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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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July 11 Digest

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 11, 2016

This new California law could dramatically change the demographics of its electorate

California recently passed the New Motor Voter Act, a law designed to register eligible residents to vote by default when they use the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), unless they decline. Other states have or are considering similar laws. By Eric McGhee and Mindy Romero — Washington Post

Case over bar records heads to trial

A long-running lawsuit against the State Bar seeking demographic and other information about prospective lawyers heads to trial this week. The suit — initially brought in 2008 by UCLA School of Law Professor Richard Sander, former bar board member Joe Hicks and the First Amendment Coalition — will receive a bench trial before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary E. Wiss. By Lyle Moran — Daily Journal

Federal judge slams fired Newport Beach cop's lawsuit as junk

A federal judge is on the verge of dismissing a fired Newport Beach cop's wrongful termination lawsuit, calling the complaint "largely incoherent" and "often nonsensical." Inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford determined that Eric Peterson's 14-claim civil complaint involving two former Orange County police chiefs, city officials as well as police management has not stated a valid legal case of his victimization. By Scott Moxley — OC Weekly


U.S. Supreme Court may be at turning point, UCI law school dean tells Newport audience

More than 100 Newport Beach residents and dignitaries rose early Thursday to hear from UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky about how the U.S. Supreme Court may be headed to a new era following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. "Everything changed in the Supreme Court on Saturday, Feb. 13, when Justice Scalia died," Chemerinsky said at the Wake Up Newport event presented by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. By Alex Chan — Los Angeles Times

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, no fan of Donald Trump, critiques latest term

Unless they have a book to sell, Supreme Court justices rarely give interviews. Even then, they diligently avoid political topics. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes a different approach. These days, she is making no secret of what she thinks of a certain presidential candidate. By Adam Liptak — The New York Times

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July 5 Digest

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 5, 2016

PG&E records show pipeline that blew up had 33 previous leaks

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. records in 2009 listed 33 past leaks with unknown causes on the same aging gas pipeline that exploded in San Bruno in 2010, a PG&E engineer told a federal court jury Friday. Called as a prosecution witness in PG&E’s trial on charges of criminal violations of pipeline-safety laws, David Aguiar testified that his job was to examine pipelines for external evidence of corrosion — a method that could not have detected internal welding defects that caused many leaks. — San Francisco Chronicle

After Supreme Court ruling, what's next for unanthorized immigrants seeking work?

Many unauthorized immigrants had pinned their hopes on getting work permits through President Obama’s immigration plan, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently placed the plan on hold, raising questions of what might be next for those looking to work in California legally. California is among the most liberal of the states in granting benefits to those living in the U.S. without legal status. — 89.3 KPCC

Lake County man awarded $936,880 for wrongful conviction

A Lake County man who spent 20 years behind bars for a crime of which he since has been exonerated will receive a state compensation check of $936,880 for wrongful conviction. The California legislature this week approved the payment for Luther Jones, 72, and it was signed by the governor Friday, according to the office of Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. — The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

FBI recommends no prosecution in Hillary Clinton email case

The FBI is recommending that no charges be brought against Hillary Clinton in connection with her email use while secretary of State, FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday. “No reasonable prosecutor” would bring such a case, Comey said. But although the FBI is not recommending charges, the FBI director did strongly criticize Clinton’s handling of classified information in her email, calling it “extremely careless.” — Los Angeles Times

See also: NBC News, The New York Times


Court: KKK can continue quest to ‘adopt’ a Georgia highway

Georgia’s highest court has ruled that the Ku Klux Klan’s lawsuit over its bid to ‘adopt’ a highway can continue. In a unanimous decision announced Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Georgia dismissed the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling. — The Associated Press

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June 30 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson launches program to prosecute liars

Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson says he’s fed up with liars who fib under oath. In a novel offensive against what many say is a rampant problem in the court system, he’s assigned an attorney in his office to investigate and prosecute alleged incidents of perjury. By Glenda Anderson — The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Obama administration has forgiven $171 million owed by former Corinthian students

The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to forgive $171 million of debt owed by former students of the bankrupt for-profit school Corinthian Colleges Inc., most of them in California. The government said Wednesday that it has granted relief to 11,173 students who attended one of the defunct Santa Ana company’s colleges, which included Heald, Everest and WyoTech. By Melody Petersen — Los Angeles Times

