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July 21 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 21, 2016

Court ruling could boost cost of California water project

The California Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling Thursday that could add millions of dollars to the cost of the governor's $15.7 billion plan to build two giant water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. At issue is whether California officials must pay landowners to access thousands of acres of private property to conduct preliminary environmental and geological tests for the project. By Sudhin Thanawala — The Associated Press

Big law firms play cameos in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ forfeiture case

Several major law firms handled funds stolen in a billion-dollar global money laundering scheme, according to federal prosecutors—money that was used to finance the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” and pay for real estate, art, a $35 million private jet, and other luxuries. In a civil asset forfeiture case filed in Los Angeles federal district court, prosecutors alleged that more than $3.5 billion was illegally diverted from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, an investment and development company owned by the Malaysian government. By Zoe Tillman — The National Law Journal (sub. req.)

California Supreme Court takes rare move in reviewing Upland medical marijuana battle

Was Upland correct in deciding to delay a citizen-backed initiative until the general election because officials believed it was a tax? Or should the city have held a special election right away to let the residents decide whether to overturn the city’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries with a measure that also proposed a $75,000 fee per dispensary? By Liset Márquez — Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

City asks Supreme Court to review stadium measure

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith sent a letter Wednesday to the California Supreme Court seeking its help in settling the question of whether a two-thirds majority is needed to pass two November ballot initiatives related to a Chargers stadium and downtown convention center annex. He had previously made known his plans to do so and on Wednesday made good on his pledge to get the court to weigh in sooner than later. By Lori Weisberg — San Diego Union-Tribune

California lawyer delivers Sikh prayer at GOP convention

When Harmeet Dhillon first ran for vice chairwoman of the California GOP, rivals whispered that the Indian-born Sikh would slaughter a goat at the lectern. On Tuesday night, Dhillon opened the second night of the Republican National Convention by singing the invocation in Punjabi and then translating it into English. By Seema Mehta — Los Angeles Times

New warning rule for users of generic drugs left in limbo

Five years after the Supreme Court blocked most personal-injury lawsuits against makers of generic drugs, a rule designed to strengthen patient protections have stalled, leaving what consumer groups warn is a safety gap for millions of users. After several delays, the Food and Drug Administration said last year it would to issue a new rule by the end of this month to require generic drug makers to update their warning labels in response to newly revealed risks. By David G. Savage — Los Angeles Times

Lawyer ads pay homage to ‘Better Call Saul’

The show “Better Call Saul” is the story an underdog’s doomed pursuit of an honest career as a lawyer as he gradually succumbs to personal demons and feelings of betrayal by the legal establishment. Lawyers watching AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spin-off, which wrapped up its second season this spring, could look at Saul Goodman’s descent through an ironic lens — viewing his outlaw adventures as a colorful and cautionary tale. By Jacob Gershman — The Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.)

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July 20 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 21, 2016

Shades of 'Fargo' as man convicted of plotting to kidnap, torture and kill federal judge with a wood chipper

John Walthall could not accept his punishment when 12 jurors found him guilty of bilking $5.5 million from an elderly couple. Breaking the decorum of federal court, he openly asserted his innocence and protested his conviction after the jury announced its decision. By Matt Hamilton — Los Angeles Times


$10M awarded for wrongful murder conviction

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a $10.1 million payout for a man who spent 20 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned and who claimed a sheriff's deputy had steered a witness to identify him as the shooter. Francisco "Franky" Carrillo Jr. was convicted of killing Donald Sarpy in a 1991 drive-by attack in an area of Lynwood that was home to two rival gangs. — City News Service


More minority federal judges have been appointed under Democratic than Republican presidents

The first black judge to have been appointed by the president to the federal bench was William Henry Hastie, whom Franklin Delano Roosevelt named as a district court judge for the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1937. Harry Truman subsequently nominated Hastie to the appeals court in 1949. By Sara Atske — Pew Research Center


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July 19 Digest

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Judge throws out ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca's plea deal, saying six months in prison not enough

