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President Kevin Hammon

 

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Families Belong Together

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President

Where does the time go? It is the middle of summer, but many of us are already calendaring hearings, meetings, depositions, and other events deep into the fall months.  Santa Clara County Bar Association staff are hard at work planning a variety of fall programs, including the annual Judges’ Night event on October 10, 2018. For parents, just as we finish planning or enjoying the summer family vacation, our attention must turn to the first day of school. We ask the small questions: do we have enough school supplies? what time do the bells ring? and, which teacher(s) will we get?  We ask the big questions: will my child fit in? is my child smart enough? and, is my child emotionally equipped to handle a totally new educational experience?

 

 

Although the first day of school can be frightening, it is often accompanied by careful planning and consideration. Some parents send their young children to school with an important toy, blanket, or book to provide comfort during the adjustment period. We try to keep siblings together. We tour the school many times before the actual start date.  We meet the teachers. Fortunately, most school environments are deliberately child-focused.  Despite a predictably terrifying first day of school, our children often adjust well to their new surroundings thanks to an abundance of love, support, coping strategies, and safety factors. 


Children crave structure and stability.  A disruption in routine can have catastrophic consequences for even an emotionally healthy child. Like many Americans, I have spent the past two months transfixed by the heart-wrenching images and stories of migrant children detained and displaced at the southern border. There are no words and not enough words to describe the unabashed cruelty of systematically separating children from their parents and imprisoning asylum-seekers in detention camps.  It is difficult to articulate an insightful perspective on an issue this fundamental, an issue without nuance. Nevertheless, there is value in speaking out against atrocity, and amplifying the multitude of voices for humanity. On June 21, 2018, the SCCBA issued this statement:


The SCCBA strongly opposes any government policy or congressional action that violates the due process rights of migrants seeking entry to the United States, including indefinite detentions, forcibly separating children from their parents, and forcing children, including toddlers, to appear in court on their own with no right to appointed counsel. These practices not only violate due process, but they are in opposition to the humanitarian values which represent founding principles of our democracy.  

 

 

Additionally, the SCCBA endorsed a letter authored by the American Bar Association’s President Hilarie Bass.  The ABA encourages immigration reform that is comprehensive and just, and insists that everyone involved with the process be treated with dignity and respect. For more information, I encourage you to visit the SCCBA’s recent statement and links to other resources, available at this webpage.


Of course, the first day of school is a far cry from the horrific traumas suffered by migrant children at the border.  Nevertheless, the first day is a reminder of how sensitive children are to change.  Even with the best of child-focused intentions, a new experience can be utterly frightening.  I can only imagine how the federal government’s immigration policies have affected children’s emotional and psychological development.  The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Colleen Kraft, concluded that forced family separation affects the child’s brain chemistry in a way that amounts to child abuse.  

 

 

I am proud to be part of a community that champions empathy, and the president of an association that sees value in shedding light on inhumane policies and practices.  If you have any additional ideas for how the SCCBA can address this important issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.   

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Recall Discourages Rehabilitation

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 1, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President

By the time you read this message, the fate of Judge Aaron Persky’s career may have been decided by Santa Clara County’s voters.  I have never appeared before Judge Persky, but I know him to be kind and thoughtful through his work with the county’s high school mock trial program.  Over the past two years, I have spoken with a wide array of lawyers, paralegals, and court personnel who have appeared before or observed Judge Persky in the courtroom.  Their feedback is universally positive.  Some praise his calm demeanor, patience and humility.  Others praise his intellect, compassion, and good humor.  If this recall is successful, it appears Santa Clara County will have lost an outstanding jurist.   

 

I think about Judge Persky often when I reflect upon my years representing the Department of Family and Children’s Services in Santa Clara County’s Dependency Wellness Court.  In this setting, parents describe their victories and challenges with overcoming addiction, navigating bureaucracies, coping with intimate partner violence, finding affordable housing, securing employment, and obtaining mental health services.  Many of these parents have experienced multiple traumas over the course of their lives, finding temporary solace in illicit drugs or alcohol. In DWC, parents receive support from a team of professionals including social workers, domestic violence and substance abuse counselors, attorneys, and judges.  Team members facilitate and bear witness to the capacity for human beings to change.  Breaking the cycle of domestic violence, accepting responsibility, embracing recovery are not just abstract concepts- but tangible accomplishments.  Successful parents will often have their children returned to their care and ultimately their children’s dependency cases dismissed.

