San Francisco Paralegal Association


  • 09/09/2017 9:54 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    Marin County Bar Association

    August 31, 2017

    By Anna Pletcher





     In January 2017, volunteers fanned out across Marin County to conduct the biennial homeless count. This point-in-time count aimed to get a snapshot of the number of homeless in Marin on a given day. Led by guides who are homeless or were recently homeless, the volunteers checked streets, cars, parks, abandoned buildings, RVs and boats without plumbing or electricity, bus stations, camping grounds; anywhere they might find someone without shelter. The final count, released in July 2017, showed 1,117 homeless individuals.[1] Add to this number of “precariously housed”—those who are living in overcrowded homes, sleeping on a friend’s couch, in hotels/motels, or with money and options running out— and the total rises to 5,200.[2]



    One segment of the homeless population that goes largely unnoticed is unaccompanied children and “transitional age youth,” young people between the ages of 18 and 25. The 2017 Marin Point-in-Time Survey identified 121 homeless youth in Marin. That number, however, is likely an underestimate. Homeless youth are hard to reach; they often do not use homeless services, are unrecognizable to adult street count volunteers, and hide in secluded, unsheltered places. According to Marin County Schools Office of Education 2015-2016 Cal PADS data, 983 students were documented as homeless in Marin County schools alone. Estimates put the actual number of total homeless youth in Marin at approximately 2600 on any given day.


    Tony, a formerly homeless young man, recently shared his story with me. He had a long history of substance abuse and intermittent homelessness, starting as a teen. At age 27 he was incarcerated for assaulting a peace officer in Sacramento. He was prepared to accept responsibility for what he had done, but he felt helpless and overwhelmed by the system. His public defender had little time to spend on his case. Tony ultimately pleaded guilty. After serving his time, he was released alone with no shirt, no shoes, no money, no phone, and in the rain. Tony managed to find his way to a sober living facility in San Rafael and to Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity (AHO), Marin’s only non-profit dedicated exclusively to homeless youth, which helped him find stable housing. He is now enrolled full time at College of Marin.


    Homeless teens and young adults like Tony are particularly vulnerable and have unique needs. Addressing their needs while they are in their critical transition to adulthood can set them on a path to lifelong success. Lawyers can help homeless youth through pro bono service, supporting innovative community programs, and advocating for reforms in the criminal justice system.


    Pro Bono Opportunities


    Zara Babitzke founded Marin's sole homeless youth nonprofit in 2005, Ambassadors for Hope and Opportunity (AHO). AHO provides comprehensive, age-appropriate support for homeless youth as they grow into adults. AHO connects youth with adult ally coaches and peer mentors, who provide the type of assistance that a parent typically would: jobs, housing, medical and dental care, and scholarships. AHO also provides leadership opportunities and encourages “giving back” through its Youth Team. AHO’s Youth Team designs and participates in service projects to assist homeless youth. Since its launch, AHO has successfully assisted over 1,750 young adults. Their clients are now in stable housing, working several jobs, completing their educations, developing their leadership skills, and giving back to their community.


    I asked Ms. Babitzke what the legal community could do to support homeless youth. She said that youth often find themselves in situations where they need legal assistance or guidance. For example, youth on bicycles or in cars have been hit and injured by motorists without insurance. The youth have been saddled with medical bills and damaged or totaled property, and have no recourse. She said that homeless youth have had problems with landlords refusing to fully refund rental deposits. The youth are not aware of their rights as tenants and how to exercise them. Finally, youth have legal problems arising from citations for relatively minor infractions, such as seat belt violations and parking tickets. Youth may want to contest the citations but do not know how. Ms. Babitzke welcomes attorneys who can volunteer their time or offer reduced rates to assist youth in these situations.


    A new Marin non-profit, Opening the World, works with transitional age-youth who have stable housing, but are at risk for homelessness, incarceration, poverty, and other challenges. Eighty-three percent of OTW youth grew up below the poverty line, 70 percent were involved in the criminal justice system, and 97 percent have mental health issues including trauma, anxiety and depression. Opening the World founder Jeannine Curley provides these young adults with opportunities for personal growth and leadership through community service and travel. Earlier this year, OTW organized a trip to Nepal and India to help rebuild homes and schools after the earthquake. OTW aims to build socially conscious individuals who will give back to their communities through leadership and service.


    Ms. Curley said that lawyers could assist transitional-age youth by being role models and mentors. Many OTW youth have never considered a career as a lawyer; many have had only negative interactions with the legal system. Ms. Curley urges attorneys to share their career paths and advice. She hopes to expose youth to the many positive roles that attorneys play in our society and inspire them to dream big.


