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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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It could become easier for California businesses to resolve civil disputes next year under a state law that streamlines trial procedures. The law by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, allows one-day jury trials with 8 instead of 12 jurors The catch? Both sides must agree.

California starts the year by downgrading possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Though the fine remains $100, there’s no jail time or notation on your criminal record.  Good news for those that use this herb.

Also in a cost-cutting move, the state will be releasing severely sick or dying inmates through medical parole. That’s causing public safety concerns among Republicans who call the guidelines too dangerous.  Not sure about this one, I am sure we will here more about it.

The paparazzi, known to surround or block celebrities while driving, just to take their picture, may be liable for damages under false imprisonment.  Yes, we must protect our celebrities, where would Cali be without them?

You also might see a Blue Alert on those highway signs telling you an officer is down and the suspect is still on the loose.  This is similar to our Amber alert and will be on the same signs from what I understand.

If you have one of those yellow hybrid stickers, you’ll still be able to use the carpool lane as a solo driver six more months.  The way our freeways are, I don’t think there are that many hybrid drivers using the lane.

Another new law creates a state commission to help beekeepers fight Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease that has devastated honey bee colonies in recent years. The cause isn’t known, but the commission will recommend ways to control it.  A world without honey just can’t happen!

California nursing homes will be required to post federal ratings of their facilities starting Jan. 1. The federal program gives ratings from one to five stars, depending on quality of care, making it easier for residents and their families to choose the right facility, according to supporters.

Nursing homes that fail to post the ratings can be fined.  Well, now I will be able to choose  a five star home that my grandkids keep telling me they will come visit me in, lol.

Lawmakers even went after some Internet users. It’ll be a misdemeanor to impersonate someone if the intention is to deceive or injure another person.

The real estate lending business will be affected by a change. Starting Saturday, the law protects homeowners who are “underwater” on their loans, preventing first deed lenders from obtaining deficiency judgments against the sellers in short sales.

A lender who approves a sale for less than what is owed must accept the sales proceeds as full payment.  This will certainly be good news to many who need to sell their homes.

California businesses with 15 or more employees must provide 30 days’ paid leave for workers who donate organs and five days for those who give bone marrow.

Parents of children (kindergarten through eighth grade) are charged with a misdemeanor if the child misses 10-percent or more of the school year without an excuse.  The new California law can punish offending parents with up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000.  Who doesn’t send their children to school?  Apparently enough parents to warrant this law.

In cases where a caregiver causes serious injury (such as a coma or paralysis) they will now be prosecuted for punishment which can now include life in prison.  The new California law includes relatives and non-relatives.

‘Chelsea’s Law’ ups the penalties for forcible sex acts against minors and creates a penalty of ‘life without the possibility of parole’ for specific acts and imposes lifetime parole for certain sex offenses.  The new California law also punishes such acts committed within public parks more severely.

It is a crime to conduct a “malicious, credible impersonation” through a social media site, email or website. The new California law punishes the harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding of another person online with up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

California businesses with 15 or more employees must provide 30 days’ paid leave for workers who donate organs and five days for those who give bone marrow.

Bakeries must stop using artery-clogging trans fat oil in 2011. California passed the law in 2008, but it didn’t affect bakers until now. Restaurants, fast-food outlets and cafeterias came under the prohibition a year ago.  Wonder if I will still enjoy the occasional donut without all that fat?

This is just a smidgen of the 700 new laws, yes 700, that go into effect on January 1, 2011.

Here’s a great video, with some wonderful “adult” signs to enjoy.  Happy New Year to all my fellow paralegals.  Stay safe, stay happy and see you all next year!

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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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I found this article to be informative and in case you missed it, or don’t know who Vicki Voisin is, with permission from Vicki Voisin, the article below is reproduced in its entirety.  Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com.

The issue of certification has long been debated. Here a few questions I’m frequently asked:

  • I graduated from a paralegal program, why should I sit for a certification exam?
  • I have a paralegal certificate from a university, doesn’t that make me ‘certified’?
  • I have a good job and several years of experience, how will being certified make a difference?
  • What will those letters after my name really do for me?
  • My boss doesn’t care if I’m certified so why should I bother?

I wholeheartedly support the certification process for paralegals and believe that it is an important professional goal. Please consider the following points:

Having a certificate does not mean you are certified. A certificate is issued upon completion of an educational program, at which time you are certificated. Certification involves passing an examination established by a sponsoring organization that usually has specific requirements of education and experience for persons taking the exam. Upon completion of the examination, you are certified.

