X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
OLD WEST FAN RUNS PERSONAL, GENIAL COURTROOM COURT: Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED: 1990, by Gov. George Deukmejian DATE OF BIRTH: Oct. 10, 1941 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None SACRAMENTO � Judge Talmadge Jones may be the only non-bailiff who can display a gun at the Sacramento County courthouse without instigating a lockdown. Jones proudly shows off two weapons, in fact. One is a BB shooter, the other a cap gun, and both are stored safely atop shelves in the judge’s fifth-floor chambers, a place better known to courthouse employees and even some jurors as a makeshift Old West museum. Much of the memorabilia is stored in boxes at the moment, readying for a move to new chambers on the sixth floor. But in its heyday, Jones’ display of movie posters, clocks, toys, tin cans and � most important � trinkets related to his childhood idol, Hopalong Cassidy, overwhelmed his shelves of law books. When your work sometimes reveals the worst cruelty one person can inflict upon another, Jones explained on a recent tour, it’s nice to have a happy retreat. Courthouse regulars say Jones’ chambers reflect a judge determined to put a human face on the justice system, a judge who wants to earn the respect � and maybe the appreciation � of the public for the work he and his colleagues do. In 16 years on the superior court bench, Jones has served as presiding judge of the juvenile bench, handled criminal trials, and just this year was named supervisor of the civil calendar. He was a founding member of a Sacramento project that tries to re-direct teens accused of gun or weapons violations. He helped create Sacramento County’s drug court and is working to set up a mental health calendar. He has volunteered as a marriage counselor with his church and won numerous awards from community and government agencies for his work with families and children. “I think he’s just a caring human being,” said retired Superior Court Judge Gary Ransom. “He sees a bigger picture than most of us see. He sees everyone in the greater scheme of things. That probably comes from him being an artist.” Ransom noted that Jones could have been a cartoonist or a musician. Jones spent his first two years at Cal State-Los Angeles as an art major. “I was talented, but I wasn’t gifted,” Jones said. “I was sitting next to students who were, and I realized that I was never going to be tops in music and art with the people I was studying with.” With a young wife and child, Jones also realized he didn’t want to be a starving artist, so he switched to pre-law. He graduated from Hastings College of the Law, an education partially financed by several months of work at a Ghirardelli Square piano bar. The judge still keeps a ukulele in his chambers, and retiring judges know they can expect a personalized caricature by Jones at their goodbye parties. Jones started an 18-year tenure as a deputy attorney general in 1967 just as California was grappling with new civil rights and equal employment laws. One of his many cases involved defending the California Highway Patrol in a class-action challenge to its policy of not hiring women. The father of three young daughters settled the case for about $6,000. “Oft-times you have to take positions that may be contrary to your own personal beliefs,” he said. “I really admire public defenders who do that on a daily basis.” In 1985, Gov. George Deukmejian named Jones chief counsel of the Department of Personnel Administration, which oversaw 20 labor contracts covering 120,000 state employees. Two years later, the governor appointed him director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Jones found himself challenging the hiring practices he once defended. “All those barriers were starting to come down, and it was a very painful process,” Jones said. “It took a lot of coaxing and persuasion to get the unions on board.” Deukemejian named Jones to Sacramento’s municipal court in 1989, elevating him to the superior court a year later. Jones is the kind of judge who seems to know everyone in the courtroom on a first-name basis, from a fellow jurist spotted in the elevator to a probation officer in the hallway. That friendliness extends to jurors, lawyers say. Jones has a well-known practice of stopping court proceedings every 30 minutes so everyone � especially the jury � can stand up and stretch. “I’ve learned that the human mind is affected by the human tush,” he said. “My philosophy in the courtroom is that the truth will be reached in a professional but relaxed atmosphere.” But Jones also can be deadly serious, observers say. Deputy District Attorney Marvin Stern recalled a particularly heinous case in which the judge had to sentence a man convicted of holding his girlfriend’s long-abused daughter under bathwater until she passed out. The toddler died two days later. “I remember being struck by [Jones'] humanity,” Stern said. “A lot of times you get a criminal case where someone has died and it’s almost as if the victim is treated like they never existed. Judge Jones made you feel like you were in church for [the victim's] eulogy.” A self-described “people person,” Jones can be chatty in and out of the courtroom. “Sometimes he can lecture,” Ransom said. “But he means what he says, and it’s coming from his heart. He’s just trying to do the right thing for everyone.” Jones said he’s happy handling the civil calendar he took on this year, and is looking forward to decorating his new chambers. He’s already eying a long hallway wall outside; it just might be the perfect place, he said, for a vintage American flag.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.