    Innovative Legal Programs


    There are some exemplary government programs in California that currently help homeless youth resolve their legal issues. In Marin, we are fortunate to have the Marin Community Court. Marin Community Court is an innovative alternative court program under the leadership of Judge Beverly Wood and in partnership with Legal Aid of Marin and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It allows homeless and low-income defendants, to resolve minor, noncriminal cases outside of the traditional justice system. These cases tend to be for quality-of-life violations, such as sleeping in the park and minor traffic violations. Instead of paying fines they cannot afford, defendants can work off their tickets by doing community service or by seeking services for themselves, such as drug, alcohol, or mental health counseling. Since the program began in 2011, over 3,000 hours of community service have been logged by participants and over 1,000 participants have resolved their cases through Community Court.


    A similar program in Los Angeles, the LA County Homeless Court Citation Clinic, is administered by the City Attorney’s Office in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office and conducts large clinic events that help the homeless address their minor legal citations. Like in Marin Community Court, participants can have their tickets resolved in exchange for receiving services from homeless services providers. The Clinic holds a series of large-scale sign-up events every year in different neighborhoods and venues across Los Angeles and engages in significant outreach efforts to find eligible participants.


    These programs are particularly important for homeless youth because having outstanding citations and fines can prevent them from accessing services and meeting basic needs such as food, stable housing, and cell phones to connect with services and transportation. Both the LA and Marin programs currently make a big impact on homeless young adults, and could be expanded or modified to assist homeless teens as well.


    Criminal Justice Reforms


    One third of Marin’s homeless youth had spent a night in jail over the last twelve months. Forty-five percent reported psychiatric or emotional problems. Thirty-four percent had drug and alcohol issues. Twenty-eight percent reported having post-traumatic stress disorder. Twenty-two percent of respondents did not finish high school. Given their health issues and lack of education and support, homeless youth caught in the criminal justice system face significant challenges.


    Robust reentry programs are critical to ensuring that youth like Tony will be able to make a smooth transition out of incarceration and into productive, meaningful adult life. Reentry services are cost-effective and proven to reduce recidivism. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office currently collaborates with Probation, Health and Human Services, and others to provide support for inmates leaving the Marin County Jail. For homeless youth, “whole person” programs, like AHO and Opening the World, that provide age-appropriate, personalized support with no time limit on services, are an important addition to existing county resources. This support, along with GED programs and other educational opportunities for incarcerated youth before they leave jail, will help provide them with the tools they need to be successful throughout adulthood.




    Homeless youth are the most difficult homeless population to reach. Developmentally, they are at an age where they want to fit in with their peers, and will keep their situation hidden, even from their closest friends. The stigma of having parents without the capacity to parent, the lack of safe and stable housing options, transportation barriers, difficulty accessing available services, and a lack of community understanding of youth homelessness contribute to the problem. Indeed, Marin County’s 10-year plan to end homelessness does not even mention homeless youth as a subgroup that needs specialized attention.


    Addressing the needs of homeless youth is crucial to moving the needle on homelessness in Marin and to improving the overall health and safety of our community. If youth do not have the support they need by age 25, they are 50 percent more likely to become adult homeless or incarcerated.


    As attorneys, we can do our part by considering homeless youth in our pro bono work, supporting innovative programs, and advocating for meaningful reforms in the criminal justice system.


    Learn More


    If you are interested in learning more about homeless youth, please join us on Monday, September 25, 2017, 6 to 8pm at Dominican University’s Guzman Hall. AHO’s Youth Team has organized a Town Hall Forum hosted by Senator Mike McGuire and in collaboration with the Marin Office of Education, Dominican University, College of Marin, and Tamalpais Unified School District Wellness Centers.


    To learn more about AHO, please visit


    To learn more about Opening the World, please visit



    [1] Source: Ambassadors for Hope and Opportunity. Number of homeless youth estimated based on information from 2010 United States Census, Marin County Office of Education, 2017 Marin County Point-in-Time Survey, and an AHO-led street count.

    [2] Michael Wald and Tia Martinez, Connected by 25: Improving the Life Chances of the Country’s Most Vulnerable 14-24 Year Olds (Hewlett Foundation, Stanford University 2003).


    Anna Pletcher is a former federal prosecutor and Assistant Chief of the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division. She currently teaches at Berkeley Law and serves on the Board of the Marin County Bar Association and as the Treasurer for the Federal Bar Association, Criminal Section. Ms. Pletcher is a candidate for Marin County District Attorney in the 2018 election. [Editor’s note: the MCBA does not endorse candidates and its publication of Ms. Pletcher’s article does not constitute an endorsement.]



  • 09/09/2017 9:52 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    Bar Association of San Francisco

    The Arbitration Section


    Appeal Rights and Your Arbitration Cases


    September 11, 2017

    12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

    MCLE Credits - 1 H


    This is a brown bag luncheon.



