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LONG DONS NO-NONSENSE PERSONA FOR COURT COURT: Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED: Feb. 1, 1982, by Gov. Jerry Brown BORN: Dec. 7, 1937 LAW SCHOOL: Howard University School of Law, 1967 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None SACRAMENTO � A conversation with James Long, a Sacramento native, is like a chat with an old friend, complete with deep belly laughs, a splash of philosophy and sweet memories. But the James Long who presides over Sacramento County Superior Court’s Department 40 is a different person. Judge Long is all business. And after 25 years on the bench, he expects the same proficiency from everyone in his courtroom. “The first time I was in his courtroom, I was almost shocked,” said Marjorie Koller, a supervising deputy district attorney in Sacramento County. “I was brand-new and he was very direct, like ‘Let’s go, put your proof on.’ And I was like, ‘OK, um, right now?’” But now a court veteran herself, Koller said she appreciates Long’s get-to-the-point approach. As is the case in many jurisdictions, time and courtroom space for Sacramento’s criminal calendars are very limited, she said. “He is a no-nonsense kind of judge,” said Koller. “He doesn’t want a lot of chatter. He likes to move things along, which some lawyers don’t like. I do.” Long prefers to describe his courtroom style as efficient. “I think that the lawyers know me, they know the court, and when they come in here they know what they’re supposed to do,” he said in a recent interview. Long is a fixture in and out of the downtown courthouse. The son of an Air Force plane painter, Long left his boyhood home in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood just long enough to get his psychology degree at San Jose State University and his legal education at Howard University in Washington, D.C. When he returned, he opened his private practice in an office not far from his parents’ house. A neighbor donated a few chairs to put in the lobby. His dad bought a metal desk from Sears so he would have a place to write briefs. His clients were mostly people he’d known all of his life, and he took many of their cases pro bono. “I was really close to the people,” Long said. “It was kind of like they’d come to me like [I was] a neighbor or a family member or an extended son or someone who they didn’t want to see stub his toe in business.” After then-Gov. Jerry Brown named him to the bench in 1982, Long’s mother and a family friend watched with pride from the gallery during his first day as a judge. When he made his first ruling � granting a continuance requested by both sides � Long’s mom and her friend stood up and applauded. The cheering section eventually left, and Long has gone on to handle both civil and criminal calendars for the court over three decades. He moved away from Oak Park but still remembers his roots. In 2002, he had the chance to disperse $1.5 million in unclaimed money from a class action settlement. He directed two-thirds of the money to St. Hope Corp., a nonprofit run by former NBA star and Oak Park native Kevin Johnson that operates charter schools in poor Sacramento neighborhoods. Long divvied up the remaining money among a legal aid program, a legal advocacy organization serving kids, and a school for homeless children. “I like the idea that really, in some in-stances, you as a judge can help,” he said. The Sacramento Valley chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates recently named Long its “humanitarian judge” of the year. “He exemplifies everything you want from a judge in terms of integrity, judgment and professionalism on and off the bench,” said chapter president Robert Buccola. But Long admits that for all the good he wants to do as a judge, he’s sometimes limited by reality. He’s sent 18-year-olds to prison for the rest of their lives and watched as they shrugged off the punishment as no big deal. He wonders whether all the money the state spends on prisoners could be better spent on educating kids. Stricter sentencing laws, he said, mean he can’t always give a break to a worthy defendant. And he’s been burned trying to help people. In 2005, Long gave Fairfield City Councilman John English a relatively light sentence of probation and 30 days’ work furlough after a jury convicted him of felony drug possession. According to media accounts, Long said he was taking note of English’s public service, but he warned: “Don’t make me look silly.” Less than two weeks later, English was arrested again after security officers found methamphetamine in a travel bag he left inside a Yolo County casino. “When I was a lawyer, I was Jimmie Long. Everybody loved Jimmie,” Long said. “And I liked to be held in that kind of esteem. When you become a judge, it can be lonely �. “I just hope that when it’s over for me that I did more right than wrong, more good than bad.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges here or by calling 415-749-5406.

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