 

But make no mistake. These parents have often done terrible things.  They may have histories of domestic violence, substance abuse, drug sales, property crimes, gang activities, and repeated incarcerations. Their children are victims of abuse or neglect.  If dependency proceedings were not confidential, I imagine an understandable public outrage when children are returned to the care of parents described as felons, drug addicts, domestic violence perpetrators, and gang members.  Although they may be accurate, these descriptions miss the point.  If we perpetually define people by their worst decisions, we ignore and discourage rehabilitation. The reduced headlines overlook litigants’ profound life changes readily observable to social workers, probation officers, attorneys, judges, and others charged with closely investigating or assessing a panoply of facts.  There is a special danger in recalling so-called “lenient” judges and enacting legislation that limits judicial discretion in an effort to be “tough on crime.”  While well intended, these efforts exacerbate over-incarceration and preclude a thoughtful consideration of individualized circumstances.  

 

To be clear, I have profound sympathy for all victims of violent crime.  Far too often, we tend to view the criminal’s conviction or sentence as a validation of the victim’s experience.  This is wrong. For victims, there is no amount of jail or prison time that will “make it right.”  Proponents and opponents of the recall agree that Brock Turner’s victim suffered a horrific experience, and that her public statement should be widely disseminated.  Simply put, her words must be heard.  It is a mistake to view Brock Turner’s sentence in any way as a discredit to her, her message, or her experience.   

 

On June 5th, I will vote against the recall of Judge Persky not simply because I believe he is an exemplary jurist or because I believe in judicial independence.  I will vote against the recall because I value rehabilitation.  I have seen the transformative power of targeted interventions.  At face value, the recall effort conveys to judges that their jobs are in jeopardy if their orders do not sufficiently punish the litigants who appear before them.  I fear that the recall may ultimately suggest to litigants that: their progress, change, and accomplishments are irrelevant; and that their wrongdoings will forever define them.  When we focus only on the misconduct, it is easy to confuse thoughtfulness and compassion for leniency.  Please join me in opposing the recall of Judge Persky.    

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Good news, bad news …. and more good news

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 2, 2018
  Guest Message By
Hon. Patricia Lucas
Presiding Judge
Superior Court of California,
County of Santa Clara

 

When it comes to court underfunding and backlogs, I am very much a fan of Winston Churchill who famously said: “I am an optimist.  There doesn’t seem to be much use being anything else.”

The current good news—and this is very good news indeed—is that for the first time in about ten years, there is substantial new money in the Governor’s budget proposal for the judicial branch.  Although celebration would be premature until this proposal makes it through the May revise and of course the June legislative vote, it appears to have deep support among legislators as state revenues remain strong.  The new-money proposal would be a reversal of a decade-long trend which left many courts with no option but to cut services, to reduce staffing and hours, and in some instances to close courtrooms or courthouses.  Although we are proud to be the only Bay Area court that successfully avoided layoffs, we unfortunately had to attrit one-third of our staff positions, with consequent reduction in services countywide and elimination of certain case types in North County and South County.  New trial court funding, if it is approved, could be the beginning of a new era in the ability of the statewide trial courts to serve the public.

Now, the bad news: while the statewide perspective is positive, even if the new funding is approved it is not likely to have a significant effect on our local court.  It is not yet clear how any new funding will be allocated among the 58 Superior Courts.  Moreover, even if some of the new funding reaches our local coffers, the uptick will likely be more than offset by the continuing decline in revenue generated by court fines and fees, which regrettably has come to constitute a significant portion of the funding on which trial courts have had to rely.  Certainly, any increase in state funding to our local court will not be sufficient to allow any appreciable increase in staffing.  In a people-intensive business like court operations, staffing adjustment is the main way of dealing with budget shortfalls.  It is likely that some backlogs, particularly in the civil and appellate divisions, will persist in the near term, because of the constitutional and statutory imperatives that drive timelines in other case types.  In her State of the Judiciary speech this year, the Chief Justice recognized that civil justice is the first impaired and the last to recover when court funding is cut. 

