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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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Nominations are open for 2016 Officers and Trustees

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 5, 2015
2015 ELECTION FOR 2016 OFFICERS AND TRUSTEES

The nominating period is now open for the nomination of Active Members of the SCCBA to officer positions for 2016 and trustee positions for terms running from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2017.  Below you will find information about SCCBA Officers and Trustees.

 

  DOWNLOAD THE NOMINATING PETITION →

 

The nominating petition is due no later than 4:45 pm on July 1, 2015. The balloting will take place electronically during the first 10 days of October 2015.  For additional information or if you have questions, please contact SCCBA staff liaison for elections, Irene Cortez, at irenec@sccba.com or 408-975-2114.

BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT DUTIES OF TRUSTEES

Trustees are elected from election districts. For the 2015 elections, the following districts have one or more open trustee positions: San Jose, Palo Alto/Mountain View, Sunnyvale/Cupertino, Los Gatos/Campbell, Morgan Hill/Gilroy and At-Large (non-Santa Clara County members) . Terms are two years and trustees may serve two consecutive terms. Trustees are required to attend the monthly seven Board meetings held on the last Thursday of each month at 5:00 pm at the SCCBA Offices.

Qualifications to be eligible to run for the office of Trustee is that the attorney be an Active Member of the SCCBA and have his/her principal office in the district from which s/he is seeking election.

BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT DUTIES OF SCCBA OFFICERS

General Information: SCCBA Officer positions include the President-Elect, Secretary and Treasurer.  The President-Elect automatically becomes President upon expiration of the term of President-Elect.  All officer positions are one year terms and an attorney holding an officer position cannot succeed him/herself in the same office.  Officers are members of the Board of Trustees, the Executive Committee, the Finance Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee.  The Board, Executive and Finance Committees meet monthly and Strategic Planning Committee meets four to six times a year for a dinner meeting.   Board meetings are held on the last Thursday of each month seven times a year at 5:00 pm at the SCCBA Offices.  The Executive Committee meets on the Wednesday, two weeks prior to the last Thursday of each month, at 5:00 pm at the SCCBA Offices and Finance Committee meets on the Tuesday, two weeks prior to the last Thursday of each month,  at 12:15 pm with most meetings being held by teleconference.

For further description of the duties of Officers and the powers and responsibilities of the Board and Executive Committee, please see the SCCBA By-laws.  Click on these highlighted links OfficersBoard and Executive Committee, for the applicable by-laws.

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Immigrant California Lawyer Finally Gets Green Card

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 5, 2015

California attorney who successfully fought a legal battle to practice law despite his immigration status got his green card Thursday and can now live in the U.S. legally as well.

Sergio Garcia, 38, first applied for permanent U.S. residency in 1994 at the age of 17 after his family moved from Mexico to California.

"It's an incredible relief," Garcia said after picking up the drivers' license-like card from his post office box in Chico, north of Sacramento.

The green card was granted on the heels of the law license he obtained in 2014 after a five-year legal and political battle that included opposition from the Obama administration and a favorable ruling in January from the California Supreme Court.

The license was granted after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a specially crafted bill passed by the Legislature to let Garcia practice law.

Garcia was thought to be the first immigrant in the country illegally to be granted a law license. He now represents car accident victims and settled his first legal case on Wednesday.

Read the whole story at ABC News

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Chemerinsky: Are judges politicians? SCOTUS renews the question

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 5, 2015

Editor's Note: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky will be the Keynote Speaker at this year's Judge's Night Dinner on November 10, 2015

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Williams-Yulee v. Florida State Bar (PDF) will have a significant effect in judicial election campaigns and will create great uncertainty as to the constitutionality of other restrictions of speech by candidates for elected judicial offices. The court upheld a Florida law, based on a provision of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits candidates for judgeships from personally soliciting or receiving funds. The court’s emphatic declaration that judges are not politicians is in clear tension with its earlier decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, issued in 2002, and leaves open the question of what else states may do in regulating speech in judicial election campaigns.

Florida, like 38 other states, has judges who must face election. Lanell Williams-Yulee ran to be a trial judge in Florida and sent letters to her prospective supporters to ask them to contribute money to her campaign. She lost the election, and the Florida Bar disciplined her for violating Canon 7(C)(1) by sending out the letter soliciting funds. Williams-Yulee raised the First Amendment as a defense to bar discipline.

Canon 7C(1) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct provides: “A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates shall not personally solicit campaign funds, or solicit attorneys for publicly stated support, but may establish committees of responsible persons to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign and to obtain public statements of support for his or her candidacy.” Thirty-one states, including Florida, have such a provision.

Williams-Yulee raised the First Amendment as a defense to bar discipline. The Florida Supreme Court ruled against her and on April 29, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, affirmed and upheld the Florida law and its application.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice Roberts began his opinion by powerfully declaring: “Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.”

