Bar Soap

Here we are starting another new year. Seems as though we just started 2016 and here we are in 2017. I know, I know, many of you just want to put 2016 behind you. But many good things happened in our wonderful Contra Costa County legal community in 2016.

If it is January I am preparing for trial. Not sure how that always seems to happen, but once more I spent the vacation time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, preparing for a jury trial. At least this year it is in Contra Costa Superior Court. That makes it a little less stressful. Although I must say, trials have become much more stressful in the past few years. Anyone disagree?

I keep mentioning the MCLE Spectacular and indeed it was once again spectacular. The attendance at the event is truly amazing and it is always the time to catch up with old friends and acquaintances, as well as to earn those required credits. You better get there early as the main hall completely fills up for the morning breakfast session. As an aside, it was nice to see so many retired attorneys who still keep up with the required continuing legal education requirements. So, is one really retired from the practice of law if one keeps the license current? Not sure what I will do when that day comes. And you?

The Contra Costa Bar Association Holiday party was a hit, as was the Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court holiday party. Attending the local Bar party is a great way to get to know the members of the Bar
Board, and to get to know the hard working staff members of the Bar. Those are the folks who make it all run so smoothly. I highly recommend membership in the local Inn of Court. I have been in it from day
one and it has been a wonderful experience; and one can earn legal education credits at each meeting, most of which are the harder to get specialty credits like ethics. For years we had six meetings a year. Now we have eight. Between the MCLE Spectacular each year and the Inn of Court meetings, you can get all your required continuing education credits.

And speaking of holiday parties. I attended the Emison Hullverson holiday party in San Francisco. I think every plaintiff’s counsel in the City attended. I was all dressed up. I think when you really make it as a
successful personal injury lawyer, you no longer have to dress up for holiday parties. I think I counted two other attorneys with neck ties. Hope springs eternal.

The 2017 Contra Costa Superior Court Judicial assignments came out awhile back. Lots of changes. Jill Fannin is the new Presiding Judge. Barry Baskin is the Assistant Presiding Judge. That means in two years Barry Baskin will be the PJ. In my civil world, Steven Austin is taking Jill Fannin’s spot and all else in civil remains the same.

Still not getting the flow of jury trial results I need for a “Civil Jury Verdicts” column, so I will report a couple of trials in this “Bar Soap.” Steve Knuppel reported a trial he had in Alameda County Superior Court. DB Lin Construction v. Wang, Case No. HG15768198 was tried before the Honorable Robert McGuiness. Factually the case involved a home renovation gone bad. Steve Knuppel represented the homeowner defending a claim for payment and prosecuting a cross complaint for defective workmanship. Nancy Weng and Palani Rathinasamy served as co-counsel with Steve. Alexander Chen of Irvine represented the contractor. The jury returned a verdict of $124,410 in favor of the homeowner for breach of contract and negligence. The usual post-trial motions are pending.

Banta et al v. City of Walnut Creek et al was tried in the United States District Court, Northern District, San Francisco before the Honorable Charles R. Breyer. Case No. 3:13-CV-00342-CRB. Plaintiffs were represented by Larry Peluso of Topanga, Anthony Luti of Hollywood and Dennis Wilson of Burbank. Noah G. Blechman and Amy S. Rothman of the McNamara firm of Walnut Creek, represented the defendant City and police officers. Anthony Banta was shot and killed by Walnut Creek police officers after a confrontation. The police had been called to an apartment in Walnut Creek by Banta’s roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend. When the police arrived, they were confronted by Banta who was holding a large knife. Banta jumped down a staircase towards the officers and the police fired. Plaintiffs demanded $15 million in their complaint. The jury returned a defense verdict. As an aside, I was the Hearing Officer in the Coroner’s Inquest related to that Banta death.

I think I made a bit of fun last column with the plethora of organizations and awards given out to lawyers. Guess what folks? I was recently selected as a 2017 member of “Lawyers of Distinction.” Can you top that? Just kidding. I know there are many such awards. I just had not heard of “Lawyers of Distinction.” I think I get a customized plaque, among other things.

And finally, speaking of new organizations, I joined the Walnut Creek C.E.R.T. recently. That is the Community Emergency Response Team. Went through the training program and several advanced classes in communications and medical treatment. Believe it or not I actually got my HAM radio license and an actual radio. All interesting and fun. Pleased to join a number of citizens helping the community in the event of a disaster. Also surprised and pleased to see a number of attorneys already involved in the C.E.R.T. program.

As many of you know, I am a member of the State Bar Mandatory Fee Arbitration Panel. Several times a year I arbitrate fee disputes between clients and counsel. Nice to know someone reads my Bar Soap columns, as Attorney Lorraine M. Walsh advised she saw the mention of my role as a fee arbitrator and she is also on the panel. In fact, she is a member of the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee and currently serves as the Vice Chair. Recently Lorraine wrote an article on the subject for the Daily Journal, with a MCLE test included. Now I know whom to call when I have a question about fee arbitrations and legal malpractice issues.

Any of you inundated with proposals for marketing your practice through social media? I am swamped with such proposals. I must say in the past we have signed up for programs which purportedly get high value cases to our firm “And only to our firm.” But I must say we have never seen a benefit by way of real cases. I recently attended a seminar for marketing our practice areas. Sounds like the same pitch I hear from everyone. I would like to know, does anyone have a story to tell in which they have had great success getting case referrals from a social media marketing source? Let me know. And I am not asking for that source. Just want to know if it really works.

That’s enough for now. Please keep those cards and letters coming. Actually email or text please.

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