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COURT: Marin County Superior APPOINTED: Nov. 21, 1991, by Marin County Municipal Court Presiding Judge John Stephen Graham DATE OF BIRTH: Jan. 11, 1941 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law, 1971 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Marin County Superior Court Commissioner Harvey Goldfine has never argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, but his name is prominently associated with one of its decisions. Back in 1983, when Goldfine had a private criminal defense practice in San Francisco, the nation’s highest court issued Morris v. Slappy, 461 U.S. 1, in which it ruled unanimously that while criminal defendants are entitled to reasonably qualified counsel, they have no constitutional right to a “meaningful attorney-client relationship.” The case came out of San Francisco, where Joseph Slappy, convicted of robbing a woman in the Tenderloin, had argued that he was prejudiced when his longtime deputy public defender was hospitalized with appendicitis on the eve of trial and was replaced by another attorney in the office. Goldfine, a deputy PD when the 1976 trial began, was the hospitalized lawyer, and although he no longer represented Slappy in any fashion when the high court opinion came out, his name appeared in the text 51 times. “So, I’m in the Supreme Court annals,” Goldfine says, “and I love it.” He jokingly refers to the ruling as one of his “noteworthy cases.” Goldfine, a youthful 64, has served as a commissioner since 1992. He handled traffic cases for 10 years in his San Rafael courtroom, but now presides over probate, juvenile delinquency and dependency cases, as well as institutional reviews under the 1972 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. He also deals with child custody and visitation settlements, among other matters. The native Philadelphian got his degree at Hastings College of the Law in 1971 at the age of 30. He was inspired to be an attorney while watching an in-house lawyer argue a case on behalf of a San Francisco workers’ compensation insurance company for which he worked. “I thought, I could do that,” Goldfine recalls. “I thought I could do better than that, frankly.” He was a deputy PD for eight years, then ran his own law practice for another 12 before answering a Marin County ad for a traffic commissioner. He felt it would be a perfect fit for a man who had experienced great success beating traffic tickets as a lawyer. “You take a salary cut. There’s no doubt about that,” Goldfine says. “But I’ve said it many times that criminal defense lawyers carry the weight of their clients 24/7. The day they offered me that job [as a commissioner], the weight was lifted.” And, by all accounts, he’s done a good job. Barbara Kauffman, a San Rafael solo practitioner who handles family law, says she’s “impressed with his dedication and patience at custody settlement conferences” and the way he manages his courtroom “calmly, intelligently and with a little appropriate humor.” She also notes that he fared very well in a survey of judges last year by the Marin County Women Lawyers. Dorothy Jones, the San Rafael-based chief deputy Marin County counsel, praised Goldman’s handling of the probate calendar, saying he “worked hard to become quite knowledgeable” of the specialty area when he took over two years ago. And Marin County Deputy PD Monica Rudden had nothing but good words about Goldfine’s dealings with people involved in mental health conservatorships. “They are particularly difficult in that each of them suffers from some mental health disability,” she says, “and he ensures that they are listened to and treated with dignity. I love him. He’s the best.” Goldfine fell in love with California in 1963-64 while stationed at the Army’s Defense Language Institute in Monterey. He had been sent there from Fort Dix in New Jersey to learn Vietnamese, and then spent the next year in Saigon as an interpreter. He can still count to 10 in the language and say “thank you,” “hello” and “don’t shoot.” Goldfine was never in battle, though, and actually had “a pleasant tour of duty” because he was there early on when only about 17,000 American troops were stationed in the country. “I was always in Saigon and didn’t see a picture of the war that others saw,” he recalls. “I didn’t come home shell-shocked.” In person, Goldfine is a very personable and engaging man, the kind who makes you want to sit back and swap stories. But in his courtroom, he expects attorneys to be professional and know the law. He wants lawyers to avoid raising claims in broad constitutional terms and to not try to pull the wool over his eyes. He speaks highly of the probate attorneys appearing before him now, saying they always cite specific cases. “And that’s what I like. I really appreciate that.” However, if an attorney makes a mistake and doesn’t correct it,” Goldfine says, “right away you’ve made two mistakes. And I live by that premise.” Goldfine, who’s married to attorney Catalina Lozano and has two teenaged kids, Max and Maya, says he has no interest in being a judge. For one, he doesn’t want to run for election and hopes to retire in a few years. For another, he says, judges “get the really serious jury trials, and I much more enjoy handling many smaller cases.” As if to prove his point, Goldfine opens a cabinet in his chambers where he keeps a collection of teddy bears. He says he hands them to children during adoption proceedings and asks them to give the bears a good home. You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges here or by calling 415-749-5523.

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