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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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State Supreme Court to weigh Gov. Brown's prison release initiative

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 5, 2016

California's highest court is slated to hear arguments Thursday on whether Gov. Jerry Brown may ask voters in November to allow an early release from prison for some who were convicted of nonviolent crimes.

The California Supreme Court hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. PDT, can be watched live on the court's website.

Brown's proposal, unveiled in late January as part of a plan to reduce the prison population, was amended into an existing proposed initiative that dealt solely with juvenile justice.

The California District Attorneys Assn., arguing that Brown's proposals resulted in an "entire rewrite" of the original measure, persuaded a Sacramento judge in February to prevent the proposal from being circulated for voter signatures.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Gets 12-Year Prison Sentence

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sheldon Silver, who rose from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to become one of the state’s most powerful and feared politicians as speaker of the New York Assembly, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in prison in a case that came to symbolize Albany’s culture of graft.The conviction of Mr. Silver, 72, served as a capstone to a campaign against public corruption by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, which has led to more than a dozen state lawmakers’ being convicted or pleading guilty.

Read the whole story at NY Times

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Lawyer’s home now a farm animal sanctuary

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Just over a year ago, John Fiske believed he was doing right by cows and the planet by eating only grass-fed beef.

Then the 32-year-old attorney had a “light bulb moment” and decided the toll that animal agriculture takes on animals and the environment is too high. Since then, he has been putting his money where his heart is.

Over the past year, the now-vegetarian rancher has transformed his 2.5-acre Elfin Forest property into a sanctuary for rescued animals, including four horses, a crippled pig, two hens, a German shepherd and, soon, a few goats. On May 15, Fiske will host the grand opening of his San Diego Farm Animal Rescue.

Read the whole story at San Diego Union-Tribune

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Fresno Ducks Lawyer's Excessive Force Claim

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fresno County dodged excessive force and unlawful arrest liability in a case where an officer on courthouse detail arrested an attorney who refused to hand over a child's toy wrench that was found in the purse of his client's family member.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stanley Boone on Monday ruled in favor of Fresno County on attorney Richard Berman's municipal liability claims for excessive force and unlawful arrest, finding that Berman did not show that the county failed to properly train or supervise its deputies.
The case stems from an incident between Berman, who was 65 years old at the time, and Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Tracy Sink in March 2012 at the Fresno County Criminal Courthouse.
According to Berman, he and a client were going through a security checkpoint at the courthouse when Sink detected a child's plastic wrench in the purse of a family member of Berman's client.
Sink said that the toy was not allowed in the courthouse and told the woman to throw it out, Berman says.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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State Bar Says Complaint Backlog at Seven-Year Low

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The backlog of disciplinary complaints against California attorneys is at its lowest level since 2009, the State Bar reported Friday.

The State Bar’s “Annual Discipline Report,” released Friday, shows that the number of complaints that had been pending for more than six months was 1,500 as of the end of last year. The comparable figure at the end of 2014 was 1,988.

In a transmittal letter accompanying the report, which is mandated by the State Bar Act, Executive Director Elizabeth R. Parker said the organization has been working diligently to whittle down the backlog and to implement reforms proposed in a state audit. Auditors said last year that in its effort to shorten the backlog, the State Bar rushed disciplinary cases, was soft on offending attorneys and spent $50 million over-budget to renovate its building in Los Angeles.

Parker said the number of attorneys suspended or disbarred has increased, even though complaints are down overall, and said the State Bar’s “new leadership” is committed to “transparency, accountability, and excellence.”

 

Read the whole story at Metnews

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Bill to ease California's prostitution penalties passes Senate

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

California senators passed a bill Monday to repeal mandatory jail times and driver's license restrictions on people arrested for prostitution. 

"Mandatory minimum jail terms for prostitution are an expensive and highly-flawed policy, and should not be forced upon the victims of human trafficking," Sen. Bill Monning, a Carmel Democrat, said on the Senate Floor Monday before his colleagues voted to approve hisSB 1129.

Read the whole story at ABC 10

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Board panel hears pros and cons of dividing State Bar roles

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Discussions about the future of the State Bar ramped up last month, with a bar task force receiving input from dozens of witnesses, including a proposal to separate the bar into two organizations – one to handle regulatory matters and one to house “trade association” functions.

Meanwhile, members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee indicated they want to see significant reforms of the agency this year as part of their oversight of the State Bar.

However, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye cautioned against any hurried decisions for the organization, which is an arm of the California Supreme Court.

 

Read the whole story at California Bar Journal

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Federal Judge Orders Woman to Unlock iPhone Using Her Fingerprint

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The case of a California woman who was ordered to unlock an iPhone using her fingerprint is raising questions about whether compelling a person to unlock their smartphone could infringe on their right against self-incrimination.

A warrant was issued in February ordering Paytsar Bkhchadzhyan to unlock an iPhone seized from a Glendale, California, residence. She later pleaded no contest to a felony count of identity theft, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While much of the public discussion over encryption has focused on four to six digit passcodes, the California case is raising the question of whether a person's biometric markers -- such as a fingerprint or iris -- could be used to help authorities crack into a device.

Read the whole story at ABC News

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Supreme Court Justice Breyer: California embodies the death penalty’s ‘fundamental defects’

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

California is not the first state that springs to mind when considering the country’s death penalty, perhaps owing to how infrequently inmates there are executed. The last execution in California took place in 2006, when the state executed 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen for three counts of first-degree murder. Even before the current decade-long hiatus — prompted by concerns over lethal injection protocols — it was still rare for the state to put someone to death. Since 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, California has executed 13 of its death row inmates; Texas, far and away the country’s most active death-penalty state, executed 13 inmates last year alone.

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Stricter Rules for Voter IDs Reshape Races

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In a state where everything is big, the 23rd Congressional District that hugs the border with Mexico is a monster: eight and a half hours by car across a stretch of land bigger than any state east of the Mississippi. In 2014, Representative Pete Gallego logged more than 70,000 miles there in his white Chevy Tahoe, campaigning for re-election to the House — and lost by a bare 2,422 votes.

So in his bid this year to retake the seat, Mr. Gallego, a Democrat, has made a crucial adjustment to his strategy. “We’re asking people if they have a driver’s license,” he said. “We’re having those basic conversations about IDs at the front end, right at our first meeting with voters.”

Since their inception a decade ago, voter identification laws have been the focus of fierce political and social debate. Proponents, largely Republican, argue that the regulations are essential tools to combat election fraud, while critics contend that they are mainly intended to suppress turnout of Democratic-leaning constituencies like minorities and students.

Read the whole story at NY Times

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more Calendar

4/26/2018
Diversity Happy Hour

5/2/2018
Fourth Annual Law Day Mixer

5/3/2018
How the DA Office's Real Estate Fraud Unit Prosecutes and Can Clear Title on Forged Instrument Cases

Recent Recognitions
Steven B. Haley2017 Professional Lawyer of the Year
Hon. Julie A. Emede2017 Outstanding Jurist of the Year

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