    Laurie Hepler
    Certified Appellate Specialist
    Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland LLP

    John Worden
    Schiff Hardin LLP


    • Rights to appellate review - yours and your opponent's - from the initial petition to compel arbitration through to post-confirmation judgment
    • What standards of review the Court of Appeal will apply to what kinds of orders
    • Circumstances held to justify relief by extraordinary writ, if you act immediately

    Section Chair: John Worden, Schiff Hardin LLP



    BASF Conference Center
    301 Battery Street
    3rd Floor
    San Francisco, CA 94111

    MCLE Registration: 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

    Program: 12:00 - 1:15 p.m.



    BASF Student Member Complimentary
    Section Member $30.00
    BASF Member $40.00
    Government $40.00
    Nonprofit $40.00
    Non-Member $55.00


    Note: All prices increase by $10.00 on the day of the program.


    Event Code: G174105

    Please call (415) 982-1600 and ask for the Continuing Legal Education department.




  • 09/09/2017 9:50 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    California Courts Newsroom

    September 8, 2017

    Blaine Corren



    The Judicial Council at its September 14–15 business meeting will consider a recommendation to reallocate two vacant judgeships each from the Superior Courts of Alameda and Santa Clara Counties and transfer them to the Superior Courts of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.


    Assembly Bill 103 requires the council to identify which judicial vacancies will be transferred between the specified counties and take all steps necessary to carry out each transfer. Once the vacancies have been approved for transfer, the Governor will be able to appoint new judges into those positions.


    According to the council’s most recent judicial needs study, both the superior courts in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties should have approximately 60% more judicial positions, making those courts the neediest by percentage in the state.


    Other items on the council meeting agenda include:


    Final Report on Traffic Amnesty Program: The council will receive the final report on the 18-month Statewide Infraction Amnesty Program. Offered from October 2015–March 2017, the program enabled people to resolve their delinquent court-ordered debt at a significant reduction and to request their driver’s licenses back. The program resolved 255,306 cases, allowed 246,000 people to qualify to have their driver’s license restored, and resulted in net revenue of $31,562,136. However, coinciding with the start of the amnesty program in October 2015, the report estimates that criminal revenue collections in recent years would have been $131,800,000 higher without the amnesty program in place.


    Collaborative Justice Courts - Substance Abuse Focus Grants: The council will consider a recommendation to fund programs in 49 courts for fiscal year 2017-2018 with these annual grants that help expand or enhance promising collaborative justice programs around the state. Collaborative justice courts combine judicial supervision with rehabilitation services that are rigorously monitored and focused on recovery to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for offenders.


    Court Adoption and Permanency Month: As it has since 1999, the council will consider a recommendation to proclaim November “Court Adoption and Permanency Month.” The designation recognizes the efforts of California courts and justice partners to provide children and families with fair, understandable judicial proceedings and just permanency outcomes. As part of the presentation, the council will hear from an adoptive family about their experience with the adoption process.


    Courthouse Closures or Reduced Hours: Per statute and its normal meeting procedures, the council will receive a report on which trial courts have closed courtrooms or clerks’ offices or reduced clerks’ office hours because of budget challenges. Since the previous report, 4 superior courts—Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, and Ventura Counties have issued new notices of closures or reductions.


    The meeting agenda and council reports have been posted online, and a link to the live videocast of the meeting will be on the California Courts website on the day of the meeting.




  • 09/07/2017 5:47 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    ABA Journal News

    September 7, 2017

    By Erwin Chemerinsky



     Erwin Chemerinsky

    Erwin Chemerinsky



    As summer draws to a close, and as attention will soon shift to the October 2017 U.S. Supreme Court term—which looks to be filled with blockbuster cases—it is worth pausing and reflecting back on the stories that weren’t told about October term of 2016. What were some of the “sleeper” cases that did not make the headlines of major newspapers, but will have a significant effect on legal practice?     

    These included decisions concerning criminal law, free speech and patent litigation.


     Turner v. United States


    In Brady v. Maryland (1963), the court held that prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to criminal defendants. This requirement is echoed as an ethical duty for prosecutors in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct and in every state’s ethical code. Yet there is a serious problem with many prosecutors not complying with their obligations under Brady. Alex Kozinski, a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has declared: “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.”


    In recent years, the Supreme Court only rarely has taken up Brady issues. In Turner v. United States, the court considered and rejected a Brady claim, with the majority concluding that the defendants did not adequately show that they were prejudiced by the prosecution’s withholding of information.


    Seven men were convicted of the 1984 kidnaping, robbery and murder of Catherine Fuller in Washington, D.C. At trial, the government’s theory was that Fuller, a mother of six, had been attacked by a large group of individuals. The key evidence was the testimony of two witnesses who confessed to participating in a group attack and cooperated with the government in return for leniency. Several other witnesses corroborated aspects of their testimony.