The American Bar Association defines certification as: ‘a process by which a non-governmental agency or association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association.’

I am certainly not minimizing the importance of completing a paralegal program and obtaining your certificate or your degree. In fact, I view paralegal education as essential. I am merely pointing out that there is an additional step you can take that will increase your professional profile. That step is certification.

Credential = credibility. Certification is a voluntary process and is not a prerequisite for paralegal employment. However, certification gives you credibility. It demonstrates that you have the knowledge base and the skill required to pass the examination. It may also make you more marketable and may increase your income potential.

Certification takes you off the level playing field. Graduation from a paralegal program (and, thus, being certificated) is the primary avenue by which people enter the paralegal profession. If everyone has a certificate, how is a potential employer to judge the best candidate for the job? Think about the following:

Two paralegals standing side by side with the same certificate from the same school and the same amount of experience. How can one be distinguished from the other? The answer is certification. The certified paralegal demonstrates that he or she is a multi-skilled professional with diverse knowledge and effective communication skills.

Certification provides paralegals an avenue for self-regulation. The issue of licensure for paralegals is old news…it’s been discussed ad nauseum for more than a quarter century. Paralegals work under the supervision of a licensed attorney and do not provide their services directly to the public. For this reason, licensure of paralegals is not required.

Further, licensure says a person is ‘qualified’ to do work. It does not demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills. An example is a hair dresser (and I have the highest regard for my hair dresser, believe me!). Hair dressers are allowed to enter the profession when they are licensed by a state agency. The license does not say they have fantastic skills, it only says that they can perform the services. The certification credential is awarded to people who prove their advanced knowledge and skills by meeting the standards of the credentialing organization.

Certification will do much for you personally. Ask anyone who has a credential and they will tell you that the achievement made them walk a little taller, made them feel stronger professionally, gave them incredible personal satisfaction and increased their level of professional confidence. They set a goal and they achieved it. They took a risk and they survived it. They have the credibility that the credential provides. They literally stand out above the crowd. Their accomplishment gave them great pride. You, too, can have all that with professional certification.

One additional benefit you will reap from the certification exam: the learning that takes place in the preparation for the examination. Even the most experienced paralegal will learn something new and benefit from the intense review.

You will usually be required to participate in continuing education programs to maintain your certification. This requirement will help you keep up to date with changes in the profession and in the legal arena. Also, the credentialing organization will usually set high ethical standards for those using the credential. Unethical behavior will result in the loss of the credential.

Certification may give you a ‘leg up’ when you’re searching for a job. In today’s economy, you need all the ammunition you can muster to prove that you are the person for the job. Having the certification credential behind you exhibits not only the advanced knowledge I mentioned earlier, it also shows discipline, ambition, motivation and willingness to accept a challenge.

Which certification examination/credential is right for you? That’s a personal decision. Many paralegal associations provide certification examinations (ie NALA, NFPA, NALS, and AAPI). There are also voluntary certification programs offered by some states…examples are North Carolina and Florida, but there are others. All have different structure and eligibility requirements, as well as different continuing education and re-certification requirements.

What is important is that the credentialing organization you choose is a bona fide entity, that the exam is administered under rules and regulations in accordance with governmental acts and in accordance with such issues as anti-trust and fairness.

It is essential that the organization agrees to keep applications and records confidential. It is crucial that the organization prepares an examination under the guidance of professional testing consultants, that the exam be continually reviewed for accuracy, and that it be updated on a regular basis.

Usually the certification designation is a certification mark duly registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Claims of certified status must be verifiable…in other words, if a paralegal claims to be certified, he or she must have the credential to prove it.

Can you ethically use the credential after your name? Yes! Whether it is CLA, CP, PP, RP, AACP, ACP, PLS, AVA, ALS, NCCP etc. you can use it. The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed the issue concerning the utilization of credentials awarded by private organizations. In Peal v Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2281 (1990), the Court suggested that a claim of certification is truthful and not misleading if:

  • The claim itself is true
  • The bases on which certification was awarded are factual and verifiable
  • The certification in question is available to all professionals in the field who meet relevant, objective and consistently applied standards
  • The certification claim does not suggest any greater degree of professional qualification than reasonably may be inferred from an evaluation of the certification program’s requirements.
  • There is a qualified organization behind the certification process.

