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SAN JOSE � Many of Santa Clara County’s newer judges received high marks from the South Bay legal community, according to results from a biannual judicial survey recently released by the local bar association. “We think that they are helpful or we wouldn’t keep doing them,” said Christine Burdick, executive director and general counsel of the Santa Clara County Bar Association. Of the 91 federal and superior court judges, magistrates and commissioners evaluated, seven were considered new, having been appointed or elected in 2003. And most scored fairly well on all six survey areas � dispute resolution, impartiality, integrity, temperament, legal knowledge and work ethic. “I think it’s just really valuable to be able to check on how you are perceived,” said Superior Court Judge Philip Pennypacker, who was appointed to the bench in 2003 and received high marks in the survey. Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky agreed, saying he finds the attorneys’ individual comments � made public only to the judges � the most helpful. “We get very little feedback as judges,” said Persky, who was also appointed to the superior court in 2003 and received high marks. However, there were a few new jurists who could use some improvement, according to the survey results, which were released Friday.
Judging From the Bar How lawyers rank the “judicial temperments” of Santa Clara County’s newest judges in a survey organized by the Santa Clara County Bar Association.
JUDGE RESPONSES (%)
Arthur Bocanegra
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 96.3
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 0
Undecided/no opinion 3.7
Vincent Chiarello
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 75.6
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 9.7
Undecided/no opinion 14.9
Ron Del Pozzo
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 56.8
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 38.7
Undecided/no opinion 4.5
Patricia Lucas
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 78
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 12
Undecided/no opinion 10
Philip Pennypacker
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 88
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 0
Undecided/no opinion 12
Aaron Persky
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 100
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 0
Undecided/no opinion 0
Carrie Zepeda-Madrid
Excellent/very good/satisfactory 52.1
Unsatisfactory/needs improvement 39.1
Undecided/no opinion 8.8

Source: Santa Clara County Bar Association. Survey does not include judges appointed/elected in 2004 or 2005.

Superior Court Judge Ron Del Pozzo, who pulled out of the Santa Clara County district attorney race after less than a month of campaigning, needs to work on his integrity, knowledge of law and procedure and work ethic, survey results concluded. Lawyers also say Judge Carrie Zepeda-Madrid, who has been on the superior court bench for just two years, needs to work on her dispute resolution skills, according to survey results. Zepeda-Madrid, who is heading to family court next year, said that if an attorney has a problem with her, she prefers to know about it immediately, instead of waiting for a survey to point out concerns with her performance. “Having more direct input is better,” Zepeda said. Superior Court Judge Dolores Carr, who took a leave of absence from the bench this summer to run for district attorney, received medium marks in all categories. The U.S. district judges in San Jose � Jeremy Fogel, James Ware and Ronald Whyte � all received “excellent” ratings for “judicial temperament.” Whyte, who has been mentioned as a possible nominee for a spot on the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and Fogel received only high marks in all six areas of the survey. But there were mixed results from the 31 attorneys who weighed in on Ware. For the most part, Ware received good marks, but there were one or two lawyers who felt he could use improvement in all areas. Santa Clara County has one of the few local bar associations that conducts judicial surveys on a regular basis. Judges say they find the surveys useful, but nonconclusive, given that in this case only about 300 attorneys of the area’s 4,000-plus lawyers participated. But while the participation numbers are low, there are many lawyers who don’t appear in courtrooms on a regular basis, if at all, said Patricia White, a partner at Littler Mendelson and a former Santa Clara County Bar Association president. In order to participate in the bar’s biannual survey, attorneys had to have appeared before a judge they were evaluating within the past four years. James Scharf, in-house counsel for the California State Automobile Association and member of the State Bar’s Board of Governors, speculates that if the bar didn’t organize the judicial survey, disgruntled attorneys might instead file formal complaints against the judges they are having problems with, which is, Scharf said, far worse than negative feedback on a survey. The Santa Clara County Bar Association began conducting the judicial surveys sporadically in the 1970s, but moved to its current, every-other-year format in 1989. A few years ago, attorneys started participating in the survey via e-mail. To view the results of this year’s survey, visit www.sccba.com.

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