Women Lawyers of Ventura County Mary Sullivan Scholarship Application

The WLVC Mary Sullivan Scholarship is an award (minimum – $500.00) given to a law student or recent law school graduate.

Please submit your completed application as a single PDF file attachment to Jodi Prior at Jodi.Prior@ventura.courts.ca.gov. The deadline to submit your scholarship application is
July 21, 2014. Late applications will NOT be considered. Decisions on Grant Recipients will be made no later than August 22, 2014.


WLVC- Scholarship App 2014final

ECBA Meets on Thursday, April 10th @ Noon




Presented by Expert Witness Marc A. Firestone, Phd

An Accident Reconstructionist and Forensic Engineer expert in criminal and civil cases

Hosted by East County Bar Association

 Open to All Attorneys


Members of the Ventura County Paralegal Association

Come Meet & Network with Other Local Attorneys in the East County Bar Association

Enjoy a Lunch Buffet & Door Prizes!

DATE:            Thursday April 10, 2014

TIME:             12:00 P.M. – 1:30 P.M.


                        1 W. Los Angeles Ave.

                        Moorpark, CA 93021

                        (805) 529-2288

            COST:           $35.00 Members and $40.00 Non-Members who register before April 8, 2014

                        $40.00 Registration at the Door

                                    Lunch & MCLE

 Please RSVP to bar@vcba.org by Tuesday April 8, 2014

REGISTER ON-LINE:  http://www.vcba.org/education-training/events 

This activity has been approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1 hour of GENERAL credit. VCBA verifies that this Activity conforms to the standards for approved education activities prescribed by the rules and regulations of the State Bar of California governing Minimum Continuing Legal Education.


Exec’s Dot …Dot …Dot …

A really nice story about Barbara Macri- Ortiz appeared in the Ventura County Star March 15 detailing her efforts fighting for the farmworker housing community over the last 25 years – www.vcstar.com…In what is being billed as a question of first impression anywhere in the U.S., a New Jersey judge has held that a woman may ban the father of her unborn child from a  hospital delivery room. Upholding the mother’s right of privacy, Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed ruled in February that she is neither required to notify the baby’s father – from who she is estranged – that she is going into labor nor required to admit him into the delivery room against her wishes…I have it on good authority David Tredway watched a few good baseball games in the desert…

Recommended Movie of the Month: Puncture, A David and Goliath law drama about a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a health supply corporation while battling his own personal demons.  2011… University of California at Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinsky has a request for one and possibly two justices. Chemerinsky says in a L.A. Times op-ed that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,  who turned 81 last month, should retire this summer so President Obama can appoint a successor. “Indeed, Justice Stephen Breyer, who will turn 76 this summer, should also carefully consider the possibility of stepping down this year,” Chemerinsky writes…Victoria Borgesson, Court Executive Assistant, is soliciting public comment regarding the proposed changes to the Local Rules & Forms of the Superior Court of California. You may view the proposed rules by going to www. ventura.courts.ca.gov or calling Borgesson at 654.2965…

Iceland? Tina Rasnow  at tina@rasnowpeak. com or 236.0266 …A Texas l awyer who represents poor clients is wearing jailhouse orange scrubs for Lent to promote discussions
about the lack of jobs for ex-cons. Kent McKeever is a part-time youth minister and a lawyer at Mission Waco, a Christian group that provides programs for the poor. He told the Waco Tribune he is wearing the orange scrubs to show solidarity with prisoners and former inmates returning to society. McKeever is writing about his experiences in a blog called “40 Days in Orange. A Lenten Journey in the Uniform of the Imprisoned”…Recommended Book of the Month: Johnny Carson, by Henry  Bushkin. (Houghton Mifflin, 2013). Johnny Carson is also a law book by his best friend and lawyer for several decades and calls into question attorney-client privilege and celebrity clients… “We are not sure how a parent should teach his child a lesson. But
we are sure how not to do it. Do not pull the trigger of a firearm held to the child’s head, even if the firearm is unloaded,” from Justice Kenneth Yegan, writing for a unanimous panel of the  California Court of Appeal affirming convictions on threat a weapons charges for the way a defendant disciplined his teenage son and stepson in People v. Culbert …

