DECEMBER – TWO THOUSAND SEVENTEEN

VCBA MISSION STATEMENT

To promote legal excellence, high ethical standards and professional conduct in the practice of law; to improve access to legal services for all people in Ventura County; and to work to improve the administration of justice.

A Unique Volunteer Opportunity Within The Court System And A Designated Recipient Of Cy Pres Funds
by Cheryl A. De Bari, Esq.

CITATIONS EDITORIAL BOARD

Managing Editor
Wendy C. Lascher

Assistant Editor
Cari Ann Potts

Assistant Editor
Heather Deffense

Publisher, CEO
Steve Henderson

Creative
J.P. McWaters

Alice Arnold
Rachel Coleman
Jonathan Gunderson
Karen B. Darnall
Rachael J.Kimball
Panda L. Kroll
Carol Mack
Michael L. McQueen
Rabiah A. Rahman
Lauren E. Sims
Michael R. Sment
Kathleen J. Smith
Al Vargas

CITATIONS is published monthly by the Ventura County Bar Association. Editorial content and policy are solely the responsibility of the Ventura County Bar Association.

Submit all editorial matters to:

CITATIONS
1050 S. Kimball
Ventura, CA 93004
t: 805.659.6800
f: 805.659.6818
wlascher@fcoplaw.com

ERIK B. FEINGOLD PARTING WORDS FROM YOUR PRESIDENT
JOSEPH O’NEILL STANDING IN THE BACKGROUND — HIGH SCHOOL MOCK TRIAL TEAMS
AMBROSIO BIGORNIA GAY RIGHTS IN CUBA
ROGELIO TUAZON CUBAN RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY LAW
VIKTORIA MORGAN LAW OFFICE COLLECTIVES
JOAN VIGNOCCHI MUJERES CUBANAS
AMBER RODRIGUEZ GIVING NOTICE OF A CONSERVATEE’S DEATH
RABIAH A. RAHMAN BARRISTERS CORNER
STEVE HENDERSON EXEC’S DOT…DOT…DOT…

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE:
Parting Words From Your President

by Erik Feingold

When I took on the task of being the 2017 president of the Ventura County Bar Association, I admit I was a bit overwhelmed:  How was I supposed to continued delivering exemplary services to my clients, meet my law partners’ expectations for the year, be a good (e.g., non-grumpy) father and husband, contribute to my philanthropic commitments, and keep myself in physical shape and healthy, all the while leading the bar association and keeping Steve Henderson in line ;-)?  Quite frankly, I started the year kind of depressed when I considered the weight of it all.

But I managed.  I managed to deliver some great results for my clients this year, and not drive the bar association into the ground.  I managed to not be disbarred or expelled from my partnership, to not have my wife leave me (nor my kids resent me), and I can still keep up with my friends on my weekly mountain bike rides.  How?  Following the leads of mentors in my life and my career, and making it a priority to keep myself in shape.

Throughout the year I looked around me and saw people in my professional circles who were way busier than I was, had been for years, and managed to keep it all together.  Consistently.  Take Wendy Lascher for example.  In addition to being one of the top “go to” appellate lawyers in the State she manages to be a great partner, grandmother, aspiring pilot, and for the past 15+ years the editor of this publication on her second tour in that role (although rumor has it Wendy will soon pass the reins as editor-in-chief of this publication to Cari Potts, who will do a phenomenal job as well).  Wendy does it all with grace and style, timely delivers Citations each month without fail, and I’ve yet to see her stressed out in the years I have known her.

Wendy is but a single example of the many people I have had the good fortune of interacting with over the past year who have successfully achieved an enviable work-life balance, while maintaining their sanity.

The other thing that got me through this past year was working some form of exercise into my daily routine.  It was not until I started law school that I began working out regularly, and I soon realized its tremendous benefits on my stress levels.  I thought, however, that once I got past the studying and competition of law school and the bar examination the stressors in my life as a lawyer would pale in comparison.  Wrong.

