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COURT: Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED: Feb. 16, 2005, by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger BORN: 1949 LAW SCHOOL: UC-Davis’ King Hall School of Law, 1973 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Lawyers entering Judge Alan Perkins’ courtroom know exactly what to expect — and what’s expected of them. That’s because on counsel’s desks, waiting for them at their first appearance, is a four- or five-page document spelling out the procedures of Department 17, a sort of operating manual offered by the first-year jurist to assist participants on both sides of the bench. It’s not uncommon for judges to provide written or verbal guidelines. And Perkins’ rules seem to reflect a lot of common sense: Be courteous. Use the jury’s time wisely. Mark your exhibits before trial. But colleagues and lawyers who appear before the Sacramento County Superior Court judge say the first guideline for both civil and criminal procedure reflects a jurist who prizes preparation and organization. Perkins’ rule No. 1: No surprises. “Alan Perkins will be prepared, and he will likely consider many issues and nuances that [counsel] haven’t considered,” said Stephen Marmaduke, managing partner at Perkins’ former firm, Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould & Birney of Sacramento. “He is very thoughtful, he thinks deeply and he doesn’t take anything lightly.” Such fastidiousness no doubt stems from Perkins’ three decades as a business defense litigator with Wilke, Fleury. The Republican specialized in real estate issues, creditors’ rights and complex commercial transactions. He also taught at UC-Davis’ King Hall School of Law and served as an arbitrator and mediator in more than 50 commercial and construction-related disputes. “I would like people to be prepared,” Perkins said in a recent interview from his chambers. “I did a lot of bankruptcy and federal court work. Generally, to do well, you’re nothing if not prepared.” No one would have blamed Perkins if he clicked his briefcase shut for the final time last year and walked away from a successful career in civil litigation. But few people seemed surprised when, instead, he accepted an appointment from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Sacramento bench. “Alan has wanted to be a judge for years,” Marmaduke said. “This has been his dream.” So Perkins donned the black robe, endured a significant pay cut, and agreed to take on what a cynic might call an urban county’s judicial scutwork. But Perkins is no cynic. The father of three said he’s finally doing something that piqued his interest years ago while clerking for a U.S. district judge in Washington. “It’s a nice, refreshing challenge,” he said. “But it takes a lot of work, and there’s a learning curve.” Perkins launched his judicial career under assignment to handle preliminary hearings and DUI arraignments. He quickly concluded that, unlike the well-scheduled world of civil litigation he had mastered, “things move faster here.” Perkins said he relies on the court’s research department to help as well as seasoned veterans around the courthouse. “There’s a tradition among judges that if I want to ask another judge a question, he or she will come off the bench to answer it or talk to me about it,” he said. Thirty years of litigation experience doesn’t hurt either, he said. “They’re not concepts that are completely alien. They’ve just been sleeping a long time.” Solo defense attorney Mark Axup said he’s found Perkins to be a patient judge with both the young prosecutors and public defenders who frequent his courtroom as well as the more experienced attorneys who want to put on a detailed case. “He gives us sufficient leeway. He’s not going to shorten a trial,” Axup said. “As long as you don’t abuse him letting you do that, he’s going to let you try your case.” And although he’s relatively new to the bench, Perkins is good at anticipating an issue, Axup said. The judge does not like speaking objections, and he often seems ready with case law or comments when counsel complain about their counterparts’ actions, he said. “And if he doesn’t know something, he finds the answer in a hurry,” Axup said. At the start of the year, Perkins began handling more trials, although he continues doing some preliminary hearings while working as a family law “back-up.” He’s also in charge of the so-called Loaves & Fishes calendar. Loaves & Fishes is a Sacramento nonprofit that provides services to the region’s homeless. One afternoon a month, Perkins convenes court at the nonprofit’s downtown complex, where he may handle 100 or more cases involving minor infractions, from drunk in public to illegal camping. The calendar was designed in part to clear a logjam of cases involving people who might not have an easy way to attend a typical court hearing or pay a traditional fine. The intense Loaves & Fishes calendar is a long way from the multimillion-dollar cases Perkins handled as a private litigator. But Perkins said that despite the frantic pace that sometimes accompanies his new line of work, he finds the more frequent dispositions satisfying. “There are some times when you can feel like you made a good decision or were part of a solution that may actually work,” he said. “There’s a lot more immediacy to it.”

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