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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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August 5 Digest

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 8, 2016

Court upholds dismissal of 'comfort women' memorial lawsuit

A federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court ruling that threw out a lawsuit challenging a memorial in Southern California for women who were used as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II. A judge two years ago decided plaintiffs did not prove their claim that they suffered tangible harm from the placement of the "Comfort Women" statue in Glendale Central Park. — The Associated Press


Federal judge is fed up with verbose lawyers and their bloated briefs

Judge Alex Kozinski, who serves on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has had enough of “sly lawyers” who flout court rules with their verbosity. In a mundane order from the courtThursday giving a California state prosecutor permission to file an overly long brief, Kozinski dissented and said he would not read the additional 14 pages. By Maura Dolan — Los Angeles Times


LA court's avatar cuts wait times at counter

At first blush, a cartoon character seems an unlikely remedy to combat lines to pay traffic tickets at courthouses in a metropolis of 10 million people speaking more than 300 languages — lines that often stretched outside the courthouses and took more than three hours to get through. But along came Gina, a virtual traffic assistant on the Los Angeles Superior Court's website. By Matt Reynolds — Courthouse News Service

 

Why the courts can’t save LGBT Americans from discrimination

Some United States judges would like to protect transgender kids from discrimination at school. Some would like to prevent women from being fired because they marry a woman, or men from being mocked at work because they express an interest in other men. By Emma Green — The Atlantic

 

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Santa Clara County Court's Response to SCPEA's Statement on Family Justice Center

Posted By Administration, Friday, August 5, 2016

SAN JOSÉ, California (August 5, 2016): The Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara issues the following statement:

 

“The Family Justice Center will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and help local families and those with serious mental health and substance abuse issues.  It’s unfortunate that it is being used to justify attempts to shut down the Court.

 

The Family Justice Center is owned by the State of California and its funding has no direct relationship with employee wages.

 

We are saddened by these efforts to portray the Family Justice Center as a choice between building materials and wages, especially since the Court’s last, best final offer would give a 9.5% net wage increase to employees.”

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August 4 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 4, 2016

Alameda County settles suit over ‘humiliating’ conditions for women at Santa Rita Jail

Santa Rita Jail in Dublin will provide female inmates with basic amenities such as trash bags and menstrual pads and improve training for deputies after four women plaintiffs reached a $130,000 settlement Monday with Alameda County. The plaintiffs — Anne Weills, Tova Fry, Alyssa Eisenberg and Mollie Costello — sued the county, claiming that sheriff’s deputies violated their civil rights. By Matt Beagle — KQED


Walnut Creek attorney disbarred, allegedly failed to prepare client's will

Tina Tran, an attorney who practices in Walnut Creek, was disbarred March 18 after being charged with five violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Business and Professions Code. In the official Supreme Court document, it explained that Tran failed to participate, either in person or through counsel; therefore, a default admission of guilt was accepted. By Kerry Goff — Northern California Record


Texas agrees to soften voter ID law after court order

An agreement reached Wednesday would weaken Texas’ strict voter identification law and allow residents to cast ballots in November’s election even if they have none of the seven identifying documents that the law recognizes. The accord, filed with the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi, followed a July 20 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that the Texas law violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. By Michael Wines — The New York Times


Supreme Court blocks transgender victory on bathrooms

The Supreme Court sided Wednesday with a Virginia school board opposed to the Obama administration's directive that transgender students be allowed their choice of public bathrooms. The justices blocked a federal appeals court ruling against the Gloucester County School Board while they consider whether to hear the case. By Richard Wolf— USA Today



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August 3 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 4, 2016

Should the DMV suspend licenses of people too poor to pay fines?