    Many years after their convictions became final, the defendants learned that the government had failed to disclose important, potentially exculpatory evidence. This included the identity of a man seen running into the alley after the murder and stopping near the garage where Fuller’s body had already been found.


    The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, acknowledged that this evidence clearly would have been favorable to the defense, but it concluded that it was not “material” and therefore the convictions could stand. The court explained that “evidence is ‘material’ … when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” After reviewing the evidence, the court concluded that there was not a “‘reasonable probability’ that the withheld evidence would have changed the outcome of petitioners’ trial.”


    Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote a powerful dissent. She said that the entire defense likely would have changed if the defendants knew of a possible alternative suspect. She wrote: “With the undisclosed evidence, the whole tenor of the trial would have changed. Rather than relying on a “not me, maybe them” defense, all the defendants would have relentlessly impeached the government’s (thoroughly impeachable) witnesses and offered the jurors a way to view the crime in a different light. In my view, that could well have flipped one or more jurors—which is all Brady requires.”


    The high court’s decision in Turner does not change the legal standard with regard to Brady violations, but it may make it more difficult to persuade courts that the prosecutor’s failure to disclose evidence is “material.” This may make it harder to deal with the epidemic of Brady violations described by Judge Kozinski and others.


     Packingham v. North Carolina


    North Carolina law makes it a felony for a registered sex offender “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” When he was 21 years old, Lester Packingham was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a minor, and as a result is a registered sex offender.


    Packingham later got a traffic ticket quashed by a judge and went on Facebook and posted the message, “God is Good.” He then was indicted under the North Carolina law for going on a website where minors can be present. He was convicted and given a suspended sentence. In fact, thousands of individuals had been convicted under this North Carolina law.


    The court unanimously declared the North Carolina law unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. Justice Samuel A. Alito wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment, joined by two other justices.


    Justice Kennedy began by strongly emphasizing the importance of the internet as a place for speech. He spoke of the “vast democratic forums of the Internet” in general, and social media in particular. He said that seven in 10 American adults use at least one internet social networking service and that more people are on Facebook than the entire population of North America. The court noted the unique importance of social media for free speech. He said, “the court must exercise extreme caution before suggesting that the First Amendment provides scant protection for access to vast networks in that medium.”


    The high court said that even if it assumed that North Carolina law was content-neutral, it still was unconstitutional and vastly overbroad in keeping individuals from having access not just to Facebook, but to,, and Kennedy said that the state could have a narrower law, such as preventing registered sex offenders from having contact with minors over social media. “In sum, to foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” he wrote.


    Justice Alito concurred in the judgment, but lamented the “undisciplined dicta” and “loose rhetoric” in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Justice Alito, too, found the North Carolina law too broad, but disliked Kennedy’s strong language protecting the internet as a medium for speech and his failure to adequately recognize the need for states to regulate sexual predators on the internet.


    But it is precisely Kennedy’s strong language about the special protection for the internet as a medium for communication that makes this decision so important. This will mean that any efforts to punish speech over this media will come to the court with a strong presumption against their constitutionality.


     TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Food Group Brands


    TC Heartland is not a sleeper for those who engage in patent litigation, though others may not be familiar with it or appreciate its significance. The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), provides that “any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.”


    Consistent with other venue statutes, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit long has interpreted where “the defendant resides” to include any place where there is personal jurisdiction over a defendant. As a result, more than 40 percent of all patent cases in recent years have been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which has been perceived as a favorable forum for plaintiffs in patent infringement suits.


    The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, unanimously reversed the Federal Circuit and held that as applied to domestic corporations, “‘reside[nce]’ in §1400(b) refers only to the state of incorporation.” This will have dramatic effects with regard to patent litigation. No longer will a significant percentage of all patent litigation occur in Tyler and Marshall, Texas. A great deal will shift to Delaware, the state where many businesses are incorporated.


    But the decision also leaves open crucial questions. The second clause of §1400(b) allows venue “where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” What will be enough for a “regular and established place of business”? Also what about foreign companies? In a footnote, the court said that it was not addressing foreign corporation, which raises a major issue for future litigation.


    October Term for 2016 was an unusual one, with only eight justices participating until Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was sworn in April 8, 2017. Nonetheless, like every term, it produced rulings that will significantly affect every area of legal practice.



    Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. He is an expert in constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He’s the author of seven books, including The Case Against the Supreme Court (Viking, 2014).







  • 09/07/2017 5:45 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    ABA Journal News

    September 7, 2017

    By Debra Cassens Weiss




    Water comes over a street in Kemah, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey/

    Eric V. Overton (


    Pioneering lawsuits based on climate-change science could blame hurricane damage on municipal planners, architects and engineers who failed to plan for foreseeable damages, some lawyers say.


