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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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California 'shaken baby' case in vanguard of new legal challenges

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

After 17 years in prison for an infant's death at her San Diego daycare center, Suzanne Johnson is in the forefront of legal challenges to "shaken baby syndrome" as courts catch up with medical advances in understanding the mechanisms of childhood brain trauma.

A judge last month agreed Johnson deserved to be considered for a new trial in a case that hinged on the syndrome, a 1970s-era forensic diagnosis long accepted as sufficient to convict caretakers accused of harming and even killing babies.

Appeals such as Johnson's are occurring with greater frequency at both the federal and state level, said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a Northwestern University law professor who wrote a book on the subject. But legal bids to reverse guilty verdicts are long and grueling, the outcome far from guaranteed, Tuerkheimer said.

"Criminal convictions are final, and science moves on," she said.

Read the whole story at Reuters

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'Happy Birthday' lawsuit: Tentative settlement puts song in public domain

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Warner Music Group and others who fought to hold the copyright on "Happy Birthday to You" have given up their claims to the popular song, according to the terms of a proposed settlement deal that signals the end of a contentious three-year dispute.

The proposed deal, which was disclosed Monday in court filings, offers up to $14 million for those who paid licensing fees to use the song.

The lawyers who battled Warner Music and its publishing arm, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., could also see a windfall. In court papers, attorneys said they planned to ask a federal judge for about $4.6 million to cover their legal costs.

The settlement is tentative pending approval by U.S. District Judge George H. King.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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California Courts Fight Over Administration

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A fundamental philosophical difference over how California courts should operate came to a head in San Francisco on Monday. The line of contention runs between those who would seek to centralize parts of the vast court system and those who defend the independence of California's local trial courts.

The Commission on the Future of the California Court System was set up last year by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. She appointed roughly 50 voting members made up of judges, clerks and lawyers, and named Supreme Court Justice Carol Corrigan as the chair.

Early proposals coming out the commission have raised strong opposition from judges and labor unions over what they see as the outline of another incursion into local court operations by a centralized bureaucracy, a notion rejected by Corrigan.

"If you looked at a movie about a courtroom in the old west or in 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' you would recognize that courtroom as pretty similar to what we do most days in California," she said. "We're now in the 21st century. It's legitimate to ask, 'What can we do better?' Then we will do nothing more than give a report to the chief justice and it's up to her to decide what, if any, ideas have merit and what will she carry forward."

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Texas antiabortion activists used fraud, judge in S.F. rules

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A federal judge in San Francisco has dealt another blow to antiabortion activists who infiltrated national meetings of abortion providers, saying they used fraud to gain access, failed to uncover any illegal activity and are prohibited from making public any of the recordings or other information they obtained.

David Daleiden and his colleagues at the Center for Medical Progress, posing as executives of a fetal research company, repeatedly tried to trap members of the National Abortion Federation into expressing interest in illegally selling fetal tissue, U.S. District Judge William Orrick said late Friday in an injunction against Daleiden’s group. Orrick said members of the group, in conversations they secretly recorded, used words like “profit” and “top dollar” and quoted abortion providers as expressing interest — but never found a single instance of anyone agreeing to sell fetal tissue for profit.

Despite Daleiden’s claims that he uncovered lawbreaking, the judge said, “there is no such evidence in (the) recordings,” but considerable evidence of deception by the antiabortion group.

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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Nominate an Unsung Hero

Posted By Paula Collis, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Each year the Diversity Committee of the Santa Clara County Bar Association presents the Unsung Heroes Awards.

The Diversity Committee invites interested individuals to submit nominations for individuals or organizations deserving this recognition. If you know of an individual or organization who should be considered for such an honor, please review the criteria and submit an online nomination on or before Friday, March 18, 2016.

The 2016 Unsung Heroes Awards will be presented at the Annual Reception on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 5:30 p.m., at the Fallon House Gardens, 175 W. St. John Street, San Jose, CA. There is no charge to attend this reception. 