Advocates for the poor are demanding that the California Department of Motor Vehicles stop suspending the driver licenses of people who fail to pay traffic fines or appear in court. Monday’s letter from Bay Area Legal Aid, the ACLU of Northern California, Western Center on Law and Poverty and others alleges that the DMV lacks the authority to suspend licenses at the request of court officials. By Jim Miller — The Sacramento Bee

  

A deputy public defender is suing a veteran prosecutor who allegedly orchestrated a retaliation-driven smear campaign against the plaintiff after she became romantically involved with the defendant's estranged husband. Deputy Public Defender Christina Behle's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Friday against Deputy District Attorney Lisa Tanner, seeking unspecified damages. — City News Service

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional – and the only chance at fixing it is to punt the issue to the already-divided General Assembly. The top court released its ruling Tuesday that said Delaware's current capital punishment statute violates the U.S. Constitution by giving judges, and not juries, the final say to impose a death sentence. By Jessica Masulli Reyes — The News Journal


A Clark County district judge on Tuesday overturned the contempt finding against Zohra Bakhtary, a deputy public defender who was handcuffed in court on the orders of Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen. Bakhtary, who moved to Las Vegas as a teenage refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan, later said she was relieved to have the controversial hearing behind her, but the “shock” of being handcuffed in court was something she will never forget. By David Ferrara — Las Vegas Review-Journal


Factions are again forming in the battle over the American Bar Association’s bar-passage standard for law schools, with diversity and consumer advocates at odds over a proposal to strengthen the rule. The proposal now under consideration by the ABA would jeopardize the accreditation of many schools with large numbers of minority students and would discourage schools from admitting them, according to diversity advocates and the deans of all six law schools housed at historically black colleges and universities. By Karen Sloan — ABA Journal

Canada will change the way it fills vacancies on its top court, letting qualified lawyers and judges nominate themselves for Supreme Court openings and using a nonpartisan advisory board to recommend candidates, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday. There is a looming vacancy on the nine-member Supreme Court, with Justice Thomas Cromwell announcing he will retire in September, giving Trudeau his first chance to appoint a member of the court since becoming prime minister last November. By Ethan Lou — Reuters


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August 2 Digest

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Judge bars secret FBI recordings in alleged bid-rigging plot

Insisting that some degree of privacy survives in an era of technology, a federal judge barred the FBIon Monday from using evidence of conversations that agents secretly recorded outside the San Mateo County Courthouse during an investigation of alleged bid-rigging. “The government has utterly failed to justify a warrantless electronic surveillance program that recorded private conversations spoken in hushed tones by judges, attorneys and court staff” as well as the five targets of the investigation, said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco. By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle


Court finds cement masons union official and attorney retaliated against whistle-blowers

A federal court has found that the leader of a Southern California cement workers union and an attorney for the organization’s trust funds retaliated against two employees who questioned the labor official’s financial practices. Ruling in a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by the U.S. Labor Department, the court ordered Scott Brain, who heads the Cement Masons Union Local 600, and attorney Melissa Cook permanently barred from any position with the trust funds, which pay for retirement and other benefits for the labor group’s members. By Paul Pringle — Los Angeles Times


Santa Clara County's court clerks declare strike

In a move that could bring Santa Clara County's legal system to a near standstill, hundreds of Superior Court clerks and other workers late Monday notified the court that they will go on strikeWednesday. The threatened strike, which would be the court's first in 14 years, caught officials off-guard, giving them only 36 hours to come up with a contingency plan to provide limited staffing for hundreds of crucial services, such as arraignments, bail hearings and requests for domestic violence restraining orders. By Tracey Kaplan — San Jose Mercury News

 

A very different court

The most important lesson from the just completed term of the U.S. Supreme Court is that there are no longer five votes for a conservative result. From 1971, when President Richard M. Nixon had his fourth nominee confirmed for the court, until Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, there were at least five justices appointed by a Republican president and who were ideologically conservative. But no longer. By Erwin Chemerinsky — California Bar Journal


Supreme Court could redefine insider trading law

There are longstanding differences between Boston and New York, like the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Adding a new one, the federal appeals courts in each city have taken different approaches to the type of benefit a tipper must receive in exchange for inside information to make trading on it a violation of the securities laws. By Peter J. Henning — The New York Times