Given the importance of primacy and recency which I learned as an advocate, I will end where I started: with good news.  Although I cannot guarantee that we have seen the last backlog, our outstanding court administration advises that we will be able to manage existing backlogs so that they will not grow in number or size.  For a time, it seemed like a game of whack-a-mole, to use Judge Julie Emede’s terminology: when we triaged to reduce backlogs in one area, we fell further behind in other areas.  But thanks to the diligence of the division supervising judges and administrative leadership, and some miracles performed by our hard-working court employees, we have eliminated many delays and reduced others.  With the remaining case types coming onto our Odyssey case management system in the summer and fall, we anticipate steady progress toward eliminating all backlogs.  There is further good news in the Court’s strong relationship with our local county government, which consists of astute leaders attentive to the areas in which the courts and county government work together and depend on each other.  As one of many examples, we are delighted to have a close working relationship with our county justice partners in the final run-up to the Odyssey launch in traffic and criminal.

Finally, one enduring piece of good news is the excellent teamwork between the SCCBA and our local bench.  The regular exchange of information between the bar and the court benefits all.  We appreciate that SCCBA members continue to be patient and courteous with court employees who are dedicated to processing your cases as expeditiously as possible.  Working together, we hope to show that optimism is warranted, and that despite limited funding, Santa Clara can continue to be known for leadership and innovation.

 

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The SCCBA and You . . . !

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 2, 2018

Guest Message by
Gabriel Gregg
2018 SCCBA President Elect

 

The SCCBA needs you, and vice-versa!


I’m Gabriel Gregg, the 2018 President-Elect of the SCCBA.  At the invitation of our President, Kevin Hammon, I’m guest-writing the President’s Message this month to focus on member participation – specifically, to make sure you are aware of all the ways you can participate in our bar association, and all the ways our bar association can benefit you.


One of my roles as President-Elect is to chair the Outreach Committee, which is a new committee launched last year focused on outreach to members and non-members, including inspiring and recruiting members to pursue roles within the SCCBA.  In that capacity, I am writing to invite and encourage you to take two specific actions.


First
, if you know any attorneys that practice in Santa Clara County that are not members of the SCCBA, urge them to join.  There are important and unique benefits to being a member of the SCCBA, including the ones discussed below.  Now, more than ever, membership has its many privileges!


Second
, you should sincerely consider getting more involved in the SCCBA.  There are many ways to expand your participation, including the following: 

  • Join one or more of our 6 practice-area sections (Family Law, High Technology, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment, Real Property and Women Lawyers) and consider joining the section’s executive committee.  Information on SCCBA sections can be found here
  • Join one or more of our 14 committees, which include Civil Practice, Diversity and Professionalism, to name just a few.  Information on SCCBA committees can be found here.
  • Consider applying to be a Trustee on the SCCBA Board of Trustees (BOT).  Following recent changes to the SCCBA By-Laws, our 17-person BOT is now composed of (i) 4 SCCBA officers; (ii) 3 SCCBA committee chairs (Barristers, Diversity and Women Lawyers); (iii) the immediate past-President (non-voting); (iv) the Presidents or designees of Santa Clara County minority bar associations, including Asian Pacific Bar, Black Lawyers and La Raza Lawyers; and (v) 6 At-Large Trustees elected for staggered 2-year terms.  Three of the At-Large Trustee positions will be coming vacant for 2019.  If you are interested in applying and running for one of these Trustee positions, look for the applications online from July 15, 2018 to August 15, 2018.
  • If qualified, consider running to be a SCCBA Officer (Secretary, Treasurer, or President-Elect); qualifications for officer positions can be found in the SCCBA By-Laws, Article IV, Section 8.


Without new, enthusiastic, participating members, the SCCBA simply becomes less effective and less relevant to our membership.

So that’s why the SCCBA needs you.  Why do you need the SCCBA?

