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MCADAMS LIKED, BUT CAN STILL CONFOUND COURT: Sixth District Court of Appeal APPOINTED: Aug. 26, 2003, by Gov. Gray Davis DATE OF BIRTH: Feb. 27, 1944 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law, 1968 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Santa Cruz County Municipal Court, 1977-1998; Santa Cruz County Superior Court, 1998-2003 Sit down with Sixth District Court of Appeal Justice Richard McAdams for a few minutes and you’ll soon realize that family plays a major role in his life. You’ll hear how he grew up in the Bay Area with working-class parents who taught him the value of an education. You’ll learn that his mother introduced him to his future wife at a Macy’s department store. And you’ll be told he played the guitar and sang at both daughters’ weddings. You’ll also discover that his career � from civil rights lawyer to legal aid attorney to judge at a young age � was very much shaped by his family’s strong work ethic and the social politics of the turbulent ’60s. “My life revolves around family, and law is second,” he said on a mid-February morning in his San Jose chambers. “But it’s certainly a close second.” McAdams, who turned 63 last week, says he was influenced not only by “crawling around under houses every summer” working for his dad’s termite company, but also by a “great political awareness” that hit kids graduating from high school and college in the early to mid-’60s. While some of his classmates dreamed of becoming rocket scientists at the dawn of the space age, others � such as himself � were drawn to careers that had a “social responsibility side” to them. “We saw law as a way we could impact the world,” McAdams said. “Becoming an attorney provided an opportunity to do something to better society.” On June 3, McAdams will have been a judge for 30 years, having been appointed to the Santa Cruz County Municipal Court by Gov. Jerry Brown at the young age of 33. His appointment to the appellate bench in 2003, he says, was “a dream” � especially for someone who almost passed on the law as a career. As a young man at Cal, he was majoring in economics. Law school had crossed his mind, but he had no role models: No one else in his family had gone to law school. And once he started taking classes at Hastings College of the Law, he hated it. It wasn’t until his second year � when he was doing volunteer research on civil rights and constitutional law issues for San Francisco’s Jarvis, Miller & Stender � that he realized he’d found his calling. His first project, he says, was to research a central California county’s loudspeaker ordinance after a now-famous guy named César Chávez was arrested. “The law became alive to me doing a project like that,” he said. McAdams was sworn in as a lawyer on Jan. 9, 1969, and the very next day made a court appearance in a workers’ compensation case. In a matter of months, he recalled, he was in a jury trial, and soon thereafter appeared in an appellate court. “I’ve always wondered,” he said, “if I was the first of my class to appear as a lawyer. It was only a matter of 24 hours.” McAdams didn’t follow a traditional path to the bench. After working with the Jarvis firm for a year, he and his wife took their 1-year-old daughter on a six-month trip to Europe � in part to make up for a three-day, holiday weekend honeymoon. Upon their return, McAdams joined Legal Services of Santa Cruz County for three years and founded the Senior Citizens Legal Services Office. In 1973, he and another lawyer formed a firm � doing mostly family law and personal injury cases � eventually named Fox, McAdams & Popin. In 1977, Gov. Brown � looking for legal services lawyers and public defenders � appointed him to his first post on the bench. And attorneys who appeared before him in Santa Cruz say it was a good choice. Santa Cruz County Deputy District Attorney Ariadne Symons called McAdams “a marvelous judge and a marvelous man.” She’s seen people he’s ruled against come away feeling good just because of the charming way he treated them. And she liked the way he managed his court. If a jury was ready to come back to the courtroom at 10 a.m., she said, McAdams made sure his morning calendar was done, or would make those lawyers come back later so jurors wouldn’t be kept waiting. Gerald Christensen, a partner in Santa Cruz’s Biggam, Christensen & Minsloff � which contracts as the county’s public defender � said McAdams always took “a good, long, fair, hard look at the issues” and was a mentor for new attorneys. In late January, however, McAdams authored a ruling that puzzled both prosecutors and defense lawyers. In People v. Nguyen, 07 C.D.O.S. 783, he held that contested juvenile adjudications can’t later count as a prior conviction under the Three Strikes law, because juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial. Attorneys were confused because the opinion also said that if a defendant admitted to a juvenile crime, that one could later be counted as a strike. Alameda County Deputy Public Defender Richard Foxall told The Recorder shortly afterward that the ruling “leads to the bizarre result that our clients will be rewarded for going to trial and being convicted of multiple crimes.” On Feb. 21, following a petition by the Santa Clara County public defender’s office, McAdams and two fellow justices granted a rehearing, indicating they may be rethinking the ruling. McAdams said he loves appellate work because it gives him time to do more in-depth research, and he likes resolving conflicts. He misses the hustle and bustle of the trial court, but he’s got a full life. Besides traveling with his wife, he also has five grandchildren � with a sixth on the way � to entertain. And he loves to play guitar with a band of buddies at church events, family parties or bar socials. Christensen, a former president of the Santa Cruz County Bar Association, said he always advises new bar presidents to make sure McAdams is part of any event. Symons seconds that. “He’s quite sought after to come to these things,” she said. “It’s such fun.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges here or by calling 415-749-5406.

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