    Other potential defendants in extreme-weather lawsuits are companies that emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, Reuters reports.


    Scientists at Oxford University in England are planning to use “event attribution” to measure how much of Hurricane Harvey’s intensity is due to climate change, according to the story.


    Such modeling could bolster claims by hurricane victims that planners failed to engineer infrastructure and create zoning laws that take into account how climate change is contributing to extreme weather events.


    Courts will increasingly be asked to compensate victims of victims of extreme weather events who argue their damages were foreseeable, according to Lindene Patton, a risk-management lawyer with the Earth & Water Group. “Attribution science can inform that legal process,” she told Reuters.


    Among the possible targets in Hurricane Harvey litigation are city planners who allowed the development of wetlands that had previously soaked up rainfall, Patton said. Attribution science could be used to determine what would have happened if the wetlands had remained undeveloped, she said.


    Dentons partner Joanne Zimolzak said emitters of greenhouse gases may some day be targeted in extreme-weather suits. She saw parallels with lawsuits against big tobacco companies that were based on cancer science.




  • 09/06/2017 7:42 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    Bloomberg Law

    September 5, 2017

    By Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg View



    Judge Richard Posner, probably the world’s most influential legal thinker over the last half-century, retired from the federal bench on Saturday. If a Nobel Prize were to be given in law, he would be the first to receive it, solely on the basis of his academic contributions.


    Apart from that, he wrote more than 3,300 opinions as a federal judge. In countless areas, involving questions that grab headlines (like same-sex marriage) or highly technical matters, his analysis has proved enduring and defining.


    Whole books have been written about Judge Posner, and we’ll see a lot more of them. In my view, his greatest contribution has been to spearhead a genuine revolution in both theory and practice: the economic analysis of law.


    Of course he had important predecessors (including Jeremy Bentham), and he was hardly alone (Judge Guido Calabresi of Yale and Ronald Coase of the University of Chicago also played fundamental roles). But in the modern era, no one comes close to Posner in terms of the sheer width and depth of his influence on contemporary law.


    Posner’s approach has a deceptively simple starting point: We should focus insistently on the real-world consequences of legal rules.


    Suppose that a company has emitted pollution, causing injuries to its neighbors, and the neighbors want to shut the company down; that poor people have purchased refrigerators on credit for what seems to be a very high price, and they want to get out of the deal; that a company has gotten really big, and regulators want to break it up.


    In his academic work in the 1970s, Posner asked what different legal rules would actually do, and he used the tools of economics, with its focus on incentive effects and unintended consequences, to answer that question. If the victims of pollution have a legal right to shut companies down, the injuries will stop, but the companies’ workers and consumers will be hurt, which means that courts have to make some tough trade-offs. If poor people can get out of the refrigerator deal, they won’t have to pay that high price, but companies might not want to give credit to poor people in the future.


    In countless areas of the law, Posner showed that economic analysis casts a new and often surprising light on questions that people might otherwise try to answer with unhelpful intuitions. Actually, he went further: He argued that judges, developing the law of contracts, property and torts by encountering many concrete cases, showed an unmistakable economic logic.


    That remains a controversial claim, but Posner’s views on antitrustregulationcopyright and innumerable other topics are now a standard reference point for both theory and practice. In many cases, they have come to be conventional wisdom. I have my disagreements with Judge Posner, but let’s give credit where it is due: His influence has made the law much better, and the world is a lot better off as a result.


    It is astounding but true that many of Posner’s contributions have come wholly or mostly from outside of the area of economic analysis of law, with valuable work on (for example) law and literature; on how to deal with catastrophe; on economic crises; on national security threats; and on the federal judiciary itself, and whether it is political, and what it does well and poorly.


    Then, of course, we have those 3,300 judicial opinions.


    I was privileged to be Posner’s colleague at the University of Chicago for 27 years (he retained an appointment while serving on the bench). For a long time, he was probably the closest thing I had to a mentor, at least in the sense that he commented helpfully (and sometimes witheringly) on just about all of my papers. He told me what I was doing wrong, steered me away from errors (of course, I made them anyway), and, by sheer example, showed me what being a law professor was, or could be, all about.


    One tale: In 1997, Ronald Dworkin, a fierce critic of Posner’s, wrote an article that was in large part an attack on the two of us. Dworkin argued that we constituted a new “Chicago School,” that we were wrongly dismissive of high theory and philosophical questions, and that we were basically full of nonsense.


    Posner suggested that we should do a joint reply, and I happily agreed. As I recall, it was a Friday, and I was determined to write the first draft, so as to shape both the tone and the content. Over the weekend, I worked as hard as I have ever done. On early Monday morning, probably around 7:45, I faxed him a 21-page, single-spaced draft. It lacked footnotes, and it was pretty rough, but, still, mission accomplished. I was pretty proud of myself.