Little did I know that as a litigator the endless deadliness, anger control against adversaries (both real and perceived), and the ever-present possibility of rejection all add up and are what contributes to lawyers being so stressed out as a whole.  Stress is a killer, and is the reason why lawyers have a depression rate of 3.6 times that of any other profession.  It’s true.

Sure, there are other things you can do besides exercise to combat stress such as meditate, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and turn off your smartphone. And doing those things definitely helps.  But from my perspective, working exercise into my schedule – and regarding it as a daily requirement of my job, even if I need to work it in at the crack of down or after hours – helps the most with my stress levels.  I look forward to seeing several regular lawyers and judges around town at my gym, and unless they are faking it they really seem to be a calm, relaxed group as a whole.

I strongly suggest that we all look around us and listen and learn from those whom we consider to be professional mentors.  One of my mentors early in my career once told me that the practice of law is not a sprint, but a marathon.  It was good advice at the time, but unfortunately I really didn’t realize what he meant until I was well into my career.  Now it is my professional mantra, and I truly believe that by surrounding ourselves with good advisers, following their lead, and keeping ourselves balanced in mind and body we can all be better counselors to our clients, partners and bosses to our co-workers, and contributing members of both our families and society.

Erik B. Feingold is a litigator with Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones & Feingold in Ventura..

A UNIQUE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY WITHIN THE COURT SYSTEM AND A DESIGNATED RECIPIENT OF CY PRES FUNDS

by Cheryl A. De Bari, Esq.

What Is CASA of Ventura County?

Court Appointed Special Advocates (“CASA”) of Ventura County recruits, screens, trains, and supports community volunteers who become court-appointed advocates for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. These children are victims of crime. (Prob. Code, § 272, subd. (a).) The CASA program is defined in the Welfare and Institutions Code and CASA of Ventura County is under the jurisdiction of the Ventura County Superior Court. (www.ventura.courts.ca.gov/volunteer.)

Trained volunteer advocates work one-on-one with foster children as they move through the Dependency Court system. Approximately twice a year, the advocate provides a report to the court with information critical to the child’s well-being and to protecting the child’s rights. Our advocates come from all professions and are provided 30 hours of training, but those in the legal profession come with specialized skills and knowledge and make great advocates!

Designate CASA for Cy Pres Funds

Code of Civil Procedure section 384, subdivision (b) specifically identifies “child advocacy programs” as proper recipients of residual class action funds. CASA of Ventura County is a child advocacy program. Our Advocates stand up for abused and neglected children in court and in our community.

The purpose of California’s cy pres statute is “to promote justice for all Californians.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 384, subd. (a).) By choosing CASA of Ventura County, class action parties are ensuring justice for our most vulnerable population – abused and neglected children. Cy pres monies will help provide a volunteer advocate for every child in Dependency Court here in our county.

CASA Is Ventura County’s Primary Child Advocacy Program for Foster Children.

CASA is the only non-profit organization of its kind in Ventura County focused on child advocacy. CASA of Ventura County:

• Has been in Ventura County since 1985, and has served over 2,000 children;

• Has collaborated with the District Attorney’s Office on a successful Victim of Crime Act (“VOCA”) grant;

• Is participating in the creation of a proposed Ventura County Family Justice Center;

• Is working with the Delinquency Court and Public Defender’s Office to allow foster youth who move from Dependency to Delinquency to keep their advocate, continuing their needed support;

• Partners closely with the Human Services Agency to establish better service for the children and to work together to prepare for the new California Continuum of Care Reform;

• Has created a CASA of Ventura County Child Sex Trafficking Program.

Please Stand With CASA

You can stand with CASA and support our local foster children by:
• Becoming a Volunteer Advocate or other CASA volunteer;
• Designating CASA of Ventura County for cy pres funds;
• Making a donation or supporting CASA events.

To learn more, please visit www.casaofventuracounty.org.

Cheryl A. De Bari, Esq., is Board Chair of CASA of Ventura County.