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July 28 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 28, 2016

San Jose Police Honey-Trap Gay Men, Sparking Civil Rights Fight 

At Columbus Park, where San Jose decades ago cleared hundreds of homes beneath the municipal airport’s flight path, jets wing in low enough to rattle the signposts. By day, the poorly kempt 10-acre tract bustles with softball teams. Weekends bring beach volleyball players and horseshoe pitchers. Mostly, it’s left to the tent-dwellers who live among clustered trees and along the adjacent Guadalupe River. by Jennifer Wadsworth  — San Jose Inside

 

PG&E criminal case over safety goes to the jury

Criminal pipeline-safety charges against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. were sent to a federal court jury Wednesday after a defense lawyer, in closing arguments, said the prosecution’s case was based on anti-corporate “sound bites.” Referring to a prosecutor’s assertion Tuesday that PG&E had chosen “profits over safety” when making decisions about gas pipeline inspections, the utility’s lead attorney, Steven Bauer, said, “My reaction to that is, ‘Now we’re gonna prosecute a logo with a slogan.’” By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle


Brock Turner case: Judge Persky ouster battle heats up

The debate over whether to oust Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky over the light jail sentence he gave a former Stanford athlete convicted of sexual assault heated up anew Wednesday, with a new letter from supporters in the legal field and critics announcing the latest petition. A group of 46 professors from leading law schools in California issued the letter opposing the recall of Persky, who sentenced former Stanford student Brock Turner to six months in jail rather than two years in state prison for sexually assaulting an intoxicated unconscious woman. By Tracey Kaplan — San Jose Mercury News


Sex offenders protest their right for travel

Sex offenders from across the country gathered today at a federal court in Oakland to fight against what they say is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Frank Lindsay, a board member of California Reform Sex Offender Laws says local and federal sex offender laws “are banishing (sex offenders) slowly out of society. By Lilia Luciano — KXTV


John Hinckley Jr.’s impending release, more than three decades after his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, serves as a reminder of how a single event can change the face of criminal law. Today, fewer than 1 percent of criminal defendants plead not guilty by reason of insanity like Mr. Hinckley, according to legal experts. By Joe Palazzolo — The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

A current nonequity partner at Sedgwick has accused the firm of systemic discrimination against women in a class action suit filed Tuesday in a California state court. The suit claims that a “male-dominated culture” keeps women from earning equal pay and equal partnership status at Sedgwick.By Roy Strom — Law.com




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July 26 Digest

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 27, 2016

U.S. judges say California's top court is jeopardizing constitutional rights

Two federal judges warned Monday that the California Supreme Court’s practice in certain criminal cases was jeopardizing citizens’ constitutional rights. U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Jay S. Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, and Stephen Reinhardt, who was elevated to the court by President Carter, expressed their frustrations in a ruling that will allow a state prisoner to challenge his detention in federal court. By Maura Dolan — Los Angeles Times


Courthouse steps listening devices not illegal, Hamilton says

A federal judge in Oakland has ruled that government agents didn't violate the Fourth Amendment when they planted audio recording devices outside courthouses in Alameda and Contra Costa counties without a warrant. U.S. District Chief Judge Phyllis Hamilton wrote that while it was "unsettling" for the devices to be planted near courthouse entrances in Oakland and Martinez, it wasn't illegal. By Ross Todd — The Recorder (sub. req.)

See also: ABA Journal


 

Court calls O.C. D.A.'s 'papering' of judge in jailhouse informant fallout legal but disruptive

Appellate justices ruled Monday that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office can disqualify Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals from 46 murder cases, though the justices also said the practice is abusive and disruptive of the court system. The three-member panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal asked the state Supreme Court to revisit its nearly 40-year-old precedent that allows the “blanket papering” of judges, referring to a practice in which a prosecutor or a defense attorney can demand a judge’s removal from a case.By Tony Saavedra — The Orange County Register


