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California Judge Indicates Dismissal of Right-to-Die Lawsuit

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 24, 2015

A county judge strongly indicated Friday he will dismiss a lawsuit against the state by a single mom given only months to live and other California right-to-die advocates who want doctors to be allowed to prescribe fatal medication for terminally ill people who want it.

During a hearing, San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack said his court was not the place for the issue but did not formally rule, saying he would issue a written decision Monday.

"You're asking this court to make new law," Pollack said. "If new law is made it should be by the Legislature or by a ballot measure."

The judge said the parties probably could get "new law" from a higher court "but you can't get it from a lower level Superior Court judge like me.'"

Attorneys on both sides agreed that dismissal was certain.

"This is something that needs to be addressed not by the court but is more appropriate for the Legislature," said Darin Wessel, among district attorney teams from various counties that were part of the effort to seek dismissal.

The lawsuit was brought against the state by Christy O'Donnell, two other terminally ill Californians and a San Diego doctor. The plaintiffs are backed by Compassion and Choices, an advocacy group that has supported legislative efforts and similar lawsuits in various states.

Some advocates say they thought the nationally publicized case of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall, might usher in a wave of state laws allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medications. But no states have passed right-to-die legislation since Maynard's death in 2014, and efforts have been defeated or stalled in several.

Read the whole story at ABC News

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State Bar Names New Executive Director

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 24, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO, July 23, 2015 – The Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California has named Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, dean emerita of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, as its next executive director/chief executive officer.  She will assume her responsibilities on Sept. 1.

“I am excited to welcome Elizabeth Parker as the State Bar’s next executive director/CEO. She has stellar credentials – having successfully led many large complex organizations – and I am confident she will be highly regarded by both our stakeholders and employees. She will have an immediate impact in helping increase our focus on public protection, improving the delivery of legal services and enhancing our accountability,” said State Bar President Craig Holden.

As executive director and CEO, Parker will answer to the Board of Trustees and carry out its policies. The executive director leads a senior management team responsible for the numerous programs of the State Bar of California.

Parker served as dean of the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento for ten years. Previously she was general counsel to the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency and was the principal deputy legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State. She has worked at major national law firms and also spent a decade litigating federal class action lawsuits with legal services and civil rights organizations after graduating from the University of Michigan and its law school. She has argued successfully twice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“For one committed to the importance of our legal system, it would be hard to imagine a more professionally fulfilling opportunity than serving as the administrative leader of the nation’s largest, most forward-looking professional bar organization,” Parker said.  “I look forward to joining the new leadership team which the Board of Trustees is creating and to working with the bar’s dedicated staff.”

Current Acting and Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley has announced his intention to depart the State Bar at the end of September. “I am pleased to see the board line up such a stellar team to lead the organization. I am most pleased to have served the State Bar for many years and to now leave for greener pastures.”

President Holden added: “Bob is like an encyclopedia and has been an invaluable resource for many years. We cannot thank him enough for his decades of public service.” 

Holden further noted that a new chief operations officer position will replace the position of deputy executive director upon Hawley’s departure in September. The COO position is on contract to the board, will answer to the executive director and will provide operations oversight and support for the organization, including IT, budget, personnel, facilities, and other operational areas.

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The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, protecting the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. Membership now stands at about a quarter million.

source: State Bar of California

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California drought: High court hands setback to water conservation fight

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rejecting the pleas of California officials worried about water conservation, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday left intact a lower court ruling that makes it tougher for cities and water districts to impose punishing higher rates on water wasters.

In its weekly closed-door conference, the Supreme Court refused to soften the statewide impact of an April appeals court ruling that found the city of San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates -- common in the Bay Area and elsewhere in California -- were unconstitutional because they charged more for water than it cost the city to provide the service.

The appeals court, in finding the city's approach violated voter-approved Proposition 218's restrictions on such fees, "published" the decision, giving it legal weight across the state and prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to warn it placed a "straitjacket" on his mandates to lower water use. 

Read the whole story at Mercury News

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California court decision means Cosby could be deposed again

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 23, 2015

The California Supreme Court has turned down Bill Cosby’s challenge to a sexual assault lawsuit against him, meaning the suit can go forward and Cosby could be questioned under oath for the first time in years — by super-aggressive, feminist lawyer Gloria Allred.