A federal judge on Monday threw out a plea agreement that would have given former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca a maximum of six months in prison, saying the sentence was too lenient considering Baca’s role in obstructing an FBI investigation into the county jails. Addressing a downtown courtroom packed with Baca’s supporters, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said the deal “would trivialize the seriousness of the offenses … the need for a just punishment [and] the need to deter others.” By Cindy Chang and Marisa Gerber — Los Angeles Times


Fullerton's voting system back in court over map setting boundaries for district elections

A resident who sued to have Fullerton elect leaders from geographic areas is not happy with the map that will accompany a public vote in November on making the change to district elections and has gone back to court to ask a judge to start the mapping process over. By Brian Whitehead — The Orange County Register

Justice Dept. urges the Supreme Court to rehear immigration case

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rehear a challenge to the Obama administration’s plan to delay the deportation of nearly five million undocumented immigrants. The justices on June 23 deadlocked 4-4 in United States v. Texas, leaving in place a lower court's nationwide injunction that froze the deportation plan. The administration had sought to overturn the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which upheld the injunction after finding the immigration action exceeded executive power. By Marcia Coyle — The National Law Journal (sub. req.)

See also: The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)Bloomberg


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Professionalism News: California Rules Redo Marries Borrowed Rules With Old and New

Posted By Paula Collis, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

From ABA BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct™ (also available on Bloomberg Law)


By Joan C. Rogers

July 11 — The California State Bar is seeking feedback by Sept. 27 on a big set of proposed revisions to the rules governing lawyer conduct in the Golden State.

The bar's board of governors June 23 agreed to float 68 proposed new and amended California Professional Conduct Rules for a 90-day public comment period.

The proposed rules mostly track the numbering of the Model Rules and borrow some of the substance of the ABA models, but rework or add to several rules and preserve some of California's current rules, including its strict confidentiality standards.

Some highlights of the package are:

  • A hybrid general standard for conflicts of interest;
  • Restrictions on nonrefundable fees and flat fees;
  • A narrow screening rule;
  • A unique rule on representing clients with diminished capacity;
  • Two alternatives for an updated bias rule;
  • Streamlined advertising and solicitation rules; and
  • A flat ban against sex with current clients.

The proposals leave out Model Rule 1.18 (duties to prospective clients), Model Rule 8.3 (reporting misconduct) and a half-dozen other ABA models. ( See box).

The process of shifting to a version of the Model Rules in California is on a fast track—but far from complete. The commission said it will seek additional comment for any revisions to these drafts before sending final proposals to the bar's board of governors for possible approval. Even when the board has approved a final set of rules, none of them will go into effect unless and until the California Supreme Court accepts them.


There will be a public hearing July 26 on the proposed rules at the state bar's Los Angeles office, with a remote link enabling people to testify from the bar's San Francisco office. The time limit for registering to speak is July 20.

Heather L. Rosing, who's with Klinedinst in San Diego, told Bloomberg BNA that some of the proposals likely to provoke the most discussion are the draft rules on prohibited discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; client trust accounting... [read more]

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Rules Revision Commission Public Hearing July 26th: 68 Proposed New and Amended Rules of Professional Conduct

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 19, 2016

public hearing to receive oral testimony on 68 proposed new and amended Rules of Professional Conduct, of the Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct, is scheduled as follows: 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10:00 am*


State Bar of California

Second Floor

845 South Figueroa Street

Los Angeles, CA  90015




State Bar of California

180 Howard Street, 4D&E

San Francisco, CA 94105


Both locations will be joined via an internal video-conference connection between the two meeting rooms.  Attendees who cannot appear at either location can join via a teleconference option by calling 1-855-520-7605, and entering the conference code 253‑541-0212#. 


*NOTE:  The time allotted for each person’s testimony will be limited based on the number of requests received. All efforts will be made to accommodate all requests to testify. It is strongly recommended that you arrive by the start time of 10:00 am to sign-in and secure an opportunity to speak. The hearing will conclude when all speakers present have had an opportunity to speak, or until 3:00 pm, whichever comes first.

For more information concerning the proposed amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct, please read the State Bar public comment notice.

Lauren McCurdy | Sr. Administrative Specialist

Office of Professional Competence

The State Bar of California | 180 Howard St. | San Francisco, CA 94105

415.538.2107 |

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July 18 Digest

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 18, 2016

Can a California homeowner be sued for a wildfire?

