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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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Botched wills can be fixed after death, state high court says

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Like any written document — contracts, insurance policies, even news stories — a person’s last will can contain inadvertent errors, such as a mistaken name or a garbled number. But with the drafter unavailable to set things straight, botched wills have been set in stone in California, beyond the power of any judge to correct them. At least until now.

In a dispute over a multimillion-dollar estate, the California Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 50-year-old precedent and set aside centuries of legal doctrine Monday in ruling that a will that seems clear on its face can be revised, after death, if there is strong evidence that the words didn’t reflect the drafter’s intent.

Clinging to the old rules, and refusing to change unintended provisions in a will, would “unjustly enrich those who would inherit as a result of a mistake,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in the 7-0 ruling.

Read the whole story at SF Gate

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Los Angeles Council Passes Ban on High-Capacity Firearm Magazines

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Responding to the recent rash of mass shootings across the country, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to ban the possession of firearm magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The Council said the ordinance would close a loophole in a state law, which already bans the sale and manufacture of such magazines. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would sign the ordinance.

Anyone who already owns high-capacity magazines will have 60 days to remove them from the city or turn them over to the Police Department, which will then destroy, transfer or sell them.

New York State passed a similar law in 2013 shortly after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed.

Read the whole story at NY Times

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Former Court Exec Spams Judges

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Curtis Child, a former executive with the Administrative Office of the Courts, has miffed some judges around the state after sending a widespread email touting the virtues of his new employer, CourtCall LLC.

Child's emails went out in early July to judges, Judicial Council employees and at least one reporter. In the missive, Child said that he started a new job on July 1 as director of court and government affairs for CourtCall, which offers audio and video services allowing attorneys to appear remotely for court proceedings.

"I hope that we will have the opportunity to work together on ways to create greater efficiencies in the judicial process," Child wrote. "I will be in touch but please feel free to contact me anytime if I can provide any assistance or information about CourtCall's services."

CourtCall, which operates across the United States and internationally, is the sole provider of remote-appearance services in California courts.

Read the whole story at The Recorder

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A Conversation With Santa Clara's New Presiding Judge

Posted By Paula Collis, Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

This article is reprinted with permission from The Recorder. Original Article  

Risë Jones Pichon, a 30-year veteran of the Santa Clara bench, became presiding judge at the beginning of this year. Pichon has been a superior court judge since 1998 and previously served on the municipal court. Over email, she discussed adjusting to her new administrative role, breaking barriers as a minority woman, and responding to the fiscal challenges facing California courts.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your new role over the past six months? Time. There is not enough of it, and it seems to be flying by. The position of presiding judge requires attendance at many meetings, some of which are scheduled for the same time period.

There are also general administrative duties which include resolving personnel issues, budget crises, responding to emergency calls from reporters, and then there are always the unexpected events (which turn out to be the norm). I find satisfaction in the challenge of getting the most done within the confines of a day.

So far what has been your biggest accomplishment? With our budget shortfall of $8 million at the beginning of this fiscal year, our judicial officers have been called upon to make some very difficult decisions regarding ways to close the budget gap. I am very proud of how we have come together as a court and are working collaboratively to address these incredible challenges. I take pride in my role leading this wonderful bench and its court as we navigate these unfortunate circumstances.

As you know, some of the decisions involved the closure of some courtrooms and consolidation of calendars. The steps we take must be done carefully and thoughtfully because access to justice is our primary concern. To this end, the Calendar Committee, consisting of judicial officers and staff, has been created to ensure that the changes we make are consistent with our responsibility to the public and are done in an orderly fashion. The charge of this committee also includes an analysis of our workload, to search for efficiencies in the way we do our work, and to examine the division of labor to ensure an equitable distribution of cases.

Although credit goes to the hard work of my colleagues, our court has successfully implemented a process to comply with the mandates of Proposition 47, and we have established a new mental health calendar to address the unique issues facing our community in this area.

What do you hope to change or improve while you are presiding judge? Studies show that our case filings are down in most, but not all divisions of our court. However, the size and number of calendars do not necessarily reflect the reduction in filings.

Different divisions of our court have become disproportionately impacted by these changes, and a more equitable distribution of work is called for. This is one of my goals; not only the equitable distribution of the work, but also to address output and the most efficient way to process our cases which in some cases means doing work differently.

The changes include streamlining the processing of cases, finding ways to equitably distribute the work and reduce inventory. I am working toward achieving this goal.

What does it mean to you to be Santa Clara County's first minority presiding judge? I received a great deal of encouragement from my colleagues to submit my name for consideration as presiding judge. Even though this is a position I really wanted, I would not have expressed interest without this support. I am truly honored to serve as presiding judge of one of the most respected trial courts in the state.

However, being a first comes with a unique set of responsibilities. These include an obligation to make the path a little easier for the next person to follow, and the recognition that others may be judged based on my performance. I hope that I can be an inspiration to others to follow their dreams and to have the courage to set goals and take the risks necessary to achieve them, even though the future is not guaranteed.

