Best Judge (2008)

David O. Carter

Of the dozens of judges in Orange County, Carter stands in a class by himself. Perhaps that's why the former U.S. Marine (battle-tested against communist Vietnamese forces in Khe Sanh), prosecutor, municipal judge and Superior Court judge now serves as a federal judge sitting in the Ronald Reagan Courthouse in Santa Ana. There really isn't any other judge like Carter. He's tough on crime and bad lawyering. Sit in his courtroom, fittingly plush and patriotic, and you'll observe a man, grandfatherly in tone, who could treat defendants like items on a conveyor belt, but instead displays genuine interest in helping folks return to society as good citizens. He's no legal slouch, either. It's not a coincidence that Southern California's most complex criminal cases—the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia trials, for example—land in his courtroom.

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