A 2013 wildfire burned 43 square miles near Palm Springs, Calif., threatening a town and costing an estimated $15 million to put out – and the federal government wants Tarek Al-Shawaf to pay for it. Officials say that Mr. Shawaf's warped electrical box started the fire in the San Jacinto Mountains. By Lucy Schouten — The Christian Science Monitor

Riverside woman files lawsuit over her Corinthian Colleges debt

A California mother of two and a former student of the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, seeking damages and an end to daily collection calls over private loans she received to attend the for-profit school. Attorneys for Deborah Terrell say the case, which seeks class-action status, could involve thousands of ex-Corinthian students and millions of dollars. By Jennifer C. Kerr — The Associated Press

Prosecutors close to wrapping up case against PG&E

Federal prosecutors plan to wind up their pipeline-safety case against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. next week without testimony from some high-ranking PG&E personnel who had previously been listed as witnesses. After an abbreviated session Friday, the start of the trial’s fifth week, prosecutors said they would call two or three more witnesses and rest their case by Wednesday. By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle

TRIBES: Foster family won't give up on Lexi, despite legal setback

A 6-year-old girl with Native American heritage will remain with her relatives in Utah under a court ruling last week but the Santa Clarita foster parents who had to surrender her in the contentious custody battle are refusing to stand down. In a unanimous decision, a California appellate court July 8 upheld a lower court’s ruling in March that removed the girl, known as Lexi, from the home of Rusty and Summer Page – where she had lived for more than four years – and placed her with relatives in Utah, including a half-sister. By Brenda Gazzar — The Press-Enterprise

Firms offer cash to help new lawyers pay student debt

Young lawyers, struggling with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, are finding relief from a new source: their employers. Some law firms are starting to contribute cash to help their newly hired lawyers meet monthly payments on education loans that can be as large as a mortgage payment on a house. By Elizabeth Olson — The New York Times

Fraud complaints cloud foreclosure relief

In 2012, after a heart attack left him too ill to work and unable to make his mortgage payments on time, John M. Green turned to the Litvin Law Firm for help. Green, according, in part, to records he provided to federal bankruptcy court, said he paid the firm about $8,000 over the next two years to negotiate better terms with the lender on his house in Baker, La. By Fred Schulte — USA Today

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July 15 Digest

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 15, 2016
Updated: Monday, July 18, 2016

PG&E knew years ago gas-line data was lacking, manager testifies
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. knew more than 15 years ago that it lacked information about the dimensions and strength of its oldest gas pipelines, but did not order its engineers to inspect them, a PG&E manager testified Wednesday at the utility’s trial on pipeline-safety charges. Instead, PG&E joined other gas and electric companies in lobbying federal regulators to ease inspection requirements, said Todd Hogenson, the utility’s senior manager for pipeline engineering design. By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle

Teen's father contends Fresno police have 'a culture' of shooting unarmed people
A day after Fresno police released video footage of officers shooting and killing an unarmed 19-year-old, the man’s father filed a legal claim saying the department has a culture of using “grossly disproportionate” force against residents. In a new claim filed against the city on Thursday, Dylan Noble’s father alleged that the Fresno Police Department “acted with reckless or callous disregard” for his son’s rights. By Veronica Rocha — Los Angeles Times

Microsoft wins appeal over U.S. email requests
In a ruling that has important data security implications, a court ruled Thursday Microsoft can't be forced to give the government e-mails stored in Ireland that are part of a U.S. drug investigation. “This is an an incredibly important ruling, one of the most important in a long time,” said Craig Newman, who heads the data privacy practice at the New York law firm Patterson Belknap. By Elizabeth Weise — USA Today

Trump's policies would be unconstitutional and will be challenged if adopted, ACLU says
The American Civil Liberties Union is vowing to file constitutional challenges to several policies of Donald Trump if he should win election and implement them. The ACLU sees constitutional problems with Trump’s proposals on immigration, American Muslims, torture and freedom of speech. “If implemented, Donald Trump’s proposed policies will spark a constitutional and legal challenge that would require all hands on deck at the ACLU,” says ACLU executive director Anthony Romero in a press release. By Debra Cassens Weiss — ABA Journal

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July 14 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 14, 2016

