I disagree that he does not read the papers. He is very well prepared and writes surprisingly complete and well-reasoned opinions/decisions. Very courteous but very smart and he does know what is going on. Excellent trial judge. Clerk is very good, too - really keeps courtroom in order and expidites trials.
I have been a lawyer for a long time (40+ years) and he is one of the best judges I have appeared before
I've had a few cases before Judge Alarcon, and in general have been favorably impressed. The above comment that he does not read the papers seems credible; that he "listens attentively" to arguments may well be a consequence of his unfamiliarity with the briefs. On the bright side, his attentive listening and general demeanor make his courtroom one of the more pleasant to appear in. He may let argument go on for too long, though, and as a result his morning calendar can go on forever.
I have also been favorably impressed with Judge Alarcon. The primary downside to his courtroom is his court clerk, Ms. Mason. While Judge Alarcon is generally courteous if not friendly, she is surprisingly rude, and oversteps her bounds as a clerk. I have observed her grill an attorney on the merits of an ex parte, which is not her place, in my opinion.
Performance of the judge is deficient. While he does listen attentively to arguments, it is evident that he has not read the papers and that his research attorney makes the calls. He does not ask questions or make comments. The judge fails to monitor and control the conduct of his courtroom staff.