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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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Lessons from a lawsuit

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 20, 2014

Well, here’s something you don't see every day: A high-level executive of a high-profile agency gets fired, retains a celebrity attorney and then files a tell-all lawsuit alleging he was whacked for whistleblowing.

Former state Sen. Joe Dunn’s acrimonious departure as the California State Bar’s executive director has lawyers everywhere talking, since the quasi-public organization administers the gateway exam into their profession and then disciplines them for illegal or unethical practices.

So far, we’ve heard mostly from Dunn, who alleges that a bar executive falsified investigation reports to enhance her evaluation and pay, that the same person made an unspecified complaint about him, that the board of trustees’ president was out to get Dunn and that he was fired, he says, for reporting the corruption.

The board countered with a news release calling Dunn’s lawsuit “baseless.” Without getting into the gory details, the bar said that staff complaints prompted Dunn’s termination after considerable investigation and deliberation.

“It’s bewildering to hear Mr. Dunn claim that he is a whistleblower,” the bar’s statement says, since he was the guy just below the board on State Bar org chart.

Read the whole story at Sacramento Bee

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Why Did So Many People Flunk the Bar Exam This Year?

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The most recent bar exam test results are in, and they are ugly. In several states, people who took the bar in July were more likely to fail than those who took it last year, and scores on one portion of the test dropped to their lowest point in 10 years.

Are America’s law graduates really getting dumber? The people who put together the bar exam seem to think so.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, a nonprofit that prepares one of the state-specific multiple-choice sections in which scores dropped dramatically, sent a curt message to law school deans in October. “The results are correct,” wrote Erica Moeser, the group’s president, in an Oct. 23 memo. “The group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013,”

Read the whole story at Bloomberg Businessweek

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State employment board sides with prosecutor against Santa Clara County DA

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 19, 2014

State officials responsible for enforcing labor laws have issued a complaint against Santa Clara County, alleging that county District Attorney Jeff Rosen unfairly retaliated against a prosecutor and union activist after the man criticized one of his policies.

The complaint by the Public Employment Relations Board regarding the Rosen administration's treatment of Deputy District Attorney Jim Sibley would normally be heard by one of its administrative judges. But the matter is first being decided in binding arbitration.

The flap began last year after Sibley claimed that Rosen retaliated against him for openly criticizing his controversial administrative-leave policy. Sibley, who was on the board of the Government Attorneys Association at the time, lost his position as a supervising attorney on Rosen's executive team, as well as the 5-percent pay bonus that went with it. Rosen also transferred him to an outlying office in Palo Alto, adding as much as two extra hours or so to his daily round-trip commute from Scotts Valley.

Read the whole story at Inside Bay Area

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Sylvia Perez-MacDonald Appointed Director of the Independent Defense Counsel Office

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Editor's Note: Sylvia Perez-MacDonald is a trustee for the SCCBA, the immediate past-Treasurer and will serve on the 2015 Executive Committee of the SCCBA.

Veteran Santa Clara County Trial Attorney to Lead Office

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. - Sylvia Perez-MacDonald has been selected to serve as the Director of the Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDO), succeeding James Gleason, who is retiring after a 30-year career with the County of Santa Clara. Mr. Gleason was the first IDO Director, and successfully implemented and managed the IDO as a separate division of the County Counsel’s Office since 2008.

Since her admission to the State Bar in 1995, Sylvia Perez-MacDonald has devoted her entire legal career to the defense of indigent persons accused of having committed serious crimes. Perez-MacDonald served as a Trial Attorney in the Solano County Office of the Public Defender, as a Trial Attorney in the office of Biggam, Christensen & Minsloff in Santa Cruz County, and since 1997, in a succession of assignments of increasing responsibility in the Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender. 

During her 17 years with the Santa Clara Public Defender’s Office, Perez-MacDonald served as a Trial Attorney in the Felony Team Unit handling serious felony cases, as a Trial Attorney in the Special Trials Unit where she tried several complex homicide cases, as the Supervising Attorney for both the South County satellite office of the Public Defender and the Juvenile Delinquency Unit.  Most recently, Perez-MacDonald held the position of Lead Attorney in the Misdemeanor Division. 

“Perez-MacDonald is a highly accomplished professional who has earned an excellent reputation with her peers, her supervisors, and the judges whom she has appeared before,” said County of Santa Clara County Counsel Orry Korb. “Both her extensive experience as a supervising attorney and her compelling personal story will serve her well in her new position.”

Perez-MacDonald, who is the child of migrant agricultural workers was raised and educated both in the United States and Mexico, has demonstrated a high degree of sensitivity to the needs of the communities served. 

“I look forward to maintaining and enhancing this County’s reputation for excellence in providing effective, consistent and reliable legal representation to this county’s indigent community,” said Perez-MacDonald, who said that she is humbled and honored to be appointed. “I also look forward to working in collaboration with our justice system partners to continuously improve our county’s criminal justice system.” The IDO provides qualified attorneys to represent indigent persons who face criminal prosecution, but cannot be represented by either the Public Defender’s Office or the Alternate Defender’s Office because of conflicts of interest.  The IDO Director selects and maintains under contract a panel of criminal defense attorneys who are highly qualified to defend cases involving a full range of criminal charges. 

