COURT: Sacramento County Superior
APPOINTED: May 31, 2002, by Gov. Gray Davis
BORN: Aug. 26, 1945
LAW SCHOOL: UC-Davis’ King Hall School of Law, 1982
PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None
BORACK LEFT TV, TEACHING FOR FAMILY LAW
If you recognize Jerilyn Borack, that probably means you’ve appeared in Sacramento County’s family courts � or you’re a fan of 1950s television.
Long before Borack became the Sacramento County Superior Court’s supervising family law judge, she was a child actress who landed a recurring role on “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show” because she tagged along with her older sister to an audition for the series.
Her sister, Sheila � better known now as Democratic state Sen. Sheila Kuehl � didn’t get the part. But the producers thought 5-year-old Jerilyn would be perfect. And so began a seven-year television career that only ended when Borack decided she wanted a more normal teenage life.
“It was a very interesting childhood,” she said.
Acting did not give way to an immediate passion for the law. In fact, Borack started her adult professional life as a junior high school teacher. After teaching for six years, she asked her bosses in the Los Angeles Unified School District for a sabbatical. They denied her request. She resigned.
“It was 30-itis,” Borack said. “Watching all of these children go on to different things in their lives, I felt like I was standing on a platform watching all the trains go by.”
So Borack drained her retirement account, took some gourmet cooking classes, and then moved to Boston where sister Sheila was attending Harvard Law School. When she wasn’t throwing popular Friday night dinner parties, Borack audited law school classes.
“That was when I decided that [law] was something that I wanted to do, too,” she said.
By the time Borack passed the bar in 1982, she was the mother of two children under the age of 3. Borack speaks four languages and had an interest in international law, but as a young mom, globetrotting no longer seemed practical. Working the 80-hour-a-week partnership track in a big firm also seemed unreasonable.
So after a brief stint as a research attorney, she found a family law lawyer willing to give her office space for her own practice and referrals in exchange for help with his cases.
While some attorneys find family law emotionally draining, Borack loved it.
“I find people fascinating,” she said. “And there is nowhere you can learn more about people except in a counseling setting or being a family law attorney.”
And she loved litigating, which provided another type of stage for the former actress.
“It’s like being the director and star of your own production,” Borack said.
She was certified by the State Bar as a family law specialist in 1992. But she willingly gave up litigation when Gov. Gray Davis named her to the bench in 2002.
“This is so much better,” she said of being a judge. “For every one person whose life I could touch as an attorney, I have 100 now. I have the opportunity to help people who have had almost no help.”
Attorneys who have appeared before Borack say she is incredibly patient with the many pro pers on her calendar, agile with the numbers involved in support issues, and occasionally sharp-tongued with lawyers.
“What I don’t like to see are attorneys who are more emotional about the issues of their clients than are their clients,” Borack said. “It takes a lot of self-awareness to be in a family law practice, and not everybody can do it.”
Veteran family law attorney Deborah Eldridge said that while she doesn’t agree with every Borack ruling, she appreciates the judge’s focus on finding the best outcome for children and her consistency in style and decisions.
“It’s something you can count on,” Eldridge said. “It makes a huge difference in how I counsel my clients.”
Borack said she strives to make those who appear in front of her feel like they were heard, even if they don’t prevail.
“It’s important to give people in those kinds of hard situations the opportunity to feel that everything was done that could be done, especially when it comes to people’s relationships with their children,” she said. “And that sense that I felt so strongly as an attorney is something that has given me a lot of guidance as a family law judge.”
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