What he did,” Watson recalls, “was brought in the parties and said, ‘You guys are going to have to live next to each other for a long, long time. Now think about that. You might win for 15 minutes and be suffering for 20 years.’ And I think that got both parties to change.” A settlement was soon reached, with each side leaving satisfied. People who know Miram aren’t surprised. His mellow temperament enables him to talk the bitterest litigants into settlement. But he also can be tough as nails. “He’s a no-nonsense guy,” Watson says, “so if an attorney is out there spewing nonsense arguments, he’s quick to cut it off and focus on the issues important to the court.” Miram, 48, has been on the San Mateo bench since 1995, when he was appointed to the municipal court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. He’s done a little bit of everything in his 10 years in office, but took on a whole new role Jan. 1 when he became presiding judge. Fellow judges think the court’s in good hands. Robert Foiles, who succeeds Miram as assistant presiding judge, credits Miram and former Presiding Judge Mark Forcum with bringing the court into the 21st century. Among their accomplishments were establishing systems to let lawyers and members of the public access court records electronically and allowing potential jurors remote access to their computers. “We had one juror who told George that he got more work done in our jury room than his office because he was undisturbed for three hours,” Foiles said. One of Miram’s favorite innovations is the Bridges Program, a drug treatment course that helps defendants learn how to manage their lives. He has seen it turn people around. “It has made me a better judge,” Miram says. “It’s broadened my perceptions on drug abuse and crime.” Miram was born in San Francisco, the grandson of refugees of the 1917 Russian Revolution. His grandparents, an officer and a nurse, fought the communists and eventually had to flee to northern China, where his father, George, and mother, Jenny — from another family who left Russia — were born. His parents, in turn, fled China’s communist revolution in 1949, winding up in the Philippines, where they met while Miram’s father ran a displaced persons camp. They emigrated to San Francisco in 1951, got married and now live in Atherton. Miram attended Russian schools in San Francisco and speaks the language fluently. His relatives, however, had no legal background and there was no rhyme or reason why Miram chose the law. “It was purely a matter of, ‘What do you want to do?’ and I started thinking the law would be good,” he says. “It might sound trite, but I didn’t go into this for the money.” After getting his bar license in 1982, Miram went to work for the San Mateo County district attorney’s office for five years, then joined the county counsel’s office for eight years. It was in the DA’s office that Miram met his wife, Elaine, who is still a deputy DA. (“She doesn’t appear before me, obviously,” Miram points out.) The couple has two children, Alex, 11, and Molly, 10. Miram quickly took to life as a judge. He and Forcum were credited with keeping the courthouse from becoming a zoo during the lengthy and nationally followed Scott Peterson double-murder trial. Miram attributes the success to “good planning” and says one of the keys was working with the media from the start. “We got them to do a little self-policing,” he says. “It’s when they don’t know what the rules are that there are problems.” Similarly, Miram expects lawyers in his courtroom to be on time and ready. “If they’re not, I’m not going to jump to sanctioning people,” he says. “But having said that, I’ve seen too many instances where it affects the case. Advocacy and preparation make the difference.” Lawyers who have worked with Miram say they’re impressed with how conscientious he is about his work. Late last year, Jeffrey Baruh, a partner in Palo Alto’s Bryant, Clohan & Baruh, tried a wrongful death case before Miram. He represented the family of a 58-year-old man who was burned to death when his Audi sedan caught fire while he was driving it. Baruh says Miram faced several significant issues, including one in which he had to decide whether the widow was the putative spouse, since she had never validly terminated her first marriage. The judge decided she wasn’t, but only after letting her stay in the case until it went to the jury. “I have to say I was impressed with the amount of time he put in weighing the issue,” Baruh said. “When he ruled against us, he prefaced by saying it had weighed on him significantly, and I believe it had.” On a recent morning in his Redwood City courtroom, Miram seemed like a traffic cop, assigning cases to courtrooms, issuing bench warrants and awarding nearly $6,500 in a lease dispute to an older man who was so hard of hearing that Miram almost had to shout to be heard. Miram expects to have some challenges during his two years as PJ, but he’s going to have a good time. “There’s something new every day,” he says. “That’s all someone can ask of a career.”

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