The IDO is a division of the County Counsel’s Office that is both managed and operated separately from the remainder of the Office in order to avoid any possible conflicts between persons represented by IDO and the other departmental clients of the Office. 

Perez-MacDonald graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1995 earning a Juris Doctor degree.  In 1992, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from University of California at Davis, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Spanish.  She is happily married to Scott MacDonald and has two step children, Leo and Jessica.  The IDO Director is paid up to $236,826 annually. Perez-MacDonald will assume her new position on December 8, 2014.

source: sccgov

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Area Women Lawyers Discuss Leaning In at Recent Seminar

Posted By Linda MacLeod, Esq., Monday, November 17, 2014

On October 29, 2014, the Women’s Lawyer Section of the Santa Clara County Bar Association — led by co-chairs Lori Costanzo and Linda MacLeod — held its “2nd Annual From Having It All to Leaning In: Career Advancement, Work-Life Balance, and the Realities of Being a Lawyer in the 21st Century" Seminar. This year's event, held at Cooley LLP in Palo Alto, was well attended with approximately 75 dynamic female lawyers — including judges (sitting and retired), mediators, corporate advisors, in-house counsel, professors, equity and non-equity partners, sole practitioners, authors, and associates—present. We started off with a cocktail hour where attendees were able to mingle and network in a relaxed setting. Pat Gillette, a well-known leader in the area of the advancement of female lawyers, was our keynote speaker. She sang the old Virginia Slims tune to introduce her speech about what she considers to be the “New Feminism.” She urged attendees to affirmatively engage men in the conversation — and the movement — to get women lawyers into more leadership positions at their law firms, companies and universities. She was simply “mahvelous.” You can see some of her keynote below. 

Seminar participants then broke out into one of four groups lead by female experts where timely articles, materials and books on women’s issues authored by Ida Abbott, Jean Williams, Barbara Bryant, Judge Erica Yew, Lori Andrus, and Dr. Michelle Rhyu were provided and discussed. The groups were: (1) Sponsorship/Mentorship and Equal Pay Issues; (2) Obstacles to Leadership and How to Overcome them; (3) Rainmaking—Regardless of Firm Size; and (3) Work/Life Balance.

Each breakout session generated spirited and personal discussion in a small group setting. All participants then gathered together again and reported back what they learned regarding their specific topics. The event provided much-needed discussion and education for female lawyers of all ages and backgrounds.

Look for this annual event again in 2015. 


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National News Media Join 9th Cir. Case on Public Access in CA Courts

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

National newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, have joined in a pending Ninth Circuit case challenging press access delays in California courts.

The underlying case was brought by Courthouse News against Ventura's court clerk over delays in access to new complaints that ran up to a month. The delay sapped the news out of important legal battles, for example, over water rights and wind farms.

"Having access to complaints is an important component of reporting on the legal system and the judicial branch," said the brief by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 25 media organizations, including The Associated Press, Dow Jones & Company, Bloomberg L.P., The New Yorker, News Corporation and The Seattle Times Company.

"Civil complaints are most newsworthy the day they are filed, and, accordingly, the media is most likely to report on lawsuits of public interest and concern at that time," said the signatories, also including The E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Company, Hearst Corporation and the McClatchy Company.

The journey of the case began three years ago when it was filed in federal court in Los Angeles. Judge Manuel Real dismissed on abstention grounds, saying the matter was for state courts to decide.

The Ninth Circuit reversed.

"Open government has been a hallmark of our democracy since our nation's founding," said the opinion by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw joined by Mary Murguia and John Noonan.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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Gov. Jerry Brown lets state Supreme Court vacancy linger

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

The California Supreme Court, which is supposed to have seven justices, has had only six for more than seven months, an interval that may be unprecedented and is at least the longest in a half century. The reason is inaction by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Justice Joyce Kennard, the court’s longest-serving member, retired April 5, a decision she had announced nearly two months earlier. The vacancy gave Brown a chance to shift the composition of a court that has had only one Democratic appointee for more than two decades.

The governor moved quickly when another seat opened up with the announcement in June by Justice Marvin Baxter, the court’s leading conservative, that he would not seek another 12-year term. Five weeks later, Brown nominated Stanford law Professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, who was confirmed by a state commission and approved by the state’s voters Nov. 4 to take office in January.

But Brown — who at times in the past has questioned the need to fill vacant judgeships — hasn’t nominated Kennard’s successor or said why he hasn’t. 

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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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 Complete program information and applications can be found at

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more Calendar

How to Draft a Custody Order

Diversity Happy Hour

Fourth Annual Law Day Mixer

Recent Recognitions
Hon. Edward J. Davila2017 Diversity of the Year
Hon. Julie A. Emede2017 Outstanding Jurist of the Year

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