California court widens scope of restraining orders

An Alameda County woman asked the courts in 2013 to extend a stay-away order against her abusive ex-boyfriend, saying he had harassed and threatened her by phone and had beaten her children after the order was issued. But a Superior Court commissioner refused, saying “annoying” phone calls don’t amount to abuse, and alleged attacks on children are irrelevant to their parent’s case for protection. A state appeals court has now ordered reinstatement of the restraining order, saying Commissioner Boydine Hall’s decision was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of California’s domestic violence law. By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle

Santa Monica convicts its first Airbnb host under tough home-sharing laws

Santa Monica, which last year passed some of the nation’s toughest regulations on short-term rentals, has now convicted its first Airbnb host under the new law, prosecutors said. Rental operator Scott Shatford, who listed five properties on Airbnb, was charged with eight misdemeanor counts of operating a business without a license and failing to comply with citations after he refused to stop renting out his properties, Deputy City Atty. Yibin Shen said WednesdayBy Hailey Branson-Potts — Los Angeles Times


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday considered the nomination of U.S. District Judge Lucy Haeran Koh to serve on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, Koh would be the first female Korean American to serve as a federal appellate judge. The Senate is not expected to consider her nomination before leaving at the end of the week for a seven-week break. By Sarah D. Wire — Los Angeles Times

Three U.S. Senate Democrats, including California's Dianne Feinstein, have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the impacts of short-term rental platforms on cities' housing stocks and rents. In a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Feinstein, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said they also are concerned about reports of racial discrimination in rental decisions, inconsistent tax collection among jurisdictions and potential violations of local health and safety regulations. By Cheryl Miller — The Recorder (sub. req.)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court on Thursday apologized for her recent remarks about the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, saying they were “ill-advised.” Earlier this week, Justice Ginsburg called Mr. Trump “a faker” who “really has an ego” and said he had been treated too gently by the press. Mr. Trump, she said, “says whatever comes into his head at the moment” and has no consistency in his thinking. She also made critical remarks in interviews with The New York Times and The Associated Press. By Michael D. Shear— The New York Times

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Stanford Law School Graduates Submit Letter to Reconsider Recall Effort of Judge Persky

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Reposted in its entirety from the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project Blog


The following letter was sent to Stanford University’s Professor Michelle Dauber — the law professor leading the recall campaign to remove Judge Aaron Persky. The letter was from 53 graduating Stanford Law students, representing nearly a third of the total class of 180 students.

Dear Professor Dauber,

We are members of the graduating Class of 2016, and we were inspired to write this letter because of your leadership in responding to the Brock Turner rape case. As we bid farewell to the Stanford community we’ve been privileged to be a part of over the last three years, we can’t help but take note of those events and the discussion surrounding it, and we feel compelled to apply what we’ve learned at SLS to weigh in on an aspect of that discourse we find troubling.

First, we are proud of your leading role in advocating for reform of how society responds to sexual violence. Rape and other forms of sexual assault are urgent problems that are too often neglected or obscured by euphemisms, silence, and shame. The best scholars use their expertise to shine light on pressing civic issues like these: they articulate their visions of a more just society, and they engage with policymakers and the public to spur and shape reform. We’ve been privileged to learn at a place where faculty like you take up that mantle.

We’d also like to emphasize our agreement with your goals. We, like you, believe that members of the Stanford community — indeed, of every community — should be doing all we can to confront the problem head on, by preventing sexual violence in the first place, ensuring that those who experience it receive support and healing, and insisting that those responsible face consequences that reflect the seriousness of their actions. We, like you, are disturbed by the six-month jail sentence that Turner received, which appears lenient when measured against the relevant sentencing guidelines, the much-longer sentences many thousands of Americans are serving for less-serious crimes, and the trauma that the target of his assault so bravely described at Turner’s sentencing hearing. And we, like you, are especially troubled by our suspicion that race and privilege explain those discrepancies. Accountability means little when we demand it only from the already-disenfranchised, and the transformative power of mercy is diminished when we reserve it only for the privileged.

At the same time, one aspect of your recent advocacy troubles us: the nascent campaign you have championed to recall Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Turner. We have deep reservations about the idea of a judge — any judge — being fired over sentencing decisions that the public perceives as too lenient.

