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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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Barry Bonds’s Obstruction-of-Justice Conviction Overturned

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 23, 2015

Barry Bonds’s obstruction-of-justice conviction was reversed Wednesday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled his meandering answer before a grand jury in 2003 wasn’t material to the government’s investigation into steroids distribution.

Bonds, baseball’s career home-run leader, was indicted in 2007 for his testimony four years earlier before the grand jury investigating the illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Following a trial that opened in March 2011, a jury deadlocked on three counts charging Bonds with making false statements when he denied receiving steroids and human growth hormone from trainerGreg Anderson and denied receiving injections from Anderson or his associates.

Read the whole story at The Wall Street Journal

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The Meme-Worthy Judge of Silicon Valley’s Titans

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IN 2011, DURING a tense court hearing between two of the world’s biggest gadget makers—Apple had brought a suit against Samsung, alleging the South Korean company had “slavishly” copied its iPhone and iPad to produce its Samsung Galaxy line of products—Judge Lucy Koh held up both companies’ tablets above her head and asked a Samsung lawyer, Kathleen Sullivan, if she could tell which one was which.

After an uncomfortable beat, Sullivan—who also happens to be a former Stanford Law School dean—responded, “Not at this distance, your honor.” She stood at a podium about 10 feet away.

Just another day in Judge Koh’s courtroom. In Silicon Valley, new tech constantly butts up against old laws—and companies are always trying to find legal loopholes that give them an advantage. It falls to Koh, 46, with five years on the bench in US District Court in San Jose, to give the tech elite a stern talking-to. And Koh’s rulings on cases relating to patent infringement, privacy, and wage conspiracy don’t just influence the big-name firms that test the boundaries of the law. They affect every one of those firms’ users, which explains why Koh has garnered so much attention for her decisions.

Read the whole story at

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Courts' Improvement Fund Broke; Cuts Coming, Judicial Council Says

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 20, 2015

(CN) - With a crucial judiciary coffer running at a deficit, California's Judicial Council met Friday to deliver a painful blow of funding cuts to trial court security, technology, court-appointed counsel for juveniles and complex civil litigation.

The Improvement and Modernization Fund, for years a source of funding for court technology projects, interpreters, court security, judicial education, subscriptions to publications, jury management, self-help centers and a host of other projects and programs, is $11 million in the hole.

"There is no money in the IMF," Judge Laurie Earl of Sacramento gravely told the council. "Any action you do today needs to be based on there's no money in the IMF. This fund runs at a deficit. It has a structural imbalance and we need to act now or we'll be forced off the cliff that is looming. The cliff is here and we are standing at the edge of it."

Earl chairs the council's trial court budget advisory committee, and is co-chair of its revenue and expenditure subcommittee.

On Friday, Earl's committee recommended that the council approve about $10.8 million in cuts, which will eliminate funding for nine programs, including publication subscriptions, trial court security grants, alternative dispute resolution centers and the complex civil litigation program, which funds complex civil litigation staff in the superior courts of Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, and Santa Clara County.

The elimination of complex civil litigation funding from the IMF will save $4 million, the committee estimated. Future funding will be based on workload need.
The recommendations were a last-ditch effort to save the fund from insolvency, but the notion of de-funding programs like trial court security and complex civil litigation did not sit well with many council members.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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San Jose takes fight against MLB to U.S. Supreme Court

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 16, 2015


San Jose is hoping it can persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to play ball.

In an expected development in the city's frustrated quest to lure the Oakland A's to the South Bay, San Jose's lawyers on Wednesday plan to ask the Supreme Court to consider the city's claims that Major League Baseball has violated federal antitrust laws.

San Jose lawyers will urge the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court's decision in January rejecting the city's claims that baseball's refusal to allow the A's to move to a downtown ballpark violates antitrust provisions.

In that ruling, a unanimous three-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel concluded that MLB's nearly century-old exemption from federal antitrust laws forecloses the city's legal arguments. The Supreme Court has previously upheld that exemption, and the 9th Circuit said only the high court -- or Congress -- can change that.

