Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, December 31, 2004


Page 3





California Supreme Court Blocks San Francisco Same-Sex Marriages...Three Subordinate Judicial Officers Win Election to Los Angeles Superior Court...Former Attorney General Van de Kamp Elected President of State Bar



5—A report to police of suspected criminal activity is part of an “official proceeding” and absolutely privileged under Civil Code Sec. 47(b), the California Supreme Court ruled.

6—The California Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence for a man convicted of a 1989 killing at the victim’s Pomona home. In a 4-3 ruling, the rejected challenges to the conviction and sentence of Alfredo Reyes Valdez for the murder of Ernesto Macias, which jurors found was committed in the course of a robbery. The dissenters argued that the case should be retried because Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas Nuss, who has since retired, failed to give a sua sponte instruction allowing jurors to convict Valdez of the lesser charge of second degree murder....A Hewlett-Packard employee fired for posting scriptural passages condemning homosexuality in his work cubicle was not discriminated against because of his religious beliefs, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

7—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied en banc rehearing of its May 29, 2003 ruling reinstating a suit by a Seattle-area couple who allege that they spied for the United States in their then-Communist homeland during the Cold War.

15—The state Supreme Court rejected a former foster child’s bid to expand the legal definition of “equitable adoption,” turning aside his claim to a share of his foster parent’s estate on the ground that he had not presented clear and convincing evidence the decedent intended to adopt him...Edward DiLoreto, one of three men whose donation created what is now Pepperdine University School of Law, died at age 90.

19—Marvin Greene, who headed the Business and Corporations Law Department of Loeb & Loeb for many years, died at 79.

20—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Rico yesterday declined to reach the merits of the contention that Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo holds his post unlawfully, ruling that the issue cannot be raised by way of a demurrer to a criminal complaint. The exclusive means of testing a person’s entitlement to hold office is through an action in quo warranto, the judge held...Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George P. Schiavelli was nominated by President Bush to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

22—Whether a criminal case has been brought in a correct venue is a question of law that must be resolved by a judge prior to trial, the California Supreme Court ruled, overturning more than 120 years of case law.

23—Veteran criminal defense lawyer H. Elizabeth Harris was elected a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner by the court’s judges...Senior U.S. District Judge Judge Harry L. Hupp of the Central District of California, who served on the state and federal benches for 30 years, died at age 74...Retired Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Thomas F. Crosby Jr. died at age 63.

28—As part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, New York Life Insurance Co. agreed to create a $20 million fund to pay claims by descendants of Armenian Genocide victims, lawyers said...An arbitration award requiring former partners in the now-defunct law firm of O’Flaherty & Belgum to forfeit money owed to them at the time of the breakup and pay more than $7.5 million in damages, costs, and legal fees to the firm and its former managing partner was tossed out by this district’s Court of Appeal.

29—Pornographic videotapes of himself made by a San Diego police officer and sold over the Internet were constitutionally protected expressive activity, a divided panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.



2—Two jurors’ conversations about capital punishment with their pastors during the penalty phase of a murder trial do not compel reversal of the death sentence, the state Supreme Court ruled. In a 4-3 decision, the justices affirmed Joseph Danks’ death sentence for the murder by stabbing of his elderly cellmate at Tehachapi State Prison, Walter Holt.

5—A Los Angeles deputy district attorney and Superior Court candidate who appealed her tentative “qualified” rating from the County Bar’s Judicial Elections Evaluations Committee confirmed that she had been downgraded to a final rating of “not qualified.” Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera, seeking the seat being vacated by Judge James Wright, declined to disclose the reasons given by the committee for the rare, although not unprecedented, downgrading.

6—Pre-dispute contractual waivers of trial by jury are unenforceable in California, the First District Court of Appeal ruled.

9—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alan Haber retired...Steven Ipsen was reelected president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.

12—The Los Angeles County Bar Association released final ratings for judicial candidates in the March primary.

19—A 1981 law dealing with suits against peace officers and public entities did not create a general right to attorneys’ fees in libel and slander actions if they were brought in bad faith, the state Supreme Court ruled.

25—A San Bernardino Superior Court judge properly disqualified an attorney for a personal injury plaintiff after the lawyer obtained and used a document detailing conversations between defense lawyers and their expert witnesses, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.

