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Assembly Member Dickinson has introduced AB 888, an act to amend Section 17206 of, and to add Sections 6126.6 and 6126.7 to, the Business and Professions Code, relating to the State Bar.

Existing law prohibits a person from practicing law in California, or from advertising or holding himself or herself out as practicing law, unless the person is an active member of the State Bar, or otherwise authorized, as specified, to practice law in this state. A violation of these provisions is a crime.

This bill would, for violations of the above-described provisions, require the State Bar to disclose, in confidence, the information in its investigation to the agency responsible for the criminal enforcement of these provisions or exchange that information with that agency. This bill would authorize the State Bar to request the Attorney General, a district attorney, or a city attorney acting as a local prosecutor, to bring an enforcement action or bring a civil action in its own name, as specified.

The bill would require the court, in a civil enforcement action by the State Bar for the unlawful practice of law, to impose a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500, to be paid to the State Bar.  The bill would also require the court to impose a civil penalty not to exceed $6,000 for the intentional violation of any injunction prohibiting the unlawful practice of law.

The bill would also require the court to consider, when applicable, additional relief provided under existing law and to award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, as specified.

Go here to read the complete analysis of this bill.  On July 2, 2013, the Senate ordered the bill to a third reading.

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According to the salary guide released by Robert Half Legal, 2013 should see an increase in paralegal salaries by 3.1 to 3.9 %, depending on the size of the firm you work for.  You can get a copy of their salary guide here.

You can also use their salary calculator to obtain salaries in your local area as well and check out the hiring trends, not only in your area but nationwide and you can check out the fastest growing industries locally and nationwide as well.

legal positions 2013

 

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Ouch!  That has to hurt!  Running for a judicial seat and then sanctioned and reported to the State Bar.  This just happened to attorney Judy Conard, who practices in Lake County, California.

The First Appellate Court found the appeal to be frivolous and not only sanctioned Ms. Conard $6,000, but issued $15,000 in sanctions against her client as well.

Last October, Theodore Parfet, who lives in Michigan, appealed an order that he pay the attorney fees for Amy Tucker, the Respondent in the Family Law case, incurred while she opposed his motions to modify child custody, visitation and child support, according to the decision, which can be read here.

Ms. Conard said they appealed the amount of attorneys’ fees, which at nearly $80,000 were in excess of what the interim fees were to be.  The three appellate justices found “the degree of objective frivolousness and delay is extremely high,” and that “pursuing a meritless appeal of an attorney fee award under the circumstances of this case flies in the face of the very purpose of the Family Code attorney fees statutes.”  Further, they found that Conard had a professional responsibility not to pursue a frivolous appeal just because her client instructed her to do so, the justices said Conard violated her duties by facilitating the appeal “and by advancing arguments which exceed the bounds of both common sense and sound advocacy.”

The justices also stated “We join other courts in recognizing that the respondent is not theonly party damaged by a frivolous appeal.” ‘Others with bona fide disputes, as well as the taxpayers, are prejudiced by the wasteful diversion of an appellate court’s limited resources.’  The handling of this appeal has imposed a burden on this court.”

 To add insult to injury, Ms. Conard and the court clerk were each ordered to forward a copy of this opinion to the State Bar upon return of the remittitur.  Whether charges will be filed by the bar against Ms. Conard has yet to be seen.  The lesson here for attorneys?  Beware of filing an appeal just because your client wants you to, be sure that there is merit to the appeal, it could cost you, not only monetarily but professionally.
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Sometimes judges can be funny, (ok, maybe this was not that funny, but I got a chuckle out of it) as evidenced by Judge Lucy Koh last week when she stated, ”I mean come on. 75 pages! 75 pages! You want me to do an order on 75 pages, (and) unless you’re smoking crack, you know these witnesses aren’t going to be called when you have less than four hours.”

I don’t think attorney Bill Lee thought Judge Koh was funny when he replied, ”Your honor, I can assure you, I’m not smoking crack.”

You can read more of this article here.

 

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In an article at Law.Com this past week, undocumented immigrant, Sergio Garcia, is challenging the California Supreme Court for his right to become an attorney.  Garcia’s application for a green card has been pending for 18 years, when his father applied for him when he was 17.  Seems a mighty long time to wait for a green card.

Garcia enrolled in community college and later transferred to California State University, Chico, where he had to pay out-of-state tuition rates because of his undocumented status.  After taking four years of night classes, Garcia received his J.D. from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico in May 2009. He passed the bar exam on his first try two months later.

Garcia said he never worried that his immigration status would stop him from becoming a lawyer. Prior to 2008 the bar didn’t ask applicants about their residency, a spokeswoman confirmed.  But when Garcia applied for his moral character review in late 2009 he got the question. He wrote in the answer “pending.” Months went by with no response.

“Everybody told me, ‘Sergio, you sound like a nice guy, but it’s nothing we want to get involved in. It’s a personal struggle,’” he said. “At that point I started googling State Bar law firms.”  That’s when he found the husband-and-wife legal team of Jerome Fishkin and Lindsay Slatter, whose three-attorney Walnut Creek firm specializes in cases involving applications and disciplinary cases pending before the State Bar.

Last fall, the Committee on Bar Examiners forwarded its recommendation that Garcia be admitted to the bar to the state Supreme Court. Fishkin said he and Slatter figured the case would be settled one way or the other, in private, with a minute order. But then in May, the court publicly asked for briefing in the case.

The Committee of Bar Examiners, as well as attorney general Kamala Harris, has argued that Garcia should be admitted to the bar because law licensure is the purview of the state Supreme Court, not the federal government.

