March 12, 2013

California Chief Justice Laments Closures

In the annual State of the Judiciary address Monday, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (pictured at right) decried the decimation of funding for state courts and taught lawmakers a lesson in legal history, the Los Angeles Times is reporting today. Cantil-Sakauye offered the landmark “right to counsel” 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright. Clarence Gideon was arrested and charged in Florida with breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor, a felony in that state. He was too poor to hire a lawyer, and his request for counsel to be appointed was denied because under Florida law, the only time the court can appoint counsel to represent a defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense. Forced to represent himself he was found guilty, and sentenced to five years in prison. His subsequent appeal to the Florida supreme court was denied. From his cell, making use of the prison library and writing in pencil on prison stationery, Gideon appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that he had been denied counsel and, therefore, his Sixth Amendment rights, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, had been violated. The Supreme Court held that the right […]
April 9, 2013

Zerby v. City of Long Beach: Family Of Man Killed By Police Awarded $6.5 Million

An emotional Mark Zerby, the father of 35-year-old Douglas Zerby who was shot and killed by Long Beach Police officers on December 12, 2010, told reporters that he felt vindicated with the unanimous decision the Federal District Court jury reached April 5. In it, the Zerby family was awarded $6.5 million and the two Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officers involved in the shooting were found negligent and liable in the death of his son. Mark Zerby sued the City of Long Beach and LBPD officers Victor Ortiz and Jeffrey Shurtleff on civil rights violations claiming that the officers used excessive force when they shot and killed his son. On the day Douglas Zerby died, he had reportedly been waiting for a friend in the 5300 block of East Ocean Boulevard at about 4:30 p.m. when police received a 911 call of a man with a gun. Arriving on scene, the responding officers Ortiz and Shurtleff spent a reported eight minutes observing Zerby covertly believing he was under the influence of alcohol and holding a gun. What Zerby was holding was a disconnected water hose nozzle, when he was shot eight times by the two officers bearing a handgun and […]
April 16, 2013

Nordella v. Anthem Blue Cross: Doctor Wins Suit Against Healthcare Insurer

In a rare case, a Los Angeles jury has awarded $3.8 million to Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, a primary care physician for 22 years, and an ardent patient advocate. Calling it a “warning to health plans,” Thomson Reuters reports that the verdict last week could encourage future legal challenges by physicians against health insurance companies. “This verdict sends a message to doctors that they have a voice. They can stand up and fight back against insurers,” said Nordella’s lawyer, Theresa Barta, principal at the Law Offices of Theresa Barta in Newport Beach. “This is a huge win, not only for my client, but for all physicians.” Nordella, the medical director of Porter Ranch Quality Care in the San Fernando Valley, sued Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 after the health insurance company turned down his application to join its preferred provider network. In rejecting his application, the largest for-profit health insurer in California said it had no need for another general practitioner in its network. Nordella claimed that Anthem Blue Cross unlawfully excluded him because he advocates for patient care. Graphic: Timeline of Dr. Nordella’s Career (click the image for a larger version). On April 10, after a six-week trial, the jury […]
May 7, 2013

Whittier Law School Offers Practice Courtroom For Real Trials

With severe budget reductions drastically affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of California’s court system, one area law school is combating the cutbacks by offering its new $2-million practice courtroom on campus as an official legal venue. Costa Mesa’s Whittier Law School has announced it will host public court proceedings, including trials and arbitration hearings in its recently completed Kiesel Advocacy Center, a 4,400-square-foot courtroom (pictured at right) that contains a 134-seat spectator gallery, a jury deliberation room, and judge’s chamber. The state-of-the-art facility, which opened last month is named after Whittier graduate Paul Kiesel, senior partner with Kiesel + Larson LLP, who serves as co-chair of the Open Courts Coalition a bipartisan group of lawyers actively lobbying Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature to reverse the cuts made to the state’s courts. “In the last five years, the courts’ budget has been cut by $1 billion,” Kiesel, told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the cutbacks have resulted in a backlog of 20,000 personal-injury cases in Los Angeles County alone. Calling it “uncharted territory,” Kiesel said he hopes to ease the stress on the financially burdened court system by hosting public proceedings at the private school. “It should quite frankly be […]