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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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Fired bar leader's suit is baseless and his whistleblower claims are 'bewildering,' Calif. bar says

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

The State Bar of California is firing back after its former executive director claimed in a lawsuit that he was fired for exposing “egregious improprieties.”

The bar says the lawsuit by fired executive director Joe Dunn is “baseless” and his claims of being a whistleblower are “bewildering” because it was his job to manage the bar’s operations and employees.

Dunn claimed in his lawsuit (PDF) that he was told of his firing Nov. 7, just days after he and seven other anonymous complainants filed whistleblower notices with the bar. The bar publicly announced Dunn’s departure last Thursday, and Dunn filed his suit a few hours later.

Dunn says in the suit that his whistleblower complaints alleged “ethical breaches, prosecutorial lapses and fiscal improprieties” by some bar officials. One of the whistleblower allegations, he said, was that chief trial counsel Jayne Kim removed a category of discipline cases from reports to conceal the true backlog of disciplinary cases. “Kim’s conduct did not involve a few isolated cases but was shockingly rampant,” the suit alleges.

Kim had filed an internal complaint against Dunn, his suit alleges, in an attempt “to preserve her position.” And the law firm hired to investigate—Munger, Tolles & Olson—had close ties to a bar trustee, the suit claimed. Furthermore, the suit alleged, the hiring of the law firm was “an utter waste of state bar membership dues” because a retired state supreme court justice had offered to do the work for free.

 

Read the whole story at ABA Journal

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SF court clerks protest on courthouse steps

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Frustrated clerks demonstrated outside San Francisco Superior Court's criminal division Wednesday, ahead of today's contract talks with court administrators.


Around 50 court workers, dressed in purple and carrying union pickets, traversed the courthouse steps during their lunch breaks. Many had arrived on a charter bus from the Civic Center courthouse.

 

The crowd roared when Cynthia Karadi bellowed into a bullhorn that she was "pissed off."

 

"We're frustrated with a lack of compromise and willingness to come to the table and bargain fairly," said Karadi, who works as a criminal courtroom clerk and is on the bargaining team for Service Employees International Union 1021.

 

Court spokeswoman Ann Donlan declined to comment on the rally or the talks, but following a one-day strike last month the court's top boss called the unhappy clerks the highest-paid state court employees in California and told them to "be real."

 

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Bay Area Minority Summer Clerkship Program (BAMSCP) seeks 2015 participating students & firms

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 12, 2014

San Jose, CA (November 12, 2014) - Both student participants and mentoring firms are sought for the 2015 session of the Bay Area Minority Summer Clerkship Program (BAMSCP). BAMSCP is sponsored by the Santa Clara County Bar Association (SCCBA), Alameda County Bar Association (ACBA), and the Contra Costa County Bar Association (CCCBA).


Since its founding in 1990, BAMSCP has helped law firms and other organizations recruit over 300 minority law students into their summer clerkship programs.


The purpose of BAMSCP is to introduce talented minority first year law students who might not have been selected for a traditional summer program to the firm or corporate experience, while at the same time furthering the desire of many firms in today's marketplace to  further diversity goals and provide opportunities to young  lawyers.


First-year minority students from Boalt Hall, Hastings, Golden Gate, Santa Clara, Stanford, University of San Francisco, McGeorge, and UCDavis are invited to participate.


To find out how your organization can benefit from BAMSCP, contact Irene Cortez, BAMSCP Coordinator of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, at (408) 975-2114 or email at irenec@sccba.com. Complete program information and applications can be found at sccba.com/bamscp.

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California: First illegal immigrant with law license makes a go of his profession

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 10, 2014

CHICO -- Sergio Garcia is a civil litigation lawyer in California who represents clients in car accidents. He doesn't practice immigration law, which Garcia says surprises many people because of his high-profile battle to become the first known immigrant in the country without legal permission to become a licensed attorney.

"No way, man," Garcia said. "Not after what I've been through."

Garcia, 37, a native of Mexico, won his license after a bruising five-year legal and political battle that included a ruling in January from the California Supreme Court. It came after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a specially crafted bill passed by the Legislature to let Garcia practice law.

 

Soon after, Garcia rented an office in the rural Northern California college town of Chico, hired a secretary, hung his law degree on the wall, dressed in natty suits appropriate for an attorney, and began airing commercials on Spanish-language television and radio.

 

Read the whole story at Inside Bay Area

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Judiciary Committee applications now being accepted

Posted By Sara Brylowski, Friday, November 7, 2014

Applications for the Santa Clara County Bar Association 2015 Judiciary Committee are now being accepted.  To be considered for appointment to the 2015 Judiciary Committee, completed applications must be submitted by December 15, 2013, at 4:45 pm to SCCBA CEO & General Counsel, Chris Burdick, preferably through the online application or by email at chrisb@sccba.com.


The criteria to be eligible for consideration for appointment to the SCCBA Judiciary Committee include but are not necessarily limited to current membership in the SCCBA and the following:

  1. Prior activity on one or more committees of the SCCBA and/or a showing of involvement in the SCCBA beyond mere payment of membership dues;
  2. Adequate practice experience;
  3. Practice area diversity to be determined by considering the composition of the Judiciary Committee and the applicant pool as a whole at the time any appointment/s are being made;
  4. Lack of any conflict of interest with respect to the substantive work of the Judiciary Committee. 

