Bicyclist Hit By Truck Wins $34.5 Million In Jury Trial

A Los Angeles bicyclist, who suffered injuries including a lower leg amputation when he was hit by a big-rig truck making a right-hand turn, was awarded $34,555,220 after a personal injury trial.
His attorneys said that Alan Casillas, was 19 years old on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012 and was riding his bicycle to a friends’  house. They say that’s when a big rig drove over part of the sidewalk while making a right turn from Tweedy Boulevard to Alameda Street. They said the truck struck Casillas, knocking him from the bike and crushing his left leg, among other injuries.  [Read more…]

Award-Winning Courthouse Closes After Just 4 Years

Just four years after its opened amid much fanfare, one of California’s most scenic courthouses has become another victim of the state’s justice rationing, slated to close Nov. 3. A Plumas County News report quotes Plumas Superior Court Executive Officer Deborah Norrie saying that “… the trial courts have lost a billion dollars (in funding) in the last few years. The Plumas court has taken its fair share of hits.”
Known for its award winning design, Portola Courthouse is facing closure.

Known for its award winning design, Portola Courthouse is facing closure.

Plumas County, a Sierra Nevada community located near the Nevada border in northwestern California, has now lost three of its four court facilities, the newspaper noted, with the Greenville court closing in 2012 and Chester’s court closing last year. All cases in Plumas County will now be processed and heard at the Quincy courthouse, but with reduced court hours. The paper reported that, beginning Nov. 3, the court will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phones will be answered from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Portola courthouse won design awards and looks more like a ski area entrance than a traditional court building. It is owned by the state judicial system and it remains unclear what, if anything, will be done with the 6,500 square foot building. Local judges say they hope it reopens as a courthouse when funding is restored.

AOC Name-Change Called ‘Superfluous’

As reported by, Steven Jahr is the California Administrator Director of the Courts.

As reported by, Steven Jahr is the California Administrator Director of the Courts.

Anyone thinking that the re-branding of the controversial “Administrative office of the Courts, or AOC” to the “Judicial Council staff” is window dressing might note comments by outgoing AOC Director Steven Jahr, who called the measure “superfluous,” according to the MetNews.
The MetNews notes that “… the name change announced Friday was seen by some judges as a harbinger of Jahr’s departure. At the Judicial Council meeting announcing the name change, Jahr was unusually freewheeling in his expression, saying, ‘Retiring the name AOC will produce a perceptual change, or perhaps a cultural change. Yet under the substantive law, it makes no change at all. The name is superfluous.'”

Jahr replaced William Vickrey, who, the MetNews story reminds us, “… left the AOC in September 2011 amid mounting controversy over the agency’s spending practices and a $500 million court technology project that judges and state legislators deemed a failure.”

Read the report here: Courts Director Jahr to Step Down After Two Years

L.A. Times Outlines June 3 Judicial ‘Races’

The Los Angeles Times newspaper is outlining the June 3 election options while noting that early voting actually began May 5. The paper notes the non-race nature of the process, reporting that “… dozens of Los Angeles Superior Court judges also are up for reelection this year, but, with one exception, their names won’t be on the ballot and they can be considered reelected because no challengers filed to run against them… but the ballot will include one sitting judge and his challenger, plus candidates vying to succeed 13 judges who declined to run for reelection. In three of those races, only a single candidate filed to run in each, so those races are essentially decided, even though voters will see those three candidates’ names on the ballot.”
Got it? Good. Oh, and also from the Times, “… in 10 other races, voters must choose among candidates vying to be elected to judicial seats. Of those, eight will be wrapped up in June because they feature only two candidates each, virtually guaranteeing that one will win a majority. In the two races with three candidates, November runoffs are possible.”
Check out the story and find a link to endorsements here: FAQs: The Times’ endorsement process for the June 3 elections

Chief Justice Continues Funding Push

The “Tani tour” continues, and California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye may be warning wealthy communities, that may have  been spared extreme court cuts so far, that their services might soon suffer from a lack of funding. That’s because new state spending formulas take population into consideration, so slow-growth communities will feel the pain.
That talking point emerged at the Marin County Civic Center where, the Marin Independent Journal reports, “… Cantil-Sakauye described the judiciary as desperately underfunded, having been forced to cut about $1 billion since the economic downturn began around 2008. The cuts have forced the closure of 51 courthouses in the system, even as it struggles to digest 7.5 million new cases a year in a state of 38 million people speaking scores of languages.”