“We believe we have a right to take his deposition in this civil lawsuit. We are going to tomorrow provide him with dates in August when we are available to do that,” Allred told KNX Newsradio on Wednesday. “We are willing to even go to Massachusetts where allegedly he resides and take it.”

Judith Huth filed a civil lawsuit late last year against Cosby, who she claimed molested her in 1974 in a bedroom at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. She was 15 at the time. Cosby’s attorneys submitted a request for review last month claiming the comedian should not have been publicly named in the suit, citing a California law on childhood sexual cases, according to CNN.

In the lawsuit, Huth claimed that she and a friend, who was 16 at the time, had met Cosby on a film set in Los Angeles. The next weekend, the suit said, he invited them to his tennis club, where he gave them alcohol, and then took them to the Playboy mansion, The Washington Post reported late last year.

Read the whole story at Washington Post

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Report highlights lack of LGBT California judges

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 23, 2015

A new report is highlighting a fact often overlooked about the state's judiciary – LGBT judges are largely missing from the state and federal bench in California.

There is only one gay judge out of 62 federal district court judges in California and just three openly LGBT federal magistrate judges among the 65 in the state.

Of the state's 58 counties, 45 have no self-identified LGBT judges on the local state superior court.

"In other words, the LGBT community is not represented in the judiciary in 78 percent of the counties in California," states the "first in the nation survey" released July 14 by the California LGBT Bar Coalition.

Representatives of LGBT bar associations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, and Sacramento compiled the report, written in the style of a law journal article, in an effort to draw far more public scrutiny to the need to appoint or elect LGBT judges in the Golden State.

"I think a lot of people do not know, or they have a false impression there is LGBT diversity on the bench. There is not," said attorney Denise Bergin, who co-chairs the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom's judiciary committee.

Bergin, who did not write the report, added, "I think there has been a lack of energy around this from the LGBT community, and that is something that needs to change."

Titled "The New Frontier of LGBT Equality: The California State and Federal Judiciary," the 15-page document concludes that "LGBTs are just treading water" when it comes to being appointed or elected to serve on state and federal courts in the state.

The report highlights the fact there has never been an out justice on the California Supreme Court and that the number of LGBT state judges remained the same at 41 between 2013 and 2014, the most recent year for which there is data on the demographic makeup of the state bench.

As the report notes, "even with recent appointments and election victories, the percentage of openly LGBT sitting California judges and justices still remains at a disappointing 2.4 percent."

"The report describes a real problem with non-representation on the bench of LGBT people, particularly the B and T part of that. Bisexual and transgender people are not represented," said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski, the sole transgender judge in the state who won election to the bench in 2010.

Chris Burdick, an out lesbian who is the Santa Clara County Bar Association's executive director and general counsel, said she welcomes the LGBT legal groups' effort to highlight the issue. But she questioned some of the report's conclusions.

"I think it is good to get this information out so that people understand what progress has been made and what progress still needs to be made," Burdick said. "I think it may be just a tad misleading. The numbers are accurate but the overall conclusion falls just a little short. It is true, historically, the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender attorneys on the bench has been woeful. But there has been, in the last five years, significant effort to increase those numbers."

Read the whole story at Bay Area Reporter 

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Governor Appoints Two Irell Partners, 17 Others to State Bench

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 17, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday appointed 19 trial court judges, including three in the Bay Area.

Former University of San Francisco School of Law dean Jeffrey Brand will be joining the bench in Alameda County. It's the second Brown appointment for Brand, who once served as an administrative law judge for the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Thomas Nixon was also named a judge on the Alameda County Superior Court. Nixon has been a commissioner for the court since 2002.

In San Mateo County, Jeffrey Finigan will leave his job as deputy district attorney to become a judge in the superior court. Finigan was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of California from 2004 to 2011, when he left to work as investigative counsel at the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. He has been with the San Mateo DA's office since 2012.

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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Cat custody battle plays out in Sonoma County courtroom

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 16, 2015

One calls him David. The other says his name is Whiley.

Two women are battling in a Sonoma County court over which of them is the rightful owner of a beloved tuxedo cat.

The black and white feline is the subject of a lawsuit from Tiffany Mestas of Fairfield.

The 35-year-old veterinary technician claims the cat went missing seven years ago and was illegally adopted by Therese Weczorek of Kenwood. When Mestas tracked the cat through an identification chip, the retired nurse wouldn’t hand him over.

“I raised him since he was a baby,” Mestas said Wednesday, of the cat she named David, before a court hearing. “He is very important to me.”

