March 30, 2012

Preparing Effective, Convincing Visuals For Trial

Nowhere is the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” more true than in the courtroom. By Rick Kraemer Every attorney would agree that early and thorough preparation is essential to the success of a case. Many attorneys, however, fail to realize that proper preparation is also critical when it comes to developing visual aids for trial. Early visual aids planning will enhance your oral presentation and go a long way in creating an effective and convincing presentation before a judge or jury. When is the best time to begin developing visuals? As soon as you know that your case is headed for arbitration or trial. Set aside an appropriate amount of time to discuss your case with a graphics consultant who can then help you devise a graphics strategy that will best help convince a judge or jury to your interpretation of the facts. While attorneys often feel comfortable absorbing information by wading through reams of written documents, members of the general public do not. More and more, they are used to and expect to receive information visually. Television news clips and instant access to graphically enhanced information over the Internet means jurors have less patience and […]
June 18, 2012

News Item: Latest Court Cuts Announced

Los Angeles Superior Court (LASC) Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon announced June 15 that 431 court employees will be adversely affected as reductions in state financial support for the California judicial branch force additional cuts in the  budget by $30 million. These actions will affect nearly 1 of every 10 employees of LASC, the largest trial court in the nation. “This is the unfortunate human impact of the need to reduce our spending by $30 million,” Edmon said. “We are laying off people who are committed to serving the public. It is a terrible loss both to these dedicated employees and to the public.” The latest cuts are part of an ongoing series of reductions that began in April of 2010 and that will continue. The reductions made to date have saved a reported $70 million. The current actions will save another $30 million. Despite these cuts, the court faces future additional shortfalls as more reductions in state support for the trial courts are proposed for the Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget. As of this writing, the state budget is not yet finished, but the Governor’s May Revision proposes to reduce judicial branch funding by another $544 million, and to eliminate […]
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 […]
August 8, 2013

Second In A Series: An Ounce Of Prevention — Computer Systems, Components, And Software

With the Consumer Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles’ (CAALA) annual Las Vegas Convention arriving August 29, we’re serializing a feature article on trial presentation that appeared in the May 2013 issue of CAALA’s Advocate Magazine. Last week, Rick started off the series by recalling a recent exclusive visit to the world-famous Jet Propulsion Lab and how a conversation with one of the fastest men on the planet, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Full Throttle Drag Racer Dave Grubnic, led Rick to draw comparisons between his professional experience and the racing champion’s. This week he bullet points the key issues regarding computer systems, components, and software: • A poorly chosen system can be monstrously incapable of performing the tasks for which it is intended. Computer processor technology has developed rapidly and anything older than three years may not process large graphic, video or trial database files adequately. • While you do not need to buy the latest software as soon as it hits the market, your software should be no more than two versions behind. • Make sure you have adequate file storage space on your server, along with routine backup systems and controls in place to protect the integrity and […]
August 20, 2013

Fourth In A Series: An Ounce Of Prevention — Video

Previously: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 With the Consumer Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles’ (CAALA) annual Las Vegas Convention arriving August 29, we’re serializing a feature article on trial presentation that appeared in the May 2013 issue of CAALA’s Advocate Magazine. Last week, Rick looked at the technology and tactics that will put less error in your trial. This week he explores the power of video and how it is much more than just lights, camera, and action: Videos can be powerful persuaders when used for settlement or trial, such as in wrongful death and personal injury matters.  Whether a video is presented to corporate mediators, opposing counsel, an insurance adjuster or jury, a well-made video places the decision-makers directly inside of your client’s condition. When it comes down to the final decision, it is the facts of the case that will determine its outcome.  But the added depth and dimension provided by an insightful video presentation can facilitate a clearer and quicker understanding of the issues and experiences, and often result in more favorable outcomes. However, there are some risks involved if you decide to make a video yourself instead of hiring a professional video producer.  […]
August 22, 2013

Last In A Series: An Ounce Of Prevention — Graphics

Previously: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 With the Consumer Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles’ (CAALA) annual Las Vegas Convention arriving August 29, we’re serializing a feature article on trial presentation that appeared in the May 2013 issue of CAALA’s Advocate Magazine. Earlier this week, Rick looked at the power of video as a presentation tool and how it is much more than just lights, camera, and action. In the final installment of the series, he wraps things up by giving you the big picture on graphics: Graphics are meant to supplement your arguments, not replace them. Or to put it another way, your exhibits should support your positions, not serve as advocates in and of themselves.  Graphics are used to dissect complex material into palatable bits of visual information for the jurors. When graphics of any kind are prepared properly using the right emphasis, flow, and color psychology, they will achieve these objectives.  Here are ways to create graphics that simplify, rather than convolute your arguments. • Use visual aids We have become a visual society. Jurors, like the rest of us, process the information they receive primarily through sight. People retain only 30% […]