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The California Courts Monitor will resume regular posts on Monday, January 6th.


CCM staff

CCM Publisher Takes Views To Huffington Post

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, founding publisher of the California Courts Monitor website, has taken her views on rationing justice to The Huffington Post. In two recent posts, she outlines dramatic predictions after a Los Angeles Superior Court “reorganization” closed a juvenile court facility and what it means that some cases get priority over others.

You can see her HuffPo posts here:


Bay Area Conference Offers Rare Debate Insight

By Sara Warner

CCM Publisher

In the insular world of civil justice legal conferences, you usually end up surrounded by either the “defense” or “plaintiffs” side of the ledger. It can lead to a false sense of consensus, with everyone agreeing on the basic goodness and obvious common sense of their arguments.

That’s why the recent Perrin Conference in San Francisco was so very different. Officially billed as a “national overview” of asbestos-centered litigation, it nonetheless offered plenty of focus on California and benefited greatly by the participation of actual real-life judges. It’s not unprecedented for such events to include the judicial branch, but their presence is rare and seemed significant when both sides of the issues were in full debate.

[Read more…]

Golden State Sets Negative Example For Small Claims

California is being increasingly seen as a national “leader” in the negative implications of court budget cuts, and a recent NPR story focused on the small claims system. Calling small claims a “workhorse,” NPR explained that they “… were created in the mid-20th century to allow people to resolve monetary disputes that are small in the greater scheme of things but huge to people of limited means.
This AP photo is part of the NPR reporting on the court funding crisis.

This AP photo is part of the NPR reporting on the court funding crisis.

The network also noted how the courts work: “… they’re unique in how efficient they are. Defendants and plaintiffs don’t need a lawyer and judges usually make their rulings on the spot, often in 30 minutes or less.” But the report focuses on a charter fishing boat owner who has been dealing with a bad check case for months. The problem is that his court, in Stockton, hasn’t set a trial date for ANY small claims cases since September, and it has not target for resuming setting trial dates.
The report includes noting the problems in Los Angeles. It’s worth a read, if only to remind ourselves that the Golden State is fast becoming a national leader in negative court news. Read it, or listen to it, here

Newest ‘Good News’ Budget? Not For Justice System

The latest draft of Gov. Brown’s budget, called a “good news” budget by some media because of increased revenues from a statewide tax increase approved last November and the improving economy, is less than good for the state’s justice system. The Associated Press and others are still developing their analysis, but the courts funding seems locked in at previous-year spending.
Governor Brown's latest budget draft may not be 'good news' for judicial system

Governor Brown’s latest budget draft less than ‘good news’ for justice system

Says the AP: “[Although]… plagued by downsized staffs, service reductions and darkened courtrooms due to bone-deep budget cuts over recent years, ‘the judiciary is getting the same amount of money they were given the year before,’ Brown said. The courts will have to struggle to contain growing costs without any receiving any new resources, he added.”
Here’s a breaking budget story from the San Jose Mercury News

High-Profile Courts Lawsuit Tossed By Feds

That high-profile federal lawsuit against California court closings and cutbacks has been dismissed, the plaintiffs announced. The Coalition for Economic Survival, one of the leaders among several groups bringing the lawsuit that included the state ACLU, said a federal court judge ruled the national government has no right to intercede in state court matters; it’s called the “abstention doctrine.”
The group added the the federal judge “… felt strongly that this was an issue that should go to either state court or the Federal Court of Appeals. But, he did not rule on the merits of our case. As a result, there is strong determination by teh attorneys and plaintiffs to continue on.”
The ruling was dated March 18. See the CES report on the organization’s website here.


Another Judge Retiring in L.A. County

The woman credited with being the first openly lesbian judge in Los Angeles County is retiring, according to news reports. MetNews has a good recap on the career of Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner, 65, who admits she feels “kind of guilty” leaving the job amid its current financial troubles, but the New York City native wants to split her time between California and the East Coast, where she still has family ties.

The judge said that, after taking time off, she would like to sit on assignment in criminal courts in Los Angeles or Riverside counties. Find the MetNews report here.

Judge Teri L. Jackson ‘Zealous Woman’

You might not expect a candid, insightful interview with a California Superior Court judge from a website affiliated with a lawfirm, but that’s what you get with a profile of Judge Teri L. Jackson at the “Zealous Women” site.terijackson-1

Judge Jackson is the first African-American woman to sit on the state’s Superior Court Bench, the interview notes, and that offers a different perspective.

You know,” Judge Jackson says in the interview, “I never looked at it as being a pioneer. I looked at it as a lot of people who had come before me who should have achieved what I have. I might have been the first to accomplish it, but there were many people who laid the path for me to walk, and they carried and dragged me along the way and still do. So I guess yes, you’re right, I’m the first to achieve this, but I’m not the first to go after this. And I am the beneficiary of a lot of people and a lot of sacrifices.”

She also tells about her father’s plan that his OTHER daughter would be the lawyer, about live-work balance with her “posse” and other issues. That includes this chilling advice for lawyers in her court: “Please understand we do read your briefs… reading verbatim your brief is not well-prepared.” [Read more…]

Profile: Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa

Since he was elected to the Santa Barbara Superior Court in 1996, Judge Frank Ochoa has made an impact on both the court system and his community. That commitment was honored in the final days of 2012 with the Santa Barbara County Bar Association’s “John T. Rickard Judicial Service Award.”ochoa

The honor is named after a former judge who also served terms as city attorney and mayor of Santa Barbara in the 1940s and 1950s.

Judge Ochoa sometimes makes national news in high-profile celebrity cases, like that controversy around Randy Quaid and his wife. But locally he is known for involvement in juvenile law programs and for handling a range of cases. He currently handles a criminal trial department with both felony and misdemeanor cases, and has handled the Juvenile Delinquency calendar for the court.

His experience has led to several state-level roles. He has served as a member of the California Judicial Council’s Trial Court Budget Commission and on the Presiding Judges’ Advisory Committee. Judge Ochoa has also served on the Executive Board of the California Judges’ Association, and has previously chaired the Association’s “Court Administration Committee.” 

He was also elected to the Executive Board of the Juvenile Court Judges of California and served on that group’s “legislative review team.”
Check out the judge’s formal bio here. Find out more about the recent award here.

Judge Calls $27M a Fair Price for EA Monopoly


     OAKLAND, Calif. (Courtroom News) – Electronic Arts can settle antitrust claims by paying $27 million and releasing exclusivity rights to league-branded football video games, a federal judge ruled.
After granting preliminary approval of the settlement Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken scheduled a fairness hearing for Feb. 7, 2013.

In 2008, lead plaintiffs Geoffrey Pecover and Jeffrey Lawrence claimed that EA killed off competing football video games by partnering with the National Football League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Collegiate Licensing Co. and the Arena Football League.

By monopolizing the market for these games, EA was free to hike up the prices of its own games and gouge customers, according to the complaint. [Read more…]