Two weeks ago, I witnessed the usual oppressive scene in Department 10: A couple hundred defendants sat in all sorts of poses waiting for directions to approach the bench; some bailiffs carried on, shuffled paper and puttered about the well. A clerk, head down, concentrated on … something. But the eyes of the entire audience were glued toward the front of the court, where an elevated figure spoke in a calm, clear and resonant voice. Everyone paid attention in their own way, particularly the audience. The bailiffs glanced over the man’s shoulder a few times as they went about their ho-hum business, but distantly, so as not to admit anything was special.

Though it was his first day on the bench, Judge Matt Guasco gave no indication by his voice or his body language that he was anything but comfortable there. He was in full control, without an overbearing uneasiness. He was comfortable in his new role. I dare say he was enjoying this moment that turned into an hour, and then into a full day. The audience knew. The bailiffs knew. The clerk knew. Here was a man confident doing the job that he was entrusted with … and happy.

Matthew P. Guasco, our most recent judicial appointee, was one of four sons raised by Mourine Guasco Bruen, a single parent in San Anselmo, California. He graduated from UC Davis in 1980 and then Golden Gate University School of Law in 1984. An adjunct professor at the Pepperdine University professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Guasco enjoys a Martindale-
Hubbell Rating of “AV- Preeminent.” He has worked as a mediator and arbitrator in private practice affiliated with Judicate West, and as a privately-retained dispute resolution educator and trainer in association with the Straus Institute. For more than 20 years, he was an appellate attorney with prominent local firms, including Arnold, Bleuel, laRochelle, Mathews & Zirbel, LLP, Norman, Dowler, LLP, and Engle and Bride. In 1989, he joined Lascher & Lascher as an associate attorney, where he learned the craft of appellate lawyering from Ed and Wendy Lascher. from 1989 to 1993. Post 9/11, in October, 2001, he travelled to China to teach negotiation and mediation theory and practice at the prestigious City University of Hong Kong, School of Law. Several years later, he taught a similar course at Shantou University in the Guangdong Province, China. Over time, teaching became as much a part of Guasco’s professional life as lawyering, mediating and arbitrating.

“When appointed, after the initial shock wore off, I genuinely wondered what it would feel like to take the bench and actually be a judge (as opposed to wanting to be one),” Guasco says about what it felt like to be appointed. “I think I’ve taken to it like a duck to water. Something about the role seems to fit for me, and I greatly enjoy my assignment. My present assignment (Courtroom 10, Traffic) can be hectic at times, and I am always looking for ways to strike the right balance between giving each litigant his or her due consideration while at the same time completing the work efficiently each day.”

If you really want to know what makes Guasco tick, you need to dig deep into his résumé, to his start at the Marin County Public Defender’s Office in San Rafael, where he worked from 1985-1989. “I have a compelling desire to do this right,” Guasco says. “I think my early years as a deputy public defender taught me how to handle the stress of a large criminal calendar. I had to learn effective time management skills in a hurry when they dumped 100 cases on my desk. Eventually, I learned how to lawyer effectively in that environment, and I grew comfortable with the rhythm of managing that tremendous volume of cases.”

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