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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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Judicial Council's Plan to Shift Oversight of Trial Court Spending Stirs Dissent

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 21, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - California trial judges on a statewide budget committee fiercely oppose a move to strip their oversight power for trial court spending and give that power instead to another committee that regularly meets in secret.

This week, judges and court clerks on the Judicial Council's Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee took a strong stance against a proposed rule change that would give a different council committee the authority to go back and review how the council and its staff spent judiciary funds on behalf of the courts.

"I think this is a complete diminution of the authority of this committee," said budget committee member Judge Dodie Harman of San Luis Obispo. "This branch has a history of problems with credibility and transparency. I think we've worked on that, but this goes backwards. It reduces transparency."

Under the amended Rule 10.63, the council's Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency would audit the Judicial Council and its bureaucratic staff's past spending on anything related to the courts, from the judiciary's overall budget to sources like the Trial Court Trust Fund and Improvement and Modernization Fund, which finances court technology projects.

At a meeting on Tuesday, budget committee members said the rule change made no sense. They reasoned that if any committee should be looking at how the council spends money for the courts, it should be them.

Read the whole story at Courthouse News Service

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California’s Chief Justice Presses for Expedited Rule to Address Traffic Fine Proceedings

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Requests immediate action by Judicial Council

SAN FRANCISCO—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye today announced that she is asking the Judicial Council to take emergency action to adopt a rule of court to facilitate access to justice for court users challenging traffic fines.

“Many of the procedures and practices regarding traffic fines derive from statute,” the Chief Justice said. “However, the law is confusing and may result in inconsistent practices or policies throughout the state. I’m charging the Judicial Council as the constitutional statewide policymaking body to expeditiously initiate our rule-making process to act on an emergency basis. We need a court rule that makes it clear that Californians do not have to pay for a traffic infraction before being able to appear in court.”

“As I stated April 17th during our Judicial Council business meeting, the issue raised by fines and fees can be an access to justice issue, as well as a fiscal issue for the entire state. All three branches are trying to address it.” 

In addition to this immediate action by the council, the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System, appointed by the Chief Justice, is taking a broader look at effective public access to California’s courts, including traffic proceedings and the impact of mandatory and discretionary fines, fees, and penalties on court users.

Source Press Release

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February bar exam pass rate is lowest in five years

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Four in 10 would-be lawyers passed the California Bar Exam in February, the lowest rate in five years.

State Bar officials announced Sunday that 39.5 percent of test takers passed the test. That’s down from 45.3 percent in 2014 and the lowest rate since 37.1 percent of bar applicants passed the test in February 2010.

The number of test takers is up, however. A total of 4,763 applicants took the exam, an increase from 4,578 in 2014 and the highest since 5,167 took the February exam in 2007. This means more tried and failed this year.

Read the whole story at Sacramento Business Journal

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Request for Comment: Proposal to Increase the Required MCLE Hours and Require that a Specified Number Be Relevant to the Attorney's Practice Area

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 15, 2015

At the recent State Bar of California Board of Trustees meeting, the Board Committee on Admissions and Education approved the following proposal to be sent out for public comment: Proposal to Increase the Required MCLE Hours and Require that a Specified Number Be Relevant to the Attorney’s Practice Area.

The proposal would:

1. Increase the number of required MCLE hours from 25 to 36 per three-year compliance period.

2. Of the 36 hours, require that at least 12 be relevant to an attorney’s practice area.

3. Increase the maximum number of “self-study” hours from 12.5 to 18.

Complete details regarding this request for public comment can be found at:

The deadline for comments is June 26, 2015.


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Exit interviews spur Orrick to adopt generous parental leave policy

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 15, 2015

Originally posted on ABA Journal 

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is adopting a new parental leave policy designed to retain more women lawyers.

The law firm says its new parental leave policy is the most generous of any major U.S. law firm, the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) reports.

Orrick will offer paid parental leave of 22 weeks and up to nine months of unpaid leave for primary caregivers. Currently the firm offers 18 weeks of paid parental leave and up to seven months of unpaid leave for primary caregivers. A firmwide “leave liaison” will oversee the program.