Proposal would require city attorney be lawyer

The qualifications to become San Diego’s city attorney would be bolstered under a proposed November ballot measure that would update the city charter. The changes would require the city attorney, which is an elected position in San Diego, to be a member of the California State Bar in good standing and have a minimum 10 years of experience practicing law in the state. By David Garrick — San Diego Union-Tribune

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June 29 Digest

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Manson murderer's 'disturbingly distorted' views should prevent her release from prison, D.A. says

The Los Angeles County district attorney has asked Gov. Jerry Brown to deny parole for former Manson “family” member Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted along with other members of the cult in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. In a letter dated Friday, Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey told the governor that she “strongly” opposed releasing Van Houten, calling her unsuitable for parole and a threat to public safety. By Matt Hamilton — Los Angeles Times

California may take closer look at treatment courts for veterans

Of California’s 58 counties, 25 operate courts for veterans, including six in the Bay Area. They allow vets with substance abuse issues or mental health problems to be placed in treatment rather than prison or jail. By Katie Orr — KQED

California ditches bid to copyright state records

A contentious proposal giving California complete copyright authorization over public records has been dismantled by lawmakers following prudent opposition from a coalition of free-speech and open-government advocates. Assembly Bill 2880 initially sought to give records created at taxpayer expense, including legislative reports, maps and recorded hearings, federal copyright and trademark protections and allow state and county governments to control and even prohibit their use. By Nick Cahill — Courthouse News Service

How the two justices from California are moving the Supreme Court to the left

The Supreme Court ended its term this week with two liberal victories – on abortion and affirmative action – that reflect in part a deepening center-left alliance between Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer. Breyer is the most moderate of the court’s four Democratic appointees, and Kennedy is easily the most moderate of the four Republican appointees. By David G. Savage — Los Angeles Times

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June 28 Digest

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Airbnb sues San Francisco over a law it had helped pass

Airbnb executives have often said that officials in San Francisco, the company’s hometown, understood how to work with innovative technology companies. Two years ago, the city and the start-up drafted a law that allowed Airbnb to operate widely there, despite blowback from advocates for affordable housing. By Katie Benner — The New York Times

See also: Los Angeles Times  


Supreme Court won't reopen union-fees case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request by public school teachers in California asking the justices to rehear a major challenge to fees that unions collect from non-members on which the court split 4-4 in March. The non-union teachers, represented by the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights conservative group, launched a long-shot effort to get the court to reconsider its decision. — Reuters

See also: The Associated Press  


Laguna Beach cafe owners file countersuit against Muslim women who alleged discrimination

The owners of a Laguna Beach cafe have filed a countersuit against a group of women who allege they were targeted for being “visibly Muslim” and discriminated against because they were ordered to leave. In the cross-complaint, filed last week in Orange County Superior Court, an attorney for the owners of the Urth Caffe accused the plaintiffs of trespassing. By Anh Do — Los Angeles Times

Bar panel upholds disbarment for alleged misappropriation

A state bar appellate panel has upheld the disbarment of a Peninsula attorney accused of bilking an elderly client out of $3.5 million. A bar court trial judge in 2013 found that Wade Robertson of Stanford misled William Cartinhour Jr., promising the then-77-year-old Maryland resident in 2004 lucrative returns if he invested $2 million in a class action. By Cheryl Miller — The Recorder

See also: Daily Journal (sub. req.)


SLO County’s Veterans Treatment Court changes lives, offers a second chance

When Kessler Smith returned home after more than five years fighting for his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, he couldn’t land a job — even as a door employee at a local Wal-Mart. He felt alienated, undervalued. By Matt Fountain — New Times San Luis Obispo

Supreme Court ruling imperils abortion laws in many states

By striking down tough abortion restrictions in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court has emboldened abortion-rights activists nationwide and imperiled a range of anti-abortion laws in numerous states. Many anti-abortion leaders were openly disappointed, bracing for the demise of restrictions that they had worked vigorously to enact over the past few years. By David Crary — The Associated Press

Supreme Court upholds wide reach of U.S. gun ban for domestic violence

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the broad reach of a federal law that bars people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning guns. The justices rejected arguments that the law covers only intentional or knowing acts of abuse and not those committed recklessly — where a person is aware of the risk that an act will cause injury, but not certain it will. — The Associated Press