There has to be a first in order for there to be a second and so on until we reach that point when it is not surprising or unusual for people outside of the court to see me or any other person of color in this position. I am proud to be a source of encouragement and support for minorities and anyone else who might benefit from what I can offer. To that end, I do enthusiastically respond to requests to meet and speak to students of all ages and at all levels as well as young attorneys. I received tremendous support to get here, and I am committed to doing the same for others.

How are the California courts different now than when you joined the bench 30 years ago? There has been a noticeable shift in the way judicial officers view their roles. They see themselves in the traditional sense as guardians of justice and fairness. Over the years, judicial officers have expanded their roles to include treatment of the individual and to the extent possible, providing litigants with the tools to successfully reintegrate into society. Collaborative courts are pretty much the norm now. This was not so 30 years ago. Judicial officers see themselves as public servants charged with the responsibility of making our community safer. In the past, this was achieved primarily by the removal of individuals from society if circumstances called for it. That responsibility has expanded to include consideration of the needs of the individual for rehabilitation and future productivity in addition to what is beneficial for the community.

Have lawyers' litigation styles evolved? I have noticed less of concern regarding the record being created during trial. Unnecessary remarks, tangential arguments, thinking out loud, and responding to the objections of the other, all set the stage for unanticipated issues for a successful appeal.

What was the most challenging case you've had to preside over? I cannot present the specifics of the case, but it involves a trial where the facts did not develop as intended. The client recognized this and begged the attorney to settle. The attorney not only refused to even consider the wishes of the client, but also failed to consider the downward spiral of the state of the evidence even after the court weighed in, suggesting that a discussion with opposing counsel might be fruitful. In the end, I took a deep breath and allowed the attorney to present his case the way he felt best. I performed my duties, applying the law to the facts; neither of these supported the theories of the case. It was an unnecessary and unfortunate loss for the client.

What is the biggest problem facing the California court system? Finances. The Judicial Council developed a plan at the urging of the governor to equitably distribute funding to the courts throughout the state. With adequate funding, the plan, referred to as the Workload-based Allocation and Funding Methodology, could have worked for all. Instead it has caused some courts to lose funding, placing them in the position of instituting severe cost-saving measures. Without the necessary funds, courts such as ours will be forced continue to institute drastic measures to make ends meet, which unfortunately, will negatively impact the court's overarching goal of access to justice.

What are your thoughts on e-filing? Santa Clara's complex litigation dockets are now available online, but the general filings are not. Do you have any plans to make everything available online? Our court is in the process of acquiring a new case management system which will enable us to expand the use of e-filing. For noncriminal cases, the new system, called Odyssey, should become operational sometime in December of this year. This is the target date. This new system will allow us to implement e-filing which is our plan.



Tags:  Judge Pichon  Judiciary  Presiding Judge  Rise Pichon 

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Nearly 9 in 10 students drop out of unaccredited law schools in California

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 27, 2015

Omar Medina, a security officer working the graveyard shift, attending Northwestern California University School of Law seemed like the ideal way to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.

Unlike traditional law schools with high tuitions and entrance requirements, Northwestern California offered Medina a chance to take online courses while working full-time and helping raise his toddler son.

Medina enrolled in the unaccredited school. He said he paid about $3,000 a year in tuition.

But almost from the start, the Marine Corps veteran struggled. He said he frequently asked for help, but got little. Less than two years later, he gave up.

Medina's situation was hardly unusual: Nearly 9 out of 10 students at California's unaccredited law schools dropped out, according to a Times investigation based on recent state bar data.

Read the whole story at LA Times

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David Pasternak of Los Angeles elected State Bar President

Posted By Paula Collis, Friday, July 24, 2015

LOS ANGELES, July 24, 2015 – Los Angeles attorney David J. Pasternak was elected today as president of the State Bar of California for 2015-2016.

Pasternak, 64, will be sworn in at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting in October in Anaheim, Calif., as the 91st president of an entity that oversees more than a quarter-million licensed lawyers in California and is the largest state bar in the country.

“I am deeply honored by the support of my colleagues on the Board of Trustees and I look forward to continuing to help the State Bar continue its mission of public protection, following in the footsteps of outgoing President Craig Holden,” Pasternak said.

Also elected today and assuming office in October are James P. Fox, 70, former San Mateo County district attorney, as vice president; and Danette E. Meyers, 57, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County, as treasurer.

Pasternak’s work on the Board of Trustees has included serving as an active member of multiple committees and task forces, including the Executive Committee; the Regulation, Admissions and Discipline Oversight Committee; Senior Lawyers Working Group; Planning and Budget Committee; and the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform. He also chaired the Stakeholders and Access to Justice Committee, and among other things co-led the board oversight of the State Bar’s Case Management System and Board Book revision projects.

Pasternak, of Pasternak, Pasternak & Patton in Los Angeles, previously served as president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, president of Bet Tzedek Legal Services and president of the Chancery Club.

He also chaired a Los Angeles City Council Advisory Committee and dozens of committees for an array of bar associations, including the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, and the American Bar Association. He is the first Supreme Court appointee to the Board.

Pasternak earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. His wife, Cynthia Pasternak, is former president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association.