26—Morrison & Foerster partner Maren Nelson outpolled retired Los Angeles Municipal Court Commissioner John M. Murphy in runoff balloting by judges to fill a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner vacancy,



1—A state law requiring certain health insurance and disability plans that provide coverage for prescription drugs to pay for contraceptives does not violate the First Amendment rights of employers who provide employee health coverage but are religiously opposed to contraception, the California Supreme Court ruled.

2—A federal judge erred in naturalizing two local men who faced deportation for their involvement in a terrorist plot 20 years ago, an en banc panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled...All four challenged incumbents easily won re-election to the Los Angeles Superior Court, while contests for five open seats headed for runoffs. Judges Dan Thomas Oki and David Wesley each polled better than 55 percent of the vote in four-way contests, while Judge Richard Van Dusen defeated his sole challenger by better than 3 to 1. The fourth judge on the ballot, Chesley McKay Jr., illustrated the value of incumbency by defeating opponent Stella Owens-Murrell by a 3 to 2 margin, even though Owens-Murrell had a string of newspaper endorsements, including that of the Los Angeles Times, and McKay, who had applied for disability retirement did not campaign.

11—The California Supreme Court ordered an immediate halt to same-sex marriages in San Francisco.

17—The state Supreme Court denied review of the State Bar Court’s recommendation that former civil rights lawyer A. Thomas Hunt, who resigned with disciplinary charges pending, be reinstated as a licensed California practitioner.

22—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived a suit by Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos, who claims he suffered retaliation after suggesting sheriff’s investigators might have lied to obtain a warrant.

25—The California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the death sentences of two Hesperia men convicted of killing two men in a drug-related robbery at a Pomona motel. While there was no conclusive evidence as to who actually shot the two men at the Allstar Inn on Oct. 12, 1990, the death sentences imposed on Chauncey Veasley and Dellano Cleveland “do not shock the conscience,” Justice Ming Chin wrote, because “both engaged in a carefully premeditated, execution-style double murder.”

29—A litigant cannot obtain sanctions for an opponent’s bad faith under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 128.5 in an action filed after Sec. 128.7 took effect in 1995, the state Supreme Court ruled

30—The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a local lawyer’s pursuit of photos he contends might show Clinton administration lawyer Vincent Foster was murdered, ruling that the privacy rights of relatives outweigh any public interest in disclosure. Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Allan Favish did not produce enough evidence of a cover-up in investigations that concluded Foster committed suicide to require release of the photographs.

31—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Margaret Hay and Commissioners Hugh Bobys and Daniel Calabro retired.



3—Francis P. Bassios, an architect of the State Bar of California’s attorney discipline system and a 30-year employee of the organization, died following a year-long illness. He was 59.

5—John Los Angeles Superior Court Judges John W. Ouderkirk and Lawrence Crispo retired...Former Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who was named dean of Pepperdine Law School in 1997 but withdrew before taking up his duties, was again named to the post...Implied malice sufficient to sustain a conviction for murdering a fetus may be found based on a generalized disregard for life, and no specific disregard for fetal life is necessary, the state Supreme Court ruled.

8—A federal district judge in Fresno must hold an evidentiary hearing on a Death Row inmate’s claim that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to present mitigating evidence, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Lawyers for Douglas Stankewitz claim that Hugh Goodwin, the now-retired Fresno attorney and former municipal court judge who represented Stankewitz at his 1983 trial, was so fixated on trying to convince jurors of the potential for redemption through God that he failed to present a potentially successful case in mitigation based on the defendant’s horrifying childhood.

17—Walter M. Leighton, an original member of the Cowboy Lawyers Association, died Leighton died at age 62 after a battle with cancer. At the time of his death he was in practice with the Encino probate firm of Oldman, Cooley, Leighton & Sallus.

21—A television producer’s need to use “sexually coarse, vulgar, and demeaning language” as part of the creative process of developing scripts is not an affirmative defense to a sexual harassment claim, although the nature of the program being produced is one factor that may be considered by a jury in determining whether the defendants created a hostile work environment, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.

22—A client who sued his lawyer for malpractice waived his contention that the fee arbitration statute prohibits a lawyer from forcing the client to submit a fee dispute to binding arbitration, the California Supreme Court ruled.

