Across the Bar

Across the Bar is a publication of the San Joaquin County Bar Association, providing local legal news, educational content, and information about Bar Association events.

The Uber-Important Question: Independent
Contractor or Employee?

The California State Labor Commissioner's Office recently issued a ruling that is likely to be an Uber-headache for the industry's employers (while possibly providing a *Lyft* to the industry's drivers). What industry is that? It depends whom you ask. On the one hand, companies like Uber say they are a software company—the developer of a popular app that matches people who need transportation with drivers who are available to give rides. But if you ask some of the drivers, like Barbara Ann Berwi...

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Civility in Lawyers' Writing

A few years ago, American Bar Association President Stephen N. Zack decried the legal profession's "continuing slide into the gutter of incivility."1 An ABA resolution "affirm[ed] the principle of civility as a foundation for democracy and the rule of law, and urge[d] lawyers to set a high standard for civil discourse."2 The ABA initiative echoes federal and state courts that call civility "a linchpin of our legal system,"3 a "bedrock principle,"4 and "a hallmark of professionalism."5 Justice An...

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SJC Court Reporters to Provide All Attorney Transcripts Electronically -
Email Addresses Needed

San Joaquin County's official court reporters have partnered with YesLaw Online http://www.yeslaw.net/ to upload their transcripts to YesLaw Online's secure transcript depository. Beginning February 1, 2016, attorneys will be notified by the reporter via email that their transcripts have been uploaded and are available for download. The attorney, or his or her staff, can then log onto the site, using his or her credentials, which will be provided the first time the attorney is notified of an upl...

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New Requirements for Demurrers
Effective January 1, 2016

Beginning January 1, 2016, parties will be required to meet and confer prior to filing a demurrer due to the recent passing of Senate Bill 383. The bill enacts a new section of the Code of Civil Procedure, section 430.41, and amends section 472. The main feature of the new law is a requirement that, at least five (5) days before a responsive pleading is due, the parties meet and confer to see if an agreement can be reached that would avoid the need for a demurrer. During the meet-and-confer proc...

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California's New Estate Planning Tool:
The Revocable Transfer on Death (TOD) Deed

Estate planning attorneys likely have encountered the following scenario: a single client contacts you to set up an estate plan. He wants to ensure that his main asset—his personal residence—will pass to his children upon death without the need for a costly and time-consuming probate proceeding, but he does not want to spend a lot of money. As his attorney, you run through the potential nonprobate transfer devices that might be available to him. One option you consider is creating a revocable li...

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2015 Outstanding New Lawyer, Zoey Merrill

​If Zoey Merrill one day runs for elected office, she will have a difficult choice to make: what title should she use to describe herself? Enterpreneur? Law professor? Local celebrity? World-traveling adventurer? Former vegetarian?Perhaps she will choose the title recently bestowed upon her by the San Joaquin County Bar Association: SJCBA 2015 Outstanding New Lawyer. Zayante "Zoey" Merrill was announced as the latest recipient of the SJCBA's Outstanding New Lawyer Award ...

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New Courthouse Progress

As you can see, work continues on our new Stockton Courthouse. The exterior is nearly complete. In fact, the building is now approximately 72% complete. The project continues to be on schedule with substantial completion expected by mid-November 2016. Judge Appel and I continue meeting with our architects and furniture vendor, UCF. Decisions about the various pieces of furniture for the entire building have and continue to be made. We have made literally hundreds of deci...

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W-INN-ing!: SJC Callahan Inn of Court Celebrates
its Tenth Anniversary

In September 2015, the Consuelo M. Callahan Inn of Court kicked off its tenth year as it traditionally does: by bringing in a respected member of the legal community to Humphreys College Drivon School of Law to share his or her insights with the group. That night's guest, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, captivated the approximately 90-member crowd of local judges, attorneys, and law students with stories of his career and professional advice. Throughout the y...