See also: The Washington Post

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June 27 Digest

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 27, 2016
Updated: Monday, June 27, 2016

Increasing penalties for sexual assault not that easy

Before Judge Aaron Persky gave Brock Turner the lenient sentence heard around the world, few knew that California’s penal code deemed the sexual assault of an unconscious person less severe than an attack on a conscious person — or that the state defined rape in very narrow terms. Outrage over Turner’s six-month jail sentence for three felony counts of sexual assault quickly inspired legislation to toughen penalties and broaden California’s definition of rape — proposals that take aim at a problem all too common on college campuses. By Katy Murphy and Jessica Calefati — San Jose Mercury News

'We’re not the same as in 1945': Activist tells the story of how her parents fought school segregation in California

Seven decades ago, Sylvia Mendez’s parents went to court to fight for her right to attend a predominantly white school in her Orange County neighborhood. On a recent evening, she sat in a place of honor on the stage of a Boyle Heights school that bears their name. By Daniela Gerson — Los Angeles Times

Interpreter video pilot program approved by Judicial Council

The Judicial Council unanimously approved Friday a pilot program to gauge whether state courts can implement live video of interpreters to assist court visitors. Video remote interpretation (VRI) is one of the more high-profile proposals within a comprehensive Language Access Plan that aims to expand translation services to limited English speakers throughout the entire state court system. By Kevin Lee — Daily Journal (sub. req.)

Supreme Court overturns Texas abortion restrictions

The Supreme Court, in a victory for abortion-rights advocates, has limited the power of Texas and other states to restrict or effectively shut down clinics that offer the procedure. The justices, by a 5-3 vote, said Monday that Texas lawmakers went too far by imposing unnecessary regulations that had forced most of the state’s abortion clinics to go out of business. By David G. Savage — Los Angeles Times

See also: The New York Times, McClatchy

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SCCBA Barristers Honor Mariel Block, 2016 Barrister of the Year

Posted By Paula Collis, Thursday, June 23, 2016



The Barristers' Committee of the Santa Clara County Bar Association was thrilled yesterday to present Mariel Block  with the 2016 Barrister of the Year Award. Ms. Block's award was presented by the Hon. Carol Overton who spoke of the the contributions Mariel has made to the local legal community. Among the criteria to be selected for Barrister of the Year, the awardee, "must have demonstrated professional skill and judgement significantly beyond that expected for a lawyer with his or his experience level." 


Ms. Block graduated from UC Berkeley magna cum laude in 2008 and from University of Michigan Law School in December 2011. She was admitted to the California Bar in June 2012. Throughout her education and career, Ms. Block has shown a strong commitment to public interest law. She has clerked at the ACLU in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, Illinois and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana. From March 2013 to August 2014, she worked as a staff attorney defending low income clients in unlawful detainer proceedings in Sacramento County. In September 2014, Ms. Block was hired as the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Housing Program Staff Attorney and has been serving in that role since that time.


Ms. Block is an extremely knowledgeable, tenacious, resourceful, creative and zealous advocate. During the last year and a half, she has devoted tremendous energy and talent to making the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Housing Program what it is today. Every Friday, she coordinates the Law Foundation’s eviction clinic, providing support to our 68 volunteer lawyers serving low income tenants in Santa Clara County. She also provides support to pro bono attorneys who take on unlawful detainer cases for ongoing representation and handles her very own case load. The growth of the Program under her lead has been remarkable – in 2014, the clinic provided representation to 295 tenants, 7 of whom received full scope representation. In 2015, the Program provided representation to 373 clients, 60 of whom received ongoing representation throughout the eviction process. Beyond the numbers, Ms. Block’s fierce advocacy and guidance has resulted in some truly amazing outcomes on behalf of low income tenants in our county.


Ms. Block plays a critical part in pro bono work in our county, though she has a supporting role. Since starting as the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Housing Program Staff Attorney, she has trained and provided technical assistance to over 200 volunteers at our weekly housing clinic and provided support to 45 private attorneys who represented low income tenants in UD proceedings on a pro bono basis.


Ms. Block has been active in the Santa Clara County Legal Services Community. She regularly participates with the local Housing Task Force, which meets regularly to discuss and address issues facing low income tenants in our community. As one of the few tenant attorneys in our county, she has also been active in providing comments to the Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force at the State level.