Deborah Vierra has decided that after over eighteen years in service, she is hanging up the proverbial hat. She feels that Ventura lawyers are the highest quality anywhere. She is donating state and federal employment law and civil practice publications. Most of them are indeed outdated, but available free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Call her at 648.1047. Deborah will continue her legal efforts by volunteering at Santa Clara Valley Legal Aid in Fillmore…A man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of women riding the Boston subway did not violate state law because the women were not nude or part nude, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled March 6. The Supreme Judicial Court overruled a lower court that had upheld charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested in August 2010 by transit police who set up a sting after getting reports that he was using his cellphone to take photos and videos of female riders’  skirts and dresses… Past VCBA President John Howard has joined Lowthorp, Richards, McMillian, Miller & Templeman as Of Counsel. John may be reached at 981.8555 or jhoward@lrmmt.com)…Former Ventura County lawyer Kassandra McQuillen is one of the tribe  members on the current season of CBS’s Survivor. Kass has survived the first four
tribal councils….

Judge F. Dino Inumerable’s formal installation ceremony will be Friday, April 18 beginning at 4 p.m. inside Courtroom #22. RSVP to dawn.schneider@ventura. courts.ca.gov or 654.2965…BIG kudos to the bar’s Member Relations Director, Nadia Avila, who continues to serve the bar loyally and exceedingly well… Loyola Law School graduate Lane Lopez,
who holds an LL.M. in taxation, returns to his Ventura County roots when he joins Ferguson Case Orr Paterson, LLP April 1. Speaking of FCOP, Michael Case, David Shain, Bret Anderson, and Josh Hopstone staff the firm’s new Westlake Village office, which opened in March— 2801 Townsgate Rd., Suite 215. Phone will remain (805)659-6800.

Steve Henderson has been the executive director and chief executive officer of the Ventura County Bar Association and its affiliated organizations since November 1990. He won Warren Buffet’s Billion Dollar Challenge and his last day at the bar will be April 1. Henderson may be reached at steve@ vcba.org, Twitter at stevehendo1, LinkedIn, FB or better yet, 650.7599.


Help Wanted

Westlake Village niche boutique family law firm looking to hire legal secretary/paralegal. The position will be 24 to 30 hours per week to start. Salary DOE. Must have family law experience and ability to do phone intakes. Please email: lisa@zonderfamilylaw.com

Services Offered

New Attorney seeking contract or fulltime job opportunity. Graduated cum laude from Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis in May 2013 and passed the July Bar Exam. Articles editor on the Indiana Health Law Review  and internships with small PI firm, hospital network, and county counsel. Excellent writing skills, attention to detail, and willingness to learn. Please contact William Starr at wcstarr@gmail.com, or (805)415-3421.

Office Space

Subtenancy wanted – new firm seeks 2-3 offices, will share economies of scale. East County preferred. Contact: pagalitigator@gmail.com

Sublease Ideal for startup/satellite office in central Westlake Village location, $500/ month including utility/internet; close to 101 Fwy and postal office. Contact: lj.law@verizon.net

River Park executive suites – Elegant ffordable single furnished offices full time offices, part time offices, hourly offices, daily offices, three conference rooms, training rooms up to 80 people. Video conferencing $45 Per Hour. *Conference Room rental additional. Call Us Today!! (805)351-3700

For Sale

Konica Minolta Bizhub C-250 all-in-one copy/scan/fax machine. High speed (25 ppm) black & white, and color output. Accepts originals up to 11”x17”, one-sided or two-sided originals. Can be networked. Meter: Under 31,000 copies. All manuals included. $2,500. Call (805)648-1047 or e-mail dsvierra@sbcglobal.net.


The Barristers Paint Ball event was a huge success! Thank you all for participating! In case you missed it, 1,848 people showed up, including barristers, non-barrister lawyers, judges, and family and friends.

The Barristers board took home first place!  (Of course, the Navy SEAL training did not hurt.) The Barristers would like to give a special thanks to the NRA for sponsoring the event, and of course, a special thank you to the Navy SEALS who took a day out of their busy schedules to help train the Barristers Board – we could not have done it without you.

Whether you are a barrister or not, you are welcome to attend these upcoming fun events: Trivia Night at Garman’s Pub in Santa Paula on April 17, Bowling Night on July 17, or Wine and Cheese Night on August 21. For further information, give the Barristers board secretary, Melanie Ely, a call at (805)643-2200.

