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Two California judges censured for having sex in their courthouses

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Two California judges -- one in Orange County, the other in Kern County -- were publicly censured Tuesday by a judicial oversight panel for having sex with women inside their respective chambers.


Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner was censured for a host of improprieties, including having sex in his chambers and failing to disqualify himself from a case involving a longtime friend, according to the Commission on Judicial Performance, an oversight board that investigates judicial misconduct.


“Engaging in sexual intercourse in the courthouse is the height of irresponsible and improper behavior by a judge,” the commission wrote in its decision to censure.


A public censure is the most severe form of discipline the commission can issue outside of removing a judge from the bench. The commission is made up of three judges, two lawyers and six members of the public.


In its censure, the commission said Steiner’s action disrespected the court’s dignity and decorum, tarnished his office in the eyes of the public and potentially subjected court employees who might become aware of the "libidinous conduct" to a hostile work environment.


Read more via L.A. Times

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Judicial Council Names Martin N. Hoshino as Next Administrative Director

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation executive brings substantial administrative experience


SAN FRANCISCO—The Judicial Council of California today unanimously voted to select Martin N. Hoshino, Undersecretary for Operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), as the next Administrative Director. He will begin work October 1, the day after Administrative Director Steven Jahr retires.


“I am thrilled that Martin will be joining the judicial branch,” said Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who chairs the Judicial Council. “He has served in the executive branch with distinction for 15 years and comes highly recommended for his administrative expertise and competence.”


In heading up one of the CDCR’s two principal divisions, Mr. Hoshino oversaw a $10 billion budget, 60,000 employees, 34 prisons, and a host of other facilities. In 2012, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the joint executive California Trial Court Funding Work Group, which was established by the Chief Justice and the Governor to evaluate progress on state trial court funding.


“When I served on the Trial Court Funding Work Group, I was impressed with the Chief Justice’s commitment to a strong court system that efficiently provides essential government services, as it parallels the Governor’s approach with Corrections,” said Mr. Hoshino. “My own career encompasses a broad mix of statewide policymaking, oversight of budget and operations, and collaboration with the justice system and Legislature. I’m looking forward to applying my experience and administrative skills to serve the needs of the Judicial Council and the judicial branch.”


Mr. Hoshino was selected after a nationwide search by a Judicial Council search committee. “We were fortunate to have well-qualified applicants,” said Justice Harry Hull, a Sacramento appellate justice who headed up the committee. “Martin is highly regarded within the Brown Administration, has worked well with the Legislature, and his work experience reflects his deep and broad understanding of state government. One of his references called him an ‘administrator’s administrator.’ Every judge and justice in this state understands that effective and efficient administrative leadership helps us to do our job of providing access to justice. The judicial branch and the people of California will be well-served by him.”


Since 2003, Mr. Hoshino has served in various capacities at the CDCR: Besides undersecretary of operations, he has served as undersecretary of administration and offender services, executive officer at the Board of Parole Hearings, and assistant secretary at the Office of Internal Affairs. Before joining Corrections, Mr. Hoshino worked in the California Office of the Inspector General and the State Controller’s Office. He earned a master’s degree in public administration and political science from UC Davis. His salary will be $240,828.


The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts, the largest court system in the nation. Under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution, the council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice.



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Three Get Nod for Calif. Appellate Bench

Posted By SCCBA, Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - California's Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed two Los Angeles judges and a Sacramento attorney to the appellate bench.


Edmon's elevation to Presiding Justice of the Third Division of the Second Appellate District was the second time in court history in which a judge has gone from the superior court bench straight to presiding justice. She replaces retiring Senior Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, the only other justice to do so.


 "I have enormous shoes to try to fill," Edmon said.


Klein, who joined Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Attorney General Kamala Harris in approving Edmon's nomination to the seat at a hearing Thursday, joked, "I have to be careful during this hearing because this person is going to replace me. If I make a bad vote today, we're all in trouble."


Witnesses lauded Edmon's qualifications. Long-time friend Edith Matthai, a partner at Robie and Matthai in Los Angeles, said, "I have no qualms that Judge Lee Smalley Edmon is absolutely up to the job. Like Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, she is an obvious leader."


Matthai pointed to Edmon's leadership of Los Angeles Superior Court as presiding judge during two years of harsh budget cuts from 2011-2013.


"That is not an easy job in the best of times. Judge Edmon took on that job in the worst of times," Matthai said.


Edmon spearheaded a court consolidation plan of large-scale courtroom closures and staff layoffs, but kept the courts running and hearing cases.


"Her legacy is that she kept the court operating and she kept the judges united in what I consider the biggest challenge in the history of Los Angeles Superior Court," Assistant Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl of Los Angeles said.


Kuhl pointed out that Edmon was the first woman presiding judge in Los Angeles, though women have served on the bench since 1928.


Read more via Courthouse News Service...

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Supreme Court Committee Provides Guidance on Accepting Gifts

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions advises judges on accepting small gifts as ordinary social hospitality.

