Oct.
31,
2008

A report on where
things
stand



Pretrial Conference Set on Charges Against Former Judge Roosevelt Dorn...Orange Superior Court Judge Kim Dunning to Sit on C.A.'s Div. One for a Month...Incoming Presiding Judge McCoy Sets Leadership Team for Next Year



Judicial Elections

The following contests will appear on Tuesday's general election ballot. (Ballot designations in parentheses.):

Office No. 72-Hilleri Grossman Merritt (Criminal Trial Prosecutor) and Steven A. Simons (Consumer Rights Attorney). The seat is now held by Judge Francis A. Gately Jr., who is retiring Nov. 30. Merritt's consulting firm is Cerrell Associates Inc., Simons is represented by Torrance consultant James Freeman.

Office No. 82-Cynthia Loo (Superior Court Referee) and Thomas Rubinson (Criminal Prosecutor) will compete in a runoff for the seat of Judge Wendell Mortimer Jr., who retired April 30. Loo has SJA Strategies as consultant, while Rubinson has David Gould as his campaign treasurer and strategist.

Office No. 84-Pat Connolly (Criminal Gang Prosecutor) and Lori-Ann C. Jones (Superior Court Commissioner) are in the runoff for the seat now held by Judge Gibson W. Lee. Jones is represented by SJA Strategies, while Gould is advising Connolly, in addition to serving as campaign treasurer.

Office No. 94-Michael J. O'Gara (Criminal Prosecutor) and C. Edward Mack (Criminal Trial Attorney) will compete in the runoff for the seat from which Judge Michael Duggan retired July 22. O'Gara's consultants are the San Fernando Valley-based firm of Blair-Biggs Campaigns.

Office No. 154-Michael V. Jesic (Criminal Gang Prosecutor) and Rocky L. Crabb (Superior Court Commissioner) are in the runoff for the seat held by Judge Jack P. Hunt, who retired July 31. Crabb's consultant is Huebscher. .


Judges, Lawyers Under Scrutiny

Mervyn H. Wolf
Encino Attorney

Wolf, a lawyer for 40 years, faces a Nov. 24 trial on five felony embezzlement counts. The trial was continued from Sept. 4.

Wolf is accused of having taken settlement funds from his clients in multiple personal injury, workers' compensation, and wrongful termination cases between June 2003 and June 2004. He allegedly deposited settlement checks into his clients' trust accounts, and then embezzled the funds.

Wolf was placed on involuntary inactive status by the State Bar Court July 10 of last year and faces discipline in connection with several matters. He has had extensive contacts with the disciplinary system, having been placed on three years' probation in 1995 for misconduct in three matters, suspended 45 days in 1998 for failing to comply with a condition of the earlier probation, placed on inactive status for a month in 2002 for failure to comply with MCLE requirements, and served a month on suspension in 2004 for nonpayment of bar dues.

Richard I. Fine
Attorney

Fine, an attorney since 1973, is facing possible disbarment based on State Bar Court Hearing Judge Richard Honn's finding of last November that the lawyer engaged in a concerted campaign of litigation designed to harass judicial officers who had ruled against him, in particular Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Bruce Mitchell.

He is also suing State Bar officials in federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the portion of the State Bar Act that permits disbarment for acts of "moral turpitude" that are not criminal offenses.

On Sept. 17, the State Bar Court denied, without comment, Fine's motion to dismiss the proceedings on First Amendment grounds. Fine contends the State Bar is retaliating against him for engaging in protected speech, which bar counsel disputes, saying Fine engaged in moral turpitude by continuously relitigating issues on which he had been ruled against.

Fine has since moved to reconsider that ruling, citing, among other things, the Court of Appeal's recent ruling that payment of local judicial benefits to Los Angeles Superior Court judges is unconstitutional. He contends that since the disbarment action is based, in part, on litigation of suits in which he made the same argument, his actions in those cases cannot be considered frivolous or to constitute harassment of judicial officers whom he claimed had a conflict of interest in hearing cases in which Los Angeles County was a party, while the county was paying them benefits.

