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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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Appeals Court Sides with Facebook in Fight Over Postings

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Criminal defendants’ right to information that will aid in their defense doesn’t extend before trial to social networking posts that are protected under federal law, a California appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The decision by a division of the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected two murder defendants’ efforts to get access to records from the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts of the victim and...

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Lawyers' group wants court funding restored

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One lawyer told a story about requesting a default judgment in San Diego Superior Court, and then waiting at least four weeks for a response.

Years ago, when the courts were fully staffed, the process took about two weeks.

Another attorney said it took, on average, more than two months just to get a trial date on landlord-tenant cases last year. That meant some property owners couldn’t collect rent for nearly four months.

The San Diego County Bar Association included these and other accounts of courtroom delays in its 2015 State of the Judiciary report, released last week, which focused on how state budget cuts have affected the local courts over time. Over the past seven years, the operating budget for California’s judicial branch has been reduced by nearly $1.2 billion, roughly 30 percent, the report says.

In order to deal with those losses, courts in all 58 counties — including San Diego — have had to make significant changes, including cutting staff, reducing hours in business offices, consolidating services and closing courtrooms.

Read the whole story at San Diego Union-Tribune

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Marin immigration lawyer convicted of hate crime against man speaking Farsi

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Frank Russell Wilson, a San Rafael-based immigration lawyer, doesn't deny yelling at a man outside a Corte Madera restaurant because he was speaking Farsi, not English.

He doesn't deny using profanities with the police who arrested him.

Nor does he deny he was heavily inebriated at the time. Indeed, he said tequila was largely to blame for his behavior.

What he did deny, in his testimony at trial, is that any of his actions were motivated by bias or bigotry. A Marin County jury apparently disagreed Thursday, convicting Wilson of a hate crime and battery.

"They way overcharged this case," said Wilson's defense attorney, Tim Pori.

Read the whole story at Inside Bay Area

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Clashing courts: Law restricts federal judges' ability to intervene in state criminal cases

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In the wake of bombings in the 1990s at the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City federal building, Congress passed a wide-ranging "effective death penalty" law. One provision was especially contentious: It restricted the ability of federal courts to intervene in state criminal cases.

Nearly 20 years later, Supreme Court interpretations of the law have robbed federal judges of much of their power to overturn convictions obtained in state court, where the vast majority of criminal defendants are tried. Long considered a safety valve for the unjustly convicted, federal courts are now barred by legal rules from second-guessing state judges in all but the most extreme cases.

The tensions stirred by the law are increasingly visible on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears state cases from the West. Time after time, 9th Circuit judges find fault with decisions by the California courts, where judges appear on the ballot and often struggle under crushing caseloads.

But the federal jurists are restrained by the law from acting.

"We now have to stand by in impotent silence, even though it may appear to us that an innocent person has been convicted," 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, wrote in June in a Georgetown law review.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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Law school continues fight over minimum bar exam passage rate

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 9, 2015

When the State Bar of California began requiring some law schools to maintain a minimum bar passage rate to keep their good standing, one school pushed back.

The Southern California Institute of Law, which has campuses in Santa Barbara and Ventura, took the unusual step of suing the state bar to overturn the regulation.

A bar association committee in 2012 approved regulations requiring accredited law schools to maintain a 40% minimum passage rate over five years or risk losing their accreditation.

Administrators at the nearly 20 schools that were accredited by the California bar complied with little complaint; many had already made bar preparation a mandatory part of their curriculum or had agreements with test prep companies that would help their students cram for the state's legal licensing examination.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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Joe Dunn Enters Race to Succeed Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Joe Dunn, a consumer protection lawyer, educator, and former state senator, launched his highly anticipated campaign for California’s 46th Congressional District today, announced the Dunn campaign.

“Washington politics are hurting opportunities for Orange County’s middle class to get ahead,” said Dunn. “I have the experience to cut through partisan gridlock and help build the consensus needed in Congress to bring in good-paying jobs, expand the middle class, and make the economy work better for working families.”

Read the whole story at Voice of OC

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Judge OKs Uber Driver Class Action

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ruling in a case with implications for the entire on-demand economy, a federal judge on Tuesday certified a class of Uber Technologies Inc. drivers seeking employee status and reimbursement for withheld tips.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California found the drivers' situations are similar enough that the threshold question—whether drivers are employees or independent contractors—can be answered on a classwide basis. He certified a class of California drivers who have worked for Uber since 2009, and will allow the class to proceed with claims that Uber illegally kept drivers' tips.

"Despite Uber's argument to the contrary, there are numerous legally significant questions in this litigation that will have answers common to each class member that are apt to drive the resolution of the litigation," Chen wrote in a 68-page order issued less than a month after hearing arguments.

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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Judge Allows Moral, Not Just Religious, Contraception Exemptions

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Employers do not need to provide insurance coverage for contraception even if their objections are moral rather than religious, a federal judge here ruled on Monday.

The case concerned a group called March for Life, which was formed after the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to abortion in 1973 inRoe v. Wade. The group, Monday’s decision said, “is a nonprofit, nonreligious pro-life organization.”

It opposes methods of contraception that it says can amount to abortion, including hormonal products, intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives. Many scientists disagree that those methods of contraception are equivalent to abortion.

Read the whole story at The New York Times

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Legislature ready to change law that denied compensation to wrongly imprisoned man

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Legislature is apparently ready to fill a gap in California’s law to compensate people who are imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. The gap is that the law covers only those who suffered financial losses from their lockup, and apparently leaves out the down-and-outers who were unemployable in the view of the board that awards the payments.

The fix may come too late, however, for the daughter of a San Diego County man who spent nearly seven years in state prison, and found out only after his release that he shouldn’t have been charged in the first place.

On Monday, a state appeals court upheld the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board’s denial of funds to Charles Herbert Holmes III’s daughter, who took up his case after his death.

Holmes had a long criminal record, mostly for relatively minor offenses, but was convicted of second-degree child molestation in Rhode Island in 1992, when he was in his late 20s. After moving to California about 20 years later and serving time for burglary, he was ordered to register as a sex offender, failed to do so and was sentenced to prison in 2005.

Read the whole story at SF Gate

 

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Judges' procedural questions hint at skepticism on California death penalty ban

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 2, 2015

California’s death penalty system, plagued by delays and inadequate funding, may survive an appeals court’s scrutiny because of legal rules that limit federal oversight, a U.S. court panel indicated Monday.

During a hearing before a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, three judges focused on procedural land mines that could imperil last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney declaring California’s system of capital punishment unconstitutional. None of the 9th Circuit judges revealed any leanings, but all focused on legal rules that might require them to overturn Carney’s decision.

Judge Paul J. Watford, an Obama appointee, said he had “major problems” with the fact that Carney ruled on an issue not yet addressed by the California Supreme Court.

Carney determined that decades-long delays and dysfunction render California’s death penalty arbitrary and unconstitutional. Legal rules require death row inmates to litigate or “exhaust” all their claims in state court, except in rare cases, before federal judges may review them.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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Recent Recognitions
Steven B. Haley2017 Professional Lawyer of the Year
Hon. Julie A. Emede2017 Outstanding Jurist of the Year

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