    When I got back to my office, I spotted something on my chair. It was from Posner. It had 35 pages. It was fully footnoted. It read like a dream. Needless to say, it was much more polished than mine, and better in every way.


    As always, Judge Posner was ahead of the rest of us, even when we run as fast as we can.





  • 09/05/2017 9:02 PM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    Los Angeles Times

    September 5, 2917

    By Maura Dolan


    Federal law enforcement began investigating California’s courts seven years ago after receiving complaints that two Korean-speaking women in Los Angeles had been denied court interpreters.


    Courts in other states also were examined and faulted. Along with California, they began working to comply with U.S civil rights law, which bars discrimination based on national origin. Failure to act meant the possible loss of federal money.


    But nowhere has the task been so challenging as in California, the most linguistically diverse state in the nation.


    At least 220 languages are spoken in California, and 44% of residents speak a language other than English at home. Seven million Californians say they cannot speak English well.


    On top of that, California’s court system is considered the largest in the nation, surpassing in size the entire labyrinth of federal courts.


    "This is not the kind of challenge you can simply meet in three years and then declare victory." Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, on the state's effort to expand courtroom translation programs.


    Just finding enough trained interpreters has proved daunting. The state’s courts handle as many as eight million cases a year.


    Now two years into its enforcement phase, California’s “language access plan” is pushing courts to provide interpreters for all non-English speakers in all cases.


    As of December, 47 of 58 county courts said they were offering interpreters in high-priority civil disputes, including those involving protective orders, child custody and other family law matters, evictions, guardianship and conservatorship and elder abuse.


    “The goal is to get interpreters available in all case types,” said 1st District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers.


    “But the reality is we are never going to have enough qualified interpreters in enough languages for every courtroom that needs them at the time they need them,” he said. “That is just not going to be possible.”


    California has long provided interpreters for criminal and juvenile cases. The law now says they must offer them also in civil courtrooms.


    In the past, non-English-speaking litigants were on their own when they went to court to fight evictions, obtain restraining orders and resolve child custody disputes.


    Children sometimes interpreted for warring parents. One court employee recalled a woman seeking a domestic violence restraining order having to interpret for her alleged abuser.


    Some judges said they felt uncomfortable when they received a one-word translation from an amateur interpreter even though the litigant had spoken at length in his native language.


    Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Steven Austin recalled a Spanish-speaking woman in his courtroom 10 years ago seeking a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend.


    “He mean to me,” she had written on a legal form.


    Austin needed more information to grant the order, but the woman spoke too little English to explain her fears. He rounded up a bilingual person to interpret.


    Later he read in the newspaper that the ex-boyfriend had visited the woman’s home. He had a gun, and she called police.


    “It was just by luck I was able to find somebody to help,” he said. “It could have been a tragedy.”


    The federal probe came in response to a complaint filed by legal aid lawyers on behalf of two women: a sexual assault victim seeking a restraining order against her attacker and a mother asking for child custody and support.


    Los Angeles Superior Court denied them interpreters, even they spoke only Korean, the complaint said.


    Los Angeles court officials worked with federal authorities to bring in more interpreters, and today the Superior Court is considered the most advanced in the state in providing language help.


    Yet even in Los Angeles there are troubles. Just a few months ago an Arabic speaker went to court to try to obtain a restraining order against her ex-husband.

    It took four court appearances and months to obtain the order because of the difficulty of getting an interpreter. On one day, an interpreter promised to return after lunch to handle her case but never came back.


    During each visit, the woman was forced to face her ex-husband.


    “It was incredibly traumatizing for her to repeatedly have to face her abuser,” said Carmen McDonald, supervising attorney for the L.A. Center for Law and Justice, who related the story.


    The push for interpreters comes at a time when California’s court system has yet to recover from recession-era budget cutbacks. Courtrooms remain closed and judges’ positions vacant.


    But the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have been sympathetic to the language campaign and provided $7 million during the past fiscal year.


    “This is a popular issue,” said Austin, the Contra Costa County judge. “I went to the Legislature to talk to people about it, and it was very popular with both the governor’s office and individual legislators.”


    The languages for which interpreters are needed are Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, American Sign, Mandarin, Farsi, Cantonese, Russian, Tagalog, Arabic and Punjabi.


    But depending on the location of the court, that list expands. It includes Cambodian/Khmer, Japanese, Malayalam, Hmong, Lao and even dialects of the Aleutian Islands.


    Ventura County Superior Court Judge Manuel J. Covarrubias recalled using “a relay” in one case.


    A defendant knew only Mixteco, an indigenous language spoken in parts of Mexico.