Of course, the credential cannot be used to mislead the public and represent something you are not.

How do you prepare for a certification examination? The thought of all that study may sound overwhelming. The idea of taking such a critical examination may be frightening. The key to success is in the preparation and planning. The best thing to do is to break the process into steps:

  • Decide which examination you will take.
  • Decide when you will take the examination
  • Working backward from the examination date, block a period of time for study and determine a study schedule (I recommend three months but that is an individual decision)
  • Plan how you will study and what reference materials you will need (these may be available from the credentialing organization)
  • Join a study group and enlist ‘study buddies’ to hold you accountable
  • Take advantage of preparation and educational opportunities offered by the credentialing organization, as well as your professional association. For instance, NALA offers a three-day intense CLA review course, as well as CLA preparation courses at its convention.

Your challenge: If you already have a professional credential, congratulations! If you don’t, please put that at the top of your list. Follow the steps above and begin planning for the examination. You will never regret the time and effort it takes. You will always feel immense professional pride when you put those initials after your name!

Thank you Vicki for another great article and for letting me share it with our fellow paralegals!

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The California Courts YouTubeChannel will offer news and information covering areas from self-help and local court news to courthouse construction projects and actions and news from the Judicial Council of California – the policy making body of California’s courts.

The Twitter feed will receive tweets on announcements of opinions from the Supreme Court, news releases and updates on new content and resources on the California Court’s Website

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State Bar of California
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At its July 22 – 24, 2010 meeting, the Board of Governors considered a Commission request that the Board adopt all of the Commission’s proposed new and amended rules. Board consideration of this request followed the conclusion of a comprehensive public comment distribution of all of the Commission’s proposed rules that ended on June 15, 2010.   The Commission requested Board adoption of sixty-eight proposed rules.  Of these sixty-eight proposed rules, sixty were adopted and one proposed rule, Rule 8.3 (re reporting misconduct), was not adopted.  For the remaining seven rules, the Board authorized an additional 30-day public comment period to seek input on changes made to those rules after the comment period that ended on June 15, 2010.  The comments are due on August 23, 2010.  You can see the seven rules for review and how to comment here.

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Elena Kagan as Dean of Harvard Law School
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I don’t know about you, but I am excited about another woman possibly sitting on the Supreme Court!  I have been crazy busy and unable to watch the hearing, but I have been trying to read what is going on and found some of the opening comments made last week by Senator Klobuchar quite informative.

One such comment was “Solicitor General Kagan, there are always a lot of critics on the sidelines, but you have actually been in the arena . . . as a manager, as a teacher, as an advisor, as a consensus-builder and as a lawyer.  In every job you’ve had, you’ve worked very hard and done very well.  That is why you are before us today, being considered – in the words of Teddy Roosevelt – for this “high achievement.” ”

She further went on to say “It strikes me that it takes a pretty extraordinary person who, after working in the Clinton Administration, can still get a standing ovation from the Federalist Society… who inspires a group of 600 law school students to show up for a rally wearing “I love Elena” t-shirts… who is widely credited with calming the factionalism that had previously roiled your law school.  In several different jobs now, you have successfully managed lawyers, and worse yet, law professors – a group that can certainly be described as “fearless in the face of supervision”! In sum, you’ve had a lot of practical experience reaching out to people who hold very different beliefs, and that’s increasingly important on a very divided Supreme Court.  That must be, by the way, why you have all the previous Solicitors General from the past 25 years – under both Democratic and Republican administrations – supporting you for this job.  In the course of more than two centuries, 111 justices have served on the Supreme Court.  Only three have been women.   If you are confirmed, you will be the fourth, and for the first time in its history, three women would take their places on the bench when arguments are heard in the fall.”

I think it’s time we had someone on the bench who thinks about the consequences of how the decisions that are made affect the “real people” and their lives.  There are so many decisions handed down that just make no sense to many of us and have consequences on people’s lives that are not always for the better.  Having someone with the ability to state what those impacts could or would be, sitting on the bench might make a big difference.  It sure couldn’t hurt!

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The Judicial Council has advocated funds to keep the California Courts open after the June 16, 2010 mandated court closure.  For more information, see the Judicial Council media advisory.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me oh so happy to be able to calculate those dates without looking to see if the court closure date falls within the response time. 

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