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•  Notable Attorneys - Legal News


The California Supreme Court on Monday said petitioners seeking to remove a subset of coho salmon from the state's endangered species list could present new evidence to argue the listing was wrong.

In a unanimous ruling, the court overturned a lower court decision that said efforts to remove the salmon and other species could only argue that the listing was no longer necessary.

The high court decision came in a lawsuit by Big Creek Lumber Co. and the Central Coast Forest Association, which includes forest landowners. They filed a petition to remove a subset of coho salmon from the state's endangered species list, arguing that the listing was wrong because the fish were not native to the area and were introduced and maintained there artificially using hatcheries.

The fight was over coho salmon in streams south of San Francisco. The Fish and Game Commission listed those salmon as endangered in 1995.

Environmental groups were keeping a close eye on the case to see whether the court would rule on the native species argument. It did not do that and instead sent the case back to the appeals court for that determination.

"We don't accept that they are not native fish just because they are hatchery raised," said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a brief in the case.




Joseph Wapner, the retired Los Angeles judge who presided over "The People's Court" with steady force during the heyday of the reality courtroom show, died Sunday at age 97.

Son David Wapner told The Associated Press that his father died at home in his sleep. Joseph Wapner was hospitalized a week ago with breathing problems and had been under home hospice care.

"The People's Court," on which Wapner decided real small-claims from 1981 to 1993, was one of the granddaddies of the syndicated reality shows of today. His affable, no-nonsense approach attracted many fans, putting "The People's Court" in the top five in syndication at its peak.

Before auditioning for the show, Wapner had spent more than 20 years on the bench in Los Angeles, first in Municipal Court and then in Superior Court. At one time he was presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the largest court in the United States. He retired as judge in November 1979, the day after his 60th birthday.

"Everything on the show is real," Wapner told the AP in a 1986 interview. "There's no script, no rehearsal, no retakes. Everything from beginning to end is like a real courtroom, and I personally consider each case as a trial."

"Sometimes I don't even deliberate," he added. "I just decide from the bench, it's so obvious. The beautiful part is that I have carte blanche."

"The People's Court" cases were tried without lawyers by the rules of Small Claims Court, which has a damage limit of $1,500. Researchers for the producer, Ralph Edwards Productions, checked claims filed in Southern California for interesting cases.

The plaintiff and defendant had to agree to have the case settled on the show and sign a binding arbitration agreement; the show paid for the settlements.



An appeals court in Norway is considering whether the prison conditions under which mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is being held amount to a violation of his human rights.

The six-day trial ended Wednesday in a makeshift courtroom inside Skien prison in southern Norway where Breivik, 37, is serving a 21-year sentence for killing 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.

Breivik's lawyer, Oystein Storrvik, spent most of the last day seeking to show that restrictions on his client's visitors and the strict control over Breivik's mail and phone calls have led to a lack of human interaction and privacy, which amounts to a violation of his rights.

The case is "really about a person that is sitting very, very alone in a small prison within a prison" since 2012, explained Storrvik.

He dismissed the benefits of the weekly visits by a state-appointed prison confidante for Breivik, saying "it's a paid job."

Addressing the court last week, Breivik said his solitary confinement had deeply damaged him and made him even more radical in his neo-Nazi beliefs.

The Norwegian state rejected the criticism and said efforts to find a prison confidante show the authorities have "gone out of their way" to remedy the situation.

In a surprise verdict last year, the Oslo District Court sided with Breivik, finding that his isolation was "inhuman (and) degrading" and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. It ordered the government to pay his legal costs.

But it dismissed Breivik's claim that his right to respect for private and family life was violated by restrictions on contacts with other right-wing extremists, a decision that Breivik is appealing.

If the state loses the appeal, Breivik's prison regime will have to be revised. The government could decide to take the case to the Norwegian Supreme court. A ruling is expected in February.



The Indiana Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson for a conflict of interest in a triple-murder case but declined to suspend him as its disciplinary commission suggested.

The court ruled Friday that Henderson violated rules of professional conduct by simultaneously representing the state in the prosecution of David Camm and pursuing a book deal in the case in which the former Indiana state trooper was accused of killing his wife, Kimberly, and their two children in the fall of 2000. After his first two convictions were reversed on appeal, Camm was acquitted in a third trial in fall 2013.

"The violation is serious and adversely affected the administration of justice in this case," the court wrote. "However, noting (Henderson's) misconduct occurred in connection with a single, unusual case and is an aberration from what otherwise has been a long and distinguished career as a public servant, we conclude a suspension is not warranted in this case."



A Chicago-area judicial candidate who was once on the fast track to a high-salary, high-status job as a judge now faces charges of impersonating a judge when she was a court staff attorney early this year, prosecutors announced Friday.

Rhonda Crawford, 45, is accused of donning a robe in Cook County traffic court on Aug. 11, months after she won the Democratic primary for a judgeship. She is charged with misdemeanor false impersonation and felony official misconduct, which carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Crawford was a shoo-in to win the Nov. 8 until news that she briefly played a judge drew ridicule and condemnation among those who practice law in Cook County, one of the nation's largest judicial districts with its some 400 judges.

In announcing the charges, County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said judges are "at the heart of our criminal justice system."

"Crawford's conduct in this case was offensive to the integrity of our system and cannot be excused or ignored as a mere lapse in judgment," Alvarez said in statement from her office.

Crawford, who became an attorney in 2003, appeared at an initial hearing Friday, when a judge set a personal recognizance bond at $10,000. A message left for her lawyer, Victor Henderson, wasn't returned. He has previously described the incident as, at worst, "a minor infraction."

Crawford told reporters last month she had been shadowing judges to observe how they work when Judge Valarie E. Turner asked in a spur-of-the-moment offer if she wanted to sit on the bench. Crawford did for about five minutes and didn't think anyone believed she was a real judge.



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