Roosevelt Dorn
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge

Dorn, who served on the Inglewood Municipal Court and the Los Angeles Superior Court from 1979 until his election as mayor of Inglewood in 1997, pled not guilty July 24 to charges of conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds. He is alleged to have personally benefited from a loan program designed to assist city employees in purchasing and improving housing within the city.

A pretrial conference is set for Nov. 20 at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.


Judiciary: Vacancies, Appointments




Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

There has been a vacancy on the court since Judge Stephen Trott took senior status Dec. 31, 2004. Another vacancy, in a newly created position, will be created on Jan. 21 of next year.

Judge George Schiavelli resigned effective Oct. 5, creating a second vacancy.

Orange Superior Court Judge James E. Rogan, a former congressman and Commerce Department official, was nominated Nov. 15, 2006, and renominated in January of last year, to succeed Judge Nora Manella, who resigned to become a justice of this district's Court of Appeal.

Rogan has been unable to secure a confirmation hearing because Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has a "blue slip" policy under which a hearing will be held only if both of the nominee's home state senators approve. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who has previously supported all candidates recommended by a bipartisan advisory committee, opposes Rogan's nomination, in part because of his role as one of the prosecutors at the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Boxer wrote earlier this year to retired San Mateo Superior Court Judge Quentin L. Kopp, a supporter of Rogan's who made the senator's letter public, that "Judge Rogan's views are not consistent with the values of Californians." Rogan's supporters have pointed out that all other candidates recommended by the bipartisan committee that advises the White House and senators on California district court nominees have been confirmed, and that Rogan has drawn bipartisan praise for his judicial service, both on the Orange court and on the old Glendale Municipal Court, where he served before entering partisan politics.




There are no vacancies.


First District

Justice William Stein retired from Div. One at the end of August. Justice Linda M. Gemello retired from Div. Five Jan. 4. Justice Douglas E. Swager is retiring from Div. One at the end of the year.

Second District

Justice Miriam Vogel retired from Div. One July 3. Orange Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning has been assigned to sit in Div. One for the month of November.

Presiding Justice Candace Cooper is retiring from Div. Eight at the end of the year.

Seats in other districts are filled.

Los Angeles Superior Court


Presiding Judge-Elect Charles W. McCoy this month made known his selections of supervising judges and assistant supervising judges for various districts and branches of the court, effective Jan. 1.

Judge Elihu Berle will be supervising judge of the civil departments in the Central District, assisted by Judge Ann Jones; Judge Mary Thornton House, who will oversee limited jurisdiction cases; and Judge Peter Lichtman, who will oversee complex litigation.

Judge Marjorie Steinberg will continue as supervising judge in family law, assisted by Judge Mark Juhas. Judge Aviva Bobb remains in charge of probate court.

Judge Peter Espinoza takes over as criminal law supervising judge. Assistant supervising judges will be Patricia Schnegg; Stuart Rice, who will oversee the misdemeanor courts, and Maria Stratton, who will oversee the mental health courts.

Judge Thomas White remains in charge in the North District, assisted by Judge Lisa Chung. Judge Robert J. Schuit continues to supervise the North Valley District, assisted by Judge Barbara Scheper.

Judge John Cheroske will be retained as supervising judge in the South Central District, with Judge Allen Webster the assistant supervising judge. Judge Brian F. Gasdia remains supervising judge in the Southeast District, with Judge Raul Sahagun as his assistant.

Judge Mark S. Arnold remains supervising judge in the Southwest District, assisted by Judge Alan Honeycutt. Continuing as supervising judge in the West District is Judge Gerald Rosenberg, with Judge Joseph Biderman as his assistant.

Judge Candace J. Beason, who took over as supervising judge for the North Central and Northeast districts following the recent retirement of Coleman Swart, will keep those posts, with Judge Lisa Lench as assistant supervising judge.

Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash and Dependency Courts Supervising Judge Margaret Henry will also retain their positions.

New supervising judges include Daniel Buckley in the East District, where Judge Dan Oki will be the assistant; Richard Kirschner in the Northwest District, assisted by Judge David Latin; and Arthur Jean in the South District, where Judge Gary Ferrari will be the assistant supervising judge.