Appointments are made solely within the discretion of the 2015 SCCBA President as provided by SCCBA by-laws.  The SCCBA President is not obligated to make any appointments or to make any appointments from the pool of applicants.  In addition, the size of the 2015 Judiciary Committee is within the sole discretion of the 2015 SCCBA President.  The SCCBA strongly encourages attorneys of diverse racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation backgrounds as well as attorneys with disabilities to apply.  Candidates must complete the SCCBA 2015 Judiciary Committee application to be considered. 

 

CONTINUE TO APPLICATION →

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Futures Commission Seeks Input on California Court System

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 7, 2014

Deadline to complete survey: December 5

 

SAN FRANCISCO—The Commission on the Future of California’s Court System created an online survey to seek broad input on recommendations to improve the California court system. The Commission is soliciting suggestions from the public, attorneys, judicial officers, court staff, law enforcement and all branch stakeholders on ways to make the California judicial branch more efficient and effective.

“The commission is particularly interested in identifying outdated laws, systems, or practices and proposals for new approaches, such as the use of technology, that will improve court services and save time and resources in the long term,” said Justice Carol A. Corrigan, an associate justice of the California Supreme Court and chair of the commission. “The goal of the survey is to ensure that we’re focused on today’s most pressing priorities. All ideas are welcome.”

The deadline to complete the online survey is Friday, December 5. Please refer any questions to FuturesCommission@jud.ca.gov.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye created the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System to study and make recommendations to improve the state’s court operations and accessibility. In the next two years, the commission will examine ways to increase the efficiency of adjudicating cases in civil, criminal, traffic, juvenile, and family law matters, as well as ways to enhance the underfunded court system’s fiscal stability.

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Mercury News editorial: Court's integrity was at stake in Ritchie race

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 7, 2014

Every now and then, voters have to judiciously correct a mistake. This is what happened Tuesday in the Santa Clara County Superior Court race between Judge Diane Ritchie, who is finishing her first six-year term, and her challenger Matthew Harris, a respected prosecutor. Harris unseated Ritchie, winning the judgeship with 54 percent of the vote.

Since Ritchie's performance became an issue last winter, she and some supporters have portrayed the case against her as a personal vendetta. We'd like to be clear, before putting this sad case behind us, why reporting on judges' performance is critical -- and why elections for judge are among the most important for voters, even though rules for judicial campaigning limit what they're likely to learn about the candidates. This is why we always try to evaluate judicial candidates and help voters figure out who's who, even if they don't agree with our recommendation.

This rare instance of challenging a sitting judge came about largely because reporter Tracey Kaplan began writing about Ritchie's performance last winter. Over a five-year period, Kaplan had observed and been told by court staff about the judge's blunders and the court's repeated attempts to train and mentor her. Kaplan held off writing, giving her time to learn and improve. But Ritchie never caught on, and her re-election was approaching.

Read the whole story at The Mercury News

 

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November President's Message: Bench and Bar Leaders Meet to Further Professionalism in Santa Clara County

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 6, 2014

October was an extraordinary month for the Bar.  Judges’ Night 2014 was a tremendous success, and it was a great honor to have Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye as our keynote speaker.  I also have to again congratulate the members who received our 2014 honors Allen Ruby (Professionalism), Suchitra Nayaren (Diversity) and Mark Shem and Jim Scharf (Pro Bono) as well as Presiding Judge Brian Walsh who received our Outstanding Jurist of the Year award.  Each of the awardees are role models in our community and reflect the Bar’s long-standing commitments to continuing to raise the standards of the legal practice in this County and ensuring that our legal community is inclusive and diverse and provides access to justice for every community member.

The Professional Committee and I also had the pleasure of conducting the 2014 Professionalism Summit with members of the bench from the civil, criminal, and family divisions,  including Presiding Judge Brian Walsh, incoming Presiding Judge Rise Pichon as well as incoming Assistant Presiding Judge Patricia Lucas. 

 

Read more... 

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FTC Slaps Texas Firm And Its Lawyers In First Action Against Patent Trolls

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 6, 2014

In a stark warning to patent assertion entities and their lawyers, the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday settled charges against a Texas company and its outside counsel for using phony legal threats to pressure small businesses into buying licenses.

 

Read the whole story at The National Law Journal (subscription required)

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Prop. 47 jolts landscape of California justice system

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 6, 2014

Los Angeles County Public Defender Ron Brown walked into a Pomona court Wednesday and saw first-hand the impact of Proposition 47 — the voter-approved initiative that reduces penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes.

His office had deliberately postponed sentencing for a defendant facing more than a year behind bars for possessing heroin and methamphetamine to the day after Tuesday's election, waiting to see what voters would do.

The gambit worked. The man was sentenced and released from custody with no further jail time.

"They were felonies yesterday. They're misdemeanors today," Brown said. "This is the law now."

The day after California voted to reduce punishments, police agencies, defense attorneys, prosecutors and even some advocates were scrambling to figure out exactly how it was going to work.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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