Melanie Ely practices at Engle Carobini & Coats in Ventura. She holds the U.S. all-time female record for guinea pig juggling.


Wetumka, Oklahoma’s loss is Ventura County’s gain. Selected as Ventura County’s Judge of the Year by the Ventura County Trial Lawyers Association, Judge White was publicly praised by her colleagues, Judges Vince O’Neill and Kevin McGee, and former District Attorney Mike Bradbury, at VCTLA’s March meeting.Judge Colleen Toy White, daughter of Wetumka’s police chief and a basketball and tennis star, put herself through law school at night, and worked her way up to Chief Assistant District Attorney before she became a Superior Court judge in 1994. Since then, Judge White’s assignments have included family law court, including serving as the supervising judge, and dependency court, where she handled child abuse and neglect cases. Judge White was the Ventura Superior Court presiding judge in 2007 and 2008, and the assistant presiding judge in 2005-2006.

Judge White established the dependency drug court for mothers of newborns prenatally exposed to alcohol or drugs. She played an instrumental role in establishing the Ventura County Pro Per Clinic for family law litigants. Judge White “never met a litigant she did not care about,” her admirers say.

Currently assigned to the criminal trials division, Judge White also presides over nontraditional courts including the veterans, domestic violence, elder abuse court, mental health court and community intervention court.

Always active in the community, Judge White is a former member of the board of the Ventura College Foundation, a past president of the board of directors of Interface Children Family Services of Ventura County, and past president and member of the board of Child Abuse and Neglect (C.A.A.N.) an organization dedicated to the protection of children. In  1984, President Reagan appointed her to the Presidential Advisory Commission on the
Peace Corps. He also offered Judge White a high-level Justice Department position.

Many awards have been given to Judge White for her service; they include the VCBA Ben E. Nordman Award for outstanding public service, the JC Penney Golden Rule Award and the Knights of Columbus Community Service Award. Judge White is a frequent and recognized judicial college instructor. She has a reputation for judicial courage, and for treating each attorney and litigant with respect, and a desire to “get to the core cause of the problem before her.”


Ah, it’s Spring! Baseball, the greatest game ever invented by man, returns for yet another season. And with baseball season upon us, it’s always a good time to start with this oldie but goodie:

A man was walking along the beach when he came upon an empty corked bottle. He picked it up and pulled out the cork, and suddenly in a cloud of mist a genie appeared.

“Oh, thank you for freeing me, most gracious master!” exclaimed the genie. “As a token of my great appreciation, I will grant you one wish.”

The man pulled a folded-up world map from his back pocket and handed it to the genie.

“My wish is for peace in the Middle East.”

The genie handed the map back and scoffed.

“That’s impossible! Not even I with my genie powers can do that! I will therefore grant you another wish.”

The man thought for a moment and said, “OK, I wish to see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.”

The genie replied, “Let me see that map again.”

I’m sure that many of you are not aware that the first reference to baseball is found in the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 1. It is widely assumed that verse says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” This is not correct. In fact, what that verse really says is “In the BIG INNING, God created the heavens and the Earth.” We learn that God created the Earth in six days and rested on  the seventh day, on which it’s safe to say God got up and moved around a bit, which would have been the first seventh-inning stretch. An account of the first baseball game played is also found in Genesis. They played a home game in the Garden of Eden. The serpent made a pitch to Eve. Eve stole first (I know, not an official way of reaching first base). Adam stole second. Isaac walked after Abraham tried to sacrifice. God threw out Adam and Eve for a double play. Cain struck out Abel. Inning over. Noah was going to come in to pitch, but the game was rained out.

In 1960, I witnessed my first baseball game, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals in the LA Coliseum, Don Drysdale on the mound for the Dodgers. Classic Americana, father and son at a baseball game together. Like most six-year-olds, I had an attention span of about five minutes. My dad explained to me that unlike games which were timed, like football or basketball, baseball had nine innings, and each team had 27 outs, and there was no time limit. What I remember about that first game was that it was literally timeless, that is to say, “When is this game going to end?” Of course I didn’t appreciate the timelessness of baseball when I was six, but I came to love watching baseball, an activity in which there is a conspicuous lack of a clock.

