Archive for » March, 2010 «

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15:  A sign at Los Ange...
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I received an email today from OneSource regarding California Court news and would like to pass some of it along to you, my paralegal friends.

Steve Vann, the Director of California Fulfillment with OneLegal, LLC, sent this information on to Mark Schwartz of OneLegal, in which Mark thought highlights very well how the unfortunate trend in the California courts reduction of personnel is affecting OneLegal, we in the legal profession as well as the courts.

Oakland [Superior] is telling OneLegal they will be holding on to orders longer and will be requiring that they drop off more orders in the coming days. Oakland is not the only court as this is also what was heard from Nicole yesterday about LA [Superior].  Sonoma [Superior] is also another court where we are seeing caption pages [a.k.a. filed-endorsed copies] delayed.

This is a trend that he feels will continue into the foreseeable future. With the increased lay-offs and growing order volume the court clerks are simply not able to keep up with the volume.

These orders are all being stamped as accepted the same day they drop them off, but it is taking longer to get the caption pages back. This also means that OneLegal and we paralegals, will be delayed in getting news of rejected documents.

This is concerning to all of us especially when we all just learned as reported by the Daily News, the Los Angeles Superior Court is laying off 329 of their staff and closing 17 Los Angeles area court rooms.  Troy Anderson, Staff Writer for the Daily News, wrote, “Presiding Judge Charles W. “Tim: McCoy, Jr., said another 1800 layoffs are possible, 34 percent of the court work force, and 180 courtrooms and nine courthouses could be shuttered by 2013 if the system doesn’t get more state funding.” 

To read more, click here. You can also click here to read the court’s news release.

Chief Justice Ronald George recently said that CA court closures must not continue into the next fiscal year. Click here to read his comments.

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relationship advice
Image by mugley via Flickr

I love my friends, don’t get me wrong and my best friend, well there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.  Ok, maybe there are a couple things I wouldn’t do, like give legal advice or put out a hit, but other than that, I can’t think of too much I wouldn’t do when she asks for my help.  No matter how many times I tell my friends I can’t give legal advice, they will call with a question asking “what would you do!”

Take last week, my friend called telling me about a co-worker she has whose new boyfriend was having problems with his old girlfriend. Seems she was following him around town and was even going to his teenage daughter’s workplace causing scenes.  One in particular involved screaming at him when he walked in and accusing him of “giving her a disease!”  So, my friend wanted to know what her co-worker’s boyfriend could do about it.  Sighhhh.  My response was, “I can’t give legal advice.”  As much as I wanted to say something and common sense tells you what a person might be able to do to stop this woman from doing what she is doing, I couldn’t give legal advice.

So, what to do, what to do, ughh.   Don’t you hate when this happens?  You want to just tell them, don’t you?  But you know you can’t and this is where it gets many paralegals in trouble.  I have heard many new paralegals and even seasoned paralegals tell their friends or even clients what they should do, thinking they are only giving them common sense advice in a given situation.  Wrong!  When you are a paralegal, giving advice, even common sense advice, is giving legal advice and it is not allowed at any time, unless your supervising attorney has authorized you to pass on their advice to the client and you must tell them the advice is coming from the attorney, not you.

What I did was tell my friend who the “new boyfriend” could call for advice, like an attorney or the police and ask their advice.   So, I wasn’t giving legal advice, just pointing them in the direction of where to get the legal advice needed. After all, this is who I would contact if I wasn’t a paralegal.   My friend later called me to tell me when the co-worker’s “new boyfriend” contacted the police they immediately issued an EPO (Emergency Protective Order) which immediately stopped the problem, hopefully it will work for the 3 days the EPO is in effect.  We will see what happens when the 3 days are up, but I will not, I repeat, will not, give any legal advice when the EPO runs its course and my friend calls telling me the next saga to this story.  I am sure there will be more to this story, there always is.

So, all of you veteran paralegals, how do you handle this situation when friends or family ask for your “advice.”  I would love to hear and share with our newer paralegals as this is one of the problems we paralegals continually run into on an almost daily basis.

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I found this fascinating quote today at Civil Rights and Wrongs written by my friend and colleague, Eric G. Young:

Care to know who has joined the “illustrious” group of lawyers filing lawsuits against the new health care bill signed into law by President Obama?  You guessed it, Claimed Lawyer – Apparent Dentist – Birther Queen – and  All-Around Weirdo Orly Taitz.  In a barely-reasoned, badly-drafted Complaint – in which she mis-spells the title of her own court document – Taitz alleges that the new health care law is a:civilrightsandwrongs.wordpress.com, “It is fair to judge a peoples by the rights they will sacrifice most (for)”, Mar 2010

You should read the whole article here.