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June 20 Digest

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, June 20, 2016
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June 16 Digest

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 16, 2016

Prosecutors 'lack confidence' in Stanford sex assault judge — and that could be a big problem for him

The judge who sentenced former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail in a sexual assault case is facing a recall effort as well as demands that he be disciplined. But he’s also facing a different kind of threat from the local district attorney’s office. By Richard Winton — Los Angeles Times

See also: East Bay Times

Gov. Brown drops plan to curb private wage-and-hour litigation

Gov. Jerry Brown has dropped major portions of his plan to curb wage-and-hour litigation in the wake of heavy lobbying by the plaintiffs bar and organized labor. In his January budget proposal, Brown had asked the Legislature for numerous amendments to the 13-year-old Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA, which allows workers to sue for alleged Labor Code violations when the state declines to act. By Cheryl Miller — The Recorder (sub. req.)

Judge dismisses lawyer from Chow case

A federal judge dismissed one of the lead attorneys who defended Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow at his recent murder and racketeering trial, after a closed hearing where he spoke with Chow for an hour. All three of Chow's attorneys-- Curtis Briggs, J. Tony Serra and Tyler Smith-- had moved earlier this month to withdraw from the case, citing "irreconcilable differences" in their filing. By Maria Dinzeo — Courthouse News Service

Yanking licenses over unpaid fines harms the poor, suit charges

A repayment program established by the state last year to protect low-income Californians from losing their driver’s licenses over unpaid traffic fines is not working in many California counties, according to a coalition of civil rights advocates, who say local courts are failing to take a person’s ability to pay into account. Led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the coalition filed suit Wednesday against Solano County Superior Court — one of dozens, it says, that have been intractable on the issue — and warned 26 others that they could be next. By Michael Cabanatuan — San Francisco Chronicle

Are non-lawyers the future of law school? One school in Delaware thinks so

Cheryl Kettinger isn’t a lawyer, but she is a law school graduate. In 2012, Kettinger graduated from a special program at Widener University School of Law designed to educate people like her — those who work with the law but aren’t angling to become licensed attorneys. By Avi Wolfman-Arent — Newsworks

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June 14 Digest

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Legal settlement may set precedent for detained immigrants seeking lawyers

Thousands of immigrants detained in facilities in northern California will enjoy improved access to legal counsel, following a major class action settlement that lawyers hope will set a nationwide precedent. The settlement will ensure detainees at four centres are permitted freer access to telephones in order to contact attorneys throughout their removal proceedings, a right they claimed was routinely denied due to unconstitutional restrictions that violated Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s own guidelines. By Olivia Laughland — The Guardian

Juror in Stanford sex assault case appalled by sentence

A juror who helped convict a former Stanford University student-athlete of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman complained to the judge about his "ridiculously lenient" six-month jail sentence, which the juror said made a mockery of the panel's verdict, a newspaper reported Monday. The Palo Alto Weekly published a letter that the juror sent Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky over the weekend to convey his shock and disappointment over the sentence 20-year-old Brock Turner received. — The Associated Press

East Bay attorney convicted of hit-and-run faces consequences if he lied to judge

A San Ramon attorney convicted in the 2012 hit-and-run death of a Chinese tourist in Dublin has finished serving his jail sentence, but he is not off the hook just yet. Spencer Freeman Smith, 36, pleaded no contest and was convicted of killing Bo Hu, 57, in March 2012. By Angela Ruggiero — East Bay Times

Court upholds Obama-backed net neutrality rules

A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld a White House-supported effort to make internet service providers treat all web traffic equally, delivering a major defeat to cable and telephone companies. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the FCC's latest net neutrality rules, which consumer groups and President Barack Obama had backed as essential to preventing broadband providers from blocking or degrading the Internet traffic. By Alex Byers — POLITICO

See also: The Washington PostThe New York TimesLos Angeles Times

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more Latest News
more Calendar

Barristers' Annual Judges Luncheon

Disability and ERISA Issue Spotting for Labor Law Attorneys

2018 Annual Judges' Night Dinner

Recent Recognitions
Susana Inda2018 Barrister of the Year
Steven B. Haley2017 Professional Lawyer of the Year

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