Last year’s reception was a huge success, as over 50 judges and attorneys came together to honor Katie Zoglin, Senior Deputy, City Attorney and Sallie Kim, Partner, GCA Law Partners, LLP. 

If you have any questions, please contact Irene Cortez, at (408) 975-2114 or email irenec@sccba.com.

SUBMIT A NOMINATION →

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Judge is censured for failing to share military benefits with his ex-wife

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 8, 2016

Even a judge can’t get away with keeping community property from an ex-wife.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge John A. Trice received a public censure Thursday for failing to share his military benefits with his former wife as stipulated in their 1990 divorce agreement, the California Commission on Judicial Performance announced.

Public censure is considered a serious form of discipline, just short of removal from the bench.

The state watchdog commission also faulted Trice for failing to disclose in court that he had a close personal relationship with a criminal defense lawyer who frequently appeared before him, for sending a supervisory judge a disparaging email and displaying “intemperate conduct” toward a court administrator.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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Majorie Knoller’s conviction upheld in S.F. dog-mauling case

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 8, 2016

A federal appeals court has upheld the murder conviction of a former San Francisco attorney who allowed her unmuzzled dog to fatally maul a neighbor in an apartment corridor 15 years ago.

The judge at Marjorie Knoller’s trial went too far by threatening to jail Knoller’s lawyer if she continued to raise objections during the prosecutor’s closing arguments, but state courts reasonably concluded the error had no impact on the jury’s verdict, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Knoller had been walking her dog Bane, a 140-pound Presa Canario, on the roof of the Pacific Heights apartment building in January 2001 and had returned with him to the corridor when he bolted away and attacked Diane Whipple, a neighbor who was carrying groceries to her apartment. The dog’s 100-pound mate, Hera, charged out of Knoller’s apartment and may have joined the attack.

Whipple, 33, the lacrosse coach at St. Mary’s College, bled to death from 77 wounds.

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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Chemerinsky: 'Potential blockbuster' rulings expected in June

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 8, 2016

The Supreme Court’s docket for October Term 2015 is now set. Absent extraordinary circumstances, all cases taken between now and the end of June will not be heard until next fall. The docket for this term appeared to be unusually small until the court granted review in eight additional cases on Friday, Jan.15, and then took four more cases on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Once more this year, it is a docket filled with potential blockbuster decisions that promise to have an enormous effect on the law and on people’s lives.

In December and January, the court heard oral arguments in cases that could be hugely important in areas such as how election districts are drawn (Evenwel v. Abbott) when universities may engage in affirmative action (Fisher v. University of Texas, Austin) and whether it violates the First Amendment rights of non-union members to require that they pay the share of union dues that support collective bargaining (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association).

The more recently granted cases on the upcoming argument calendars promise to be at least as important and as controversial.

Read the whole story at ABA Journal

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Chief Justice John Roberts seeks to limit role of courts

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 4, 2016

WASHINGTON — By siding with the Supreme Court's liberal wing on two major cases last week, Chief Justice John Roberts lent credence to conservatives' concerns that they can't count on his vote.

But as he moves into his second decade as the nation's 17th chief justice, Roberts is proving to be strikingly consistent in one area that conservatives applaud. He wants to close the courthouse doors to challengers with tenuous legal grounds or claims, thereby limiting the role of the judicial branch he leads.

Read the whole story at USA Today

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Judicial panel approves downtown courthouse plan

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 4, 2016

A state judicial committee on Wednesday unanimously recommended plans presented for a new 53-courtroom courthouse in downtown Sacramento in a crucial step toward replacing Sacramento Superior Court’s aging Ninth Street building.

Officials returning from the Judicial Council of California’s San Francisco offices confirmed the news in an email Wednesday afternoon, calling the panel’s decision “a great victory.”

What exactly that means for a new courthouse project remains unclear. Council officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin Culhane, the court’s presiding judge, is expected to elaborate Thursday on the committee’s recommendation and what it means for the Superior Court’s plans.

Read the whole story at SacBee

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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
Hon. Julie A. Emede2017 Outstanding Jurist of the Year
Hon. Edward J. Davila2017 Diversity of the Year

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