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The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, protecting the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. Membership now stands at more than a quarter million.

source: State Bar of California

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California Judge Indicates Dismissal of Right-to-Die Lawsuit

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 24, 2015

A county judge strongly indicated Friday he will dismiss a lawsuit against the state by a single mom given only months to live and other California right-to-die advocates who want doctors to be allowed to prescribe fatal medication for terminally ill people who want it.

During a hearing, San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack said his court was not the place for the issue but did not formally rule, saying he would issue a written decision Monday.

"You're asking this court to make new law," Pollack said. "If new law is made it should be by the Legislature or by a ballot measure."

The judge said the parties probably could get "new law" from a higher court "but you can't get it from a lower level Superior Court judge like me.'"

Attorneys on both sides agreed that dismissal was certain.

"This is something that needs to be addressed not by the court but is more appropriate for the Legislature," said Darin Wessel, among district attorney teams from various counties that were part of the effort to seek dismissal.

The lawsuit was brought against the state by Christy O'Donnell, two other terminally ill Californians and a San Diego doctor. The plaintiffs are backed by Compassion and Choices, an advocacy group that has supported legislative efforts and similar lawsuits in various states.

Some advocates say they thought the nationally publicized case of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall, might usher in a wave of state laws allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medications. But no states have passed right-to-die legislation since Maynard's death in 2014, and efforts have been defeated or stalled in several.

Read the whole story at ABC News

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State Bar Names New Executive Director

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 24, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO, July 23, 2015 – The Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California has named Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, dean emerita of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, as its next executive director/chief executive officer.  She will assume her responsibilities on Sept. 1.

“I am excited to welcome Elizabeth Parker as the State Bar’s next executive director/CEO. She has stellar credentials – having successfully led many large complex organizations – and I am confident she will be highly regarded by both our stakeholders and employees. She will have an immediate impact in helping increase our focus on public protection, improving the delivery of legal services and enhancing our accountability,” said State Bar President Craig Holden.

As executive director and CEO, Parker will answer to the Board of Trustees and carry out its policies. The executive director leads a senior management team responsible for the numerous programs of the State Bar of California.

Parker served as dean of the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento for ten years. Previously she was general counsel to the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency and was the principal deputy legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State. She has worked at major national law firms and also spent a decade litigating federal class action lawsuits with legal services and civil rights organizations after graduating from the University of Michigan and its law school. She has argued successfully twice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“For one committed to the importance of our legal system, it would be hard to imagine a more professionally fulfilling opportunity than serving as the administrative leader of the nation’s largest, most forward-looking professional bar organization,” Parker said.  “I look forward to joining the new leadership team which the Board of Trustees is creating and to working with the bar’s dedicated staff.”

Current Acting and Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley has announced his intention to depart the State Bar at the end of September. “I am pleased to see the board line up such a stellar team to lead the organization. I am most pleased to have served the State Bar for many years and to now leave for greener pastures.”

President Holden added: “Bob is like an encyclopedia and has been an invaluable resource for many years. We cannot thank him enough for his decades of public service.” 

Holden further noted that a new chief operations officer position will replace the position of deputy executive director upon Hawley’s departure in September. The COO position is on contract to the board, will answer to the executive director and will provide operations oversight and support for the organization, including IT, budget, personnel, facilities, and other operational areas.

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The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, protecting the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. Membership now stands at about a quarter million.

source: State Bar of California

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California drought: High court hands setback to water conservation fight

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rejecting the pleas of California officials worried about water conservation, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday left intact a lower court ruling that makes it tougher for cities and water districts to impose punishing higher rates on water wasters.

In its weekly closed-door conference, the Supreme Court refused to soften the statewide impact of an April appeals court ruling that found the city of San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates -- common in the Bay Area and elsewhere in California -- were unconstitutional because they charged more for water than it cost the city to provide the service.

The appeals court, in finding the city's approach violated voter-approved Proposition 218's restrictions on such fees, "published" the decision, giving it legal weight across the state and prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to warn it placed a "straitjacket" on his mandates to lower water use. 

Read the whole story at Mercury News

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California court decision means Cosby could be deposed again

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 23, 2015

The California Supreme Court has turned down Bill Cosby’s challenge to a sexual assault lawsuit against him, meaning the suit can go forward and Cosby could be questioned under oath for the first time in years — by super-aggressive, feminist lawyer Gloria Allred.

“We believe we have a right to take his deposition in this civil lawsuit. We are going to tomorrow provide him with dates in August when we are available to do that,” Allred told KNX Newsradio on Wednesday. “We are willing to even go to Massachusetts where allegedly he resides and take it.”

Judith Huth filed a civil lawsuit late last year against Cosby, who she claimed molested her in 1974 in a bedroom at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. She was 15 at the time. Cosby’s attorneys submitted a request for review last month claiming the comedian should not have been publicly named in the suit, citing a California law on childhood sexual cases, according to CNN.

In the lawsuit, Huth claimed that she and a friend, who was 16 at the time, had met Cosby on a film set in Los Angeles. The next weekend, the suit said, he invited them to his tennis club, where he gave them alcohol, and then took them to the Playboy mansion, The Washington Post reported late last year.

Read the whole story at Washington Post

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Susana Inda2018 Barrister of the Year
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