    The only interpreter who could be found did not speak English. So that person translated Mixteco into Spanish, and a second translated the Spanish into English, said Covarrubias, who has helped lead the courts’ language efforts.


    California now has about 2,000 qualified court interpreters but still too few to handle the demand.


    Getting certified is a hurdle. Only about 10% pass the state examination. The job pays up to $77,000 a year.


    Interpreters must show proficiency not just in everyday language but in understanding and translating legal jargon and expert evidence.


    “It is a big jump between bilingualism and the ability to interpret,” said Tracy Clark, who supervises interpreter services for Ventura County courts.


    Being able to convey someone else’s thoughts immediately in a noisy courtroom and word for word “is a whole other level of language competence,” she said.


    Clark said she has had to fly in interpreters from across the country but sometimes can’t get one “even if I could have found a flight.”


    She sends Spanish interpreters every day into criminal and traffic courts, and hires others as needed.


    Describing her work so far in a single week, Clark related that on one day she had to find interpreters for three languages other than Spanish, the next day four languages and the day after that seven.


    Ventura, Sacramento and Merced County courts are set to begin a pilot project this month in which interpreters will participate in short hearings via a live video feed.


    If the project succeeds, it may be repeated in other courtrooms around the state.


    The plan has made some interpreters nervous. They say seeing a litigant’s face is important, as is being able to signal the judge if a stack of papers nearby falls, drowning out words.


    California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who emigrated from Mexico as a boy, became a legal scholar and joined the seven-member high court after being appointed by Brown, heads a task force assigned to enforce the language plan.


    He ran an institute at Stanford University and worked to develop and enforce policy at the White House under two Democratic administrations.


    “This is not the kind of challenge you can simply meet in three years and then declare victory,” Cuellar said. “It requires long-term commitment and vigilance.”


    Kevin Baker, legislative director of the ACLU of California and a task force member, said he sees “a culture of resistance in a lot of pockets of the courts.”


    Judges tend to be tradition-bound and want to move the court calendar along, he said. Getting interpreters takes time and also delays resolution of cases.


    Some court leaders also have pushed back on a proposed complaint system for the language plan, he said.


    Although state law now requires interpreters in civil cases, some county court websites still limit the languages that will be offered or say litigants should bring their own interpreters, said Stephen Goldberg, regional counsel for Legal Services of Northern California, which represents poor people in civil cases. Some use telephone interpreters, he said.


    Interpreters also are only part of the solution.


    Court signs must be posted in multiple languages, legal documents translated and court-ordered services, such as a program on alcohol abuse, must be offered in the languages of the participants, judges said.


    “The difficulties are real, and sometimes difficulties can be frustrating,” Cuellar said. “But almost everything worth doing is difficult.”






  • 09/05/2017 9:00 PM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    ABA Journal

    September 5, 2017

    By Stephanie Francis Ward 



     woman on park bench with dog

    Photo of Haben Girma by Tony Avelar



    Haben Girma, a Harvard Law School graduate, has limited hearing and vision and refers to herself as “Deafblind.”


    “It should be one word, no hyphen, and I prefer to capitalize the D because it’s a cultural identity,” says Girma, 29, a former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom fellow whose work centers on consulting and public speaking about the benefits of fully accessible products and services, as well as hiring people with disabilities.


    On her website, she even gives the news media tips on how to report on disabilities.


    “When companies increase their hiring of people with disabilities, they benefit from the talents of people with disabilities,” says Girma, who has worked with organizations such as Apple, Google, Pearson Education Inc. and the American Alliance of Museums. This month, she is the keynote speaker at the Clio Cloud Conference in New Orleans.


    Before she went into consulting, she practiced litigation for 2½ years with the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates. “Litigation is powerful, but I feel like a lot of the accessibility barriers are due to lack of education,” Girma says. “I feel like I have a unique talent to inspire and motivate people to remove those barriers.”


    Written English is Girma’s strongest form of communication. When speaking with someone in person who also speaks English, she asks the person to type their words on her wireless, Bluetooth-equipped keyboard, which sends the communication to her braille computer.


    “What I love about the keyboard is that almost everybody is used to typing on a keyboard,” says Girma, who’s been using the devices to communicate since 2010. “Nobody told me ‘Hey, these new [braille] devices now support Bluetooth, and you can connect them to a Bluetooth keyboard.’ I had to do the research and figure it out.”


    Former President Barack Obama, who met with her at the White House in 2015 at a 25th anniversary celebration for the Americans with Disabilities Act, is among those who have used Girma’s wireless keyboard.


    She also used the communication method in court while representing the National Federation of the Blind in an accessibility lawsuit brought against Scribd, a digital library subscription service. Scribd argued that digital places didn’t have to be ADA-compliant. The case settled in 2015 after the company lost its summary judgment motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont.