The lovely, timeless things about baseball are the green grass, the white chalk lines, the symmetry of the diamond, the crack of the bat, the taste of a Dodger Dog. Then there is the game itself: The winner of the game isn’t determined until the last out is made. Both teams have the same amount of chances to score. The defense controls the ball. The game takes as long as it takes for the game to be completed. That’s a nice thing, because although we all know that time marches on, at a baseball game there is only the green grass, the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, roasted peanuts salted in the shell, and the players we marvel at.

I say that baseball is the greatest game ever invented, but it isn’t perfect. We’ve heard about baseball’s gambling scandals, its institutionalized racism, the owners’ collusion, and the players’ use of steroids. But for a few hours, watching a baseball game gives us the pleasure of indulging in the fond dream that we are immune to the passage of time, that we are immortal like  Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Lou Gehrig. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Don’t ask me why I love baseball. I can’t really define it. Mostly I love baseball because it gives me a chance to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while, and to spend some time with fans who take pleasure in enjoying the same reprieve.

Baseball has been referred to as “America’s Pastime.” I recall reading an article in which the author wrote that baseball is, “in the truest sense, a pastime, i.e., something that amuses and serves to make time pass agreeably. In a world that demands much of us and our limited time here, there’s something to be said for passing it agreeably.” Play ball!

Robert Os t rove practices elder law, family law, labor and employment, and litigation in Ventura


The other day my five-year old and I were playing a game of “If your family member were an apple, what kind would she or he be?” I told him that he’d be a Red Delicious because of his cute, rosy cheeks. He told me I’d be a Granny Smith because I’m old. (Note to self: Call Laura Bartels to have the chap taken out of the will.)

But his thinking me old got me thinking. I’ve talked to a lot of attorneys lately about Twitter, and about whether they use it and why. Attorneys have told me: “I’m too old for social media” (which I do not think is
true and I don’t really use Twitter for social purposes), “I don’t need more stuff to do” (I hear you, but you might be missing out professionally), “It’s a waste of time” (not if you use it right), “I already do Facebook and  they are all the same” (they are not the same), “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (sure you can, woof woof ), and “I don’t need to post a picture of my sandwich” (agreed, please don’t, unless you want to have one delivered to me, then make it a Dagwood with extra bacon).

So my point in this article is to convey that you’re not too old or young for Twitter, and that it really can help your law practice. I’ll  tell you what Twitter is, what I use it for, what I don’t use it for, what I use hashtags for and why, what benefit Twitter can have to a law practice, suggestions on whom lawyers and law firms might want to follow, nd last, Twitter’s revolutionary capacity for sociopolitical and corporate change.

What Twitter Is. Twitter is a set of programs operating on the Internet linking people, news, blogs, companies, organizations, and causes. It is free to join and recently had an  initial public offering, so at times you see tweets from advertisers. You can set up a  Twitter account easily by going to Twitter. com or downloading the app onto your smartphone. Setting up the account and name is easy (mine is Lisa Jerde Spillman @LmjSpillman.) You do not have to use your actual name, but it is my experience that most professionals do.

What I Use Twitter For. I do not use Twitter in the social sense I use Facebook. In my experience, people use Facebook generally to see what his or her friends are doing, to post about what’s going on in her or his life, or to post pictures of a child, a bruise or Katmandu. Perhaps some use Twitter for that purpose, but not I. If Facebook is my living room, then Twitter is my office.

What benefit Twitter can have to a law practice. I follow people, blogs, or entities to quickly bring me news relevant to my practice of law. For example, when an opinion is published, legal bloggers quickly tweet a few-word explanation of the decision and a link to his or her blog about the decision, which aid me as an appellate attorney. I see tweets by Twitter users who tweet links to articles in a variety of areas of law. And the tweets are not
overwhelming, because they are limited to only 140 characters, and I can choose, or not, to follow the link and read the article or blog. Sometimes, I find a tweet or article worthy of a retweet, meaning I resubmit that user’s tweet and link to the Twitterverse and to my followers. Sometimes, I will reply to  tweet or “favorite” it. Other times, I may  tweet something I drafted, or find something online and tweet a link directly to another user, because I think that user would be interested, or I tweet it using hashtags.

