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COURT: Santa Clara County Superior APPOINTED: Aug. 21, 1981, by Gov. Jerry Brown BORN: 1941 LAW SCHOOL: University of Chicago Law School, 1966 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Temporary five-month appointment to Santa Clara Superior Court, 1980-1981; 10-month appointment to Santa Clara County Municipal Court, 1981 A year and a half ago, Leonard Edwards II was in Washington, D.C., to accept the prestigious William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence. Looking out at the sea of top legal minds who had come to see him honored, Edwards was in awe that he, a juvenile dependency judge from Santa Clara County, was selected out of “all the more well-known judges in our country.” “In a way, we juvenile judges have worked in the shadows of the court system,” Edwards told the crowd gathered inside the Great Hall of the U.S. Supreme Court. “This award will help move the juvenile court out of the shadows and into the mainstream, where it belongs.” What the veteran jurist may have been too modest to realize, or admit out loud, was that the juvenile court system emerged from the shadows shortly after he was first appointed to the Santa Clara bench in 1980. Long considered a national expert on the subject, Edwards has helped transform Santa Clara’s juvenile dependency unit into a model system, duplicated and studied by countless courts around the country. But after nearly 26 years of innovation, teaching and lobbying on behalf of abused and neglected children, Edwards has decided it’s time to put down the gavel. He plans to retire from the bench on May 4 � his 65th birthday � and begin a new chapter in his career. Unlike many of his colleagues who enter the world of private arbitration when they leave the bench, Edwards plans to serve as a consultant for the California Administrative Office of the Courts. “I can’t retire, I can’t retire,” an emphatic Edwards said during an interview last week from his chambers. “I can retire from this, but not my work. “I am a person who wants to make positive changes in the world. Particularly, I want to improve the outcomes for children.” Some would argue he has already achieved this goal and is leaving behind a legacy that will continue to grow long after someone new has moved into his Terraine Street courtroom in San Jose. “In a nutshell, he’s forever changed the face of the juvenile justice system,” said L. Michael Clark, lead deputy county counsel for Santa Clara County’s child welfare and dependency unit. “He’s a good person, doing good work.” Some of the practices Edwards helped implement in Santa Clara County include dependency court mediation, family group conferencing, direct calendaring and court coordination. In 1999, the judge also established one of the country’s first dependency drug treatment courts, which was named a mentor court by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. “The bench is going to miss a judge that has an enormous capacity to multitask,” said Gary Proctor, director of Dependency Legal Services. But “what we lose, the state will gain.” Proctor has known Edwards since the early 1980s and says that even way back then the judge was recognized as one of the leaders in the dependency court system, known for his ability to mobilize people to instigate change. “I would have to say Judge Edwards is the best all-around judge I have ever tried a case against,” Proctor said. “He has a mesmerizing methodology of engaging parents � which is a powerful instrument for bringing about change.” That sentiment is echoed by many in the South Bay legal community, who praise the judge’s uncanny ability to make each side in a heated dispute feel as though they got a fair hearing. “What more can you ask for?” said Penelope Blake, a supervising deputy in the Santa Clara district attorney office’s dependency unit. “He’s done his absolute best to put into place systems that will continue to flourish whether he’s here or not.” Of course, not everything Edwards touches turns to gold. There was debate that broke out a few years ago over who should retain custody of juvenile hall. Edwards was among those judges who vehemently opposed legislation that would take authority away from the court. In the end, voters ultimately approved a ballot measure that gave control to the county. Still, these hiccups don’t detract from Edwards’ gleaming reputation, which started forming during his years as a Santa Clara public defender and was further cemented during his brief stint in private practice where he specialized in juvenile and criminal law. Edwards said he never had any intention of joining the judiciary, adding that it was just something that “came out of the blue.” He received a temporary appointment from Gov. Jerry Brown to sit on the superior court bench in 1980 before moving briefly to the municipal court and then back to superior court in 1981. Except for the year he spent as presiding judge of the superior court, Edwards has happily remained within the juvenile justice department for the majority of his tenure on the bench. For him, there was no place he would have rather been. “It fits my passion,” the judge said last week. “My passion is family and kids.”

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