    Daniel Goldstein, a Baltimore lawyer who worked with Girma on that case, says she’s good at solving problems.


    “If you are a person with a disability and you want to lead the life you want, then you need to be a good problem-solver,” he says. “That’s also an important quality for a good lawyer. Clients are always looking for you to solve problems in practical ways.”


    Goldstein hopes Girma might come back to litigation work someday. She’s also a good writer, he says, and was never intimidated about debating a legal theory with an older lawyer like himself.


    “If she was excited about an idea and I wasn’t, she didn’t give up after the first try, which I liked,” Goldstein says.


    Girma, who identifies as a first-generation immigrant, is the daughter of an Ethiopian father and Eritrean mother.


    She started her consulting and public speaking business in 2016 and gets work through friends, traditional media and social media. She recently created a mailing list, which shares links of her and her guide dog, Maxine, working and exploring together. The first clip features the two climbing a large dome at the City Museum in St. Louis.


    “Most museums instruct patrons not to touch exhibits, limiting access for blind patrons,” Girma says. “The City Museum is an incredible place that fully encourages patrons to touch exhibits.”


    In her spare time, Girma enjoys dancing and surfing. Sometimes she rides the board by herself, and other times she’ll do tandem surfing with another person, using a larger board.


    “I reached out to several surf schools in San Diego. Most just ignored me or said, ‘We have no idea how to make it work,’ ” says Girma, adding that two of the businesses sent back positive responses. “They said, ‘We don’t know if this will work, but let’s try; we’ll have fun learning,’ ” Girma says. “It was a ton of fun.”





  • 09/05/2017 5:41 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    Contra Costa Lawyer

    September 1, 2017


    Teaching Teenagers to Argue
    in Court, that is!

    13th Annual Moot Court Competition

    Moot Court is an appellate argument activity and competition put on by the Center for Economic and Civic Education (CESQD) and CCCBA.


    On Saturday October 14, 2017 about 75 students will come to the Bray Courthouse and present their oral arguments on the USSC case Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer (First Amendment, Religion Clauses). Three-judge panels of local attorneys and judges will listen and challenge them with questions. A good time will be had by all!









    Thank You to the sponsors of this year’s Moot Court:



    Above the Law/Platinum
    Law Offices of Christina Weed PC
    Jarratt Martin Law, LLP


    Law Offices of Cherie T. Davis
    M.S. Domingo Law


    Law Offices of Matthew B. Talbot


    361 Financial Planning Inc.
    Goodman and Associates
    Mark Shaw


    Halina Nafey
    Julie Welsh


    For more information, to volunteer or donate please contact CESQD at (925) 708-6527.





  • 09/04/2017 9:00 AM | Denise Bashline (Administrator)

    The California Report

    KQED Arts Wire

    September 1, 2017

    By Joshua Bote



     North Coast Brewing Co.'s Brother Thelonious beer (original picture cropped)

    North Coast Brewing Co.'s Brother Thelonious beer (original picture cropped) (Photo: Bernt Rostad/flickr




    The legacy of jazz pioneer Thelonious Monk may have been tarnished by one brewery’s gratuitous use of his face on its merchandise, his estate claims in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.


    The Monk estate, which is managed by the legendary pianist’s son T.S. Monk, is suing North Coast Brewing in San Francisco federal court for trademark infringement and a series of other violations. According to a report by SFGate, they are seeking over $75,000 in damages.


    In the suit, the Monk estate alleges that it granted the Fort Bragg-based brewery verbal permission to use his visage for its Brother Thelonious beer. The popular beer, which was introduced in 2005, is a Belgian-style ale that puns Monk’s name by dressing him in monk’s garb for the beer’s packaging.



    Thelonious Monk performs in an undated and unlocated picture

    Thelonious Monk performs in an undated and unlocated picture.

    ( Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images)


    There was one caveat to this deal: For using Monk’s likeness, North Coast would donate a portion of its profits from Brother Thelonious beer sales to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz — a non-profit that promotes jazz education and performance.


    The Monk estate rescinded the agreement in January 2016, when it was discovered that the brewery had used the musician’s likeness on an assortment of merchandise, including T-shirts, iron-on patches and soap bars.


    The lawsuit states that the brewery has failed to compensate the estate for its use of Monk’s image. It is unclear if North Coast is donating proceeds from its jazzed-up “beer gear” to the Monk Institute.


    North Coast also sponsors jazz festivals throughout Northern California, where they sell Brother Thelonious and other brews.  The company brands itself as the “Official Brewery Partner” of the Monterey Jazz Festival. (Fittingly, Thelonious Monk performed at the Festival four times between 1963 and 1972.)


     As of press time, North Coast Brewing is still selling Brother Thelonious merchandise on its website.





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