What I Use Hashtags For and Why. Hashtags are fun. A hashtag is a set of characters or words strung together with a preceding “#”. So, for example, I would not tweet these, but when my kids finally fall asleep, I might feel #exhausted, or want to #PraiseGod. When I lose a case I might feel like I need to #ThrowInTheTowel or go to #LadiesNightOut. Hashtags can be used to draw attention to a user or a tweet, to raise awareness of an issue, or to promote a product or a service. They can be used to try to ensure your tweet is one of those that comes up when a search is run. So, for example, when an attorney writes a blog about criminal defense or beating a DUI charge, he might tweet a link to the blog with #DUI #KnowYourRights #Ventura #Lawyer. An attorney writing  wills and trusts might tweet a link to her blog about a new law regarding trusts and include #Ventura #Attorney #Wills #Trusts.
Creating a unique hashtag can make an issue, product or service go viral.

Whom I follow. Anyone on Twitter could see whom I follow, but here are some of the law-related ones: @VCBA1, @CalCourts, @CalAppOpinion, @ USSupremeCourt, @SCOTUSOpinions, @SCOTUSblog,  @SCOTUSblogposts, @scotusreporter, @StateBarCA, @Cal_Lawyer, @EsquireNation, Steve Henderson, Wendy Lascher, Rachel Coleman, Panda Kroll, Karen Darnall, Lynn Smiley, Kate Brolan, Carol Mack, Gabriele Lashly, Howard Bashman @howappealing, Above the Law @atlblog, @ CACJNews, @KamalaHarris, @StateDept, @UN, @justiacom, @TheJusticeDept, @Sena t eFloor, @Hous eFloor, @InnocenceMatter, Innocence Project @innocence, @YaleLawSch, @Harvard_Law, @thelegalintel, @NationalJurist, @Chapman_Law, @ReutersLegal, @emilybazelon,@Jef freyToobin, @ABAJournal , @WSJlawblog, and @BloombergLaw. I also follow a number of state and U.S. Congress people and other political figures. I follow numerous news organizations from around the world. To keep things fun, I also follow comedians to get a SarahKSilverman, @TheEllenShow, @JerrySeinfeld, @jimmyfallon, @TheOnion,@WhoopiGoldberg, @billmaher, @SteveCarell, and Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome.

I also get a little spiritual, and follow Pope Francis @Pontifex, The Dalai Lama @DalaiLama, and maybe even God @TheTweetOfGod.

One thing I truly love about Twitter is what I see as its revolutionary capacity for sociopolitical and corporate change. Let me give you an example. It should come as no surprise that I do not think partially undressing and gyrating in front of a microphone is an appropriate way to make a video go viral. Nor is telling millions of women and men and boys and girls that a woman should sex it up to make a video go viral. And apparently, I am not alone. During the Super Bowl, a company showed a commercial with a famous actress doing just that, and I loved the response by women and men across the globe, who directly sent that company tweets denouncing the
commercial, and including the hashtag #NotBuyingIt. I love this hashtag for its literalness – hashtaggers are giving the potential death knell – I am not going to buy what you are selling because you screwed up. And an easy Twitter search of #NotBuyingIt reveals myriad other products, services, tweets, or programming that Twitter users are not buying, figuratively or literally. Where social pressure won’t work, the bottom line just might. Twitter is also being used, second by second, to broadcast footage and reports by regular Twitter users of what is happening on the ground in #Venezuela and #Ukraine. Revolutionary, indeed.

But if your feathers get ruffled, bear in mind that every tweet is forever public, even if you delete it. It won’t appear on your page, but it still exists in the Twitterverse. So thieves and spies, future would-be employers, the Bar, your children, and the police may be watching. And speaking of the police, don’t even think of tweeting while driving. Not only could you hurt someone, but your tweet and its time and date stamp, could end up being used  against you in tort or criminal actions. And keep this in mind: the California Legislature is considering AB 1555, which would redefine vehicular manslaughter to include a defendant whose use of a cell phone while driving leads to the collision.

So all in all, I think Twitter can have wonderful benefits for attorneys. It certainly makes following legal news, decisions and analyses across the country and world intriguing, timely and fun. And it’s not that hard or intimidating, even for a “Granny” like me. #GiveItATwy

Lisa M.J. Spillman is an attorney in Ventura who specializes in criminal appeals and habeas corpus petitions.