Though both women and men can take advantage of the parental leave, the program is intended to discourage women from leaving the firm, according to Orrick chairman and CEO Mitchell Zuklie, who spoke with the Am Law Daily.

Zuklie says exit interviews with female lawyers leaving Orrick echo national studies showing the top reason women leave law firms is the inability to balance career and family. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say the legal profession is facing a crisis if it doesn’t deal with the problems of the retention of women lawyers,” he says.

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California courts get slight boost in governor's budget

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 15, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget is pretty much the same as his January spending rollout for the California courts, which judicial leaders do not seem to mind given that it includes at least some additional money for struggling local trial courts.

The governor's 2015-16 budget bumps the state court system's budget from last year's $3.29 billion to about $3.47 billion, with most of that increase headed to the 58 trial courts around California hit hardest by past cutbacks. Courts in counties across the state, including Bay Area systems in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, have been forced to reduce public hours, lay off employees and shutter remote courthouses as a result of prior cuts that at one point exceeded $1 billion over several years.

Under the governor's budget, the judiciary's budget would inch beyond the $3.7 billion allocated in 2007-08. In fact, with the use of trial court reserve money required under previous budgets, the governor's staff pegs spending on the judicial branch at about $3.8 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Read the whole story at San Jose Mercury News


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Many in California’s largest counties ignore jury duty

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

About one-fifth of Californians in the state’s most populous counties fail to respond to a summons for jury service, a no-show figure that affects the composition and quality of juries, according to a study released Tuesday.

The survey illustrated gaps in a legal system that requires citizens to serve when called to jury service and authorizes fines of $250 or more for failure to appear, but leaves enforcement up to county courts. Other studies have shown that jury participation differs depending on race, income and whether employers pay employees who are on jury duty.

“Too many Californians are failing to participate when called to serve on a jury, and it is harming our system of justice,” said the report by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a business-backed organization that works to restrict lawsuits.

Based on information obtained from 14 counties under the Public Records Act, the study said, the highest failure-to-appear rates in 2014 were posted by several Southern California counties. Ventura County topped the list with more than 45 percent of its citizens failing to appear. It was followed by San Diego County with 31 percent and Los Angeles County with nearly 30 percent. The lowest was San Joaquin County with 3.9 percent.

Read the whole story at SFGate

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California Should Adopt Uniform Bar Exam, Says Law School Dean

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

By Jacob Gershman, posted on WSJ Law Blog 

New York’s top judge recently announced that New York would become the 16th and largest state to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination, a nationally standardized test for would-be lawyers.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of University of California-Irvine School of Law, thinks it’s time for California to make the switch too. The constitutional scholar spells out his reasons in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

Writes Mr. Chemerinsky:

Forcing students to memorize detailed, state-specific rules, most of which they will never need to know and which they will promptly forget, does not ensure competence…

Restrictive policies may please some lawyers who are already established and have no intention of ever leaving their home state, but they’re bad for clients who end up having fewer choices, as well as for lawyers who value geographic mobility. And because the legal market isn’t exactly robust at the moment, it seems rather cruel to make lawyers restrict their job searches to the states in which they’ve passed the bar exam.

Legal education also would benefit if all states adopted the uniform test. For 35 years as a law professor, I have been telling my students that they shouldn’t take courses in law school about specialized topics that do not interest them just because they are tested on the bar…. But, out of fear, many students burden their schedules with dull classes…The Uniform Bar Exam, which focuses on basic subjects that virtually all students take, would free students of this pressure.

In 2014, the California bar exam was administered to just over 13,000 people, 47% of whom passed, one of the lowest passage rates in the country.

Source: WSJ Law Blog

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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: The Benefits of Membership

Posted By John L. Mlnarik, Monday, May 11, 2015
Updated: Thursday, May 14, 2015

by John L. Mlnarik
The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.
2015 SCCBA President

Membership has its benefits and our Santa Clara County Bar Association is no exception. Whether you are conducting legal research on CaseMaker for free, viewing Judicial profiles, or tapping into the Center for Professionalism & Ethics, our members receive back in value many times over the price paid for admission.  Let’s have a look at a few things in greater detail and tell me if you agree by joining today!  