STANDING IN THE BACKGROUND — ATTORNEY COACHES FOR VENTURA COUNTY FOR HIGH SCHOOL MOCK TRIAL TEAMS

by Joseph O’Neill

For several nights every February, the Courthouse shakes with the energy and excitement generated by hundreds of high school students participating in the Ventura County Mock Trial Competition. More than 35 schools are now involved and each has a Mock Trial team with a Faculty Advisor and over 25 students. High school students portray the difficult roles of prosecution, defense and pretrial attorneys as well as witnesses and court staff. Each team has four attorneys for prosecution and defense units, with several witnesses for each side that present an entire felony trial beginning with pretrial motions and ending with the verdict. This year it is a first degree murder case with a pretrial argument involving the Fourth Amendment.

The Mock Trial competition requires students to develop the courage, confidence and the ability to perform at their highest level while standing before an audience. It also provides an introduction to the legal profession by volunteer attorney coaches who share their time and expertise with the entire team, and offer the attention needed to encourage each individual student to achieve their absolute best. It’s not an easy task for a volunteer, but it provides more satisfaction than ever expected. Several of these remarkable coaches took the time to share their experiences, ideas and suggestions.

(Full Disclosure: The author proud to be a coach at Pacifica HS in Oxnard. My complimentary words and high praise are intended only for my associate coaches, and definitely not myself.)

Senior Deputy Public Defender Donna Forry has been the Mock Trial coach for several years at Ventura High School; she began when her daughter was a student. “The best experience is to watch the kids perform to their best ability and watch their confidence grow,” says Forry. “I’m a coach because it’s a good way to pay back the community; and I want to keep the program growing.” Forry devotes a great deal of time to her Ventura HS team and shares her experience of many years as a trial attorney in serious felony cases. These students are very fortunate to have Forry and her superb knowledge of criminal law setting an example as a confident and prepared trial attorney, t.

At Oxnard High School, the volunteer coach is attorney Matt Bromund of Ventura. who proudly brags that over 110 students on past Mock Trial teams were encouraged by their personal experiences and legal training to continue further education with college or professional training. Bromund also remarks that “my own skill as a criminal defense, family law and immigration attorney has been helped tremendously by coaching these students as I have been challenged to find new and clearer ways to explain evidence issues and storytelling techniques.” Bromund always points out that he is inspired to work with ”sharp minds and raw talent.” He is a great role model for his students.

When speaking of role models, there is nobody as impressive as the Mock Trial coach at Newbury Park High School, Ayala Benefraim, Senior Deputy Public Defender. Benefraim’s team performs at a very high level because of her attention to important details like issue spotting, questioning styles and courtroom strategies. “I love working with the kids. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. They also help me in my own practice of law by forcing me to bring things back to basics. I am very proud of the work the Mock Trial team does. The students are committed, the teachers are amazing and the entire program is stellar,” says Benefraim. Of importance to her students, Benefraim shows by her example that is possible to be a strong professional, and also conduct yourself with personality and confidence.

Everyone is impressed with David Shaneyfelt of the Alvarez Firm in Camarillo. Armed with an expertise in insurance coverage litigation, Shaneyfelt steps into the criminal arena and every year becomes the volunteer and only coach for St. Augustine Academy of Ventura. As a result, this quality team has a reputation for high performance, and always produces at least one award winner. Shaneyfelt says, “I love watching a shy, insecure teen become confident, articulate and passionate. Most students go through the same process and they achieve something that they never thought they were capable of achieving. They gain critical skills for life, whether they go into law or not.” He adds that his highest compliment is when parents say to him, “I can’t believe what you’ve done to my kid.”

You can’t help but be astonished by the performance record of the many students and teams that had the good fortune to have Ron Bamieh of the Law Offices of Bamieh & Erickson in Ventura as their Mock Trial coach. Since 1993 Bamieh has coached both the Buena High School and La Reina Mock Trial teams to a championship level. He now uses Skype and a monthly trip to be the coach of the Stanford University Mock Trial team.

