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Wednesday, July 10, 2024


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Claim Rejected That Judge Was Biased Based on His Review of C.A. Opinion Signed by Wife

Justices Say 2021 Decision Finding That Restraining Order Was Based on Substantial Evidence Was Properly Considered in Renewing Order


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Third District Court of Appeal has declared that a lawyer, contesting the renewal of a civil harassment restraining order against him, failed to show bias on the part of a trial judge based on the fact that his wife was a member of the appellate panel that in 2021 upheld the original three-year order.

Justice Cynthia C. Lie authored the unpublished opinion, filed Monday, affirming an order by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Socrates “Pete” Manoukian. His wife is Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian.

Bamattre-Manoukian joined in the April 30, 2021 opinion by Presiding Justice Mary J. Greenwood affirming a restraining order against Cupertino attorney Patrick Meyering obtained by his next-door neighbor, Maria A. Guzman de Martinez. Greenwood sad the order was founded on substantial evidence.

In arguing for a reversal of the order, Meyering asserted that Manoukian, in reviewing the 2021 opinion, treated it as “evidence,” thus placing his wife in the role of “an unsworn witness,” creating, at a minimum, he said, an appearance of impropriety.

Lie noted that Meyering filed a statement of disqualification pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure §170.1; Manoukian struck it; and the lawyer sought a writ which the Court of Appeal denied. Although the denial of a challenge to a judge is reviewable only in a writ proceeding, she said, “[t]he unavailability of appellate review of Patrick’s section 170.1 claim does not foreclose his claim that he was denied his due process right to an impartial judge.”

She added:

“[B]ut we find no indication of actual bias.”

Reviewing Earlier Opinion

The jurist declared that there is no “basis to construe the limited consideration of our appellate opinion as suggesting bias, given the legitimate and limited basis for judicial notice of the opinion. 

“An appellate court does not engage in factfinding, and judicial notice of an appellate court opinion aids only in establishing the finality of the original order.”

Meyering insisted that Manoukian evinced bias by not continuing the matter when he did not show up for the scheduled hearing in May 2022 on Martinez’s motion to renew the order. Lie responded:

“We see no hint of bias in the trial judge’s decision to proceed in Patrick’s absence, given what little was known to the judge at that time.”

Voicemail Message

Although Meyering had telephoned the Clerk’s Office and left a voicemail message indicating he was in the hospital and therefore could not appear at the hearing, that claim by him was apparently not conveyed to Manoukian’s courtroom.

“Patrick has supplied no authority that would impute to a trial judge constructive knowledge of a voicemail message to the clerk’s office, and we are aware of none,” Lie wrote.

She expressed a lack of awareness “of authority that would require the judge, without that knowledge, to presume from a party’s nonappearance that accommodation is required” under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), finding no merit in Meyering’s contention that his rights under the act were violated. 

Lie said in a footnote:

“Because Patrick has not shown that the trial court knew of his medical incapacitation at the time it decided to proceed to trial, he cannot show that the trial court denied him an accommodation based on the incapacitation.  We note that Patrick makes no claim that any of his efforts to contact court staff were directed to the court’s ADA coordinator.”

Attorney-Fee Award

Meyering maintained that Manoukian improperly made an attorney-fee award to Martinez because she had not personally paid her lawyer, claiming that the bill for legal services was satisfied by a “long time political opponent” of his. Meyering had been a member of the Sunnyvale City Council.

Lie said:

“Patrick has provided no authority, and we have found none, to support the proposition that a prevailing party must personally have paid the attorney fees incurred to merit a fee award….Moreover, the limited record contains no evidence that would support Patrick’s claim that his political nemesis was underwriting Maria’s litigation, let alone that the litigation was for political purposes. The trial court declined to credit Patrick’s bare assertion of the claim, and we do not reassess that credibility determination on appeal.”

The case is G. v. M., H050685.

Greenwood’s Opinion

In her 2021 opinion, Greenwood said:

“Viewing the record in the light most favorable to Maria as the prevailing party, the evidence demonstrates that over the nine year period of this dispute between neighbors, Patrick regularly threw garbage onto Maria’s property and car, vandalized her personal effects, trespassed on her real property, and repeatedly made loud and repetitive noise between midnight and 3:00 a.m. that disturbed Maria and her family and caused them distress. The trial court expressly found that Patrick was not credible.”

That case is Maria G. v. Patrick M., H046411.

Barking Dog

A Sept. 2, 2015 column in the San Jose Mercury News by Scott Herhold tells of earlier litigation between Meyering and Martinez. The lawyer brought an unsuccessful small claims action against her and her husband, Lorenzo Martinez, based on allegedly excessive barking by her mini-poodle, Buddy.

Meyering provided no substantiation of his claim which was refuted in statements by eight neighbors, the column recites.

Herhold describes Meyering as “the councilman who skipped charm school,” saying that he “is regularly at odds with colleagues” and makes note of a 2014 effort to recall him which “fell through” (based on insufficient signatures on a petition).


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