Quite simply, the SCCBA is your best local source for almost all your professional needs as a Silicon Valley attorney – camaraderie, education, advocacy and even work referrals. 

  • Through our social events (mixers, meet-ups, etc.), and through deeper involvement in the SCCBA, you can meet new professional peers, enhance your bond with old colleagues, and even interact socially with area judges.
  • Through our many MCLE seminars, brown-bags, and other events (viewed live, by video, or online), you can stay abreast of important legal developments and earn MCLE credit.
  • The SCCBA Center for Ethics & Professionalism is a key source for ethical attorney guidelines and developments.
  • The SCCBA Judiciary Committee, comprised of SCCBA members, evaluates candidates the Governor is considering for appointment to the Superior or Appellate courts.
  • Our Fee Arbitration program provides a trusted forum for fee disputes.
  • Our Lawyer Referral Service provides referrals on cases and matters to local vetted attorneys (which could include you!).
  • Our website provides informed referrals to ADR practitioners and judicial profiles.
  • We provide member representatives to the ABA and California State Bar to advocate on behalf of our membership.
  • We review and comment on significant new California State Bar rules and opinions.
  • And we advocate for you in many other ways including taking public positions on important issues impacting our membership.


In 2017, the SCCBA celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and there are very good reasons why we have stood the test of time.  I urge you, again, to explore all that we can do for you, and vice-versa!

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Lawyers in the Classroom as well as the Courtroom

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 2, 2018

By Kevin Hammon
2018 SCCBA President

 

It feels like just yesterday. 

 

I pulled into the high school parking lot in a silver 1984 Volvo sedan. My eight-inch pony tail intertwined into the top latch of a faded green backpack.  With reckless abandon, I wore track shorts over spandex, beads and peace signs, and Rod Stewart t-shirts.  My radio alternated between Pearl Jam and West Coast Hip Hop.  Homework was a daily ritual complicated by my above-average penchant for procrastination.  But I was young with an entire life in front of me.

 

High school.  Those were the proverbial “days.” Like many of us, I benefited tremendously from thoughtful teachers and inspiring coaches. I see our bar association’s Law Related Education Committee as a vehicle to pay forward the profound debt we owe to the educators who have made a difference in our lives.  The importance of working with children and youth cannot be overstated.  Author Neil Postman wrote “children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”  President John F. Kennedy stated that “children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” 

 

To that end, I am proud to report that the SCCBA has partnered with the Santa Clara County Office of Education in order to participate in the American Constitutional Society’s (“ACS”) “Constitution in the Classroom” program.  This program brings lawyers into primary and secondary classrooms to raise awareness of fundamental constitutional principles.  By spending as little as one hour teaching in a high school, middle school, or elementary school classroom, you can excite young minds about their constitutional rights and responsibilities.  I strongly encourage you to volunteer with the “Constitution in the Classroom” program.

 

Thanks to the ACS, volunteering is easy and fun.  The ACS provides a brief attorney orientation and access to materials you may use when you volunteer.  No need to design your own lesson plan or conduct any research.  Using a Google document, you will sign up to teach a particular topic in a specific classroom on a specific date and time.  Several SCCBA members participated in the Fall 2017 Constitution in the Classroom program. The feedback was positive.  I am confident you will find the experience rewarding and enjoyable.

 

Please use this link, http://bit.ly/2EJvALq , to sign up for the orientation on March 22, 2018 at 12:15 in the SCCBA offices, 31 North 2nd St. Ste. 400, San Jose, CA 95113.  Participants may attend in person or by phone.  Another orientation is offered in San Francisco on March 21, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.   The details for the San Francisco orientation may be found here: http://bit.ly/2HvZfts  After you have participated in the orientation, you will receive a link to sign up to teach in a classroom on a time and date between Monday, April 16, 2018 and Friday April 27, 2018.  To learn more about the Constitution in the Classroom program, visit this website: http://www.acslaw.org/conclass.  If you have questions about the program, feel free to email citcbayarea@gmail.com.

 

Thank you for considering this outstanding program.  I hope to see you on March 22, 2018. With any luck, we can fire up the old silver Volvo and teach a class together!  Spandex and Rod Stewart t-shirts are optional.

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