26—An evangelical Christian who was fired from her job for harassing a gay employee was not discriminated against on the basis of religion, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

30—Justice William M. Wunderlich retired from the Sixth District Court of Appeal to succeed the late Hollis Best as magistrate at the U.S. District Court in Yosemite National Park...Ventura sole practitioner Robert A. McSorley was elected a commissioner of the Los Angeles Superior Court.



6—The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death sentence for a Shasta County man convicted of murdering a bartender during a 1993 robbery. While other defendants may have avoided the death penalty for killings committed during “barroom holdups,” Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote, the calculated and callous manner in which Thomas Howard Lenart killed Oberta Toney makes the death penalty proportionate to the crime...Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin A. Ross was charged with three counts of judicial misconduct, including making comments about pending cases on a public television program.

14—Police who entered a probationer’s residence without knocking and announcing themselves performed an unreasonable search and seizure, requiring that the woman’s conviction of possessing methamphetamine for sale be thrown out, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.

17—The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death sentence for a Bay Area man convicted of murdering an elderly couple in what prosecutors said was a robbery for money to buy drugs. Rejecting defense claims of evidentiary and instructional error, Justice Joyce L. Kennard said attorneys for Milton Ray Pollock failed to demonstrate grounds for reversal of his sentence for the stabbing deaths of Earl and Doris Garcia.

18—Breaking a months-long impasse, the White House and Senate Democrats struck a deal allowing confirmation of dozens of President Bush’s judicial nominees, including Central District of California nominee George Schiavelli, in exchange for a White House promise not to bypass the Senate again this year.

20—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Letteau was publicly admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance for exhibiting bias in two cases he presided over before leaving the trial bench.

21—Superior Court Referee Brian Petraborg was elected a commissioner of the Los Angeles Superior Court...Just over 35 percent of the 4,386 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners reported.

23—Former state Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp was elected the 80th president of the State Bar of California...Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick B. Murphy was disbarred for “egregious” misconduct in collecting a judicial paycheck for 120 weeks while on sick leave between 1996 and 2001, even though he attended social events, enrolled in medical school, and engaged in other public activities during that time.

24—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Harris, testifying on the first day of his misconduct hearing, admitted that he had improper discussions with a pair of sexual assault victims after trying their cases, but said he did so with the best of intentions.

26—Attorney General John Ashcroft exceeded his authority in threatening sanctions under the federal Controlled Substances Act against doctors who assist patients in ending their lives as authorized by Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.



3—An agricultural marketing order which compels producers to pay for generic advertising does not violate the First Amendment and does not necessarily violate the “liberty of speech” clause of the California Constitution, the state Supreme Court ruled.

7—An 8-foot cross in the Mojave National Preserve is an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

9—A forum selection clause set out in a cruise line’s standard passenger contract is enforceable even if the passenger did not read it and did not receive the contract until after the cruise was paid for on a no-refunds basis, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.

10—A client’s oral agreement is insufficient to create a charging lien securing payment of an attorney’s fees and litigation costs against the client’s future recovery, the state Supreme Court ruled.

14—Passage of a state law prospectively barring homeowner associations from prohibiting all pets in condominium complexes did not make similar existing restrictions unreasonable as a matter of law, the state Supreme Court ruled...The U.S. Supreme Court allowed millions of schoolchildren to keep affirming loyalty to one nation “under God” but dodged the underlying question of whether the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional blending of church and state.

27—Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George P. Schiavelli was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to fill the only vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

30—Ninth Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima took senior status...A prebirth family court judgment purporting to establish a female couple’s joint parentage of a child conceived by artificial insemination was void if it was based solely on their stipulation, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled...The court also ruled that an application for a waiver of court fees based on indigence cannot be denied without an evidentiary hearing, unless the applicant’s reported income substantially exceeds his or her living expenses...Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James W. Edson died at age 72.



1—The California Supreme Court ruled that public employees seeking disability retirement must establish not only inability to perform their duties for their current employer but that they cannot do similar work for any other public employer in the state...The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled the state Constitution bars a city from requiring a supermajority vote to amend its charter or to raise general taxes...Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan Isacoff retired.

2—A senior official in Los Angeles Public Defender Michael Judge’s office said Judge is abandoning a months...long challenge to the authority of City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to bring misdemeanor prosecutions.