How often under the crush of work do we think that we sure are busy but don’t really know if there is any basis for feeling that way? Recent reports issued by the California Judicial Council some answers as they relate
to the current judge and staff demands for trial courts, including the Ventura Superior Court.

The four important reports are the Court Statistics Report, the Resource Assessment Study (RAS), the Workload Allocation Funding Model (WAFM), and the SB 56 Advisory Committee Report. The Judicial Council
annually issues the Court Statistics Report on the business conducted in the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal and the trial courts. The Resource Assessment Study (RAS) was authorized by the Council in 2001 to develop a methodology for determining each of the 58 trial courts’ workloads and resources needed (i.e. staff ) to manage that workload. Simply put, the RAS measures the new case filings, weights those filings by the amount of staff time spent to reach disposition, and applies a staffing model to determine how many and what kinds of staff support is needed to manage the work. The Workload Allocation Funding Model (WAFM) was adopted by the Council in 2013 and takes RAS to determine how much it would  cost to fund the necessary staff. The SB 56 Advisory Committee was created in response to 2006 legislation requiring the Council to report biannually on judgeship needs, and its 2013 report takes RAS to determine the number of judicial officers needed to manage the workload. There are complex methodologies and statistical analyses underlying each of these studies which are discussed in great detail in the reports. Each of these reports is available to the public on the California Courts website, www.courts.ca.gov.

How busy are we?
So, how do we know how busy we are? What each of these reports reveals is that the Ventura Superior Court, to use a sports metaphor, is pound-for-pound busier than most other California trial courts. Based on statistics for Fiscal Year 2011-2012, our court with 33 judicial officers (29 judges and four commissioners) is tied for fourteenth place in size with San Mateo. Our 5,379 filings per judge rank fifth and 4,505 dispositions per judge rank 11th. The 280  jury trials rank tenth.

Compared to what? The busiest court in the state is Imperial, with 6,480 filings and 6,898 dispositions per judge. The least busy court is Sierra, with 387 filings and 249 dispositions per judge. Contenders are Alpine and Modoc, each with fewer than 1,000 filings and dispositions per judge. Alpine reported having no jury trials in the year. Mariposa and Mono each reported one jury trial for all case types.

Compared to courts our size, San Mateo (33 judicial officers) is ranked seventh in filings and fourth in dispositions per judge. San Joaquin (36.5 judicial officers) is 38th and 30th respectively. San Francisco, with a population and number of dispositions very similar to Ventura and twice the number of judicial officers (65) is ranked 37th in filings and 42nd in dispositions per judge.

One-third increase needed
So, what do we need? Looking to the future, these reports tell us how many judges and staff we need to manage our work, and how much it will cost. The Governor signed SB 56 in 2006, directing the Judicial Council to report bienially on the number of judges needed. That report indicates a need for 43.7 judicial officers for the Ventura Superior Court, an increase of 10.7 over our current complement. The RAS indicates a need for 400 staff to support court operations compared to the 290 remaining after five consecutive fiscal years of budget reductions, a gap of 110. WAFM converts those staff to dollars indicating the need for an increase in state funding from the $33.7 million in FY 2012-2013 to $50.4 million.

Increased funding needed, too

These reports also underscore the need for additional funding based on our workload in two critical areas. Juvenile dependency is one of the few case types that has grown over the past several years, not only in Ventura but statewide. In many of these cases, the Court appoints attorneys to represent the child and the parents. The funding need equates to $1.7 million; we are currently allocated $755,000, a gap of almost $1 million. The second area is providing interpreters in  domestic violence cases. A grant funds our program with $9,000 for a need projected to be $22,000.

The Ventura Superior Court has benefitted from the Judicial Council’s new emphasis on using workload as the primary measure of resource needs. Our percentage of the allocation of state funds has grown for the first time since the historical model for funding the state trial courts shifted from the counties to the state in 1998. It will continue to grow incrementally over the next four years. The judicial needs study has resulted in the re-prioritizing of new judgeships for Ventura County. Existing 1997 legislation authorizing 50 new judgeships statewide (not yet funded) will be amended to include two for Ventura County, subject to appropriation. The staffing model at long  last  acknowledges the need for dedicated staff based on our workload.

