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COURT: San Francisco Superior APPOINTED: Sept. 29, 2006, by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger BORN: Nov. 17, 1959 LAW SCHOOL: Golden Gate University School of Law, 1985 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None If only all judges served coffee in chambers, maybe pretrial conferences would be a little more pleasant. Of course, that’s not why so many misdemeanor cases get resolved before trial in Judge Loretta “Lori” Giorgi’s courtroom. But her knack for hospitality � shared, by the way, in an entertaining guide she hopes to get published � makes lawyers feel comfortable just as they’re about to get into a frank discussion about offers. And in misdemeanor land, where the number of trials this year in San Francisco is expected to outpace last year, meaningful pretrial discussions have taken on a higher level of importance. It’s only been a year since Giorgi got appointed to the bench after more than 20 years at the San Francisco city attorney’s office. And she’s already getting kudos from lawyers on both sides of the bar who describe her as a standout judge who runs a smooth calendar and gets a lot of cases resolved. Lawyers from the defense and prosecution say she’s straightforward in letting each side know when a case doesn’t look good for either of them. And if there’s a surmountable sticking point, she’ll explore options for compromise. For example, Assistant DA Brian Buckelew explained, if a first-time offender is accused of petty theft and the prosecution insists on the probation condition that the defendant agree to being searched at any time, Giorgi may present a negotiated deal which mirrors the prosecutor’s offer, minus the search condition. And for the less-experienced attorneys handling misdemeanor cases, pretrial discussions can be valuable in many ways, including getting clarification on the prosecution’s offers, as well as the judge’s open plea proposals, according to Daniel Flores, a San Francisco solo working as a loaner in the public defender’s office. In Giorgi’s conferences, the prosecutors usually have an offer prepared, so they run smoothly, according to Buckelew. If a case seems to be heading toward settling, “she does not rush,” added Majeed Samara, a solo based in Millbrae. Flores points to one recent example of Giorgi figuring out a solution that rehabilitates defendants. His client, a drug addict with previous drug possession convictions who did not qualify for pretrial diversion, faced burglary and theft-related charges. The judge allowed an open plea where if the defendant admitted guilt, she would allow him to participate in the pretrial diversion program � with the stipulation that if he didn’t complete it, he would have to serve a six-month jail sentence. “She was willing to give this person a chance based on the desire to cure the root of the problem,” Flores said. At the city attorney’s office, where she most recently had been chief of public integrity, Giorgi coordinated and supervised all investigations, litigation and legal actions involving public corruption, including the highly publicized case of Augustine “Gus” Fallay, head of the city’s department of building inspections. Fallay was terminated from his job and later faced criminal charges. A jury acquitted or hung on charges in his case earlier this year. During the mid-1990s Giorgi also litigated the final phase of a nearly 20-year legal battle over a federal court consent decree to integrate the San Francisco Police Department. Former City Attorney Louise Renne recalled the “huge challenge” Giorgi faced of making sure the city complied with the consent decree. At the Hall of Justice, lawyers find that Giorgi meets the challenge of running the morning calendar efficiently. She allows public defenders to call their cases in the order they choose, so they can make sure their clients are present for their cases. When private defense attorneys walk in, those cases are given preference so they may leave after their matters are heard. “Other judges don’t want to be perceived as weak,” said Deputy Public Defender Peter Santina. “She’s not too concerned about that.” She’s been said to frequently release defendants on their own recognizance. From the prosecution’s perspective, that extra chance may be one too many for defendants who have skipped bail repeatedly in the past. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, say releasing on OR should be assumed unless a defendant poses a flight risk or is a danger to society. A couple of defense attorneys recalled cases where Giorgi remanded people into custody and told defendants their conduct was unacceptable. When it comes to sentencing, Giorgi said she tries to include not only a consequence for the crime, but also a remedy to the circumstances that may have led to the offense. Sometimes, that means adding a requirement that neither the defense nor the prosecution has proposed. She recalls a DUI case where the defendant’s job involved working with children. As part of his sentence, she had him present a program to those kids about the evils of driving under the influence and report back to her. In a hit-and-run case, she made the defendant send a letter of apology to the victim through the DA’s office. So far, she said, she hasn’t received any complaints on unorthodox sentencing provisions. “I try to be as creative as I can because we’re talking about people’s lives here.” For a complete list of available profiles, go to http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/judicialprofiles.jsp

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