6—Suits by Attorney General Bill Lockyer against some of the nation’s major wholesalers of electricity are preempted by federal law, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled...A spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said Lockyer’s office may have to lay off more than 100 of its lawyers by early next year. ..Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Michael Duffey retired.

8—A habeas corpus petition brought an behalf of a Libyan held as an “enemy combatant” at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be sent to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, rather than being returned to the Central District of California, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

9—Efforts made by social service workers to locate a father and notify him of dependency proceedings were constitutionally inadequate where no attempt to ascertain his whereabouts through members of his family was made, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.

12—Materials developed for use in mediation, including such “pure” evidence as photographs depicting conditions that are the subject of a lawsuit, are privileged, the California Supreme Court ruled.

13—Nearly two-thirds of the members of a prominent national divorce lawyers group responding to a survey backed same-sex marriage, while more than 80 percent supported equal legal rights for such couples, the group said...An offer to compromise under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 998 need not contain “magic language” explaining how acceptance will result in termination of the action, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.

14—A trial judge cannot, without the consent of all parties, shorten the notice period required before a summary judgment motion may be heard, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.

15—The California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence imposed in 1990 on a Bay Area man for the killing of three people, including his mother and stepfather, unanimously ruling that a Contra Costa Superior Court judge erred in rejecting five proposed jurors merely because their responses to an inquiry on a questionnaire indicated some level of opposition to the death penalty...Deputy Public Defender Marguerite Downing and MetNews Co-Publisher Jo-Ann Grace were elected to the State Bar Board of Governors, bar officials reported.

16—A statement to a therapist by a patient’s relative that the patient plans to harm someone can give rise to a duty to warn the victim, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled...Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named San Diego attorney John Davies as his judicial appointments advisor.

19—A declaration under penalty of perjury, executed outside the state, is inadmissible in a summary judgment or similar proceeding unless sworn to “under the laws of the State of California,” the state Supreme Court ruled.

21—Reacting to a Supreme Court decision less than four weeks old, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals joined the Seventh Circuit in ruling that juries, not judges, must determine facts used to enhance sentences in federal court.

22Santa Clara Superior Court Judge William Danser, convicted of ticket fixing. resigned rather than face discipline under an agreement with the Commission on Judicial Performance, the commission said...The operator of an Internet auction site is not immunized by federal law from liability for refusing to remove what it knows to be defamatory comments provided by one user about another, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled...A deputy attorney general fired for improperly removing two computer printers from state offices in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake won more than six years of back pay and a new hearing on the merits of his dismissal from the First District Court of Appeal...A teenager who was committed to a juvenile facility for several months, followed by several more months of electronically monitored home detention, for writing violent poetry at school did not make a criminal threat, the California Supreme Court ruled.

23—Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his first judicial appointments, filling Superior Court vacancies in Yuba and Alpine counties...A complaint filed by a self-represented corporation is not a nullity, the First District Court of Appeal ruled, rejecting what the panel acknowledged to be long-standing authority to the contrary.

26—The California Supreme Court unanimously threw out the death sentence of a Whittier-area man convicted of murdering his elderly neighbors 18 years ago, saying his attorney failed to investigate mitigating evidence in the penalty phase.

28—The U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial recent decision on trial by jury with regard to sentencing factors does not apply to the determination of whether a California defendant is subject to consecutive sentences, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled... Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Josh M. Fredricks abused his discretion in conducting a 2002 medical malpractice trial in which Los Angeles County went unrepresented because of a lawyer’s scheduling conflict and directing a $12.5 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.

29—A state law making it a felony to batter a custodial officer, even if injury does not result, does not violate the constitutional equal protection clauses, the California Supreme Court ruled...A former member of the Huntington Park City Council was properly convicted of perjury and filing false nomination papers for lying about her residence, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.

30—Legislators improperly combined a proposed constitutional amendment which would preserve California’s current method of primary voting with one providing for the sale of surplus state land to pay off bonds, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled.



2—The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to settle whether long-standing federal rules for sentencing criminals violate the Constitution, a question that has thrown federal courthouses into disarray.