As we’ve learned during our time at the law school, judicial independence is a cornerstone of due process and an essential prerequisite of a fair criminal justice system. Judges are entrusted with immense power over the life and liberty of criminal defendants from all walks of life, and they need latitude to exercise that power judiciously. After decades of mass incarceration driven by mandatory minimums and other punitive sentencing regimes, we believe that judicial leniency is already too scarce, even though we strongly disagree with how it was applied to Turner. And in a world where judges believe they are one unpopular sentencing decision away from an abrupt pink slip, it will only grow scarcer. A high-profile campaign to recall Judge Persky because he showed too much solicitude for a defendant convicted of odious crimes would evoke an ugly chapter of California’s history: when three justices of our state’s highest court were recalled from the bench because they voted to oppose the death penalty, in accordance with the dictates of justice and the constitution as they understood them. Though the values underlying that effort were different from the ones animating the current recall debate, the chilling effect on judicial independence would be the same.

To be clear, our hesitation about a recall campaign does not stem from a belief that Judge Persky’s decision to give Turner a below-guidelines sentence was correct or that his stated justifications for doing so were sound. Many of us, like you, believe that justice called for a stiffer sentence in his case. But we think humility requires us to recognize that we won’t always be able to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate exercises of judicial mercy. If you or we claim the power to make that decision, how can we credibly deny it to anyone else? If we demand that Judge Persky immediately hand over his gavel for acting on his empathy for this defendant, how we can we credibly assure any other judge that her hand need not waver when the human circumstances of a case seem to call for compassion?

This is not an abstract concern: many of us count our work with Stanford’s Three Strikes Project as one of the most powerful experiences we had at SLS. Through the project, we represented clients serving life sentences for non-violent felonies as they petitioned for early release under Propositions 36 and 47 — transformative ballot measures championed by your Stanford colleagues, which have begun to roll back the worst excesses of California’s punitive sentencing laws. In that role, we had to ask county judges like Aaron Persky to grant early release to men and women serving life in prison because the people of California once believed that our clients’ mistakes made them irredeemable. Even when an inmate has made great strides in prison, and even though statistics show that people resentenced under Propositions 36 and 47 pose little danger of recidivism, granting that second chance is a delicate decision that requires courage on the part of judges: they have to bear the risk, however remote, that the petitioner will abuse that mercy in ways that provoke public backlash against their decision.

We believe it would send a powerful message to these judges and others making similar decisions around the country if, while continuing to critique Judge Persky’s sentencing decisions and calling for a different approach in future cases, you abstained from your effort to recall him from the bench and instead focused on other avenues of response and reform. These might include educating future judges and jurors about the realities of sexual assault, or pressing for systemic changes in how these cases are handled. We simply ask that you withhold your support for a recall campaign that would set a dangerous precedent against the exercise of merciful discretion in our criminal justice system.



(This letter was also signed by 48 other members of the graduating class.)

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July 13 Digest

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Experts battle in State Bar data trial

Questions about anonymity for bar exam takers dominated testimony Tuesday as the first expert witness was called in a bench trial between the State Bar and a researcher. By Phil Johnson — Daily Journal (sub. req.)

Lawsuit revived that accused Ford of conspiring on vehicle prices

A state appeals court in San Francisco has revived a lawsuit on behalf of many thousands of Californians accusing Ford Motors’ Canadian subsidiary of conspiring with other automakers to halt exports of lower-priced new cars and trucks from Canada to the United States in the early 2000s. Evidence of a confidential May 2001 meeting in Canada among representatives of major auto dealers’ associations and manufacturers could allow a jury to conclude that they were plotting strategies to maintain higher U.S. prices and profits by preventing exports, the First District Court of Appeal said in a precedent-setting ruling last week. By Bob Egelko — San Francisco Chronicle


New 2-year law program will get grads to job market quicker, save them tuition costs, dean says

Albany Law School has announced a two-year JD program, which shaves a year’s worth of tuition off the price. The 24-month program is scheduled to start in January 2017, according to the school’s website. It includes two summer terms, and students need 87 credits to graduate. Annual tuition at the school is $44,546. By Stephanie Francis Ward— ABA Journal


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