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COURT: San Francisco Superior APPOINTED: Jan. 20, 1994 DATE OF BIRTH: Jan. 25, 1943 LAW SCHOOL: New York University School of Law, 1967 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None On many days in Department 514 of San Francisco’s civil courthouse, Superior Court Judge Thomas Mellon Jr. is watching a timer. Mellon is known for moving trials along, and he often imposes time limits on each side as they present their cases to the jury. “Despite my initial resistance to it � it’s actually pretty good,” said Steve Collier, a Tenderloin Housing Clinic attorney who’s had three trials before Mellon. “We consulted with him about how much time we thought we would need, and then he held us to it.” Many lawyers say Mellon is a hardworking intellectual, quick at spotting issues and grasping arguments. But comments on his demeanor are more diverse, ranging from “a complete gentleman” to “brusque.” One of the judge’s biggest strengths is case management, said Bryan Anderson, a partner in Sidley Austin Brown & Wood’s San Francisco office who recently finished a three-week jury trial before him. Mellon told the jurors during voir dire that they’d be able to start deliberating by a certain date, “and he was very efficient at getting us to that point,” Anderson said. “We probably in one day accomplished what I did in most trial departments in two days,” recalled one of Anderson’s opponents, Archer Norris partner K.C. Ward. “[Mellon] starts at 9. He takes one hour for lunch. And he keeps the cases in trial until 4:30, and some days until 5 o’clock. He doesn’t do sidebars.” Mellon said he doesn’t want jurors to spend more time than necessary in court, or to be left twiddling their thumbs while they’re there. While he can’t always avoid sidebars, the judge said he prefers to address issues with motions in limine or during a court recess. The jurist often asks each side how much time they’ll need and allots them a certain number of hours. “The key concept is, whatever you’re doing in front of the jury, the clock is running,” Mellon said, though he reserves the right to grant a lawyer more time. Anderson called Mellon’s deportment at his trial “excellent,” saying he gave jurors explanations but no sense of his own views. Defense lawyer Nandor Krause, another Archer Norris partner, agreed: “He was cordial, professional, very polite. Just a complete gentleman.” While Mellon said he wants “to get the trial in a setting where everybody can relax as much as possible,” assessments of how successful he is at achieving that goal vary widely. One civil attorney cautions colleagues to prepare their witnesses, saying Mellon “will take over questioning” and can sound short-tempered and aggravated. “He’s brusque with both attorneys and witnesses,” said the lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous. The attorney acknowledges that Mellon’s questioning is insightful and that “he’s always trying to get to the truth.” But he suggested that Mellon could do better if he understood that “when people are testifying, and they aren’t as clear as he would like them to be, it’s not necessarily a purposeful evasion.” Collier, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic attorney, said Mellon was sometimes strict with counsel but doesn’t say anything inappropriate in front of a jury. After graduating from New York University School of Law, Mellon spent a year working for the VISTA public-service program, and another two working for a legal aid outfit in Merced. His interest in judging took shape in the year he clerked for the late U.S. District Judge Albert Wollenberg. As a business and real estate litigator in subsequent years, Mellon moved from the now-defunct Sullivan, Jones & Archer to Chickering & Gregory and finally to Henn, Etzel, Mellon & Weiss. Most of Mellon’s assignments have been in civil trial departments since then-Gov. Peter Wilson appointed him in 1994. But he also spent three years in family court and one in a criminal courtroom. In the latter post, he attracted a hail of criticism from the public defender’s office and was peremptorily challenged 53 times in six weeks shortly after beginning the assignment in 2000. Ward, one of the Archer Norris lawyers recently before Mellon, said that he’d read about the judge’s history as a challenge magnet before trial but “found him to be a delight” in person. Mellon doesn’t know how often attorneys have challenged him since he returned to civil court in 2001 because the objections would occur before he sees a case. But he noted that although the public defender’s or district attorney’s offices can have all of their lawyers protest a given judge, “there’s no consolidated force of blanket challenge potential on the civil side.” He drew other contrasts between his civil and criminal assignments as well. In misdemeanor departments at the Hall of Justice, the morning schedule typically includes 60 to 80 items, “so the overall pressure is significantly higher.” Still, Mellon maintained that he’s enjoyed his experiences in both courthouses. “They are both,” he said, “stimulating, challenging.”

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