Bar Soap – October 2013

Bar Soap - a column by Matt Guichard

Bar Soap – a column by Matt Guichard

Gossip, speculation, rumor, innuendo and real stories are often what best describes my attempts to put together a Bar Soap column and in fact a Civil Jury Verdicts column. I say that of Civil Jury Verdicts because I have to pull teeth to get reports and even then I wonder if gossip, speculation, rumor and innuendo play a role in those reports. At any rate, I do have some jury verdicts (see next month’s issue) as well as some Court Trial results. Maybe even some interesting settlements. Stay tuned.

Edward Simone

We lost a very good person and a very fine lawyer in Edward Simone back in July of this year. I cannot think of a man who enjoyed life as much as Ed, and who was such an enjoyable and interesting man. He gave of himself, and unlike many attorneys, he seemed to enjoy what he did. Although with Ed, I think he practiced law so that he could afford to enjoy life. And he did. Ed died in a paragliding accident at the young age of 53. Dave Larkin introduced me to Ed many years back when we went on a scuba diving trip to Fiji. He had borrowed some ancient breathing equipment and still managed to stay down longer than anyone else on all the dives. Ed will be sorely missed both personally and in our profession.

I know I have mentioned it several times in the past, but I will repeat: It is a shame that we must go to a funeral or memorial service to really learn about a person. Ed was born in Naples, Italy, played in the Little League World Series as a kid, and started out practicing law as a public defender in Santa Cruz. All wonderful facts, and all facts I learned at his memorial service.

Budget issues

Goodness, what a tremendous impact we are experiencing with all the cuts to state court budgets: Closing courthouses, laying off staff, curtailing business hours, getting rid of commissioners and court reporters, and setting trials way off in the future. I hear the complaints from everyone. No wonder I cannot get any reports on jury verdicts. Our firm’s practice is statewide, and we see it everywhere. Little incentive to resolve cases early if there is no pressure with pending trial dates. I do know judges are working very hard to adhere to “fast track” rules, but goodness, they are hamstrung in that endeavor.

Long Live The Torres!

Speaking of local courts, court administration and horrendous budgets, the Torres must be gluttons for punishment. Kiri was the top executive in Santa Clara and Ken was here in Contra Costa. Ken then retired and Kiri took over here. She had to preside over the real budget mess. Now she has retired and guess who has taken her place? Ken—at least for now. Maybe he didn’t have enough turmoil in his life. Good luck Ken on keeping our courts and staff running, and good luck Kiri in retirement. Bet they still talk about things over dinner.

Movers and Shakers

On the people-moving-around front, it has been quiet. Many people are staying put for the time being. A former colleague of mine at Ropers Majeski, Paul Herbert, was just appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court Bench. Congratulations Paul! We have a big Ropers reunion planned in November. James Lassart, also recently of Ropers Majeski, just joined Murphy Pearson as senior trial counsel. Congratulations Jim. But all is not lost at Ropers. Just saw that Brock Lyle was named a partner and will work in the Redwood City office. Stacy Tucker was named a partner at Ropers and will serve in the Redwood City office and the Seattle office. They didn’t have a Seattle office when I was there; I might have stayed. I lived in Bellevue, Washington, and loved it. Matthew Zumstein was also named a partner in the Ropers Redwood City office. My daughter Michelle just became a deputy sheriff in Alameda County. I had the privilege of pinning her badge at her academy graduation. She gave the class graduation speech as well. Yes, I am proud.

Social Media

I must say the best way for keeping in touch with colleagues in our legal profession is by way of Linkedin. But be careful when you push the endorsements button. I have been endorsed for all kinds of practice areas I know nothing about.

Super Lawyers

We can now mention all those who made it to the list of 2013 Super Lawyers. Let me know if you would like me to mention your name. I know many of you readers made the prestigious list. It is an honor, as it reflects the opinions of those we work with and against.

Inside Jury Duty

I had an interesting experience recently. I was called to jury duty and was assigned to a panel for an estimated seven-week murder trial. I actually got in the box and lasted three full days before a peremptory sent me packing. Learned a lot. Everyone’s style is different, but one can always learn a thing or two by watching and listening to another attorney conduct voir dire. It is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging aspects of a trial, and one of the most important.

The New Normal

By all accounts, our system of volunteer discovery referees, commissioners and settlement mentors is off to a good start. Should be a huge benefit to our local courts and a big relief to the PJ and court administrators. But, still trying to get the hang of ordering a court reporter for hearings and trials. “Did you arrange for a reporter?” “No, did you?” “No.” “Your honor can we pass this matter, we need to find a court reporter?”

Job Opportunities?

I’m still hearing of many layoffs in our profession. I am regularly contacted by some very experienced attorneys who are beating the streets and looking for work and surprised to see many from what otherwise appear to be very large and/or successful firms. Let me know if you are looking to hire, as I have many good candidates to refer to you.

Inns of Court

And finally, the Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court has started another year. It is a wonderful organization. We meet just six times a year, so not particularly taxing for busy schedules, and well worth the effort. Our wonderful President Scott Reep would love to hear from you if you would like to get on the list.

Please keep those cards and letters coming. Better yet, contact me by email with all your reports and rumors:

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