Some of Bamieh’s favorite memories as a Mock Trial coach include winning the World Championship in New York with La Reina in 2011, winning three consecutive California State high school championship titles, and making the final four in the Ventura Competition in his second year at Buena. But Bamieh states that the greatest reward is “I’ve been coaching Mock Trial 20 years and have coached over 500 kids. It is a fact that 87 kids are now lawyers and another 30 or so are in law school. One of my former students is a lawyer in my firm and is a great lawyer. It makes me proud to think that her legal career stared when she showed up to a meeting in her sophomore year.” Without any doubt, the Ventura County Mock Trial MVP is Coach Bamieh.

My personal experience as the Pacifica HS Mock Trial coach has provided insight into the diversity of Oxnard. Members of my team come from backgrounds and families much different than mine. A favorite coaching reward is discovering that a student gains the confidence to set and achieve new goals. Most of the Pacifica team continues on to college or professional training, but the most impressive are those students who work to be the first in the family to graduate high school and go to college. Being a volunteer Mock Trial coach is the best thing I do because we make the leaders of tomorrow.

All teams and attorney coaches appreciate beyond words the professional help and time from our attorney friends who serve as volunteer judges for scrimmages as we prepare for the competition. They spend the time and effort to study the fact pattern, witness statements and legal authorities befpre a long evening of trial. They provide the necessary opportunity for all students to gain the experience and courage to be their absolute best in the Competition. Our “Thank You” for their valuable help to Kevin Mc Verry, William Haney, Senior Deputy District Attorney John Barrick, Paul Blatz, Chief Deputy Public Defender Rod Kodman, Senior Deputy Public Defender Randy Tucker, Senior Deputy Public Defender William Lenehan, and Victor Salas. (Only a partial list).

Final Requests from
Attorney Coaches

We ask everyone to join our “Give Us One Night” effort, and volunteer to be a scorer at the competition. You know that legal knowledge, trial performance and sincere efforts are always more important than a verdict. The number of attorney scorers is unfortunately low. Just one night, please!

A friendly audience is always a bonus for our teams. If your group has an evening or weekend meeting and would be interested in watching our students perform the pretrial Fourth Amendment motion and a short intra-team scrimmage, contact the Bar office for information. (Important to note that school schedules will always control).

Every school in Ventura County could use another attorney coach. Most of us did not volunteer; we were asked to participate and we did. For four months, the involvement requires personal time, weekend and evening practices, and attention to all details; but the experience for the attorney coach is rewarding beyond description. You will personally understand why the future is so very bright when you work with such talented young adults.

Joseph O’Neill practices criminal law in Oxnard.

Editor’s note:  This is the second of a two-part article on the Cuban legal system, written by students from the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law who traveled to Cuba during the summer of 2017. Part One of the article appeared in the November 2017 issue of CITATIONS.

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GAY RIGHTS IN CUBA

by Ambrosio Bigornia, Jr.

Article 42 of the Cuban Constitution prohibits and punishes any form of discrimination that is harmful to human dignity. In 1948 Cuba was among the first countries to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declaring that every individual has the right to freedom of expression. Cuban legal professionals believe these constitutional guarantees are robust and secure for all Cubans. But I quickly learned what the Cuban gay community has known for a long time: Cuba does not really extend these rights to them.

Gays have had a long history of discrimination by the Cuban government. Fidel Castro viewed homosexuality as counterrevolutionary. In a 1965 interview, Castro said, “We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the condition and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true communist militant.” In other words, a revolutionary man could not be gay.

Beginning in 1965, gays and other “undesirables” were placed into concentration camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs). Forced labor was used to “reeducate” gays and signs at these camps read, “Work will make you men.” After international criticism and protests of the UMAPs, the Cuban government closed them down. 

