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COURT: Sacramento County Superior APPOINTED: Dec. 30, 2002, by Gov. Gray Davis BORN: Dec. 22, 1954 LAW SCHOOL: University of San Diego School of Law, 1980 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None During his 13 years at the California Air Resources Board, first as general counsel and later as executive director, Michael Kenny pushed, encouraged and cajoled automakers to boost production of low- and zero-emission vehicles. Now, as a judge on the Sacramento County Superior Court bench, Kenny channels his energy into pushing, encouraging and cajoling attorneys to keep jury trials moving. “I like people who are direct, who get to the point,” Kenny said. “I like people who don’t waste time. I like it when people in a jury trial realize that a jury’s time is valuable and move the case along. My big worry on that has always been, if a jury is standing in a hallway, they start wondering what’s going on. � I don’t want them having a bad impression of the system.” A five-year veteran of the court, Kenny’s calendar has a heavy dose of felony trials and the occasional civil matter. While he said that he likes proceedings to move at a good clip, he tries to keep the courtroom atmosphere informal. “I want the jurors to come into the courtroom and not be intimidated,” he said. “I want the jurors to feel that the system of justice is very important and serious, but it’s not something where you have to stand on your tiptoes the entire time and worry about somebody screaming at you.” Kenny’s judicial demeanor may have been shaped by an earlier assignment in one of Sacramento’s so-called home courts, where judges, lawyers and criminal defendants try to negotiate quick resolutions of cases in non-trial proceedings. “What makes a good judge in one of those courts is to keep things moving or your day never ends,” said Rick Heyer, a former public defender who frequently appeared in Kenny’s courtroom but now works for the Sacramento county counsel. Kenny was “really good” at “guiding” attorneys to agreements, and he also had a knack for identifying weaknesses in attorneys’ cases, Heyer recalled. “But he’s not a judge I’ve ever seen be rude to an attorney,” Heyer said. Deputy District Attorney Sean Laird called Kenny “easygoing” and even “fun to appear in front of.” “He’s very approachable in terms of listening to your ideas and thoughts,” Laird said. “Sometimes you have judges who have their own ideas about a case and just cut you off. [Kenny] was very good about hearing you out and letting you have your say.” Kenny said he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a lawyer, and with the passage of landmark legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act in the late 1970s, the Southern California native felt a calling to practice environmental law. The only problem was that his graduation from law school in 1980 coincided with the Reagan Revolution, and the political conservatism that swept the nation didn’t create a lot of environmental law jobs. So after a brief stint in civil litigation at a Sacramento firm, Kenny became a deputy district attorney in San Joaquin County. “There wasn’t a lot of training,” Kenny said. “I remember my first day at work, one of my supervisors walked up to me, handed me a file, and said, ‘You’ve got an OSC in Department C.’ I didn’t have a clue where Department C was, and I didn’t know what an OSC was.” But the job, which lasted five years, provided great training and courtroom experience, Kenny said. “It helped me immensely,” Kenny said. “I ended up getting the job as general counsel at the Air Resources Board probably because of my litigation background.” In 1996, ARB leaders hired Kenny as executive director. Over the next six years, Kenny was at the center of California’s frequently nation-leading efforts to curb air pollution and later, greenhouse gas emissions. But he grew weary of the job’s long hours and frequent travel requirements, and accepted Gov. Gray Davis’ offer to become a judge. In addition to his general trial assignment, Kenny is also designated as one of the court’s “natural resources” judges, which means cases with technical environmental matters can be steered his way. But with the court’s heavy criminal caseload, that hasn’t happened yet, he said. Unlike environmental rule-making, a process that can take years and involve dozens of interest groups and politicians, Kenny’s job now requires him to make the tough decisions alone. And he likes that. “You get the occasional case where you can maybe turn somebody around. I like those,” Kenny said. “You get a chance to actually see someone who’s made some significant mistake � and you went down the probation path with that person, and you’re monitoring that person, and the person’s doing better. I like those cases. They’re occasional, but they do happen.” That’s not to say he doesn’t miss the proactive environmental work at the ARB, particularly now that it’s taking the lead role on implementing California’s global-warming laws. But being a judge “is a great job,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of it.” For a complete list of available profiles, go to http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/judicialprofiles.jsp.

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