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. I have gotten many questions from readers inquiring as to the identity of the official coroner in Contra Costa. Sorry I failed to mention it in the article. As in most counties in California, the coroner is also the sheriff. So our Sheriff Coroner is David Livingston. Sheriff Livingston is also a licensed attorney in the state of California and a member of the Contra Costa County Bar Association.

It always warms my heart to report on prestigious awards earned by local Contra Costa attorneys. Our own Andy Schwartz recently became a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in America. For trial lawyers, it is as prestigious an honor as one can get. His induction ceremony took place in Key Biscayne, Florida. Rumor has it that he had to purchase a tuxedo for the event. Congratulations, Andy, on the very high honor.

And speaking of awards, a number of you have reported being honored as “Super Lawyers.” In fact, Harvey Sohnen reported that he is the only Super Lawyer practicing employment law between the Caldecott Tunnel and the Lafayette border. And seriously, it is an honor to be named a Super Lawyer, so please let me know and I will mention it. Natasha S. Chee was selected for “Rising Stars for Super Lawyers.” She is on the board of our Barristers Section.

Many local lawyers are on the move. I missed the Law Practice Management Series program entitled, “Look Before You Leap in Changing Law Firms,” but I am interested to hear if it had any effect on the moves.

Matthew Talbot is now at the Law Offices of Matthew B. Talbot. Another one of my former Ropers Majeski colleagues, Adrian Driscoll, is now at Murphy Pearson. Jeffrey T. Thayer recently made partner at DeHay & Elliston, LLP, in Oakland. Jeff is on the board of our Barristers Section. James Wu and Claudia Castillo have teamed up to form Wu Castillo, PC, specializing in employment law. Gina Boer has become a partner at Haapala, Thompson & Abern, LLP.

Robert M. Slattery has changed the direction of his legal career. After 40 years of trial work, he is now going to focus on his own practice of mediation, specializing in professional negligence cases. Robin Pearson was just elected as Vice Chair of the State Bar Council on Access & Fairness. Guichard, Teng & Portello is planning a move back to Walnut Creek by the end of June. I think the firm will be called Guichard, Teng, Portello & Portillo; keep a look out.

And seemingly all too often, I report on the loss of members of the CCCBA. Tom Henze, a former Walnut Creek/Danville attorney and former member of our local bar passed away in Oregon, where he had retired. Dick Grossman, a local attorney and a former Walnut Creek police officer, passed away last December.

And an attorney a little closer to me, Forrest Plant, a longtime fixture in the Sacramento legal community at Diepenbrock, Wulff, Plant & Hannegan, and a former president of the California State Bar Association, passed away recently. His father was the first city attorney for Davis, having put together the articles of incorporation for that city. My middle name is Plant, just to let you know the connection.

And once again, I would like to mention the Contra Costa County Mock Trial Competition. The yearly event took place a couple of months ago. The high school teams take over the Bray Courthouse for a number of evenings during the week. It’s amazing to see the skill and intensity of the teams.

I was honored to act as a judge for the competition. I was also very happy to see the large number of volunteers from the legal community and the local bench who participated as judges, mentors and evaluators. Volunteer next year if you can.

I am in the process of preparing another “Civil Jury Verdicts” column. As you have probably noticed, those columns have become few and far between. I am simply not getting the reports as I once did. Believe it or not, when I first began writing that column, it came out every month. I just received enough reports to make it on its own. Occasionally, as you may have noticed, I include jury verdicts in this Bar Soap column.

And speaking of trials, I tried a case in Santa Clara County, representing business clients who were born and raised in China. One of my clients, Rebecca Li-Huang, wrote a book about the experience, and it just was named as an honorable mention at the San Francisco Book Festival. The book is entitled “Green Apple Red Book: A Trial and Errors.” It is an interesting and fun read, but I must say, I do not recall all the excerpts in which I am mentioned.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a topic which pains many of us who were former deputies as well as the current members of the local District Attorney’s Office. I have followed the case in the papers and occasionally through PACER in the U.S. District Court. The Michael Gressett v. Contra Costa County, et al case now appears to be at an end. Summary judgment was granted in its entirety. It is a sad saga for all parties.


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