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COURT: San Mateo County Superior APPOINTED: Dec. 3, 2004, by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger BORN: Nov. 21, 1947 LAW SCHOOL: Boalt Hall School of Law, 1972 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None San Francisco attorney Scott Sugarman was all wound up, thunderously arguing in a Redwood City courtroom on a recent morning that evidence against his client, accused of robbing a bank, should be suppressed. The young man was illegally searched before being placed under arrest, the Sugarman & Cannon partner insisted, and made incriminating statements while under duress in a police interrogation room. Sugarman was trying to get San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan to overturn a fellow judge, so it came as no surprise when Cretan rejected the arguments. What was interesting, though, was how Cretan patiently took in the arguments for several minutes before dismantling them with well-thought-out reasons. Friends and co-workers said that’s the Cretan they know � a low-key, methodical man who will do his job while not drawing unnecessary attention to himself and offering up solid judgments. “On any given day in any location, he’s going to be the smartest guy in the room, and you’d never hear him say anything about himself,” said longtime friend Marta Diaz, San Mateo County’s supervising juvenile court judge. “He’s extremely modest, extremely calm and real down to earth.” Even Sugarman came away from the court impressed. “The motion I made raised complex issues, and he had spent the time to be familiar with the facts and the law, and I thought he asked good questions and � listened to the arguments I made in the courtroom,” he said. “As far as someone to listen, I couldn’t ask for more. But I’m disappointed he ruled against me.” Cretan, a youthful-looking 60-year-old who runs five miles a day and still serves as an assistant basketball coach at Burlingame High School, was in his third day as the presiding criminal court judge when Sugarman made his plea. But despite having served a two-year stint in family court, he seemed right at home, perhaps because Cretan worked as a deputy district attorney in San Mateo County from 1974 to 1981, and then as a criminal defense lawyer for the next 23 years before joining the bench. Cretan, one of the first four judges appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said experience on both sides of the fence helps. And it didn’t hurt that he simultaneously practiced family law for years. “I understand why each side takes the position they do,” he said. Cretan was born in Oakland in 1947, but moved with his family to San Mateo when he was 6 years old. He graduated from UC-Berkeley in 1969 with a degree in history and from Boalt Hall School of Law in 1972. Growing up, Cretan had no legal role models in his family, but never doubted he would become an attorney. “It was always something I knew I wanted to do � after I realized I couldn’t play centerfield for the [San Francisco] Giants,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to get into criminal law because of the competition, just like I love sports.” That was all the more unusual because Cretan was a “very shy and very nervous” youngster. “I was petrified to get up and talk in class,” he said. “It was hard at first.” Things changed, as a three-decade legal career has proved. In fact, Cretan handled many high-profile cases as a lawyer. Among the defendants he represented were Seti Scanlan, convicted of killing a Wells Fargo Bank manager during a 2002 robbery in Burlingame, and Reza Eslaminia, a former member of the so-called Billionaire Boys Club whom Cretan in 2000 managed to clear of murder charges related to his father’s death. David Goldstein, a Redwood City solo practitioner who faced Cretan as a prosecutor and co-counseled with him as a defense attorney, said Cretan’s experience in both worlds sets him apart. “He was very fair and always willing to attempt to understand the other side,” Goldstein said. “He went into negotiations with an open mind.” That attitude was on display recently when Cretan was sentencing a young man on criminal charges. He recognized the name of the defendant’s uncle � a man he prosecuted 30 years ago, and then watched as he straightened out his life. “It’s a good thing to see someone turn their life around,” Cretan told the young man. “I hope you use your uncle’s example and do what he’s done.” Nevertheless, Cretan was stern, sentencing the man to five years and four months in prison. Cretan believes it’s important to treat criminal defendants with respect. “Some of them may be bad people,” he said. “Some are good people who fell into bad situations. They are still people.” Cretan said he also likes to make his courtroom user-friendly for attorneys. But he won’t tolerate lawyers who are “overly strident” or disrespect their opponents. “I don’t like wars,” he said. “I think this can all be done in a respectful manner.” Lawyers who know him say Cretan, because of his background, shows no favoritism for either prosecutors or defense attorneys. But that didn’t stop a novice deputy DA from trying to explain to him a couple of years back what prosecutors are supposed to do. “He’d been in the office all of four months,” Cretan said. “And, of course, he didn’t know I’d been [a prosecutor] for seven years. He probably wasn’t born when I was a DA.” For a complete list of available profiles, go to http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/judicialprofiles.jsp.

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