It is important to put the findings of all these reports in the context of five consecutive fiscal years of budget reductions not just to the Ventura Superior Court, but statewide. These reports underscore that no trial court in the state today has the resources and funding to effectively manage its workload. Many courts also do not have the number of judges needed. How the funding for the needs of the trial courts is prioritized along with all the programs in the other branches of government will continue to be a challenge. But we know now how busy we are and what we need to promote the fair and efficient administration of justice in California. It’s in the numbers.

Michael Planet is  the Court Executive Officer of the Superior Court of California for Ventura County.


Congratulations to the La Reina Mock Trial team for their win at the Ventura County Mock Trial Competition. The team worked very hard and did a fabulous job. Thanks to Newbury Park High School, who fielded an amazing four teams this year and received recognition for their inclusion of as many kids as possible into their program. Congratulations to firstyear team St. Augustine – it’s wonderful to have new teams and I look forward to seeing the Crusaders again next year.

When I watch the kids lose a match or a game or a bee or a trial, I am reminded of His Holiness the Dalai Lama saying that it’s more fun to be on the losing team so that you can see the smiles and the joy of the winners. That concept is hard to explain to the eleven-year-old on the soccer field. But in being with the teams of mock trial kids after the competition, I saw a joy in the kids who did not advance. It is the joy of accomplishment. It is the joy
of competence. It is the joy of success. It is the joy of a task well done. It is a joy of completion and of closure. It is also a joy of community. It was this tangible joy permeating through the van of Fillmore High school kids as we went home after the preliminary nights of competition. The kids knew they were not in the top eight, but in their eyes, they had held their own, had stood proud and tall and finished. The pride and joy of accomplishment and
participation was palpable at the high school the next day and carried through the weeks.

Mock trial open doors for kids

Attorney Joe O’Neill, who has been coaching Pacifica for years, shared how rewarding it is to see how mock trial builds leaders and confidence, and it’s worth it to see how a young student grows to be a talented public speaker. Once parents see their child participate in mock trial, he or she will forever be the spokesperson for the family at all family events. One of O’Neill’s mock trial students just received a full scholarship to Stanford.

Mock trial teaches the kids that when you stumble, you pick yourself up. One of Fillmore’s mock trial attorneys stumbled a bit on her closing argument. She lost her place and stopped to an interminable roaring, awkward, and embarrassed silence. But she could feel the support in the room and she knew that even though it was uncomfortable to be so vulnerable, she was safe and she was poised and it was ok for her to take her time to gather her thoughts and muster through. It was a powerful lesson and one that will carry her well through life. It would have been easier for her to stop talking and sit down, but she stood up there with all eyes on her willing her to proceed and she got through it. Judge Vincent O’Neill’s quiet respect for her and her team, gracefully and with care, allowed the silence, allowed her to gather her thoughts, allowed her with grace to shakily proceed and then confidently finish with a sense of completion and accomplishment.

Mock trial generates higher AP scores

The team’s expert doctor was an enthusiastic sophomore who landed in Fillmore from Vietnam five years ago without knowing one word of English. His teacher coach associated with the biology teacher to have the “expert
doctors” study real hearts so the kids could really understand the effects of amphetamines on the heart. Fillmore’s “experts,” with such a complete understanding of hypertropic cardiomyopathy, were able to excel at their understanding of their roles. Practice after practice, their other teammates also garnered an understanding of the heart so extensive that their AP Biology teachers are confident their AP biology scores will be stellar. Our
expert could tell that his “testimony” was understood and appreciated. He could barely contain his excitement on the way home.

Mock trial provides unimaginable futures to the kids

One of our students was told by scorer attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz that she should be an attorney when she grew up. The neighboring scorer commented that he would not be at all surprised to see her as the CEO of a major company in her future. The next day, Barbara Macri- Ortiz emailed that she was chiding herself on the ride home for telling the high school sophomore that she should be an attorney; Macri-Ortiz should have told the
student that she should reach higher than attorney and aspire to become a judge. This young woman’s life was forever changed when she was told by a Ventura County attorney that she can grow up to be a judge. You talk about people changing kids’ lives – it happened at mock trial to the children of teachers and farmworkers and ranch hands, kids who had no idea where their future could really lead. There’s nothing more powerful than a complete stranger coming up to you and saying “I care and you count.”

Laura Bartels of Taylor, Scoles & Bartels in Fillmore was a mock trial coach for the Fillmore High School Mock trial team along with attorney Cynthia Pandolfi.