Bar Soap in Contra Costa Lawyer’s April 2018 edition

It has been a while since I penned a Bar Soap column. It seems the more news there is to write about, the more anxious I get and the more difficult it is to settle down and write the column. I should do like Herb Caen. That is, write something every day and then decide if it is worth mentioning in a column, as opposed to gathering information in a file for weeks on end, then having to sort through it for inspiration. This is a habit that I better develop soon because I am inundated with reports on verdicts and about to have a lot more fodder for my Jury Verdicts report. As you all know, I have been whining for years about the need for the court system to provide preparation of monthly trial statistics. The good news … Continue reading

Civil Jury Verdicts – Contra Costa Lawyer

Civil Jury Verdicts Matt Guichard | Sep 01, 2017 | There was a time I prepared a Civil Jury Verdicts Column every month. And in almost all cases, the reports came right out of our Superior Court in Martinez. Back then the Court statistics showed somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or so civil cases to verdict in Martinez Superior Courts. As the years have passed, that number dwindled to 15 or so each year. Now of course I know the mention of those statistics always causes heartburn for the PJ, but there is a good reason for the decline. I have been told that the Civil Jury Verdicts column is a very popular column. Sad to say I write only a couple of columns a year at this time. And as you have heard me say too many times: … Continue reading

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