There are 29 vacant judgeships on the court, the most recent occurring Sept. 30 with the retirement of Judge Darlene Schempp.

Previous vacancies were created by the deaths of Judge Deanne Smith Myers Aug. 20 and Judge David Mintz May 12; by the retirements of Judges Coleman Swart, Alexander Williams III, and Suzanne Person on Sept. 15; Leon Kaplan Aug. 1; Michael R. Hoff and Jack Hunt July 31; Xenophon F. Lang Jr. July 29; Michael Duggan July 22: David M. Horwitz July 18; S. Patricia Spear and Charles Lee July 15; Michael T. Sauer July 6: Thomas Townsend July 1; Barry Taylor June 2: Irving Feffer May 22; Francis Hourigan III May 15; Patricia Collins May 6; Wendell Mortimer Jr. April 30 and Stanley Weisberg April 11; by the appointment of Judge Elena Duarte to the Sacramento Superior Court May 16; by the elevation of Judges Tricia Bigelow and Frank Jackson to the Court of Appeal June 4; and by the conversion of four commissioner positions to judgeships following the retirements of Victor Reichman, Richard Curtis and Albert Garcia March 31 and Gerald Richardson May 31.

Judge Kenneth Black, whose last day on the bench was Oct. 17, is retiring Nov. 5. Judge Francis Gately's last day on the bench was Oct. 21 and his retirement is effective Nov. 30.

Judge Rodney Forneret has been undergoing treatment for cancer.

A newly created position on the court was to have been funded as of June 1, but legislation designed to ease the state budget crisis postponed the effective date to June 1 of next year.

Among those whose names have gone to the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation as possible appointees to the court are former Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, former Deputy District Attorney Christopher Darden, now in private practice; former Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Vaughn, now a managing director of the litigation and consulting firm FTI Consulting, Inc.; criminal defense specialist Steven Cron of Santa Monica; Los Angeles Assistant City Attorney Gary Geuss, Los Angeles Deputy City Attorneys Richard Kraft and Edward J. Perez; state Deputy Attorneys General Steven D. Matthews, E. Eugene Varanini IV, Victoria Wilson, Paul Roadarmel Jr., Robert S. Henry and Kenneth Byrne; Administrative Law Judge Robert Helfand, Deputy District Attorneys Steven I. Katz, Alison S. Matsumoto, Thomas Rubinson, Shellie Samuels, Jeffrey Gootman, Karla Kerlin, Ricardo Ocampo, John D. Harlan II and Laura Laesecke; Commissioners John Slawson, Rocky L. Crabb, Michael Convey, Victor Greenberg, Amy Pellman, Maren Nelson, Dennis Mulcahy, Ronald Rose, Marilyn Kading Martinez, Mary Lou Katz Byrne, Steven Berman, and Loren DiFrank; U.S. District Court attorney Amy L. Lew; Irvine attorney Raymond Earl Brown; Deputy Federal Public Defender Angel Navarro; Deputy Alternate Public Defender Jerome J. Haig; Los Angeles attorneys Michael Wilner, Shan K. Thever, John L. Carlton, Adrienne Krikorian, Mark A. Borenstein, Eulanda Matthews and Lawrence P. Brennan Jr.; Century City attorney Howard S. Fredman, Pasadena attorney Warren Gilbert, Glendale attorney Mark J. MacCarley, and Westlake Village attorney Michael Nebenzahl.


Legislation of Interest to the Legal Community

The following bills of interest to the legal community were acted upon in October:

AB 171, by Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, which, as amended, would implement the Court of Appeal decision in In re Estate of Claeyssens, 161 C.A. 4th 465, by eliminating graduated probate filing fees and establishing a uniform fee of $320, payable upon filing of a party's first petition or objections. The bill, which passed the Assembly last year in a different form, passed the Senate July 10 by a vote of 35-0, passed the Assembly as amended Aug. 7 by a vote of 76-0, and was signed by the governor Sept. 26.

