Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 31, 2013


Page 15



S.C. Makes Appointments to the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions


The California Supreme Court yesterday announced the appointment of three new members to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions, an independent committee appointed by the court to help inform the judiciary and the public concerning judicial ethics topics.

The committee was established by the Supreme Court as part of its constitutional responsibility to guide the conduct of judges and judicial candidates.

The newly appointed CJEO members are Justice Judith L. Haller of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Div. One (four-year term), San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert J. Trentacosta (three-year term), and Contra Costa Superior Court Commissioner Lowell E. Richards (one-year term).

The court also announced the reappointment of two current CJEO members, retired Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Garcia and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne B. OíDonnell, both of whom will serve additional four-year terms.

In making appointments to serve on the CJEO, the Supreme Court said it selects members of the bench with a strong background in judicial ethics, experience as presiding judge, extensive courtroom experience, and service in courts of various sizes throughout the state.

Haller is a judicial recipient of the Bernard E. Witkin, Esq., Award, presented for civic leadership and excellence in the teaching, practice, enactment, and adjudication of the law. She is also a former chair and vice-chair of the California Judges Association Ethics Committee, and has been awarded the Joan Dempsey Klein Distinguished Jurist Award by the California Women Lawyers for her excellence as a jurist, commitment to gender equity and the elimination of gender bias in the legal profession, and for her service to women lawyers.

Trentacosta is the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of San Diego County and the current vice-chair of the Judicial Councilís Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the Judicial Councilís Court Facilities Working Group and the Curriculum Committee for the annual Supervising Judges Institute, where he also serves as an instructor. In the past, he chaired the California Judges Associationís Judicial Ethics Committee. 

Richards serves on the Superior Court of Contra Costa County and has been a seminar leader, technical advisor, and faculty member for the Center for Judicial Education and Research at New Judge Orientation and the B.E. Witkin Judicial College of California. He currently serves on the CJER Science & Law Education Committee and has been faculty for CJER educational programs in judicial ethics, commissioner issues, judicial demeanor for pro tems, traffic, small claims, consumer law, foreclosure, unlawful detainers, computer technology, domestic violence, e-discovery, electronic evidence, and limited jurisdiction.

ēAttorney Sydney Claire Kirkland, 57, of Escondido has agreed to be disbarred for misappropriating more than $275,000 in inheritance money from an elderly client, according to a State Bar news release yesterday.

As part of the stipulation filed with the State Bar Court on Jan. 16, Kirkland has been ordered to pay restitution of $275,642.46, plus 10 percent interest per year from Feb. 3, 2011, the date on which money belonging to client Grover Gordon Jr. allegedly started to rapidly disappear from Kirklandís client trust account. She was ordered ineligible to practice law effective Jan. 19, pending approval of her disbarment by the California Supreme Court.

 The release said that according to the stipulation, Kirkland was named a successor co-trustee for the estate of Jeanette Letman, who passed away on Jan. 15, 2011 leaving everything to Gordon, her longtime companion. Over the course of 10 months, $285,729.93 that was supposedly being kept in a trust account for Gordon dwindled to just over $10,000, as Kirkland transferred money to her husband, her non-trust business accounts and to unrelated third parties.

Senior Trial Counsel Kristin L. Ritsema is reported as saying it is unclear where all of the money went, but that some was used to pay Kirklandís personal bills and $23,000 went toward the purchase of an Audi. Over the course of representing Gordon, Kirkland allegedly lied about what she had done with the money, saying she was keeping it in an investment account and two certificates of deposit.

A bank manager alerted Adult Protective Services and Gordonís new attorney initiated probate proceedings. A San Diego County Superior Court judge suspended Kirklandís powers as successor co-trustee on Oct. 17, 2011. Even so, money continued to disappear from the account Ė more than $37,000 Ė until Kirkland admitted through her attorney that she had used the money for non-trust purposes.

In addition to her likely disbarment, Kirkland is facing three felonies Ė including theft from a dependent adult and grand theft Ė plus related criminal enhancements.

ēPaul Seeley has been awarded Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLPís 2012 Bob Gerber Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award, the firm announced in release yesterday.  The award honors and recognizes the important community service work done by Sheppard Mullin attorneys.

Seeley, a 2007 graduate of UCLA Law School, is based in the firmís Los Angeles office and a member of Sheppard Mullinís business trial practice group. 

He has been the coordinator leading Sheppard Mullinís Public Counsel Adoption Day efforts since January 2009.  Through this adoption program, the firmís attorneys have helped to complete hundreds of adoptions, doing an invaluable service for new parents and their new children. 


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