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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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Judge tosses defamation lawsuit filed by Contra Costa prosecutor accused of rape

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 12, 2015

MARTINEZ -- A controversial Contra Costa County prosecutor's effort to clear his name of suspected rape backfired in spectacular fashion this week, as a judge dismissed his lawsuit against the county by citing previously unreported evidence against the attorney.

In his order dismissing the malicious prosecution and defamation suit brought by Contra Costa County prosecutor Michael Gressett, federal Judge Edward Chen outlined new details regarding Gressett's alleged 2008 rape of a junior sex crimes prosecutor, including testimony that Gressett may have been re-enacting a violent rape case he had been assigned to prosecute. The judge's order also revealed for the first time that after Gressett's rape indictment was thrown out in 2011, the only reason state prosecutors did not refile charges was because his alleged victim backed out of testifying.

In fact, state officials said if she changed her mind, they would consider refiling charges.

Seven years after rape allegations stunned the county's courthouses and split the District Attorney's Office during a contentious political campaign, Tuesday's ruling likely will end the Gressett soap opera.

However, Gressett's future with the office is not clear.

Read the whole story at Inside Bay Area News 

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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE:Accelerate: What’s Your Strategy?

Posted By John L. Mlnarik, Tuesday, March 10, 2015

John L. Mlnarik
The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.
2015 SCCBA President

Some folks accelerate particles. Others accelerate learning. We at the Santa Clara County Bar Association have been accelerating the legal careers of attorneys for nearly 100 years.  But it isn’t an exact science.  And you cannot just pay your dues, sit back and expect results.

The framers of our constitution put in place a framework to allow individuals and businesses to thrive, but mere presence within the territory of the forum does not guarantee results.  Though, I think we can all agree, it does increase your chances.  Similarly, members of the SCCBA have a greater chance of success. A guarantee of success is not included.

Membership in our county bar association is a commitment to our legal community and should not be taken for granted.  Each of us became lawyers because of our determination and hard work but none of it would have been possible if it weren’t for those who came before us. Volunteering, taking a leadership role and giving back are all ways we can ensure that it is here for generations to come and that we leave this place better than we found it.

So if you are a member and haven’t been involved in what is going on, what are you waiting for? In the words of your parents I say “What is it? Do you want me to draw you a picture? Here’s one that hangs next to my desk from my daughter Paulina (all rights reserved :) ). 

Do you need an invitation?

I hereby cordially invite you to get involved in the Santa Clara County Bar Association and use your talents for the betterment of yourself and your legal community.

We need you. We need your passion. We need your excitement. We need your enthusiasm. And dare I say you need us. For our commitment to professionalism. For our insight into the practice. For our unending dedication to the success of our members.

Involvement in the SCCBA and the surrounding community is the single most important reason attorneys become a huge success. And they do it together. Not all alone by themselves in their office, but as a community. Committed to one another and taking responsibility for what they need more than anything else in the world, a strong, vibrant and growing community.  Without one who is going to need all of these lawyers?

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Civil Practice News: Judicial Arbitrator to Rule 4 Neutral

Posted By Amy R. Carlson, Friday, March 6, 2015

by Amy R. Carlson

Employment Rights Attorneys, LLP


Last month, I wrote about being a Rule 4 Early Settlement Neutral.  Rule 4 neutrals are apparently a rare breed.  We need more of them and so I'm writing about them again.   

I found out this week that being a judicial arbitrator is not the same as being a Rule 4 neutral.  It turns out that if you are listed as a judicial arbitrator, you'll have to fill out a short form to become a Rule 4 neutral---the two do not overlap. 

Because there is no overlap, the Superior Court is short on Rule 4 neutrals and long on judicial arbitrators.  If you're seeing this message, you're already one step closer to helping out your legal community and making a few dollars at the same time. Go to and fill out the form.

The Court could also use your help in recruiting Temporary Judges.  Temporary Judges can serve as Judicial Officers at the Superior Court.  (Any of you with aspirations of becoming a judge should pay attention) 

Qualified and experienced attorneys may volunteer their time to serve as part of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara's Temporary Judge Program.  They are appointed and serve at the discretion of the Court. 

I have not yet applied for this prestigious opportunity as I am on the Judiciary Committee, but it looks rewarding and quite interesting.  They even provide training (which I have heard may get you some MCLE credits).   

As I said before, any of these opportunities are a great way to meet new people and reunite with old friends (or enemies---whatever).  Giving back to a Court that has given you a home away from home in your career is the best way to show your passion for the law and your compassion for the people of Santa Clara County. 

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please jot me a note in the comment section below. 

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Alabama’s Dangerous Defiance

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 6, 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Tuesday the Supreme Court of Alabamaprohibited the state’s probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This decision effectively throws down the gauntlet, challenging the federal courts to make earlier federal rulings stick — including last month’s refusal by the United States Supreme Court to stay a federal judge’s decision requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages. It draws on a disturbing line of thinking in the history of American federalism, one that, were it to gain currency as a model, could compromise our entire system of law.

The court’s position is that under the Constitution, it does not have to follow the rulings of lower federal courts; in its ruling, it promises to “defer only to the holdings of the United States Supreme Court.” (That said, Chief Justice Roy Moore’s public statements have been more equivocal; he told a radio host in Birmingham, Ala., “It would be a very hard decision, because I know there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that authorizes the Supreme Court of the United States or any federal court anywhere to misinterpret the word marriage.”)