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As a Paralegal, in my opinion, I believe it is our duty to make sure that none of the client’s personal information, (other than what is required) goes to the Court.  I make sure that I redact all fax, telephone numbers and addresses of the clients from any documents sent to the Court.  While this does cost the client a little bit more for the additional time for me to do this, it can be explained to the client that the little extra they are paying now may prevent them from experiencing a major financial loss in the future due to identity theft.

I found this interesting article today written by my friend and colleague, Eric G. Young:

One hot topic in cyberlaw circles is how to protect a client’s right of privacy in their documents and personal papers.  Generally speaking, however, discussions about this topic tend to center on appropriate methods of electronic storage or transmission of client information via electronic means to and from third parties.  What about when you are filing documents with the court the old-fashioned way?  Can you take steps to preserve your client’s privacy in that situation?  Absolutely.cyberesq.wordpress.com, Cyber-Esq., Mar 2010

You should read the whole article.

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DSM-IV-TR, the current DSM edition
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The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the listing of all recognized mental disorders — is set to have a new (fifth) edition published in 2013. A draft of the document was just released and displayed for public comment. This document clearly affects those in the mental health profession, but you may wonder what it has to do with lawyers. It seems predictable that the effects on the legal community will be felt in the criminal and employment areas and possibly in other areas as well.

Proposed changes include new designations of gambling addiction and binge eating as recognized mental disorders.

The proposed change creating a new category for gambling addiction could lead to the disorder being used as a defense to an employee’s embezzlement to pay gambling debts, or by an employee fired for excessive absences from work due to visits to the race track. The proposed change recognizing binge eating as a disorder may lead to more overweight employees claiming a disability.

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California lawyers were required to pay their State Bar dues by March 1, but a board of governors committee voted last month that penalties for nonpayment would not attach until March 31. Penalties for noncompliance with MCLE requirements also will not take effect until the same date.

After vetoing the bar’s fee bill in October, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a later bill in January, authorizing collection of the same fees — $410 for active lawyers and $125 for inactive members.

The dues payment deadline was moved from Feb. 1 to March 1. At the same time, the MCLE compliance deadline for members of Group 1 — those whose last names begin with A-G — remained Feb. 1.

However, due to confusion over the deadlines and the late mailing of bills, the board decided to offer a grace period — through March 30 — before assessing any penalties.

Active attorneys who have not paid their fees by March 30 will be penalized $100 and inactive lawyers who pay late will owe an additional $30. Those who miss the MCLE deadline will be penalized $75.

Failure to pay dues or comply with continuing education requirements can result in suspension from practice.

Dues can be paid online by logging on to calbar.ca.gov.  For more information about bar dues and MCLE compliance is available by calling the Member Services Center at 1-888-800-3400.

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Last year a San Francisco Superior Court judge dismissed 600 potential jurors after several acknowledged going online to research the criminal case before them.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon challenged her misdemeanor embezzlement conviction after discovering five jurors “friended” one another on Facebook during the trial.

And a federal judge in Florida declared a mistrial after eight jurors admitted Web surfing about a drug case.

But the rules for jury service in state and federal courts alike are evolving to grapple with this 21st century issue. New jury instructions are being adopted and electronics are being banned from courtrooms.

In January, the federal court’s top administrative office, the Judicial Conference of the United States, issued so-called “Twitter instructions” to every federal judge, which are designed to be read to jurors at the start of the trial and before deliberations.

“You may not use any electronic device or media” in connection with the case, the recommended federal instructions admonish. They also bar visits to “any Internet chat room, blog, or website such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter.”

San Francisco Superior Court on Jan. 1 began including such instructions after some of the 600 jurors said they went online because there were no explicit prohibitions against such independent research.

“You may not do research about any issues involved in the case,” the new instruction states. “You may not blog, Tweet, or use the Internet to obtain or share information.”

A California legislator last month introduced a bill that would charge wayward jurors with a crime.  So, keep those cell phones off when in court, don’t friend any of the other jurors on Facebook and don’t tweet what is happening in court while you are sitting on the jury.

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Catherine McKenzie began her legal career as a legal secretary in 1972, at the age of 20, for a Federal non-profit law services committee on Long Island, New York. In her capacity as legal secretary she was part of the team that propelled a case to the United States Supreme Court. She then was employed by many and varied law departments and firms in New York City, San Francisco, Augusta (GA), Tallahassee, and, finally, in her present residence, Vero Beach, Florida. All of these opportunities trained her in areas such as tax litigation, union/labor law, estate planning, probate, real estate, family and criminal law.

What an amazing career she has had and in various legal arenas!  Be sure and check out more about Catherine at the link to Paralegal Gateway.

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