Bar Soap – March 2014

Bar Soap - a column by Matt Guichard

Bar Soap – a column by Matt Guichard

Always lots to talk about, so where to start? We continue to be disappointed with the meager reporting of civil jury verdicts. I often receive news of an interesting verdict, then reach out to the lawyers for details. More often than not, the lawyers are outside of the county and have no interest in reporting a local verdict.

If you know of a local verdict, or an interesting settlement, please let me know. It really is of great interest to the readers. More about local verdicts later in this article.

It once was that the biggest turnout of local lawyers at an event was either the annual Bar Association Party or the annual Zandonella Holiday Party. The Bar Association’s party was always at a local hotel and Zandonella’s party at the old Concord Elks Lodge.

Now, I must say the Bar Association’s MCLE Spectacular takes the honors. What a wonderful event! It’s great to see all the faces and catch up with many of our local lawyers. The event is packed and the sessions are interesting, informative and the credits a must. I particularly enjoyed the luncheon presentation by Professor Erwin Chemerinsky. He discussed leading decisions of the United States Supreme Court for an hour without notes, and never missed a beat.

Another event with a very nice turnout of local attorneys and judges was the 2013 Volunteer Appreciation event at the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez. The brochure listed about 420 volunteers, and a good number of them attended. We all got a nice volunteer button and a certificate suitable for framing.

Although it was not a local event, I did attend the annual Mission Language and Vocational School Awards Dinner in San Francisco. Many of our local attorneys attended. I sat at a table sponsored by Daniel A. Flores. Daniel is a local Contra Costa attorney with an office in San Francisco.

I sat next to San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and had a very interesting discussion. Not name-dropping with this information, just items of interest.

And the final event to be mentioned was the hearing on the “Pension spiking” issue before Judge David Flinn. The courtroom was packed with interested parties. And speaking of Judge Flinn, he has retired. Last day in court appeared to be Friday January 17, 2014. Now the only court you will see him on is the tennis court. Congratulations and good for him, however, we are losing a very talented judge.

Sad to see another obituary for one of our long-time members of the local legal community. James (Jim) Disney passed away in December 2013. I met Jim when I first started in the mid-1980s as a Deputy DA. He was defending DUI misdemeanors, and as I recall, we had a couple of jury trials in Walnut Creek. It took the obituary to learn about the real Jim Disney. Take a look at the obituary and learn about an interesting life.

Our “People on the Move” section starts with John Cope, who has moved from the District Attorney’s Office to the Contra Costa Superior Court Bench. A big loss for the DA, but a nice gain for our local bench.

Christina P. Ortega joined Youngman & Ericsson as an associate. As you might expect, she has an LL.M. in taxation.

Dennis Cashman, former San Francisco Police Officer, former Marin County Deputy DA, former San Francisco Assistant District Attorney and husband of Dara Cashman, retired Contra Costa Deputy DA, has moved his offices to 3223 Webster Street in San Francisco.

There’s a very nice article in the September 2013 Plaintiff magazine about our own Kelly Balamuth.

My friend Shawn Tolliver was named managing director of the Lewis Brisbois office in San Francisco. Put on your vest and helmet, Shawn, I remember trying to manage that position at Ropers Majeski in Sacramento. “So you want me to manage the office, manage a case load, ensure everyone is up on billable hours, collect accounts payable, get the PR rolling and put out the fires?”

Local Attorney Beth W. Mora advised that several members of the CCCBA were listed in a recent edition of the San Francisco Magazine “Power Issue” in the Super Lawyers Top Women Attorneys section. Take a look online to see who was honored.

Of late, I have been hearing of some of our local firms opening outposts in the “Big Cities” of San Francisco and Los Angeles. On a much more modest scale, Guichard Teng Portello and Portillo is opening an office in Willows, California. In case you have never heard of it, Willows is the county seat for Glen County, California.

And now back to local jury verdicts. I did hear of three recent verdicts. And I do know that cases are getting out to trial. I had to do a bit of research on my own to get the facts for a minimal report on each one of the three
rumored cases. As an aside, I have observed since the economic downturn, that jury verdicts statewide seem to be going down in value. Contra Costa certainly is not known for lots of large seven-figure verdicts. However, two recent Contra Costa verdicts both surpassed seven figures.

Doublevision v. Commercial Escrow Services, Case No. C08-02958, was tried before the Honorable Judy Craddick. Ryan Lapine of Beverly Hills represented plaintiff and Robert Smith of San Francisco represented defendant. I understand the case was a “fraud” case, but I do not have the case facts. The verdict was in excess of a million dollars.

Valley Commercial Contractors v. Windsor et al, Case No. C08-02958, was also tried before the Honorable Judy Craddick. William Kronenberg and Steven Yuen of Oakland represented plaintiff. Barry MacNaughton and Eric W. Cheung of Beverly Hills represented defendant(s). Factually, the case appeared to me to be a construction defect matter. Again, no report on the actual case facts. At any rate, the verdict in that matter was in excess of $1.5 million.

Finally, I just heard of a verdict in Judge Laurel Brady’s department and will have to get the case name, number and facts for the next issue. However, the case was a slip and fall, I am told. Pre-trial offer was $65,000. Causation and liability were disputed. During trial, the offer was increased to $200,000. Plaintiff did not take that offer. The jury returned with a defense verdict. Ouch! I have reported on a lot of verdicts over the years. That same story has been heard over and over. My advice: Take the money and run.

Keep those cards and letters coming, and please write to me about those civil verdicts/settlements of any kind. You can reach me at

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