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COURT: Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED: Dec. 9, 2005, by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger BORN: Dec. 16, 1951 LAW SCHOOL: Lincoln Law School of Sacramento, 1979 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Yolo County Superior Court judge, 1998-2005 Most lawyers are happy to get the judicial nod from a governor just once in their lifetimes. Judge Michael Sweet has been appointed twice to a superior court � in two different counties, by two different governors. Sweet was a deputy legislative secretary to Pete Wilson when the Republican governor named him to the Yolo County bench in 1998. Seven years later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered Sweet a spot in neighboring Sacramento County, and the Yolo County judge seized the chance to move closer to home and into a bigger venue. Sweet said he’s in Sacramento to stay now, and he’s busy with a trial calendar dominated by criminal cases. The former prosecutor is all business in the courtroom, although lawyers say he’s not mean or intimidating. Away from the bench, he’s affable, quick to laugh and ready to pepper any conversation with a “Let me tell ya a story.” “In the courtroom, it’s formal. In the chambers it doesn’t have to be so formal,” Sweet said. “And it seems to be a good balance for me because, let’s face it: If you’re in a jury trial it’s pretty intense for both sides. � I find that if you have some informality in chambers you can just kind of lighten it up a little bit. It goes a long ways to relieve tension and put people in a better frame of mind when they’re in court.” Deputy Public Defender Steven Plesser said he appreciated Sweet’s approach during a recent homicide trial. “There were plenty of situations that could have been tense, but he kept everyone comfortable, including the defendant and the victim’s family,” Plesser said. “It’s a really good place to do a trial.” Sweet knows all about stress from his days handling criminal and court-related legislation for Wilson. Sweet was serving as executive officer of the Youthful Offender Parole Board in 1994 when Wilson tapped him to shepherd his anti-crime legislative package through a special session of the Legislature. That led to his appointment as deputy legislative secretary, where he monitored crime-related bills. His job was to work with legislative leaders to try to get Wilson’s agenda enacted, to get those bills the governor opposed killed and, if all else failed, to draft veto messages for legislation that he recommended for demise. “I want to say there were about 1,500 bills, most of which came in at the end of session,” Sweet said. “[Wilson] had 30 days to take action on them. So you are literally working seven days a week, 12 to 16 hours every day during that month. � It’s a lot of work. It’s very intense. [But] it was a very, very enjoyable period of time. Actually it was probably the most enjoyable time of my entire career.” Deputy Public Defender Amanda Benson said Sweet’s career background as a prosecutor and a Republican appointee doesn’t show in the courtroom. “He’s just very fair. He doesn’t try to help either side,” Benson said. As a public defender, “you feel like a real attorney in there.” Alice Wong, a former deputy district attorney in Sacramento County, called Sweet an “engaging” judge who makes jurors feel like an important part of the trial process. She prosecuted a multiple-homicide case, featuring three defense attorneys, numerous motions and many witnesses, in his courtroom last year. “His demeanor made it bearable,” she said. Sacramento County had no openings on its bench when Wilson made Sweet a Yolo County judge. The legal establishment in Yolo, a smaller and generally more liberal county than Sacramento, was distrustful of a graduate of the Wilson administration, Sweet said. But after handling preliminary hearings, status conferences, arraignments and a trial or two for three years, Sweet said he gained the respect of the court community. He was eventually named presiding judge. “I like making decisions” as a judge, Sweet said. “I actually really enjoy it because you are the person who’s responsible for this decision, and you read everything you can, everything submitted and you make the call to the best of your ability. And I like that. I think I was suited for it.” Sweet said he stays out of the jury trial process as much as possible, preferring to let lawyers put on their cases. In evidentiary hearings and court trials, however, “I will offer guidance to both sides,” he said. The judge said he’s particularly interested in hearing directly from defendants before sentencing so he can weigh their sincerity. Sweet keeps a letter from the wife of one defendant whom the judge gave probation instead of the recommended prison sentence. The man turned his life around after that decision, the thankful wife wrote, got sober and is now leading a healthy and productive life. Her letter included a photo of their two young children. Sweet said he asks himself, “What if you take a chance on someone who you shouldn’t have? So it’s visceral, but you have to be able to articulate, at least to yourself, and I try to do it orally [in court], my reasons for support of probation or not. That’s your job. But something like this,” he said, pointing to the letter, “makes you feel really good.” For a complete list of available profiles, go to http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/judicialprofiles.jsp

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