Castro eventually accepted responsibility for the mistreatment of gays. In a 2010 interview, he acknowledged that past transgressions against gays while he was in power were a great injustice. But the damage had already been done. To this day, Cuba remains under the influence of, what one professor called, the “machismo of Latin America.” Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation persists.

The 33rd Annual Report on Human Rights to Congress reported that Cuban police routinely sweep gay areas in Cuba and harass gay men by fining them or threatening them with prosecution for “social dangerousness.” We spoke with a young Cuban gay man who gave us personal accounts of how the gay community is harassed by the police and of how their public conduct is restricted. “We don’t hold hands in front of the police,” he told us. “They give us tickets and the fines are expensive.”

Despite the history of oppression and restrictions on expression, the fight for gay rights seems to be headed in the right direction. Although societal discrimination persists, the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, or access to education or health care. Mariela Castro Espín, President Raúl Castro’s daughter, is an outspoken advocate for gay rights. She currently heads the National Center for Sexual Education and has called on the Communist Party to eliminate any discrimination that remains.

CUBAN RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY LAW

by Rogelio Tuazon

Residential real estate in Cuba is in a state of rapid transition. The Urban Reform Law of 1960, created by the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, ended the sale of residences and private rental housing. Cubans leaving the country automatically forfeited their homes to the state. In 2011, Raúl Castro published Law 288, aimed to expand the private sector, to cut government size, and to reform agricultural and state enterprises. One of its provisions allows Cubans and legal residents to freely buy and sell homes subject to these conditions: 1) permits ownership to one residence and one vacation home, 2) legalizes housing swaps, if properly declared, 3) cash is the only acceptable method of payment, 4) the payment of asset transfer tax by buyer, and lump sum income tax by seller, and 5) includes a mechanism to update property titles by allowing people to register their homes in the municipal property registry; a pre-condition of transferring ownership.

The 2011 law relaxed excessive prohibitions affecting the personal lives of Cubans. The reform is a human rights advancement, as it expands economic freedom. It provides Cuban people a sense of pride through property ownership. However, the law is far from perfect. Foreign nationals are prohibited from owning real estate in Cuba. Cuban nationals and legal residents cannot own more than two residences. Loans are only available for home repair and remodeling. The system has already been subject to fraud and exploitation. Buyers and sellers underreport the purchase price to drastically reduce taxes. Market knowledge is in its infancy. Home sales vary from one transaction to another due to lack of real estate database, along with government’s failure to make municipal records of home sales transactions public. The law needs amendments to establish accurate and predictive market values and behavior.

The idea of a freehold estate does not conform well within the political, economic, and social context of a political culture based on Marxist notions of communal and state-owned property. The new law legalizing the sale and purchase of residential properties is a positive step towards a democratic reform. But the law continues to lack policies allowing expansion of new real estate developments. The lack of mortgage financing severely impedes ownership expansion. Government red tape dampens speedy procedures for remodeling, rehabilitating, and construction. Cuba must learn to integrate measures to stimulate and advance property ownership by establishing a hybrid economy, combining centralized politics with market based economic policies.

LAW OFFICE COLLECTIVES

by Viktoria Morgan

Rene Gonzalez, a member of the so-called “Cuban Five,” was born in Chicago and raised in Cuba. Gonzalez and four other Cubans were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder and acting as agents of a foreign government. After terrorist bombings in Habana organized by former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, the intelligence officers were sent to South Florida. They infiltrated Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue, which rescued migrants fleeing Cuba on rafts and distributed leaflets over Habana, violating Cuban airspace. In 1996, two Brothers aircraft were shot down and five United States citizens died. The Clinton administration investigated. Cuba, believing the FBI was interested in establishing Carriles’s role in these terrorist efforts, naïvely provided 175 pages of material to the FBI. However, this evidence was never used to follow up on Carriles; instead, the Cuban Five were arrested and became the scapegoats.