3—Violation of a law requiring unaccredited law schools to make specific disclosures to their students gives rise to a private cause of action to recover tuition and fees, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled...An attorney’s alleged agreement to pay a percentage of his fees from certain matters to a nonlawyer consultant is unenforceable, the First District Court of Appeal ruled.

5—California’s common law rule immunizing arbitrators against liability for their actions extends to the organizations that employ them, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled...Tort damages for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing are not available when an insurance company charges a premium it knows is not owed, the state Supreme Court ruled.

7—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victor Barrera died at age 65 after a battle with cancer.

9—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman has been named a vice president of the California Judges Association for 2004-2005, the organization said in a press release.

11—A ruling by this district’s Court of Appeal that a Jewish organization could not have reasonably foreseen that a white supremacist would shoot a child on its premises, and cannot be held liable for the child’s injuries, was left standing by the California Supreme Court.

12—The California Supreme Court voided the nearly 4,000 same-sex marriages sanctioned in San Francisco in 2004 and ruled unanimously that the mayor overstepped his authority by issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples...The court also unanimously ruled that interference with the relationship between an employer and an at-will employee is tortious if it is accompanied by “an independently wrongful act” such as an organized plan to undermine and disrupt the employer’s business.

17—A client may consent to a fee-splitting arrangement between attorneys after the representation has been completed, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled...Legislation that reforms the trial court budget process and makes other changes in the state’s legal system has been signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Administrative Office of the Courts reported...A defamation suit by a broker of viatical settlement agreements against a former insurance agent who now operates a Web site dealing with viaticals and has written several books on the subject was reinstated by the First District Court of Appeal.

18—Charges that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John D. Harris sought to establish improper personal relationships with sexual assault victims, threw a file at a deputy city attorney, and lied during an investigation into his conduct were rejected by a panel of special masters.

19—Jurors who convicted an Oakland man of second degree murder for shooting vandals stealing hubcaps from his vehicle were properly instructed they could find the requisite intent based on his discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, the state high court ruled.

20—Harvey A. Silberman, an attorney with San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Legal Services, was elected a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner in balloting by the court’s judges, officials said...The MetNews learned that Court of Appeal Justice Margaret Grignon of this district’s Div. Five will retire at the end of 2004...Los Angeles attorney William E. Weinberger has been elected chairperson of the California Law Revision Commission for a one-year term beginning Sept. 1, the commission said.

23—The state Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to California’s statutory scheme governing grandparent visitation, but ruled that a San Diego Superior Court judge erred in failing to apply the statute’s presumption against ordering such visitation where the custodial parent opposes it...This district’s Court of Appeal rejected a woman’s bid to discover the identity her husband’s sexual partners in her suit alleging he infected her with the virus that causes AIDS.

25—A San Joaquin Superior Court judge went too far in disqualifying a law firm from representing a personal injury client for unknowingly hiring a defense consultant to serve as an expert witness, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled.

26—Rich Walch, who has worked for the Los Angeles County Bar Association for almost 27 years and served as its executive director since 1984, said he will leave the organization in January 2005 to work as a consultant to nonprofit organizations.

30—Mere forgetfulness is no defense to a charge of failing to update one’s registration as a sex offender, the California Supreme Court ruled.

31—An Orange County man’s conviction for possessing marijuana was thrown out by a divided panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, with the majority opining that held his right to a “compassionate use” defense under Proposition 215 had been violated.



1—The state Commission on Judicial Performance, which in May lodged discipline charges against Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross over his public television appearances, added an accusation that the jurist improperly sought to market a courtroom simulation television program in which he would star...Former Los Angeles Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey did not violate federal trade regulations when he appeared in an infomercial for a weight-loss product that makers claimed would work even if dieters continued to eat fatty food, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

7—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman, a candidate for the Los Angeles Superior Court, won the right in court to use the term “judge” in her candidate statement, but Judge Dzintra Janavs granted a peremptory writ of mandate barring her from describing herself as “the only candidate performing the work of a full-time judge, currently presiding over a criminal courtroom,”, instead ruling that Groman can say she “performs the work of a judge by stipulation, and currently presides over a criminal courtroom.”