AB 926, by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which, as amended, would adopt a number of provisions of the Uniform Rules Relating to Discovery of Electronically Stored Information. The bill, backed by the Judicial Council, Consumer Attorneys of California and California Defense Counsel, passed the Assembly in May 3, passed the Senate with amendments July 10, and passed the Assembly as amended Aug. 7 by a vote of 76-0. The bill was vetoed Sept. 27 by the governor, who wrote:

"The historic delay in passing the 2008-2009 State Budget has forced me to prioritize the bills sent to my desk at the end of the year's legislative session. Given the delay, I am only signing bills that are the highest priority for California. This bill does not meet that standard and I cannot sign it at this time."

AB 1405, by Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, which, as amended, would provide for the confidentiality of statements made by juveniles in the course of assessments under Welfare and Institutions Sec. 241.1. The bill, which passed the Assembly last year, and was amended in the Senate June 24 to eliminate a provision allowing the minor's counsel to waive confidentiality, passed the Assembly as amended Aug. 7 by a vote of 76-0 but was vetoed Sept. 28 by the governor, who said it "would discourage complete and honest testimony in judicial proceedings by forbidding a prosecutor from using a minor's prior statements to demonstrate that he or she is misleading the court."

AB 1852, by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Murrieta, which would make it an infraction, rather than a crime, to participate in a sports betting pool, as long as no one is being paid to "book" bets. The bill, which passed the Assembly in May and passed the Senate in July with amendments, passed the Assembly Aug. 7 by a vote of 74-2 but was vetoed by the governor Sept. 28 for the same reasons as AB 926.

AB 1873, by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, which, as amended, would make various changes in court procedure, including a provision making a person responsible for the support of a minor liable for the costs of providing the minor with counsel in dependency court. The bill, which passed both houses in August, was vetoed Sept. 27 by the governor, who objected to a provision increasing fees for the filing of small claims.

AB 2095, by Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, which would require disclosure of the identities of persons who advise the governor with respect to judicial appointments and require members of the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation to complete two hours of training each year "in the areas of fairness and bias in the judicial appointments process." The bill-which passed the Assembly May 19 by a vote of 46-27, passed the Senate Aug. 14, with amendments, 22-14; and passed the Assembly, with the Senate amendments, Aug. 18 by a vote of 48-28-was vetoed Sept. 30 by the governor, who said it "would impair the availability of impartial information about prospective judicial candidates, have a chilling effect upon people willing to provide candid information, and would subject individuals to political lobbying from various sources."

AB 2448, by Assemblyman Michael Feuer, D-West Hollywood, which, as amended, would revise standards and procedures for granting fee waivers in civil cases, providing among other things, for a lien against a plaintiff's recovery for waived fees, if the amount of the settlement or judgment exceeds $10,000. The bill passed the Assembly May 8 by a vote of 50-25, passed the Senate Aug. 7 by a vote of 23-15, and was approved by the Assembly Aug. 12 by a vote of 54-24. It was signed by the governor Sept. 27.


AB 2619 by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, which would correct an erroneous cross-reference in the civil discovery statutes. The bill was signed by the governor Sept. 25.


AB 3050
by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, which would prohibit the use of the term "legal aid" by organizations that do not provide pro bono legal services, require the Judicial Council to enter into contracts with providers of telephone hearing services, and establish a pilot project to provide court interpreters in civil litigation. The bill passed both houses in August, but was vetoed by the governor Sept. 27 for the same reasons as AB 926.


AB 3052
, by Jones, which would have authorized the use of alternative procedures to those in current law regarding transfer of court facilities to the state. The governor vetoed the bill Sept. 28 for the same reasons as AB 926.


SB 1407
by Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, which would authorize a major court facilities capital outlay program for the improvement, renovation and replacement of court facilities and increase court fees. As amended, the bill does not make appropriations, thereby avoiding the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote. The bill was signed by the governor Sept. 26.


SB 1589
, by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, which would bar prosecutors from using the uncorroborated testimony of in-custody informants. The bill was vetoed Sept. 28 by the governor, who said that adequate safeguards already exist to avoid the abuse of such testimony.



 

 

 


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