Bar Soap - January 2012


It has been a while, so where to start?

How about a solution for the Occupy Movement? Lots of vacant office space in the East Bay due to law firm break-ups. Simply move the folks in and voilá! In fact, 1331 N. California Boulevard in Walnut Creek is particularly in need of some occupation.

The positive news is the announcement of new firms in our midst. It is always cause for celebration when lawyers get together to form a new venture among themselves. Remember the excitement and anticipation?

George Cabot, formerly of Morgan Miller Blair (MMB) formed a new boutique firm entitled PremierCounsel, LLP. Greg Allio and Steve Gasser have joined George as partners. The principal office will be in San Francisco, with an “Auxiliary” office in Lafayette. The new firm will focus on corporate, securities, taxation and M&A transactions.

Another important MMB spin-off is Brown, Church & Gee LLP, with offices in Walnut Creek and San Jose. Managing Partner Mike Brown, Terry Church, Audrey Gee and Katherine Wenger make up that new firm. I am told there will be another member soon. So, stay tuned.

Another new firm has started in our legal community, and it is not a MMB spin-off. Steele George Schofield & Ramos, LLP. Geoffrey Steele, Virginia George, Kathryn Schofield and Alan Ramos make up that new marriage, with a wide-ranging practice.

Joshua Cohen, formerly of (you guessed it) MMB has joined Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP. Pattie Curtin and Todd Williams also joined that firm a few months ago. They too were former MMB partners.

Hey, I am not picking on MMB. Law firms, like big families, beget other firms and sometimes simply pass away. That is how life works. It is a real testament to that firm to see so many accomplished lawyers landing on their feet.

My good friend and former Roper’s colleague Paul Herbert has joined Robert J. Frassetto to form Frassetto & Herbert LLP. Their new office is located in Oakland. Paul also spent some time working for our own Justice Mark Simons at the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco. By the way, anyone notice all those new firms are LLPs? I better call Mark Ericsson about that. Our firm is an APC. Button shoes perhaps?

Speaking of Mark Ericsson, he has been named a JFK Alumni of the Year, and a Super Lawyer. Congratulations Mark!

Speaking of awards, The Honorable Maria P. Rivera has earned the 2011 Aranda Access to Justice Award. The Aranda Award honors a trial judge or Appellate justice whose activities demonstrate a long term commitment to improving access to justice. Hard to believe she has been gone from our local bench and on the State Court of Appeal for almost ten years. Where do those years go?

I even saw my own name come up in a Daily Journal profile of Justice Robert Dossee. He is now with JAMS, and, it seems. I said some nice things about him. All true, I might add.

So, a number of you have asked, ‘Whatever happened to Civil Jury Verdicts?’ Well, glad you asked. Simply read on. Just forgive me if some of the reports didn’t actually involve a jury. But at this point, beggars can’t be choosers.

Scott Jenny reported Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District v. Lewis Steven Case. (Yes, Case, not case.) The Napa County Superior Court Case No. 26-50766 was tried before the Honorable Francisca Tisher. Scott Jenny and Richard Jenny of Martinez represented the property owner Defendant Case. Ethan Friedman of Walnut Creek represented the District. The one week jury trial involved the partial taking of the property owner’s residential property. The District valued the property at $215,802. The appraiser for Mr. Case valued the property at $533,000. The jury award was $476,586. Case offered to settle before trial for $410,000.

Neil McGowan v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., et al was tried in Alameda County Superior Court. Case No. RG07-360427 was tried before the Honorable Ronni B. MacLaren. Glenn H. Wechsler of Walnut Creek represented Defendant. Donald Drummond of San Francisco represented the Plaintiffs. In a complicated matter involving a landslide on Plaintiff’s property, delinquent property taxes, loan defaults et al, the Plaintiffs demanded well into six figures before trial. The Court trial involved Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory relief in the First cause of Action. The Court ruled in favor of defendant. The Tentative Decision was something like sixteen pages long. Of course, they don’t pay me by the word, so I have abbreviated the report.

Robert Mitchell of Spellman & Mitchell, Walnut Creek, reported a Family Law case in which his client prevailed and the attorney’s fees awarded to his client was $116,506.95, which may be one of the bigger fee awards in our County in a dissolution action. But, I will leave it to Bob to tell you all the details. Give him a call if you like. It sounds like a very impressive award.

Keep those cards and letters coming, and please write to me about those civil verdicts/settlements of any kind:


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