New Calif. law says couples can live separately under same roof

A newly signed California law acknowledges the unhappy reality to which many estranged couples can attest: You can share the same address and still be living separately. Under SB1255, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Mondayand effective in January, a married couple’s date of separation will be defined as the date that a complete and final break in the marriage has occurred, even if the couple continue living in the same home. By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle


This attorney wore a Black Lives Matter pin to court — and went to jail for it

The Ohio judge stared at Andrea Burton across the table and told the 30-year-old attorney that there had been complaints about the Black Lives Matter pin she was wearing. He didn’t allow court officials to wear political pins in his courtroom, she recalled him saying, and he asked her to remove it.By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. — The Washington Post


State intends to fight new trial ruling for Adnan Syed of 'Serial'

Maryland's attorney general intends to fight the ruling that granted a new trial for "Serial" podcast subject Adnan Syed, according to a document filed last week in the case. The state formally notified the court of its intentionsThursday and asked that any new trial proceedings be halted as that process plays out. By Justin Fenton — The Baltimore Sun

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July 25 Digest

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 25, 2016

Judge tentatively denies dismissal of Trump U. suit

A federal judge strongly indicated Friday he would allow a lawsuit to move forward against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by former customers who contend they were defrauded by his defunct real estate program, Trump University. U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel issued a tentative oral ruling from the bench at the start of a hearing in San Diego on a motion to dismiss the case by Trump’s lawyers. The ruling came a day after Trump accepted the GOP nomination. By Greg Moran — San Diego Union-Tribune


State Bar urged to discipline lawyer accused of threatening council president

Two months ago, Encino attorney Wayne Spindler provoked widespread revulsion at Los Angeles City Hall, handing in a public speaker card featuring a series of racially incendiary drawings. The card showed pictures of a burning cross and man hung from a tree — images typically associated with the Ku Klux Klan — and used the N-word to describe City Council President Herb Wesson, who was presiding over that day’s meeting. By David Zahniser — Los Angeles Times


California's governor denies parole to former Manson follower

California Gov. Jerry Brown has denied parole to former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, 66, who is serving a life sentence for her part in the cult's notorious killing spree in Los Angeles in 1969. In April, a California parole panel had recommended that Van Houten — the youngest of the cult leader's so-called family — be granted parole after decades of good behavior in prison, as we reported. By Merrit Kennedy — NPR


D.A.'s office recuses itself from sibling murder case after prosecutor's daughter is ID'd as victim

The Placer County district attorney’s office has recused itself from handling the case of a boy accused of killing his sister because of a “strong emotional connection” to one of its prosecutors — the father of the 13-year-old girl found dead this week inside his family home. Supervising Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Wood’s daughter, Ashley Wood, was found dead by her mother Tuesday in her bedroom at their home in Rocklin, 22 miles from Sacramento. By Veronica Rocha — Los Angeles Times


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July 22 Digest

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 22, 2016

Parole denied for 1991 attempted murder of Superior Court judge

Harry Bodine, 70, of Visalia, was denied parole for the fifth time for the 1991 attempted murder of Tulare County Superior Court Judge Howard Broadman. On May 4, 1991, Bodine entered Judge Broadman’s courtroom carrying a briefcase. By Calley Cederlof — Visalia Times-Delta


Trump lawyers to urge dismissal of university case in U.S. court

A U.S. District judge will hear arguments on Friday over whether to dismiss a 2013 fraud lawsuit against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stemming from his Trump University real-estate seminars. Trump's lawyers will also ask federal judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego to decertify the class action, which would force students to file individual lawsuits rather than pursue their fraud cases together. By Karen Freifeld — Reuters


Man gets six months in prison for hacking hundreds of email accounts, including those of celebrities

A federal judge sentenced a man to six months in federal prison Thursday for hacking into hundreds of Apple and Google accounts and stealing scores of personal photos, including some belonging to celebrities. U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt also issued a $3,000 fine to Andrew Helton, who pleaded guilty to a federal hacking charge in February, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. By Matt Hamilton — Los Angeles Times