SAN FRANCISCO— The California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) has issued an advisory opinion, CJEO Formal Opinion No. 2014-005,  that provides guidance on small value gifts (di minimis items) that are sometimes offered to judges.  The opinion clarifies that these tokens of esteem or appreciation, such as tickets to local events and food items, are gifts under the Code of Judicial Ethics and subject to the ban on gifts from parties and nonparties because they might create an appearance of influence, favor, or advantage. 


The advisory opinion also provides an important analytical framework for judges to use when determining whether small-value gifts that are not banned may be accepted under the ordinary social hospitality exception.The opinion advises that gifts of little or nominal value that are not otherwise banned may be accepted if they are ordinary by community standards, offered for social traditions or purposes, and hospitable in nature.

The committee previously invited the public to comment on this advisory opinion in draft form and considered all of the comments received when approving CJEO Formal Opinion No. 2014-005.

CJEO is an independent committee appointed by the Supreme Court to help inform the judiciary and the public concerning judicial ethics topics. CJEO was established as part of the court’s constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 18, subd. (m)). In making appointments to serve on CJEO, the court selects members of the bench with a strong background in judicial ethics and diverse courtroom experience. The current twelve CJEO members are justices, judges, a commissioner, and a retired bench officer who have served in courts of various sizes throughout the state.

CJEO publishes formal opinions, issues confidential informal opinions, and provides oral advice on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.80(e)(1)). CJEO acts independently of the Supreme Court, the Commission on Judicial Performance, the Judicial Council, and all other entities (rule 9.80(b)).

For more information about CJEO, visit the CJEO website and view the members’ page, call toll-free at 1 (855) 854-5366, or email

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It's Early Bird Renewal Time

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 13, 2014


We welcomed 225 new members to our SCCBA community this year. 

The almost 1800 SCCBA members on our 13 sections and 16 committees sponsored over 60 Live CLE events this year, attended by over 2,000 local attorneys. 

From Bocce Ball to Speed Networking Events, SCCBA Sections and Committees hosted over 15 social and networking events for our members last year. 

Member Dues help support the process of evaluating Judicial Candidates for the Governor. The Judiciary Committee has been well respected and heavily relied on by Governors for decades, and our process is one that a number of Jucidal Appointment Secretaries have touted as a model. 

Last year, our Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) panel attorneys represented 2268 community members and generated more than $60,000 in attorney’s fees. This year, our LRS is on track to exceed this mark for our LRS attorneys and community. 

This year we inaugurated the Center for Ethics and Professionalim, the cornerstone of the SCCBA’s influence on the culture of the Santa Clara County legal community and courts. At a significant benefit to local, practicing attorneys, the SCCBA Professionalism Committee reviews every formal ethics opinion proposed by the State Bar and when appropriate submits comments, which have been often utilized in revising the proposed opinion before being published. 

SCCBA Members make it a priority to give back to our community through events such as clothing drives and food sorting events. Member dues also support Law Related Education events such as the annual High School Mock Trial. 

Free Online Legal Research
Discounted CLE
Judicial Profile Access
Online Membership Directory


Together, we can offer even more to our members to enrich and support your professional endeavors. 

Renew online or download the renewal form to mail in. 

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Unsung Heroes Nomination Period Ends This Week

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 12, 2014

SCCBA Unsung Heroes AwardNOMINATION DEADLINE IS THIS FRIDAY. Submit an online nomination

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 Friday, August 15, 2014.

The 2014 Unsung Heroes Awards will be presented at the Annual Reception on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 5:30 p.m., at the Fallon House Gardens, 175 W. St. John Street, San Jose, CA. Last year’s reception was a huge success, as over 50 judges and attorneys came together to honor Christopher J. Arriola and Jennifer M. Protas.


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


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Kurt Kumli: A charismatic prosecutor and judge

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Almost a decade ago, I did a column about a 16-year-old boy who stabbed to death an older brother who taunted him. I called Deputy DA Kurt Kumli, who explained that the case met the requirements for a murder charge. "But really, putting a human face on it, it's just a tragedy," he said.

In a nutshell, that's what Kurt Kumli did as a prosecutor and a judge in Santa Clara County: He put a human face on even the toughest cases.

When he died Monday night of brain cancer at the age of 52, his friends in the Santa Clara County judicial system took it as tragedy. The word they used to describe him was charismatic.

"When you talked to him, he made you feel like you were the only person in the room," said his friend, deputy public defender Gary Goodman. "If he sentenced someone to a long sentence, they often left saying 'thank you,' because they realized the judgment was fair and reasonable and done with respect. He treated them like people rather than a number."

Read more via Mercury News

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Santa Clara County shutting courthouses

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cutbacks in state funding for trial courts are about to have an impact in Santa Clara County, which is shutting down courthouses in Palo Alto and Morgan Hill that handle civil and small-claims cases and traffic tickets.

Civil suits and small-claims cases, in which individuals represent themselves without lawyers, will be transferred to the county courthouse in downtown San Jose, and traffic cases will be heard in Santa Clara. The shutdown is scheduled to take effect Oct. 6.

