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As an idealistic young judge donning a robe for the first time, Bob Jenevein couldn’t have anticipated the sort of trouble he’d encounter one year after taking the bench. Jenevein already had his work cut out for him when he defeated a Republican incumbent in the 1998 primary; he’d just won the bench for Dallas County Court at Law No. 3, which had 2,700 cases pending — the most among Dallas’ civil courts. Jenevein successfully reduced that backlog; his docket now has about 1,800 pending cases, he says. Yet a case that wasn’t even in Jenevein’s court eventually landed him unwanted media attention. On Dec. 23, 1999, Jenevein agreed to hold an emergency hearing at a location outside the Dallas civil courthouse. The case, Universal Image Inc. d/b/a Chalkboardtalk.com v. Yahoo! Inc., involved a $5 billion contract dispute. At the hearing, held at the defense lawyers’ offices, the judge dissolved a temporary restraining order against Yahoo/Broadcast.com. A year later the case blew up when plaintiffs’ lawyer Lawrence J. Friedman of Dallas’ Friedman & Feiger filed a revised petition that included allegations involving Jenevein’s wife and Judge David Gibson, then the Dallas County Court at Law No. 1 judge assigned to the Yahoo case. Gibson, Jenevein and his wife strongly denied the allegations and in a July 2000 press conference, Jenevein called the tactics the type “we normally reserve for the mob.” Jenevein’s wife subsequently sued Friedman for libel. “I just could not believe that he was trying to hurt my husband by hurting me,” alleges Terrie Jenevein, a Dallas solo. Friedman responded with a counter-suit, claiming the libel allegation harmed his business. He declines to comment for this story. The Yahoo case is still pending. Jenevein, too, is reluctant to talk about the dispute, but does not seem to dwell on it. “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the price of public service that I’ve ended up having to pay,” Jenevein says. “I still consider sitting on the bench a noble mission.” ‘DIGGING IT’ Several lawyers who’ve appeared before Jenevein say that he treats attorneys and his job with respect. Although the 40-year-old judge is a work in progress, he’s efficient, innovative, fair and bears no scars from the past conflict, lawyers say. If Jenevein has a reputation now, it’s for being a judge whose primary concern is moving cases. And that’s worked in favor of some lawyers who’ve filed complicated tort cases in county court instead of district courts hoping to get a quicker trial. That was the experience of William Kenneth C. Dippel, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who wanted a speedy resolution to an air bag case in which his client, an 11-month-old girl, was severely injured during a minor car wreck and whose life expectancy was in question. “We insisted as plaintiffs that the case move fast, and lightning fast,” says Dippel of Dallas’ Dippel & Davis. That’s what he got in Jenevein’s court, he says. The complicated case, with a full list of witnesses and a host of contentious lawyers, was tried in two-and-a-half weeks in April 2000 and resulted in a $23 million jury verdict, Dippel says. Part of the reason Jenevein ably moves complicated cases quickly is because he imposes time limits on each side. In certain cases, Jenevein requires before trial that each side estimate the time it needs to present its case. The judge then makes them stick to their time estimate. At the end of the day, he hands lawyers computer printouts showing how much time they have left to present their cases. “It really forced the lawyers to give a lot of thought to their presentation and on being clear and nonrepetitive,” Dippel says. “I thought it was really a good system, and it didn’t favor either side.” But a defense lawyer who litigated a complicated case in Jenevein’s court under time limitations says she didn’t care for the judge’s practice. “We were rushing through,” says Maggie Knott, a partner in Dallas’ Smith & Knott who defended a day care center in a child abuse case this year. “It was more stress that you don’t need when you’re already in a stressful trial.” Knott notes that she did not run out of time. Jenevein says he understands some lawyers may not like the time limits, but he rarely uses them. The limits are used only if the case is complicated and may threaten another trial setting. He imposes the time limits so other cases have an equal opportunity to be litigated in his court, he says. “I knew the frustration of preparing for and not getting a trial date,” says Jenevein, who had his own small firm before taking the bench. “Having to bill a client for that was distasteful. I try hard to protect these settings.” Jeff Kershaw recently defended a serious wrongful-death case in Jenevein’s court and was impressed with the judge’s ability to handle the lawyers and seize opportunities to settle cases. “We got in fights in front of him all the time and he would calm us down,” says Kershaw of Dallas’ Chamblee & Ryan. “He understands how lawyers get. He doesn’t talk down to you, he talks to you.” Kershaw says he appreciated Jenevein allowing lawyers to discuss their cases with two alternate jurors in a case he recently tried. “He held alternate jurors, and he let us talk to those alternate jurors,” Kershaw says. “And that led to a settlement a few minutes before the verdict.” Jenevein has another subtle way of prodding lawyers along. If a lawyer files a motion to compel, the judge will more than likely set the hearing for Friday at 4:30 p.m. “It pissed me off a few Friday afternoons because I was waiting around to do it,” say Joe Byrne, a partner in Dallas’ Barry Byrne & Randall. “But you know, we got stuff done because we really didn’t want to be there.” Yet Jenevein will stay as long as it takes to finish a hearing, Byrne says. The judge also seems to enjoy his job, something that is apparent during jury trials, Byrne adds. “When he tries a case, he talks to the juries and explains the process. You know that guy is digging it,” Byrne says. “Some are there because it’s an easy job. But I don’t think that’s the case with him.”

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