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 is that I am told I have a sympathizer within the system and that we will soon resume receipt of our monthly statistics.

Let’s start our Bar Soap discussion with the topic of civility. Our legal profession is often mentioned in a negative light. I am sure you all have stories of meeting someone, mentioning you are a lawyer, only to be barraged with bad lawyer jokes. Okay, admittedly, there are some good lawyer jokes, but let’s stay on track. Why is it we are seen in such a negative light? I meet with people on a daily basis who have legal issues requiring a legal professional to help them sort it out. I often mention we are a nation of laws. We have a very well-defined system of laws and many attorneys, judges and support staff to ensure the system operates fairly, efficiently and justly. In most cases the proper result is reached. In most jury trials, the jury actually gets it right. Getting back to the question, the answer is often as simple as the lawyer in a particular case acted like a jerk. It is rarely helpful and in most cases hurtful to the client for the lawyer to act like a jerk. I was taught to respect the opposition even if you disagree with an attorney’s position on a particular issue.

One often hears the lament: “There are too many lawyers.” My response is always: “There are not too many good lawyers.” Keep your client’s interests in mind at all times, and win, lose or draw, accept the result. There may be a time when you have to lick your wounds and move on. And maybe check your malpractice coverage.

I very much enjoyed the February issue mention of new laws. Speaking of laws, anyone notice the huge number of motorists focusing on their mobile devices? I thought there was a law against that. Come to think of it, there is. I hear the traffic commissioners have no shortage of such cases on a daily basis in their respective courtrooms. Traffic accidents and traffic deaths are on the rise and distracted driving is a big cause. Are we becoming a nation of people who obey laws we agree with but disobey laws that are inconvenient or unpopular? I am not sure of the answer. But I think it bears mentioning and perhaps a discussion. Think speeding, cell phone use, jay walking, running red lights, and on a less dangerous front but an annoying lapse, littering.

I do know it has been too long between Bar Soap columns. I mentioned the MCLE Spectacular was coming up in my last column and Yikes, it has been several months since the event. At any rate it was “Spectacular.” The most attendees ever. The same goes for our Bar holiday party and the Annual CCCBA Installation Lunch. Congratulations to the new President James Wu. Goodness, I thought Phil Andersen just started and he is already our past president.

The annual High School Mock Trial competition has already come and gone. It is a very worthwhile event. I volunteer each year to help, along with a significant number of our regular judges, retired judges and local attorneys. The kids work very hard preparing, and I must say, the performances are incredible.

Lots of people are on the move, either to new adventures or on the rise within their own firms and organizations. I already mentioned our new 2018 Bar President James Wu, but again congratulations. A big congratulations to Virginia George who is now the Honorable Virginia George, Judge of the Contra Costa Superior Court. Virginia and I worked together in the DA’s Office a few years back, and my mother was the teacher of a number of Georges at Alhambra High School, I think including Virginia.

I saw a mention of Nick Casper on a social media site. Turns out Stan Casper is slowing down and his son Nick is taking on the management of the firm. Although one would not think anyone at the Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook firm is slowing down, witness the nice ad for the firm on the back page of our 2017-2018 Bar Directory. Don’t even have to change the name of the firm. Congratulations Nick on your management role. Of course, be careful what you wish for. I often think I am a practicing lawyer, but probably should say I am a law firm manager who occasionally has time for the actual practice of law.

As one might expect with a new DA, lots of retirements and promotions at my old place of employment. Keep an eye out as there is a race for DA.

I noticed my friend Delia Isvoranu is a partner at Duane Morris LLP. Nice move Delia. My friend Dominique Yancey is a Deputy DA, the President of the 100 Club and now a Fire Commissioner with San Ramon Fire. I particularly am impressed with the Fire Commissioner gig, as I am a commissioner with ConFire. Of course we have more engines and trucks over at ConFire, so there Dominique!

Sad to hear of the passing of The Honorable Sam Mesnick (Ret.). Judge Mesnick was on the bench in Richmond during my days as a Deputy DA. He presided over a number of my preliminary examinations. A gentleman every time I appeared in his courtroom.

Although I never appeared opposite him, I often saw attorney Paul Bonnar in the courthouse over the years. Paul recently passed away in Palm Desert. His involvement in community and legal organizations was extraordinary. Sad to learn of his passing and always ironic we only learn of his incredible history in an obituary.

Edmund Regalia was a legend in the legal community. A founding member of Miller Star Regalia, Ed recently passed away in Walnut Creek. Like Paul Bonnar, you have to read Ed’s obituary to get a sense of his incredible contributions to the legal community, as well as his zest for life.

And last but not least, we note the passing of Keith Howard. Keith was an accomplished attorney and a volunteer in many community organizations. Again, I cannot do justice to the man in this little column. Read his obituary to get a sense of the incredible man.

Keep those cards and letters coming and I will try to get a Bar Soap column out for you on a more regular basis.


Matthew P. Guichard is a nationally recognized trial attorney and senior partner and founder of Guichard, Teng & Portello with offices in Walnut Creek, Davis, San Francisco and Willows California. Mr. Guichard specializes in general civil litigation, commercial litigation, general trial work, business transaction and alternative dispute resolution. He is the author of two columns for the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine: Civil Jury Verdicts and Bar Soap.

Posted in: Bar Soap, Community Outreach