Archive for the Category »Court Info «

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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Category: Court Info, Legal News  Tags: , , ,  Comments off

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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As a Paralegal, sometimes it is left to us to figure out what to do when the attorney we work for is disabled or heaven forbid, dies while we are in their employ.  I don’t know if either of these has happened while you have been working for an attorney, but it has happened to me and it can be downright scary to figure out what to do.  Clients and heirs of California attorneys who die or become disabled can be left with the same sorts of issues faced by families of an individual who does not leave a will or living trust behind: what happens to client files and any funds that may be on deposit in a trust account? With the approval of a surrogacy agreement last month, the State Bar Board of Governors made it both easy and free to avoid such problems. The first to take advantage of the new “Agreement to Close Law Practice in the Future” was bar President Bill Hebert, who designated his law partner, James Quadra, to administer his practice in the event Hebert could not continue to work.

The sample agreement, available to all lawyers, spells out the responsibilities of the primary attorney and his or her successor.  Currently, if a lawyer dies or becomes incapacitated without having made any arrangements about the future of his or her practice, the State Bar seeks a superior court order to take over the practice.  It collects the attorney’s files and attempts to return those files to the client, although it does not try to find a new attorney to take over cases.

However, if a lawyer designates a successor using the new sample contract, the designated surrogate goes to court for appointment as the practice administrator who can take control and dispose of the practice. A lengthy list of duties is part of the contract and includes the ability to open mail, become a signatory on bank accounts, notify clients and transfer files, pay bills and handle funds, and accept the original attorney’s clients and cases. The practice administrator also will have the power to sell the practice.

The agreement includes a requirement that clients must be notified in engagement letters that a successor attorney has been designated.  Murray Greenberg, who for 15 years has handled State Bar takeovers of attorneys’ practices, whether for death, disability or discipline, said the numbers vary from year to year. He’s seen an uptick recently, probably due to the graying of the profession in general, he said.  He shares Oldman’s belief that many attorneys aren’t well-prepared for the unforeseen: “No one expects to become disabled.”

The California State Bar also has guidelines for closing or selling a law practice, which can be found here. As a paralegal, we have lots of responsibilities and while you may not think this should be one of them, I believe we should make sure that our attorney(s) know about this contract availability and that they make sure that their clients and yes, even their paralegals are assured of how things will be handled in the event of their death or disability.

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After nine years of debate, the State Bar adopted 67 proposed ethics rules to govern California lawyers’ professional conduct. The rules require Supreme Court approval before taking effect, and although the court is free to reject or return any of the proposals for further work, they offer a behavioral roadmap for attorneys and provide clear guidance in particular areas that have been confusing or controversial, and result in discipline for those who ignore them.

Although a rules revision commission was appointed to bring California’s rules in line with the ABA Model Rules, the state — in fact the only state whose rules are not patterned after the Model Rules — will continue to differ in 12 key areas, four involving fees. The rules were last revised in 1987, and since beginning its work, the commission has held seven public hearings, sought public response to its recommendations six times and received 530 written comments. Even as the final deadline loomed last month, the group sent out seven final rules for one last round of public input.

The rules can be divided into two categories: those that were changed to mirror more closely the ABA Model Rules, and those that remain distinctly Californian.

The first category includes rules that address lawyer advertising/solicitation; supervision of lawyer and nonlawyer subordinates; sexual relations with clients; aggregate settlements; limited legal service programs; trial publicity; and dealings with represented and unrepresented persons.

The areas that are substantially different from the Model Rules include the bar’s rejection of the so-called “snitch” rule and retention of California standards governing client secrets, unconscionable fees, competence and moral turpitude.  To read the breakdown of these differences, see them at the California Bar Journal article.

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Money, it's a crime
Image by kiki99 via Flickr

Well, in case you didn’t hear today, as part of the Budget Act of 2010, certain filing fees will increase.  Each county will begin collection of the new fees at different times based on when they can update their systems.  These new fees will go into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature on SB857, which is expected to be next week.

First appearance in an unlimited action by plaintiff(s) and each defendant will increase to $395. This fee increase applies to all types of filings in which the previous fee was $355 (civil, probate, family, etc.)

First appearance in a limited action ($10,000 up to $25,000) by plaintiff(s) and each defendant will increase to $370.

First appearance in a limited action (under $10,000) by plaintiff(s) and each defendant will increase to $220.

The above fees do not include the additional fees required for Unlawful Detainer filings (additional $15) or the surcharges imposed in Riverside County, San Bernardino County or the City and County of San Francisco.

Motion for Summary Judgment/Adjudication will increase to $500;
Application by counsel to appear Pro Hac Vice will increase to $500;
There will be an additional $3 penalty to every parking violation; and
There will be an additional increases in various criminal penalties and traffic fines.

Additionally, the Judicial Council is required to establish a fee for telephonic appearances on or before July 1, 2011 (separate from any fees paid to “Court Call” or other vendors).

To read more about the 2010 California budget, you can click here.

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