After the statewide message, Kim Turner, executive director of Marin Superior Court, “… said Marin has fared better than other counties because its population has not exploded. But she said Marin stands to lose money as court funding is spread to counties in dire shape.”

“It’s going to hurt,” Turner said, as quoted by the Independent Journal. “It’s going to require some belt-tightening.”
You can read the full story here.

Long Beach Facing High-Profile Judge Race

By Los Angeles Superior Court judicial election standards, it seems Long Beach is approaching a knock-down, drag-out election. The Metropolitan News-Enterprise, a legal newspaper known for its judicial election coverage, is reporting that L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera is running for the Los Angeles Superior Court.  
Carol Najera, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney (Photo from a report by Metropolitan News-Enterprise)

Carol Najera, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney (Photo from a report by Metropolitan News-Enterprise)

That would be a challenge to incumbent Judge James Pierce, who sits in Long Beach. The report cited a judge “… who knows both Najera and Pierce, and who asked not to be named” as explaining that Najera “hates” the incumbent and “thinks he’s a terrible judge.” Najera, who was not available for comment for the report, is also connected to the high-profile Menendez brothers trail. She was on team that convicted the brothers of murdering their parents. That conviction came after an earlier trial ended with a hung jury.

The report also said the apparent candidate “… recently tweeted that she will kick off her campaign at an event in Long Beach Jan. 23.” Judge Pierce was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1989 and has previously served as a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner.

Check out the story here

Judicial Reporter Offers Stark 2013 Recap

For anyone dealing with rationed justice in 2013, it felt like a nearly constant barrage of bad news. Now Bill Girdner at The Courthouse News offers a year-in-review piece that quickly reminds us why – because it was a barrage of bad news. The story begins with “… it was a news-filled year for the courts in California, as they survived huge budget cuts and walked backwards on transparency and slightly forward on reform as the Legislature told them to open a warren of closed committees.”

He notes the budget cutting and that it was considered a “reprieve” when the governor decided not to cut the budget even more. He even recalls when In “… an old scandal returned as the council over-rode objections from judges and allowed telecommutingby the highly paid mandarins of the Administrative Office of the Courts… in a companion decision, the council voted to take a look at the salaries of those same bureaucrats but later decided that the inquiry should be conducted by the bureaucrats themselves. As the year winds down, the inquiry seems to have stalled.”

And maybe this slipped by in the holiday rush, but Girdner recalls that “… in December, the council elevated its technology committee to the status of internal committee, igniting a blast from judges who said the leaders of the tech committee and its task force had “proven themselves incompetent” and should be replaced.”

In terms of the legal community, it reads less like the summary of a year-in-review and more like an indictment. See the story here.

(Program Note: The CCM will not update tomorrow as we observe the New Year’s holiday)

CCM Publisher Describes Civil ‘Hellholes’

Sara Warner, publisher of the California Courts Monitor, finds herself agreeing with a business-focused group about the hellishness of state civil courts, yet for somewhat different reasons. Find out what she things a “real hellhole” looks like in our era of rationed justice:  Verdict Is In: California Courts Hellish.

Judicial Pay Hike Continues To Make News

That pay increase for California judges continues to make headlines, especially since the hike will be retroactive back to July 1 and none of the increase was discussed amid decisions to eliminate courthouse jobs. But the raises are virtually mandated by state law, which ties judicial pay increases to the average pay increase received by other state employees.
That same law means the judges could be in line for a 4.5 percent pay increase by the middle of 2015, even if none of the eliminated court jobs are ever reinstated. Even with the state law and the fact that judges have not gotten a pay raise since 2007. Superior Court judges earn $178,789 per yea, and that’s going to $181,292. Justices on the appeals court will get bumped to $207,463, up from $204,599.
The pay increase will also have a cascading effect in San Diego and several other counties, where the pay for members of the county Board of Supervisors is tied to the pay of judges.
There’s a good story about the raises, and ties to county supervisor pay, at the U-T San Diego website here.

Gov. names 8 New L.A. Superior Court Judges

Gov. Brown has named eight new Los Angeles County Superior Court judges among 18 judicial choices statewide, the governor’s office announced. In L.A. County, the new judges are Deborah S. Brazil, Carl H. Moor, Connie R. Quinones, Armen Tamzarian, Sergio C. Tapia, Lee W. Tsao, Frank M. Tavelman and Joel Wallenstein.
Superior Court judgeships pay $181,292 in California. For bios on the L.A. choices, check out The Courthouse News here.