Even though the Obama administration has opposed his bid to join the State Bar, Garcia has spent recent days helping young adults apply for so-called deferred action, the new federal program that will protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, at least temporarily. Garcia is four years too old to qualify for the deferral. He said he’s not bitter.

Garcia is keenly aware that his story reads like a made-for-the-big-screen tale. That’s why the ambitious 35-year-old is writing his autobiography. Publishers and producers are already calling, he said.

“It’s on hold for now,” Garcia said in a recent interview. “I’m waiting for the happy ending.”

Another California case worth watching.  What are your thoughts on Mr. Garcia’s case?

 

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In case you were out this week and missed the new fee increases,  (lucky you if you are), I am attaching the new Statewide Fee Schedule for your reading pleasure.   Of course, you should check with your county to make sure when the fees increase there, I know they did in the county in which I work effective July 2nd.

In reviewing the new fees for my county, I was shocked to learn that the fees for the filing for a Complaint and an Answer in Civil, a Petition for Dissolution or Legal Separation or First Paper Fee in Family, and Petitions in Probate all increased from $395 to $435.

Be sure to check out the other increases, such as filing motions, delivery of a will to the court, court reporter fees and child custody evaluations.  Also, don’t forget that your local rules may have changed effective July 1st as well.

Stay safe and have a wonderful Fourth of July!

 

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The Northern District of California recovered $346,983,000.30 in civil and criminal cases during fiscal year 2011, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. Of that amount, $309,685,106.50 was collected in criminal actions and $37,297,893.80 was collected in civil actions, Haag’s office reported.

Nationwide, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices collected $6.5 billion in criminal and civil actions during fiscal year 2011, surpassing $6 billion for the second consecutive year.

The $6.5 billion represents more than three times the appropriated budget of the combined 94 offices for fiscal year 2011.

“During this time of economic recovery, these collections are more important than ever,” U.S. Attorney Haag said. “The hard work of the attorneys and staff has helped return millions of dollars to the U.S. treasury and victims of crimes, while ensuring that the criminals who wrongfully took the funds were put behind bars.”

To read more about the monies collected, see the article with the Lake County News, here.

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Ioana Petrou, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District, was formally sworn in as an Alameda County judge last night at the Claremont Country Club in Oakland.

There was no shortage of people wanting to say nice things about the newly minted judge. Attendees included Northern District Judge Marilyn Patel, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, former U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello, and Berkeley criminal defense attorney Cris Arguedas.

Arguedas told the story of meeting Petrou for the first time to discuss the government’s case health care fraud case against her client. She said she was blown away after hearing Petrou converse fluently and openly about it, drawing from fields like pharmacology and economics. “I went back to the office and assigned two more lawyers to the case,” Arguedas said.

Alex Tse, a former AUSA now with the San Francisco city attorney’s office (who worked alongside Petrou on the off-label drug marketing case of InterMune CEO Scott Harkonen), advised lawyers who appear in front of Judge Petrou to be prepared. “You have to be on your toes,” he said. “She’s not going to stand by and she’s not going to wait for you, either.”

A couple of the speakers also gave the tip that Petrou loves good food – so if you ever have lunch with her, let her pick the place.

It is always great to learn about our new California judges, especially what to expect from them on the bench.  For those of you paralegals who have attorneys who practice in Alameda County and will be going before Judge Petrou, you might want to let them know to be well prepared and ready to go when they walk into her courtroom!

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As reported in Legal Pad yesterday, they are hearing word that California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno submitted his resignation to Gov. Jerry Brown. A public announcement is expected later this week.

Moreno, 62, joined the court in 2002, succeeding Justice Stanley Mosk. He has been seen as a center-left jurist, and was interviewed by White House lawyers in 2009 for the U.S. Supreme Court seat that ultimately went to Sonia Sotomayor.

Rumors circulated a year ago that Moreno would retire if Brown won election for governor. though the justice squelched them at the time.

Moreno is said to be planning to depart in late February. That means the court will almost certainly have a vacancy for at least several months, if the recent history of judicial appointments in a governor’s first year are any guide.

Whom Brown might appoint to the Supreme Court is a mystery. His Supreme Court picks were famously controversial during his first stint as governor, though he’s seen as having developed a more pragmatic outlook since then. Moreno’s departure will leave the court without any Latinos or Southern Californians. There have been no African-Americans on the court since Janice Brown’s 2005 departure, and no openly gay person has ever served.

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We Californians love to be first, just try driving down the freeway and you will see what I mean.  While voters did not approve Proposition 19 which would have legalized pot, making us the first state to do so, we have elected the nation’s first transgender Superior Court Trial Judge.

As reported in LGBTQNation.com , Victoria Kolakowski, who is 49, was elected in Alameda County as a new judge.

Victoria Kolakowski

In an interview with student journalist Alexa Sasanow of The Tuft’s Daily newspaper, Kolakowski said:

“The trans thing isn’t the first thing I talk about.  I talk about my experience, things I’ve done as a lawyer, things I want to do as a judge, and when there’s time, I say something about being transgender.  It’s not what I lead with, and a lot of people don’t know.  I’m not hiding it, but it’s one of the things that is difficult when you’re running a race; how do you address this issue? You don’t want to be hiding something about who you are, if you’re out, but you also don’t want to say, ‘Vote for me. I’m wearing a rainbow flag.”

Kolakowski was part of a group of transgender candidates across the nation that was recently profiled in the New York Times, and she cited some of the online comments on the article as indicative of a culture of homophobia and transphobia that still exists in the United States in many forms.

While I don’t know Ms. Kolakowski and Alameda is not the county in which I assist attorneys at this time, I think she will bring some great life lessons into the courtroom with her.  I would love to hear from paralegals and their attorneys in Alameda on their thoughts  about this election and on Ms. Kolakowski herself.

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