9—An employer’s refusal to renew a fixed-term employment contract is not actionable under California common law, even if the action was taken in retaliation for the employee’s exercise of free speech rights, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled...Federal energy regulators improperly calculated how much money energy companies should refund to California consumers, and the state should get another chance to argue for $2.8 billion in overcharges on electricity sales in 2000, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

14—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles M. McCoy made a series of legal errors in largely dismissing 23 separate age discrimination class action lawsuits filed by hundreds of television writers against 12 groups of related television networks, studios and production companies and 11 talent agencies, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.

15—A law allowing surviving members of same-sex domestic partnerships to sue for wrongful death does not violate the equal protection rights of partners of opposite sexes, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled...A standard admonition to criminal grand jury witnesses advising them they can be held in contempt of court if they disclose the questions asked, the answers given, or anything else they learned in the grand jury room is not a prior restraint on members of the media, the Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled.

17—Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Justice Norman L. Epstein to be presiding justice of Div. Four of this district’s Court of Appeal.

24—A $150,000 award to an Orange attorney who lost the use of his parking space to the city’s renovation of the historic district where he has practiced law for more than four decades was affirmed by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

27—Absolute prosecutorial immunity from federal civil rights suits does not extend to claims of suborning perjury during the investigative stage of proceedings, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

29—Placer Superior Court Judge Joseph W. O’Flaherty violated canons of judicial ethics by encouraging potential jurors to lie about their possible racial bias during jury selection, the Commission on Judicial Performance said in publicly admonishing him; while accepting the conclusion of a panel of special masters that acted in a good faith attempt to avoid seating biased jurors, the CJP said his actions in two cases nonetheless merited discipline.

30—A contract provision by which a government contractor purported to waive its right to a neutral venue in any litigation growing out of its agreement with the county is unenforceable, the First District Court of Appeal ruled...Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Huey Percy Shepard was arrested and charged with embezzling a total of $176,000 from four clients of his law practice, including an elderly woman on life support.



4—Evidence obtained by a hacker from former Orange Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline’s home computer is admissible in the federal government’s child pornography prosecution of the ex-jurist, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

5—Norman L. Epstein was confirmed as presiding justice of Div. Four of this district’s Court of Appeal.

6—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger has been elected assistant presiding judge of the court for 2005 and 2006, court officials said.

9—Former state Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp was sworn in at the State Bar convention in Monterey, becoming the organization’s 80th president and promising to make improvements in member benefits a top priority for his term of office.

14—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas W. Stoever said he will retire Feb. 14.

18—The phrase “my money,” as used in a holographic will, included bank accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, a mutual fund investing in government securities, treasury bills, and savings bonds, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled... The California Supreme Court declined to block a new state law that requires overseas absentee voters to waive their right to a secret ballot if they choose to send in their votes by fax.

19—The Los Angeles Superior Court operated with far fewer courtroom clerks than normal in what officials labeled an apparent job action...A Los Angeles County ordinance requiring most county contractors to pay workers for the first five days of jury service was upheld by this district’s Court of Appeal.

21—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brett Klein was admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which said he had acted improperly in one of his cases...Public policy bars a suit by a man seeking to recoup child support that he paid on the basis of the mother’s misrepresentation that he was the father, the First District Court of Appeal ruled.

25—A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making it harder for prosecutors to introduce hearsay statements into evidence does not preclude a ruling that a defendant has forfeited his objection by killing the victim, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.

29—The anti-SLAPP statute applies to a suit against DIRECTV by individuals who claim they were subjected to extortion when the company threatened to sue them for misappropriating its signals, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.



2—In a break with tradition, three subordinate judicial officers won Los Angeles Superior Court judgeships; Superior Court Referee Daniel Zeke Zeidler and Commissioner Donna Groman won substantial victories over Deputy District Attorneys David Lopez and Judith L. Meyer, while Referee Mildred Escobedo narrowly defeated Deputy District Attorney Patrick David Campbell; two other runoffs were won by Deputy Attorney General Gus Gomez, who defeated Deputy District Attorney Lori Jones, and Deputy District Attorney Laura Priver—the only one of five prosecutors on the ballot to prevail—who defeated Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez.

3—State Bar President John Van de Kamp and Los Angeles County Bar Assn. President John J. Collins have been chosen as the Metropolitan News-Enterprise’s “Persons of the Year” for 2004, it was announced.