"This is awful," Brian Walsh, the Superior Court's presiding judge, said Wednesday. "Judges and staff are dedicated to serving the public, and this disserves the public. But we have no other choice."

Read more via SFGate

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Public Notice Regarding Courthouse Closures

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara operates courthouses in Morgan Hill and Palo Alto. This is to inform the public of the Superior Court’s decision to close the Civil, Small Claims and Traffic courts in Morgan Hill and Palo Alto until further notice. The closure will go into effect October 6, 2014. 

Civil, Small Claims and Traffic cases scheduled to be heard in Morgan Hill and Palo Alto Courthouses will be scheduled for court appearances in the following new locations: 
Morgan Hill Courthouse New Locations
Civil and Small Claims  → Downtown Courthouse 
191 North First Street 
San Jose, California 

 Traffic → Santa Clara Courthouse 
1095 Homestead Road 
Santa Clara, California 

Palo Alto Courthouse
Small ClaimsDowntown Courthouse
191 North First Street
San Jose, California

Traffic → Santa Clara Courthouse
1095 Homestead Road
Santa Clara, California

The Court finds the above actions are necessary due to the significant and continuing cuts to the State Judicial Branch Budget. Since 2009, state funding for the judicial branch has been significantly reduced, with those reductions impacting the budgets of individual superior courts. The limited amount of funding restored in FY 2014-15 does not make it fiscally feasible to keep these courts open. 

We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. If you would like to submit comments about the proposed reductions, please send them to: 
David H. Yamasaki, Court Executive Officer, 191 North First Street, San Jose, California 95113 by October 6, 2014. 

For further information, please check the Superior Court website at

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President's Message: Informed Voters & An Independent Judiciary

Posted By Dianne L. Sweeney, Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 7, 2014
Dianne L. Sweeney
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
2014 SCCBA President

As judicial elections heat up again, efforts are being made throughout the country to educate the electorate about the judicial branch—the only non-political branch of government—and how to best preserve fair and impartial elections.

The National Association of Women Judges has asked for our support of their informed voter project aimed at ensuring that our judicial system is free from special interest groups.  Unlike the upcoming gubernatorial and mayoral elections, judicial elections are not a popularity contest.  Good judging is about fair and diligent application of law.  If a litigant believes the judge made an error, the recourse is not to wait until to the next election but to file an appeal.  NAWJ suggests that voters seek information and evaluate judges based on the following areas: 

•    Integrity – A judge should be honest, upright and committed to the rule of law
•    Professional Competence – A judge should have a keen intellect, extensive legal knowledge and strong writing skills
•    Judicial Temperament  – A judge must be neutral, decisive, respectful and composed
•    Experience – A judge should have a strong record of professional excellence in the law
•    Service  –  A judge should be committed to public service and the administration of justice

As lawyers in this County, we have a special interest in ensuring that the candidates to our bench meet these criteria and are dedicated to the impartial and fair administration of justice for all.  We also have a responsibility to educate the community about the special nature of judicial elections and to support elections that are not based on the outcome of any specific case or special interest.  

SCCBA has a long and unique history in supporting fair elections and our local Bench.  As discussed a few months back, our Fair Elections Practices Commission provides candidates with ethical guidelines and works to confidentially resolve any campaign disputes.  Additionally, new this year to the SCCBA is our Judicial Assessment Committee (“JAC “) that allows lawyers to confidentially raise issues about a particular judicial officer and seek advice from well-established practitioners.  The JAC will also raise the issue with the Court if the lawyer so desires.  Later this year, we will also conduct our first assessment poll to see how the Courts are functioning and to gather information about your day-to-day experiences.  If you would like more information about the JAC you can find it on the SCCBA website at get involved >>> judicial assessment.

Lawyers in the Community
In other activities at the bar, we are sponsoring an event as part of our “Lawyers in the Community as well as the Courtroom” initiative.  As service to the community is a critical and rewarding part of our practice, I hope that you will join me, our Executive Committee and Board of Trustees at the Second Harvest Food Bank for an evening of service.  The feedback from our last event was overwhelmingly positive and helped us refocus on the basic needs of our community.  I hope to see you on August 13, 2014.

Budget Woes Trigger Consolidation in our Superior Court
We may also have new volunteer opportunities to support our Court in the months to come.  As many of you have now read, the Court announced that it has been forced to consolidate courtrooms by discontinuing civil, small claims and traffic calendars that are currently being heard in the Morgan Hill and Palo Alto courthouses and moving those appearances to the Downtown San Jose or Santa Clara courthouses.  Judge Walsh called me last week to apprise the Bar of the consolidation and to discuss the devastating impacts of the ongoing budget shortfalls.  Judge Walsh and our dedicated judiciary members and staff are doing all they can to keep current services in place, but you should expect to see longer lines and additional delays as the Court struggles to maintain its operations with insufficient resources.  Going forward, further changes may be required by the Court and we may be called upon to support the Court in new ways.  In the interim Judge Walsh wanted to convey to the Bar that he and his team are doing all they can to continue to provide services in all areas.   

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