Texas rape victim was jailed for fear she would not testify, lawsuit says

A rape victim who was jailed in Texas for nearly a month because prosecutors feared she would not return to testify after having a mental breakdown on the stand has sued the Harris County district attorney’s office, county officials and jail employees. The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, was held in the general population at the county jail — the same place where the rape suspect, Keith Hendricks, was housed. By Daniel Victor — The New York Times


Law firm account held 1MDB funds

As illicit money allegedly flowed from a Malaysian economic development fund to buy luxury real estate and private jets in the U.S., prosecutors say it made a crucial stop: the trust account of a large New York law firm. A series of civil complaints filed Wednesday seeking the forfeiture of more than $1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, lays bare the purported role that a Shearman & Sterling LLP trust account played in a range of multimillion-dollar deals funded with allegedly dirty money. By Sara Randazzo — The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)


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July 21 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 21, 2016

Court ruling could boost cost of California water project

The California Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling Thursday that could add millions of dollars to the cost of the governor's $15.7 billion plan to build two giant water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. At issue is whether California officials must pay landowners to access thousands of acres of private property to conduct preliminary environmental and geological tests for the project. By Sudhin Thanawala — The Associated Press


Big law firms play cameos in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ forfeiture case

Several major law firms handled funds stolen in a billion-dollar global money laundering scheme, according to federal prosecutors—money that was used to finance the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” and pay for real estate, art, a $35 million private jet, and other luxuries. In a civil asset forfeiture case filed in Los Angeles federal district court, prosecutors alleged that more than $3.5 billion was illegally diverted from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, an investment and development company owned by the Malaysian government. By Zoe Tillman — The National Law Journal (sub. req.)


California Supreme Court takes rare move in reviewing Upland medical marijuana battle

Was Upland correct in deciding to delay a citizen-backed initiative until the general election because officials believed it was a tax? Or should the city have held a special election right away to let the residents decide whether to overturn the city’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries with a measure that also proposed a $75,000 fee per dispensary? By Liset Márquez — Inland Valley Daily Bulletin


City asks Supreme Court to review stadium measure

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith sent a letter Wednesday to the California Supreme Court seeking its help in settling the question of whether a two-thirds majority is needed to pass two November ballot initiatives related to a Chargers stadium and downtown convention center annex. He had previously made known his plans to do so and on Wednesday made good on his pledge to get the court to weigh in sooner than later. By Lori Weisberg — San Diego Union-Tribune


California lawyer delivers Sikh prayer at GOP convention

When Harmeet Dhillon first ran for vice chairwoman of the California GOP, rivals whispered that the Indian-born Sikh would slaughter a goat at the lectern. On Tuesday night, Dhillon opened the second night of the Republican National Convention by singing the invocation in Punjabi and then translating it into English. By Seema Mehta — Los Angeles Times


New warning rule for users of generic drugs left in limbo

Five years after the Supreme Court blocked most personal-injury lawsuits against makers of generic drugs, a rule designed to strengthen patient protections have stalled, leaving what consumer groups warn is a safety gap for millions of users. After several delays, the Food and Drug Administration said last year it would to issue a new rule by the end of this month to require generic drug makers to update their warning labels in response to newly revealed risks. By David G. Savage — Los Angeles Times


Lawyer ads pay homage to ‘Better Call Saul’

The show “Better Call Saul” is the story an underdog’s doomed pursuit of an honest career as a lawyer as he gradually succumbs to personal demons and feelings of betrayal by the legal establishment. Lawyers watching AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spin-off, which wrapped up its second season this spring, could look at Saul Goodman’s descent through an ironic lens — viewing his outlaw adventures as a colorful and cautionary tale. By Jacob Gershman — The Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.)


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more Calendar

4/24/2018
How to Draft a Custody Order

4/26/2018
Diversity Happy Hour

5/2/2018
Fourth Annual Law Day Mixer

Recent Recognitions
Steven B. Haley2017 Professional Lawyer of the Year
Golnesa MonazamfarBarrister of the Year 2017

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