Read the whole story at San Jose Mercury News


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President's Message: The Trial Court Encounters A Perfect Storm

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 13, 2015

by Guest Author, Hon. Risë Jones Pichon
Presiding Judge
Superior Court, Santa Clara County 

Editor’s Note:  The SCCBA encourages attorneys practicing in Santa Clara County and appearing in Santa Clara County Superior Courts to write their legislator and the Governor to encourage them to restore court funding to an appropriate level.   You can find your legislator’s contact information here.  You can find a sample letter to the Governor here. For more detailed information regarding the specifics of the impact on the inadequate funding to Santa Clara County Superior Court, you will find the Court’s Budget Snapshot here

Visions of the future have always guided the Court in its quest to achieve financial security.  Critical attention to economic forecasts and the fiscal condition of state and local economies has led to prudent decisions and planning on our part.  History will confirm that given the ability to manage the resources allocated to us, we will, as we have in the past, be able to weather the current downturn in the economy including recession and interest rate fluctuations, and revenue shortfalls.  

Our Court has been the beneficiary of the wisdom and foresight of the finest of court leaders who have acted with the understanding that economic challenges are inevitable.  With the leadership of our Chief Executive Officers, Chief Financial Officers and Presiding Judges, our Court has survived every financial crisis that we have encountered.  We can safely state that the Court’s budget has been managed wisely and frugally.  

Last year you read about an anticipated series of events that would significantly affect the Court’s budget, our ability to manage resources, and seriously impact Court operations.  We worked feverishly to change the course of events that would strip us of our ability to control our own financial destiny.  

With the exhaustion of all available resources, we were left hoping for a miracle to change what was to come.  The valiant efforts we made were not enough to change the direction of the financial storm about to strike.  As a result, our Court, for the first time was forced to take steps never before imagined. 

When the recession hit in 2008, every branch of government was affected.  Every agency and department dependent on the State’s General Fund took a financial hit.  For the Judiciary, this meant deep budget cuts statewide for six years resulting in the closure of 52 courthouses and 202 courtrooms.  The fallout from these cuts resulted in the reduction of staff by 19 percent.  In real terms, approximately 4,000 employees lost their jobs in the California Court system.  

Our Court was prepared to withstand these hits under the stewardship of our CEO and CFO whose sage advice resulted in savings to which we resorted each year to achieve a balanced budget.  While many courts were forced to lay off staff, including their Subordinate Judicial Officers and Court Reporters, close courtrooms and whole courthouses, our Court was able to survive with the use of savings.  To most, our ability to cope would appear to be a good thing.

However, it was the ability of individual courts to meet the financial challenges of the recession and the disparity of their responses to subsequent budget cuts over the next six years, which drew attention to the way funds were allocated statewide.  It brought to light a method of distribution that dates back to the funding of the courts by the counties, and which continued with the assumption by the State of the responsibility for growth in the costs to fund Trial Court operations.  With the enactment of the Trial Court Funding Act of 1997, the costs of operating the Trial Courts of California were consolidated at the state level for the purpose of solving the financial crisis faced by many of the smaller courts due to inadequate funding at the local county level.  

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Applications due Friday for 2015 Barrister Leadership Program

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, April 13, 2015

The Santa Clara County Bar Association is seeking participants in its 2015Barristers' Leadership Program.

This program, implemented in 1994, is designed to introduce participants to the local legal landscape, to prepare future leaders of the Bar Association, to encourage and promote diversity among the leadership, and to provide an opportunity for young and/or new attorneys to strengthen their leadership skills.All participants must be SCCBA Members who have been in practice fewer than 5 years or are under the age of 36.

Thisfour-monthprogram includes formal leadership training sessions, lunch with the presiding judges, a leadership workshop, an ethics session with Judge Towery, and an intensive orientation to the SCCBA. Participants will also attend the SCCBA Board of Trustees, Finance, and Executive Committee meetings, as well as the Barristers’ Committee and other SCCBA committee meetings.