Such extreme states’ rights positions first appeared during an epic battle between the great chief justice John Marshall and Spencer Roane, a member of the Virginia Court of Appeals. The two were bitter political and ideological enemies in the early years of the republic, and Roane had long railed against the authority of the federal Supreme Court over state courts. He repeatedly declined to implement federal decisions with which he disagreed, and refused to recognize the authority of federal courts to review state court rulings. In the end, however, Marshall prevailed.

Read the whole story at The New York Times

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Growth of legal incubator movement on display at conference

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 5, 2015

When proponents of legal incubators held seminars several years ago about their efforts to address the unmet legal needs of the public, they say they were thrilled to draw anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen people.

This past weekend, 160 people gathered at California Western School of Law for the second annual international conference on legal incubators and residencies, a 33 percent increase in attendance over the first gathering last spring.

Incubator pioneers said the large turnout and excitement among attendees demonstrates the state of the movement — which has seen an increase in the past three years from a handful to at least three dozen incubators worldwide — is as strong as it has ever been.

Fred Rooney, who founded the first incubator in New York eight years ago and oversaw the launch of the first international one in the Dominican Republic in 2013, said he expects the momentum to continue, especially with additional projects funded or on the drawing board.

“We have the energy. We have the drive," said Rooney, of Touro Law Center in New York. "We have the ambition to push our institutions to be able do more and to be able to serve the millions of the people in this country who don’t even have a prayer of ever seeing a lawyer.”

Directors of incubators, law school leaders, bar association representatives, judges and attorneys were among those attending the event.

Read the whole story at San Diego Source

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State has DNA databases from cradle to jail

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 5, 2015

In 2015, genes have many uses.

Soon after every baby in California is born, a hospital worker extracts and logs its genetic information. It will be tested for diseases and then stashed permanently in a warehouse containing a generation of Californians’ DNA.

For those charged with a felony – or, potentially, just arrested – a sliver of genetic code will be taken and placed in a state database that has grown rapidly in the last decade.

As scientists have mapped the personalized blueprints contained in each strand of DNA, the government has been collecting and storing reams of genetic material to combat disease and capture criminals. In seeking to shape when public agencies can take genetic information and how they can use it, lawmakers face a tension between individual privacy and public health and safety.

“You want to make sure government isn’t collecting too much DNA, but you also recognize it is the modern fingerprint,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, though he differentiated genetics from fingerprints: “You’re taking the very stuff of life.”

Read the whole story at The Modesto Bee

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Sunnyvale can enforce gun ordinance, appeals court rules

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 5, 2015

A federal appeals court decided unanimously Wednesday that the Bay Area city of Sunnyvale can enforce an ordinance prohibiting large-capacity gun magazines.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for other cities to pass similar bans. A ban of large-capacity magazines in Los Angeles is headed toward a City Council vote, and San Francisco already has passed a law to outlaw the ammunition devices.

State law prohibits the sale of such magazines, but the city laws go further by barring even their possession.

"Sunnyvale's interests in promoting public safety and reducing violent crime are substantial and important government interests," Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, a Clinton appointee, wrote for the court.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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Law School Dean: Demographics of California's Bench Reflect Need for Diversity

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 5, 2015



A new report on the demographics of California's nearly 1,700 judges finds slow but sure progress on making the bench look more like the state. And yet, more than two-thirds of California judges are white males. What difference does it make, and why should we care? Host Scott Shafer talks with Kevin R. Johnson, dean of the UC Davis Law School and the first Latino to head a University of California law school. 


Read the whole story at The California Report

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Grinch Charged with PC 487 (Grand Theft – Christmas)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Santa Clara County Judges adopt San Jose’s Horace Mann School for the Court’s annual participation in Read Across America.


SAN JOSE, Calif. (March 3, 2015): Nineteen judges from the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara (Court) volunteered during their lunch hour to celebrate national Read Across America at this year’s sponsored school -- San Jose Unified School District’s Horace Mann School. Judges read stories that were either written by Dr. Seuss, celebrated Black History Month or gave a child's perspective into the court system. All of the books selected and ready by the judges were donated to the school, including many Dr. Seuss books that were purchased during the holidays by Court staff to support this event.


Sponsored by the National Education Association, Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on March 2—Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books.


"Our adoption of a school for Read Across America is truly one of our most cherished annual traditions at the Court. Aside from being a fun, educationally enriching experience, students benefit from seeing firsthand the strong ethnic and gender diversity of Santa Clara County’s bench," said Judge Julia Alloggiamento, Chair of the Court's Community Outreach Committee. " It’s not simply story time for our judges It’s an opportunity for us to spend some real quality time with young people, sharing our personal stories and hopefully inspiring the next generation to become whatever they dream, whether that be a judge, teacher or carpenter."


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Technology changes the game with juror misconduct

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 2, 2015

It's an admonishment jurors have received since Perry Mason was a pup: "Do not discuss, research or form an opinion about this case."

These days, that admonition seems as quaint and outdated as the black-and-white reruns in which Mason, the iconic TV barrister, lives on. Technology has changed the game.

The proliferation of smartphones and the ubiquity of wireless Internet access have given jurors -- instantly, effortlessly and in many cases anonymously -- the means to flaunt age-old judicial safeguards put in place to guarantee the constitutional right to a fair trial. Moreover, they have created for jurors a sense of entitlement to rival a judge's robed authority.

"They cannot stop themselves," Contra Costa Chief Public Defender Robin Lipetzky said. "It's so easy for them. Do we have statistics on this kind of misbehavior? No. But there's no doubt in my mind that it's pervasive."

Read the whole story at ChicoER News

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more Calendar

Diversity Happy Hour

Fourth Annual Law Day Mixer

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

Recent Recognitions
Hon. Julie A. Emede2017 Outstanding Jurist of the Year
Golnesa MonazamfarBarrister of the Year 2017

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