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News for, and by, our local legal community, curated and created by the Santa Clara County Bar. The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' own and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, its members, its employees, or its governing board.

 

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Signatures submitted for Jerry Brown’s criminal justice initiative

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 23, 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown’s criminal justice initiative may be heading for the fall ballot after proponents on Friday began submitting hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Dana Williamson, a former Brown confidant who is spearheading the campaign, posted a photo online of several cardboard boxes filled with signed petitions and tweeted that the campaign had turned in “nearly a million” signatures. Brown needs about 585,500 valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot, though a court challenge to keep it off the ballot is pending before the California Supreme Court.

Read the whole story at SacBee

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U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

Read the whole story at NY Times

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California Giving Voters a Say on Citizens United

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, May 19, 2016

The California state Assembly passed a bill Thursday to place an advisory measure on the November ballot that — if passed — would task lawmakers with proposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Senate Bill 254, authored by state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, is the latest salvo in California's fight against the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling rolled back a previous ban on corporate spending in federal elections and opened the door to unlimited corporate money going into super PACs to influence elections, candidate selection and policy decisions.
Super PAC funding by corporations and other organizations has since surpassed $1 billion, with more than $600 million of that coming from just 195 donors, according to Allen's office.
"People across the political spectrum are frustrated and want to weigh in about the unchecked power of money in politics," Allen said in a statement. "It is one of the most potentially harmful issues affecting politics and our system of governance, and Californians deserve to have their voices heard on it."

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Facebook Hires Judge Paul S. Grewal for Litigation Role

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, May 19, 2016

Facebook made an interesting hire this week for its in-house legal department, turning not to a competing tech company or to a big law firm to find its recruit, but to the judiciary.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal, who has overseen a number of big intellectual property cases from his perch in San Jose, Calif., is joining Facebook next month to oversee global litigation for the social media giant.

A graduate of MIT and University of Chicago Law School, Judge Grewal joined the bench in 2010, after time spent clerking for judges and practicing intellectual property law at law firms including Day Casebeer Batchelder & Madrid, which later merged into now-defunct Howrey.

Read the whole story at WSJ

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Audit of state bar questions executive salaries, finances

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, May 19, 2016

The California state bar pays its executives more than the governor and has failed to present a clear picture of its finances to the Legislature, according to a state audit released Thursday.

The audit is the latest blow to the nation’s largest state bar, which has also been accused of failing to protect the public from bad lawyers and experienced years of infighting.

According to the audit, the bar’s financial reports have contained errors and lacked transparency in recent years, making it difficult for the Legislature to set appropriate attorney dues.

Read the whole story at OC Register

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Gender bias in Hollywood? U.S. digs deeper to investigate the industry's hiring practices

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 16, 2016

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has begun quietly expanding its investigation into gender discrimination in Hollywood.

A year after the American Civil Liberties Union first urged government agencies to investigate a pattern of gender bias in the hiring of film and TV directors, and seven months after the EEOC began interviewing female directors, the government agency is now widening its circle of interview subjects to include studio executives, producers, agents, actors and male directors, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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FBI Hid Surveillance Devices Around Alameda County Courthouse

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 16, 2016

Federal agents planted hidden microphones and conducted secret video surveillance at Alameda County’s Rene C. Davidson Courthouse for ten months, despite having no court warrant. The surveillance operation was part of an investigation into alleged bid rigging at foreclosed property auctions where thousands of houses and apartment buildings were sold by banks. But defense attorneys for some of the individuals accused say the FBI's surveillance tactics violated their clients' constitutional rights, and everyone else whose conversations might have been captured on tape.

Read the whole story at East Bay Express

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Legislature Backs Reviving Trial Court Reserve Funds

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 16, 2016

The California legislature is quickly moving to overturn a law that's been the bane of presiding judges throughout the state since it was enacted four years ago. Pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown during the state's long-running fiscal crisis, the contentious statute had eliminated the rainy-day funds built up by local trial courts.
Those reserve funds were swept away by the Brown administration in 2013. With that money, the governor created a statewide pot from which courts could draw in an emergency, but prohibited individual courts from saving more than one percent of their unspent dollars each year.
The new bill now moving through the Assembly, AB 2458, would overturn that 2013 law and return to the previous status quo, allowing trial courts to keep a rainy-day fund for expenses over and above the day-to-day operation of the court, such as technology projects and emergencies.
The reserve funds also provide a cushion when the court budget takes a hit in an economic crisis.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Down a justice, John Roberts looks to find compromise, avoid 4-4 ties

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 16, 2016

Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court is in the home stretch of an unexpected term, racing to issue opinions in more than 30 cases, many that were impacted by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

At the center of it all is Chief Justice John Roberts, facing perhaps one of the greatest challenges of his 10-plus year tenure -- navigating a series of issues such as abortion access, health care, affirmative action and immigration with a court comprised of four liberal and four conservative justices.

 

Read the whole story at CNN

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Nonlawyer Ownership of Law Firms Is a Bad Idea, Say Bar Groups

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 16, 2016

Should non-lawyers be allowed to own stakes in law firms? A resounding “no” is the opinion of many state bar association leaders.

An American Bar Association commission is once again studying the issue and sought input from the wider legal world. Those who favor lifting the restriction say the changewould expand consumers’ access to legal services, spur innovation and reduce the cost of legal help.

But resistance to the idea remains fierce among many state bar groups, judging by comment letters they submitted in response. “There can be no doubt that the public interest and integrity of the profession is best served when lawyers are owners of law firms,” wrote the New Jersey State Bar Association’s president, Miles S. Winder.

Read the whole story at WSJ

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