Read the whole story at ABA Journal

 

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Tech Toolbox: Timekeepers

Posted By Vivian F. Wang, Thursday, June 4, 2015

by Vivian Wang, Litigation Associate at Berliner Cohen

Lawyers may not be known for their tech-savvy, but in this day and age, using the right apps and other software can save you a lot of time and hassle.  Through this blog, we hope to highlight some technology tools that you may find useful to your practice.       

Up first: timekeeping programs.  If you’re in private practice, you are probably all too familiar with the daily drudge of billing your time.  But using software can make the process faster and more accurate.  Here are two options to consider.

1.      Slimtimer (www.slimtimer.com): Slimtimer is great if you just need a mechanism for calculating the total amount of time you spend on each client-matter each day.   

It is free and easy to use.  You create an account using your email address, and the timer is a small pop-up window on which you can list various “tasks,” i.e. client-matters. Click on a task to start the clock running on it, and click it again to stop the clock, or click on another task to switch the clock to the other task.  Return to the main website to see how much time you spent each day, week, or month, or other customizable time period, on each of your tasks.  The main website also reports when you worked on each task by time of day, which I have found helpful as I try to remember all the different things I did throughout the day. 

If you accidentally forgot to stop your clock when you took a break or switched to another task, you can manually change your records on the website to accurately reflect your work. 

There are also useful options for rounding your time, either by each entry or by the total amount of time per day, to the nearest second, minute, six minutes, or various other increments.  Slimtimer also enables you to export your time records into Microsoft Excel as .csv files. 

Slimtimer also allows you to invite an apparently unlimited number of other people to log time and/or view reports on your tasks.           

Slimtimer offers the option to pay for a premium version, which, somewhat unusually, allows you to name your own price as long as it is greater than $3 per month.  However, the additional features available with the premium version appear limited to the following: you can download all of your entries at once, receive a weekly .csv file of all of the previous week’s entries, receive email support, and avoid seeing advertisements (which I have never seen with the free version to begin with!).

2.     Toggl (www.toggl.com): Toggl is also a timekeeping program, available in a free version and in a “Pro” version that costs $5.00 per user per workspace (more on workspaces shortly) per month. 

The free version does everything that Slimtimer can do, except that the rounding functions are available only with a Pro subscription, and except that Toggl allows you to invite only up to four other people to join your workspace.  On the flip side, the free version of Toggl offers a lot of bells and whistles that Slimtimer does not: for example, you can export your time entries not only as .csv files but also as Adobe PDF files; the program displays a color-coded bar at the bottom of the webpage to visualize how much time each task has taken as a proportion of all your tracked time during the week; you can also use it through apps for Android and iOS and even offline; and you can integrate it with several other software programs that provide invoicing and related functions, such as Freshbooks.

Toggl also allows you to group your different matters (called “projects” in Toggl) into different workspaces, but there is not much advantage to doing so unless you subscribe to the Pro version.  The Pro version allows you to assign different billing rates to different workspaces, create sub-projects in a workspace, and receive alerts when you are reaching a certain percentage of a project estimate. 

Many lawyers will probably find the additional features that Toggl, whether free or Pro, offers over Slimtimer, unnecessary.  Indeed, they may prefer the simplicity of Slimtimer if all they want is a way to tally a day’s time.  However, for instances in which an attorney needs to work collaboratively and keep a close eye on the time being spent by others on the team, or in which an attorney is utilizing different billing rates and wants those rates integrated into time tracking software, Toggl may make life a lot easier. 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's 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. The SCCBA does not endorse any products or vendors discussed in the post.

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Early Bird Rates now available for Judges' Night

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, June 4, 2015

Table sponsorships are now open for the 2015 Annual Judges' Night, which will be held this year on November 10 at 5pm, at the San Jose Fairmont. The Judges' Night Dinner is held each year to honor judges serving in the Santa Clara County for their dedication and contribution to the administration of justice. 

This year, our Keynote Speaker will be Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law. 

Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at UC Irvine School of Law, with a joint appointment in Political Science. Prior to assuming this position in 2008, he was the Alston and Bird Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2008, and before that was a professor at the University of Southern California Law School from 1983-2004, including as the Sydney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics, and Political Science.  He is the author of eight books, including The Case Against the Supreme Court, published by Viking in 2014, and more than 200 law review articles. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court.  Dean Chemerinsky is a graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School.  In 2014, National Jurist magazine named Dean Chemerinsky as the most influential person in legal education in the United States.

Special awards will also be presented at Judges' Night, including the Diversity Award, Pro Bono Service Award, Professional Lawyer of the Year Award, and Outstanding Jurist Award. 

Click for reservation and sponsorship information, and to learn more...

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Chief Justice Seeks Emergency Traffic Court Reform, Jerry Brown Pushes Amnesty Program

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Traffic courts throughout California trap people in poverty with exorbitant fines and harsh policies that can make it very challenging for low-income people to resolve minor infractions — a problem I explored in-depth in a recent feature story, "The High Cost of Driving While Poor." In the wake of increased media scrutiny tied to a damning report on traffic fines — co-authored by the East Bay Community Law Center and other California legal aid groups — state officials have proposed a number of solutions aimed at tackling some of the inequities of this legal system. 