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New Laws and Rules for 2016

Numerous changes in California statutes, statewide rules of court, and local court rules have recently gone into effect or soon will. This article summarizes several (but by no means all) of the changes likely to affect civil practitioners in San Joaquin County. Statewide Laws and Rules 1. Demurrers. Prior to filing a demurrer, the demurring party must meet and confer with the plaintiff in person or by telephone. As part of that process, the demurring party must identify each...

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San Joaquin County Homeless Veteran Resource Faire: 2016 “Stand Down”

​San Joaquin County's Homeless Veteran Stand Down—a biannual "benefit faire" for homeless veterans—was last held on September 26, 2014. The military term "Stand Down" stands for a grass-roots, community-based intervention program designed to help homeless veterans "combat" life on the streets. Like the first four events before it, the last Stand Down was a one-day event held in Stockton. The sixth, however, will be a three-day event beginning September 16, 2016 and ending Septembe...

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President’s Message

Relevance. A word that Merriam-Webster defines as "relation to the matter at hand; practical and especially social applicability; pertinence; the ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user." What are we to make of the word? How shall we apply it in the context of the San Joaquin County Bar Association? More specifically, does "relevance" apply? Are we relevant? As I began my tenure as president I set as a goal mak...

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President's Message

"Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" --Bye Bye Birdie (1960) Lawyers should write like Ernest Hemingway.  Pick up one of his books; open to a page at random; choose any paragraph; read it. See for yourself:  "We packed the lunch and two bottles of wine in the rucksack, and Bill put it on. I carried the rodcase and the landing nets slung over my back. We started up the road and then went across a meadow and found a path that crossed the fields and went towar...

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Be Mentored

It's hard out there for a new lawyer. It takes approximately one day to realize that, while law school taught you to pass the Bar Exam, you know nothing about how to actually practice law, how to work with a secretary, how to dress for Court, how to interact with clients, how to…. Nope, let's not go down the rabbit hole. We all know what I'm talking about.  Although my experience in the legal field is limited, I feel comfortable making the following observation: this profession is hard. The...

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New Courthouse Progress

If you have driven on I-5 or the Crosstown Freeway, you have certainly seen the new Stockton Courthouse. To date, the building is approximately 60% complete. The "skin" or exterior was completed in October 2015 when the building was made water tight for the winter. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by November or December 2016. Judge Appel and I have been busy every week meeting with the various furniture vendors. We hope to finalize all the decisions regarding furnishings by the e...

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Newly Formed Veterans Court Seeks Mentors

February 2, 2015 marked the commencement of San Joaquin County's first Veterans Treatment Court. For about five years, Judges Barbara Kronlund and Richard Vlavianos pondered how a veterans' court could be added to the list of collaborative courts that are presently being operated in San Joaquin County. There was always a basic problem—where to hold court? There was simply no room within the criminal departments to add another calendar. After about a year of meetings with the court's collaborativ...

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Recent Changes Expand Availability of Sheriff’s Alternative Work Program for “Low-Risk” Defendants

As many readers of Across the Bar know, the Sheriff’s Alternative Work Project has undergone changes in the past year. As part of an effort to reduce jail overcrowding in response to the so-called “realignment” that occurred in 2010-11, the Sheriff has expanded the programs and options available to those defendants who are deemed “low risk” and are not precluded by the Court from applying. Overall, the Sheriff still offers the same three alternatives to traditional jail sentences: (1) the Altern...

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The Fledgling Practitioner

I lie in bed, eyes wide open staring at the ceiling like a twelve-year-old the night before summer camp. I had so diligently planned for eight hours of sleep, and now I am rolled on my side, staring into my hand at the blue glow of my cell phone staring back at me: 1:21 a.m. I select the clock icon and scroll another 10 minutes on the alarm wake-up time. I fall back into my pillow. I close my eyes. It feels like as soon as I set my phone down, I am picking it back up and turning off the alarm. I...

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