From Bocce Ball to Speed Networking Events, SCCBA Sections and Committees hosted over 15 social and networking events for our members last year, in addition to 40 Seminars, 24 Brown Bags, and 5 Trainings. Membership in a Section and Committee also gives the member exclusive access to the section rosters and private group conversations.


SCCBA Members receive free online legal research from Casemaker. Members also receive a significant discount on the Casemaker Pro access. In fact, the amount saved on Casemaker Pro is more than equal to your annual SCCBA Membership!


SCCBA Members enjoy discounts on all CLE events, whether attending live or online. The 13 sections and 16 committees of the SCCBA sponsor over 60 CLE events each year, with every event designed to appeal to local interests, and presented by local experts.


SCCBA understands the time constraints on attorneys in today’s environment and has created a vast Online CLE library so members don’t need to spend their time in traffic to complete their MCLE. Find over 100 online seminars, podcasts, and live webcasts available on-demand, whenever and wherever you need it.  


Your SCCBA Member CLE Manager can help you organize and keep record of your CLEs, making your compliance period reporting as easy as a mouse click. Your CLE Manager automatically tracks all MCLE  credits you earn attending an SCCBA sponsored MCLE  program, and gives you online access to all of your certificates of credit and transcripts. Members may also manually enter any non-SCCBA MCLE programs, or upload the certificates of attendance for those programs, to add those credits to the overall transcript.


Through the SCCBA’s close relationship with the local judiciary, we are able to provide our members with exclusive access to information on the judges, written by the judges themselves. Learn the nuts and bolts of each courtroom before appearing in it.


In 2014, the SCCBA implemented in conjunction with the Superior Court of Santa Clara County a Judicial Assessment Policy & Procedure.  Santa Clara County attorneys can use this procedure to provide any feedback, confidentially, regarding an individual judge or the court generally.  Attorneys can also use this procedure to get assistance resolving an issue with an individual judge.  The procedure is confidential unless the attorney agrees that the matter may be discussed with the involved judge.  It is a simple procedure:  simply complete the online Request for Action whether is it confidential feedback or whether you are requesting assistance with a particular issue.


This year we inaugurated the Center for Ethics and Professionalism, the cornerstone of the SCCBA’s influence on the culture of the Santa Clara County legal community and courts. Local, practicing attorneys have their voices heard through the SCCBA Professionalism Committee’s review and submitted comments on each formal ethics opinion proposed by the State Bar.  The submitted comments are frequently utilized by the state in revising the proposed opinion before being published.

As you can see there are so many wonderful benefits available, but don’t take my word for it! Join today and see for yourself just how easy it is to accelerate your law practice with membership in the SCCBA.

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Announcement: Certificates of Credit for SCCBA CLE now online

Posted By Paula Collis, Monday, May 11, 2015
Updated: Thursday, May 14, 2015

In March 2015, SCCBA stopped issuing printed CLE certificates at our seminars & events.

After you complete a CLE credit-earning course, you will receive an email letting you know the credits have been awarded to your account. Your SCCBA CLE will automatically be tracked and logged to your account.

You can access your attendance history and MCLE certificates through your Professional Development module at any time, which is located under the Manage Profile options. There, you will have the option of printing or emailing your transcript. Members may also add journal entries of CLE completed with other providers.

Only SCCBA Members may add non-SCCBA CLE to their CLE Manager. This makes reporting a cinch, allowing you to have all of your CLE information in one place.

For more information on how to use the Professional Development Module, visit:


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more Calendar

Barristers' Annual Judges Luncheon

Knowing When To Accept A Case and When It's Time To Say Goodbye.

Disability and ERISA Issue Spotting for Labor Law Attorneys

Recent Recognitions
Hon. Edward J. Davila2017 Diversity of the Year
Steven B. Haley2017 Professional Lawyer of the Year

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