Weczorek, 68, who stood a few feet away with her boyfriend, declined to comment. Her lawyer said she adopted the cat in good faith from what she believed was a reputable animal rescue center in 2010 and didn’t find out about the chip until last year. In fact, the center where Weczorek adopted the cat turned out to be an unlicensed facility.

She has declined a $1,000 reward offered by Mestas to give back the cat, whom she calls Whiley, said one of her attorneys, Leo Bartolotta.

“This is her cat,” he said. “She’s had it a long time. It’s part of her family and her life.”

 Read the whole story at The Press Democrat

 

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Fresno County Cuts Breaking Public Defense System

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 16, 2015

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - Fresno County refuses to fix its broken public defense system, where public defenders juggle hundreds of cases a year and can't provide indigent clients meaningful representation, the ACLU says in state court.

"Our adversarial criminal justice system rests on the premise that the prosecution and defense each thoroughly investigate and vigorously argue the facts and the law before a neutral fact-finder, who is then able to find truth and do justice," the American Civil Liberties Union says in a complaint filed on behalf of three county residents against the county, California and Gov. Jerry Brown.

"But in Fresno County, persons accused of a crime who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer are effectively tried within a system where the prosecutors determine the outcome with little or no input or challenge from the defense," the complaint states.

The imbalance in the system is the result of failures by the county and state to satisfy their constitutional obligation to provide meaningful and effective representation to all indigent persons accused of a crime, the complaint says, alleging violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

 ACLU attorney Novella Coleman told Courthouse News that Fresno County "consistently maintains that its public defense system has always satisfied the requirements of the Constitution, but the county is concentrating on the physical presence of the public defender at the hearings."

"The county's stance doesn't actually acknowledge that there are certain requirements that constitute adequate representation," Coleman said.

 A typical attorney with the Fresno County Public Defender's Office handles an average of 418 felony cases per year, even though national standards set the maximum caseload for felony cases at 150 per attorney, the ACLU says.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Bill seeks to address State Bar enforcement against bad lawyers, finance issues

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Nobody was happy, but members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a State Bar dues bill Tuesday with amendments intended to address ongoing concerns about the organization’s inconsistent enforcement against bad lawyers and the ability to manage its own finances.

Senate Bill 387 by Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Santa Barbara would allow the State Bar of California to charge annual dues of up to $390 in 2016, the same rate as this year. A slew of new amendments also address concerns about a year of turmoil at the agency that regulates more than 250,000 lawyers in the state.

First, in November 2014, the State Bar terminated executive director Joe Dunn. He turned around and filed a lawsuit alleging the bar fired him for filing whistleblower complaints alleging financial improprieties. The two sides are in now in arbitration. Then, last month, a critical state audit blasted the State Bar for inconsistent discipline and shoddy finances.

“I don’t know that I’m pleased to present (Senate Bill 387) ... but we believe this measure will tighten the bar and hold it more accountable,” Jackson said to committee members.

If approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill would authorize the bar to collect dues and continue operations through 2016. Senate Bill 387 also includes many recommendations by the State Auditor, including a better definition of what constitutes the bar ”backlog” of discipline cases.

Read the whole story at Sacramento Business Journal

 

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Silicon Valley company's software starting to take divorces, other court disputes online

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 13, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Imagine working out a divorce without hiring an attorney or stepping into court or disputing the tax assessment on your home completely online.

A Silicon Valley company is starting to make both possibilities a reality with software that experts say represents the next wave of technology in which the law is turned into computer code that can solve legal battles without the need for a judge or attorney.

"We're not quite at the Google car stage in law, but there are no conceptual or technical barriers to what we're talking about," said Oliver Goodenough, director of the Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School, referring to Google's self-driving car.

The computer programs, at least initially, have the ability to relieve overburdened courts of small claims cases, traffic fines and some family law matters. But Goodenough and other experts envision a future in which even more complicated disputes are resolved online, and they say San Jose, California-based Modria has gone far in developing software to realize that.

"There is a version of the future when computers get so good that we trust them to play this role in our society, and it lets us get justice to more people because it's cheaper and more transparent," said Colin Rule, Modria's co-founder.

Officials in Ohio are using Modria's software to resolve disputes over tax assessments and keep them out of court, and a New York-based arbitration association has deployed it to settle medical claims arising from certain types of car crashes.

Read the whole story at Associated Press

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more Calendar

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4/26/2018
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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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