Bar Soap – March 2017

As I mentioned in my last Bar Soap, the Contra Costa High School Mock Trial Competition was on the horizon. It has now taken place and it was the usual tremendous success. Miramonte High School was the winner this year. That makes two years in a row for Miramonte. I served as judge two nights during the preliminary rounds. I never cease to be impressed by the skill and enthusiasm of all the participants who appeared before me. Another shout out needs to go to all the volunteer judges. Many of our sitting judges volunteer their time, as well as many of our local attorneys. Additionally many of our local judges and attorneys spend months with the high school students, mentoring them as they prepare for the competition. Thanks to all for making it an incredible experience. Let’s chat now … Continue reading

Bar Soap – February 2017

Here we are starting another new year. Seems as though we just started 2016 and here we are in 2017. I know, I know, many of you just want to put 2016 behind you. But many good things happened in our wonderful Contra Costa County legal community in 2016. If it is January I am preparing for trial. Not sure how that always seems to happen, but once more I spent the vacation time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, preparing for a jury trial. At least this year it is in Contra Costa Superior Court. That makes it a little less stressful. Although I must say, trials have become much more stressful in the past few years. Anyone disagree? I keep mentioning the MCLE Spectacular and indeed it was once again spectacular. The attendance at the event is truly … Continue reading

Bar Soap – November 2016

Many things are happening locally with our legal community. So many in fact that it is impossible to learn about them, much less comment on all of them. But I will give it a try. MCLE Spectacular, Spectacular! You actually don’t need my reminder, but the Contra Costa County Bar Association’s 22nd MCLE Spectacular is taking place Friday, November 18, 2016. It is an event not to be missed. Not only is it a good opportunity to pick up necessary and meaningful legal education credits, but it is also a great opportunity to see and catch up with old friends. See you there. Mock Trials I had the privilege of sitting as a judge at the Federal Building in San Francisco for the Empire Mock Trial program for national high school teams. I saw several colleagues from Contra Costa County … Continue reading

Bar Soap – June 2016

Bar Soap: Judge Arnason Celebration Tops them All Every time I report on an interesting local event, I keep thinking nothing can top it. Recall my mention of the MCLE Spectacular, the Annual Installation Luncheon, Contra Costa County Mock Trial Competition and other Bar Association events. Well, I do believe the Celebration to Honor the Life of the Honorable Richard E. Arnason topped them all. The ceremony took place in the Supervisors’ Chambers, with a reception afterwards at the Classic Courthouse. I must say it was a truly wonderful event. Unknown to many, Judge Arnason was a private man, and his funeral was a very private invitation-only ceremony. Because he was such a remarkable, respected and beloved man in our legal community many thought there should be a public ceremony to celebrate the life of Judge Arnason. Many thanks to … Continue reading

Bar Soap – April 2016

As I recall, I have regularly mentioned the Contra Costa County Bar Association’s MCLE Spectacular as the social and legally substantive event of the year. It is a “Do Not Miss it Event.” Now I have rediscovered another: the CCCBA Annual Officer Installation Luncheon. I must confess, I have missed going the past few years. I did not make that mistake this year. It is truly an important and extremely valuable event. Elva Harding is our new President, and her remarks, as well as the remarks of our outgoing President Nick Casper, were worth the price of admission on their own. Our Presiding Judge Steve Austin gave a very informative “State of the Court” chat, then we were treated to a presentation by Elizabeth Parker, Executive Director of the State Bar. And finally, a presentation by Jessica Therkelsen. It was … Continue reading

Bar Soap – February 2016

It has been a bit too long since I penned a Bar Soap column, but no shortage of information to round out 2015, and move into 2016. The annual MCLE Spectacular was once again the event of the year. Hard to believe it has been 21 years for that great event. Dick Frankel was on the board back when the event was conceived and the worry was, “What if we sponsor such an event, rent the hotel space and no one shows up?” Well, we all know it continues to be a resounding success each year. So a pretty good gamble, don’t you think? It is, of course, a great way to get those needed continuing legal education credits. But it is also a great way to see old friends, do your own legal marketing and have some fun. At one … Continue reading

Civil Jury Verdicts – December 2015

The number of jury trials going out in our state trial courts continues to drop each year, and the trials-to-actual-verdict ratio seems to experience an even greater percentage drop. The experience in our local Bay Area courts follows the downward trend. Of course, the reasons are many and varied and open to wild speculation. Anecdotally, we are told civil filings are down, thus fewer cases are in the system. There is also speculation that successful mediations have led to settlements in most cases. The incredible cost of experts is another reason we see cases resolving before trial. Certainly the courts are under severe budget constraints and our judges simply do not have the time to conduct trials given the number of cases each civil trial judge is saddled with. That, perhaps, helps to explain the pressure brought to bear by our … Continue reading

Bar Soap – August 2015

Okay, you noticed this column is both a Bar Soap and a Civil Jury Verdicts column. I have been sitting on a couple of trial reports while waiting for more, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. So, this will be a combined column. Let’s start with the verdicts. I received a “Client Alert” stating “Allan Isbell and Craig Jones Net a Victory in Placer County Jury Trial.” Special Counsel Allan Isbell and Special Counsel Craig Jones, both of Archer Norris, represented the defendant general contractor. Randy Paul and Jordan Rojas of Berding & Weil represented the plaintiffs. The case involved a 850-unit self-storage facility constructed by the defendant in Auburn, California. A significant water intrusion problem arose, knocking approximately 30 percent of the units offline, as they were not rentable. The plaintiffs demanded $5.2 million at trial. The defendant offered … Continue reading

Bar Soap: June 2015

Admittedly, I have been remiss in preparing this Bar Soap column. Many things of interest have arisen within the past two months, and I am hopeful I can report on all of them, so let’s get started. The April Welcome Celebration for our new Bar Association Executive Director, Theresa Hurley, was a great success. Many thanks to the Brown, Church & Gee law firm for hosting that wonderful event. I was most impressed with all the new young faces present. That, of course, means the CCCBA continues to be a dynamic and ever evolving organization; nothing stale about it. It was also wonderful to see another generation taking leadership, as I chatted with the new Board President, Nick Casper, and with his father and former president, Stan Casper. My separate article on Coroner’s Inquests in our county was well received. … Continue reading

Bar Soap: February 2015

It does seem quite a while since I penned a Bar Soap column for the Contra Costa Lawyer. Perhaps so, but here goes the latest … and actually, I did not “pen” this article. My kids give me a hard enough time with my electronic skills or lack thereof, so I want to make it clear: I use a computer. I am a bit annoyed with a recent interview concerning a Coroner’s Inquest. In fact so annoyed, I penned a separate article (okay, I didn’t actually pen), on just the topic of Coroner’s Inquests. As a longtime Coroner’s Inquest Hearing Officer, I do not normally give interviews concerning specific Inquests, and in fact when you read about a Coroner’s Inquest in the Contra Costa Times, the hearing officer’s name is never mentioned. And that is as it should be. So … Continue reading