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JUSTICE BLAZED TRAIL ON LOCAL BENCH COURT: Sixth District Court of Appeal APPOINTED: April 7, 2005, by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger BORN: Oct. 28, 1951 LAW SCHOOL: Boalt Hall School of Law, 1977 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Monterey County Municipal Court, 1989-1999; Monterey County Superior Court, 1999-2005 If the Colorado ski country hadn’t been relatively undiscovered when Wendy Duffy and her husband graduated from law school in the late ’70s, the two ski bums likely would have moved there. And who knows? Duffy might have wound up presiding over Kobe Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault case, rather than moving up through the Monterey County judicial ranks to her current spot on San Jose’s Sixth District Court of Appeal. She doesn’t need the glamour, or possible ignominy, of handling a high-profile celebrity case, though. Duffy’s quite happy to be where she is � in a job she loves in the geographic heart of her whole life. Duffy was born in Oakland, was raised on the Monterey peninsula, attended college in Berkeley and now lives in Carmel. San Jose fits snugly within those boundaries. “It’s a lovely area,” Duffy said late last month. “But I always assumed I would go far away.” And why didn’t that move to Vail, Aspen or Telluride pan out? Duffy and husband Thomas, who runs a general litigation practice in Monterey, went to the mountains of Colorado after graduation with the hope of combining work and pleasure. But they were told by the locals that the area was too small to support two more lawyers � at that time, anyway. “Little did we know,” Duffy says, “that Aspen was going to become a boom town.” It doesn’t matter. Duffy, 55, is now a homegrown success. She’s worked 11 years as a prosecutor, 10 years as a municipal court judge, six years on the superior court bench and now two years as an appellate justice. In fact, Duffy was the first woman appointed to any bench in Monterey County. And it all began after abandoning that Colorado dream. Settling back in California near family and friends back then, Duffy says, she “pulled out the Yellow Pages” and began looking for work. None of the local law firms were hiring, she says, so she turned to the public defender, district attorney and county counsel’s offices, all in hope of getting lucky. The DA’s office called up and a career was under way, even though Duffy says she “never anticipated being a trial lawyer.” Her first “nerve-wracking” day at work, Duffy says, she was “handed a file and told I was handling traffic court.” But prosecutorial work apparently came naturally. Terry Spitz, Monterey County’s current chief assistant DA, worked with Duffy back then and says she was “right up there at the top of the people who had tried the most jury trials” each year. Life as a lawyer, though, didn’t seem Duffy’s destiny as a kid. She had no lawyers or judges in the family as role models, and her only contact with a courtroom was following along behind a crime reporter from a local newspaper for a high school project. In 1974, she graduated from UC-Berkeley with a degree in English literature. But when it “came time to face reality,” she says, she had no desire to teach. Law came to mind as an alternative, but she had a fallback position in mind too. “If I hadn’t gotten into law school,” Duffy confides, “I would have been a journalist.” Things obviously worked out. Duffy says she’s still amazed at the amount of time she can spend on each case, examining it “from all perspectives.” Her role provides an opportunity to “handle almost every type of case” and to have the time to be “contemplative.” As much as Duffy enjoyed the trial court bench, she says, “the pace [there] is so fast and furious that decisions out of necessity need to be made quickly.” With only two years on the appellate bench, Duffy has few published rulings so far. Her first was Stewart v. Preston Pipeline Inc., 134 Cal.App.4th 1565, which held that a purported settlement agreement signed at the conclusion of mediation was admissible in subsequent proceedings to enforce it. But her most memorable might have been an unpublished ruling released on Oct. 20, 2005. In that decision, Duffy upheld a teenage boy’s battery conviction based on a probation officer’s testimony that differentiated hickeys from bruises on the minor’s ex-girlfriend. “Having seen hundreds of hickeys and bruises,” Duffy wrote, “[the probation officer] had the ability to identify the marks that were bruises.” Michael Lawrence, the former public defender of Monterey County, says as a lawyer and a trailblazing female judge, Duffy always distinguished herself. “She did it with grace,” he says, “and it was apparent to me that everybody on the bench liked her.” As a longtime jurist, Duffy says she has few rules in her court other than that attorneys be well-prepared and “demonstrate the highest standards of civility and professionalism.” Outside work, Duffy says she and her husband � who have two grown daughters � like to keep up active personal lives. They still like to ski and they both ride bicycles. In fact, Joel Franklin, an appellate lawyer in Monterey, calls Duffy a “fearless bicyclist” who’s “very talented and tenacious.” Duffy admits she’d like to tackle one of the annual AIDS rides from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That requires raising money, though, and as she points out, judges aren’t allowed to solicit funds from anyone but colleagues. Maybe after retirement. You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges here or by calling 415-749-5406.

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