Last week, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced that she is pushing for an "emergency action" that would help address one of the central concerns of critics — that the court system is often inaccessible to people who can't pay expensive fines upfront. Cantil-Sakauye's efforts come as Governor Jerry Brown, in his latest budget proposal, has continued his push for a so-called "amnesty program" that would reduce the amount of outstanding traffic court debts for some defendants. 

These new efforts reflect an increasing acknowledgment throughout state government that the current system of traffic fines is often unfairly harsh and disproportionately impacts low-income residents and people of color. As I outlined in my feature story, California over the years has increasingly relied on court fines and fees to raise revenues for courthouses and other government agencies, such that a relatively minor traffic offense that once cost $100 now costs roughly $500. And when people fail to pay the fees on time or miss a deadline to appear in court for a traffic infraction, judges typically issue "civil assessments" which carry additional $300 fines and result in the defendant having his or her driver's license suspended. 

Read the whole story at East Bay Express

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ACLU app allows Californians to record and preserve videos of police civil-rights violations

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A new smartphone app from the American Civil Liberties Union of California allows users to record video of alleged civil rights abuses by police and automatically send the recording to the group.

The free Mobile Justice CA app, unveiled Thursday, will allow users to preserve the video, even if police try to confiscate or erase it, according to the Los Angeles Times and a press release.

The video is preserved and sent to the ACLU with a “record” function. Other functions include:

• A “witness” function sends alerts to others with the app who are close and can document a police encounter.

• A “report” function can be used to complete and automatically send a report to the ACLU.

• A “know your rights” function provides an overview of a person’s rights in a law enforcement stop.

The app is intended for use by bystanders, according to the press release. Anyone who wants to use the app to record their own interaction with police should announce they are reaching for a phone to use an app to record the incident.

Read the whole story at ABA Journal

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Judicial Council's Plan to Shift Oversight of Trial Court Spending Stirs Dissent

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 21, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - California trial judges on a statewide budget committee fiercely oppose a move to strip their oversight power for trial court spending and give that power instead to another committee that regularly meets in secret.

This week, judges and court clerks on the Judicial Council's Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee took a strong stance against a proposed rule change that would give a different council committee the authority to go back and review how the council and its staff spent judiciary funds on behalf of the courts.

"I think this is a complete diminution of the authority of this committee," said budget committee member Judge Dodie Harman of San Luis Obispo. "This branch has a history of problems with credibility and transparency. I think we've worked on that, but this goes backwards. It reduces transparency."

Under the amended Rule 10.63, the council's Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency would audit the Judicial Council and its bureaucratic staff's past spending on anything related to the courts, from the judiciary's overall budget to sources like the Trial Court Trust Fund and Improvement and Modernization Fund, which finances court technology projects.

At a meeting on Tuesday, budget committee members said the rule change made no sense. They reasoned that if any committee should be looking at how the council spends money for the courts, it should be them.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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California’s Chief Justice Presses for Expedited Rule to Address Traffic Fine Proceedings

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Requests immediate action by Judicial Council

SAN FRANCISCO—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye today announced that she is asking the Judicial Council to take emergency action to adopt a rule of court to facilitate access to justice for court users challenging traffic fines.

“Many of the procedures and practices regarding traffic fines derive from statute,” the Chief Justice said. “However, the law is confusing and may result in inconsistent practices or policies throughout the state. I’m charging the Judicial Council as the constitutional statewide policymaking body to expeditiously initiate our rule-making process to act on an emergency basis. We need a court rule that makes it clear that Californians do not have to pay for a traffic infraction before being able to appear in court.”

“As I stated April 17th during our Judicial Council business meeting, the issue raised by fines and fees can be an access to justice issue, as well as a fiscal issue for the entire state. All three branches are trying to address it.” 

In addition to this immediate action by the council, the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System, appointed by the Chief Justice, is taking a broader look at effective public access to California’s courts, including traffic proceedings and the impact of mandatory and discretionary fines, fees, and penalties on court users.

Source Press Release

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February bar exam pass rate is lowest in five years

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Four in 10 would-be lawyers passed the California Bar Exam in February, the lowest rate in five years.

State Bar officials announced Sunday that 39.5 percent of test takers passed the test. That’s down from 45.3 percent in 2014 and the lowest rate since 37.1 percent of bar applicants passed the test in February 2010.

The number of test takers is up, however. A total of 4,763 applicants took the exam, an increase from 4,578 in 2014 and the highest since 5,167 took the February exam in 2007. This means more tried and failed this year.

Read the whole story at Sacramento Business Journal

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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
Golnesa MonazamfarBarrister of the Year 2017
Hon. Edward J. Davila2017 Diversity of the Year

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