4—Legislation imposing liability on employees who harass their fellow employees on the basis of the victim’s race or gender changed the law and cannot be applied to conduct occurring before the new law took effect, the California Supreme Court ruled.

5—An action charging the law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp with breaching its duty of loyalty to a client by representing a party with adverse interests in an arbitration proceeding is not a strategic lawsuit against public participation, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.

9—Acting Los Angeles County Counsel Raymond G. Fortner Jr. was named county counsel, beating out four other finalists; but in an unusual twist, a county spokesperson said that Fortner, 60, will only serve until 2006 and will participate in the naming of his successor.

16—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross drew private discipline three years ago for “demeaning and humiliating” defendants in his courtroom by having them explain their actions to a visiting elementary school class; the advisory, or “stinger,” letter was disclosed as Ross testified for the second day at a hearing on more recent misconduct charges by the Commission on Judicial Performance...Stuart Forsyth, former executive director of the State Bar of Arizona, was chosen to succeed Rich Walch as executive director of the Los Angeles County Bar Association when Walch departs in January.

17—A judge may not constitutionally determine that aggravating factors merit an upper term sentence under Penal Code Sec. 1170, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.

18—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, on the fourth and final day of his judicial misconduct hearing, reiterated his testimony that he did nothing wrong by discussing legal issues, including references to pending cases, during appearances on public television programs...A trial judge’s order for new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel is reviewed under the deferential abuse-of-discretion standard, as to the determination that the lawyer’s performance was substandard as well as the conclusion that the defendant was prejudiced, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.

19—Fewer than half of those who took the July 2004 general California bar exam passed, the State Bar reported, marking the second consecutive year in which that was true.

24—Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge-elect William A. MacLaughlin named six new supervising judges for 2005, while keeping most of the court’s management team intact.



1—The “good faith” required under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 to demand the shutdown of an allegedly infringing Web site is subjective, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

2—The “catalyst” theory, under which a plaintiff who does not prevail in the traditional litigation sense may recover legal fees as a private attorney general if the lawsuit resulted in a change in the defendant’s behavior that benefited the public, remains viable in California, a divided state Supreme Court ruled.

3—Justice Reuben A. Ortega of this district’s Court of Appeal retired.

6—Pornographic videotapes of himself made by a San Diego police officer and sold over the Internet were not constitutionally protected expressive activity, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled,,,A producer or publisher whose account of a court proceeding is an accurate reflection of the public record enjoys First Amendment protection from liability for invasion of the privacy of persons named therein, no matter how old the case is, the California Supreme Court ruled.

7—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Roberta H. Kyman died at age 62.

8—Richard A. Rubin, a lobbyist and community activist in Marin County, was been named by the state Senate Rules Committee as a public member of the State Bar Board of Governors, succeeding Chantel Williams, a committee spokesman said.

9—Judges may consider the availability of consecutive terms on other counts in selecting an upper term sentence without violating Blakely v. Washington, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.

10—Court of Appeal Justice Michael G. Nott of this district’s Div. Two said he will retire on or around April 1...The Judicial Council of California unanimously voted to sponsor legislation which would standardize civil filing fees in superior courts across the state...Ann Stodden, retired probate commissioner of the Los Angeles Superior Court, died at the age of 76.

12—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alan G. Buckner was pronounced dead by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics on as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head; the 65-year-old jurist had suffered from heart problems and been treated for prostate cancer.

20—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of a 1996 law making it a crime to contribute “material support” to an organization that has been designated as a foreign terrorist group...A provision of the Cerritos City Charter requiring council members to wait two years before running again after serving two consecutive terms refers to the date of the next general election, not the date that a person becomes a candidate, Attorney General Bill Lockyer opined.

21—State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Michael Nisperos will not apply for a second four-year term and will leave his position Jan. 1, officials said.

23—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl withdrew her bid to become a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. Kuhl announced her withdrawal the same day the White House said it would resubmit 20 judicial nominations that were not voted on by the Senate last year, including those of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Ninth Circuit nominee William G. Myers, a Boise, Idaho attorney and former solicitor for the Interior Department.

30—The failure of the Los Angeles City Council to pay attention to the presentation of an adult cabaret owner appealing a zoning decision violated the owner’s due process rights and requires a new hearing, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.


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