“The Barristers' Leadership program provided an invaluable opportunity to meet local attorneys with different levels of experience and create new contacts,” said one past participant. “This program also allowed me to develop leadership skills that will be useful in my law practice and as a member of the Santa Clara County Bar Association.”

All interested candidates are encouraged to submit an application form here. All applications are due by April 17, 2015.




Please email sarab@sccba.comwith any questions or information requests.

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A New Way to Communicate a Concern About a Judicial Officer

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, April 9, 2015

How have your experiences been with Santa Clara County judicial officers lately?  Ever wanted to provide feedback to a judge but just didn’t know how to do it?  Do you have an issue with a judge that you can’t resolve and don’t know where to turn? 

The Santa Clara County Bar Association (SCCBA) has a way for you to provide feedback or get your issue resolved through a constructive, confidential process. In 2014, the SCCBA implemented in conjunction with the Superior Court of Santa Clara County a Judicial Assessment Policy & Procedure.  Santa Clara County attorneys can use this procedure to provide any feedback, confidentially, regarding an individual judge or the court generally.  Attorneys can also use this procedure to get assistance resolving an issue with an individual judge.  The procedure is confidential, unless the attorney agrees that the matter may be discussed with the involved judge.  It is a simple procedure:  simply complete the online Request for Action whether is it confidential feedback or whether you are requesting assistance with a particular issue.

The Annual Report for the first year of the Judicial Assessment Policy & Procedure is currently available online.  The Judicial Assessment Committee was able to successfully resolve one attorney’s Request for Action regarding an individual judge.  The purpose of this new procedure is to provide a mechanism that will allow attorneys and judges to improve the administration of justice in Santa Clara County.  That can only occur if attorneys provide feedback to the bench, both constructive and positive.

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Nominate an Unsung Hero

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, April 2, 2015

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 Monday, May 4, 2015.

The 2015 Unsung Heroes Awards will be presented at the Annual Reception on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 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 Juvenile Division of the Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County; the Santa Clara County Probation Department; Office of the District Attorney, Santa Clara County; and Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender for their collaborative efforts in promoting equal access to the administration of justice in the juvenile court system. 

If you have any questions, please contact Irene Cortez, at (408) 975-2114 or email


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Panel proposes pilot project to test legal technician program

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 2, 2015

A State Bar task force last month proposed the development of a pilot program for limited licensing of legal technicians as part of a series of recommendations aimed at closing the so-called “justice gap.”

Millions of low- and middle-income Californians fall into the gap of needing civil legal assistance but not being able to afford to hire a lawyer. In some cases, they may even qualify for legal aid, but are turned away by cash-strapped nonprofit providers, according to the newly released Civil Justice Strategies Task Force report.

After studying the problem for about a year, the task force has proposed a series of ideas for closing the gap. Public comment is being sought through May 11 and then the report will go to the Board of Trustees.

Among the recommendations is a proposal to take the next step toward licensing legal technicians. The limited licensing concept was endorsed by a board working group in 2013. The task force now advocates that the bar work with the state Supreme Court to design a pilot program covering one subject matter. How the governance, oversight and licensing would be handled is yet to be determined.

Ideally, the technicians would be able to perform the limited services at a reduced cost to consumers, said State Bar President Craig Holden.

Read the whole story at California Bar Journal

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OC Bar Association Rebukes Prosecutors for Apparent Campaign to Intimidate Judge in Mass Murder Trial

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Orange County Bar Association became the latest to lay into Orange County District Attorney’s Office since it was kicked off the county’s highest profile case - the death penalty trial of mass murderer Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing eight people at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach.

Members of the bar issued a resolution last week chastising District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’s office for the appearing to try to punish or intimidate the judge for ruling against prosecutors.

At issue is the apparent campaign by prosecutors to disqualify Judge Thomas Goethals from cases en masse. Goethals, booted the district attorney’s office from the case after Dekraai’s attorney alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Goethal determined Dekraai’s rights were violated by the illegal use of jailhouse informants and turned the case over to the California Attorney General to try the penalty phase of the trial, a move that will further delay the case much to the outrage of victims’ families.

Read the whole story at Dana Point Patch

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