All five men were convicted and Rene Gonzalez served thirteen years in federal prison. The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five organized a campaign to reverse the convictions in twenty U.S. cities and over 30 countries. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights called on the U.S. government to resolve the unfair convictions. Its report focused on the harsh sentences and lack of impartiality of the trial in violation of the standards defined in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Amnesty International criticized the U.S. for its treatment of the Cuban Five when their wives’ visitation visas were denied.

Gonzalez is now the Director of the José Martí Cultural Center. After he finished his sentence, he was allowed to renounce his U.S. citizenship and return to Cuba. One of the other Five also completed his time and the remaining three were eventually the subject of a U.S./Cuba prisoner exchange.

Although Gonzalez is one of the most recognized people in Cuba, even appearing on a postage stamp, he was gracious, humble and remarkably not bitter about his treatment and imprisonment. The Cuban Five case raises questions about the judicial system’s ability to fairly handle politicized cases, but Gonzalez acknowledged that the case was not typical. He discussed the flaws he witnessed within his own trial. He touched on the presumption of innocence and whether it can genuinely exist within humans. He offered that an accused person often faces the obstacle of being presumed guilty until proven innocent. Prejudice against the defendant inadvertently operates within any trial. Gonzalez stressed that plea bargaining destroys the integrity of the judicial system. Defendants who are faced with the choice between a shorter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or a potential life sentence if they go to trial, are not in a position to exercise free will. This, in Gonzalez’ view is procedural injustice. Gonzalez experienced prosecutors blackmailing witnesses by threatening them with perjury charges in attempts to obtain and manipulate testimony.

Despite his suffering for being wrongfully, imprisoned, he is positive, resilient, and refuses to hold hate in his heart. Gonzalez said that justice fills the hearts of both the U.S. and Cuban people. He highlighted the fact that the U.S. and Cuba are neighbors with many cultural ties and common interests such as controlling the illegal drug trade and environmental issues. He believes that as soon as we can come together to have a dialogue, the future will be brighter for both countries.

MUJERES CUBANAS

by Joan Vignocchi

Americans have a picture of the Cuban Revolution of Fidel Castro and his band of bearded men. This picture leaves out the women who made the Cuban Revolution possible. One of these women was Vilma Espín, a pivotal figure who convinced the CIA to support the revolution (at first). Vilma was married to Raúl Castro until her death in 2007. She is famous for starting the Federation of Cuban Women, an organization still working for gender equality today. Cubans are proud to tell you that Mariela Castro Espín, her daughter, inherited her activism for gay and transgender rights from her mother who fought for women’s rights and gender equality.

Cuba leads the world in the number of women in government. Women serve in 49% of elected seats in the Cuban legislature, the National Assembly of People’s Power (NAPP). Eighty percent of judges are women. Habana’s ONBC Director, a woman, noted that 75% of the lawyers in the Habana region are women, as are most of the law students at the University of Habana. Cuba is also the first country to elect a transgender woman.

Knowing these statistics was augmented by experiencing a culture that celebrates strong women. We met a panel of judges who serve in the Economic Crimes courtroom in the Habana Municipal and Provincial courts. They were all women, as were most of their staff. Two-thirds of judgeships are elected positions, so not only are women working in high-status careers, they are elected by their neighbors to do it.

One of the judges we met was visibly pregnant. She will receive her full salary during her maternity leave for six weeks before birth and for twelve weeks after. Then, either the mother or the father is entitled to 60% of their salary for up to 40 more weeks. All education in Cuba is free, including preschool, so both parents can work.

Before the revolution, maternal deaths were mostly due to illegal abortions. In 1965, when Cuba implemented free national health care, contraception and abortion became legal and free. Back alley abortions are still illegal. Women may only obtain abortions for free at the hospital. Cuban maternal mortality rates are impressively low for an impoverished country. Contraception is promoted via the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). Its primary goal is to reduce teen pregnancy, STIs, HIV transmission, and to promote “the development of a culture of sexuality that is full, pleasurable and responsible, as well as to promote the full exercise of sexual rights.” It also is the world’s pioneer in gender reassignment surgery, which is free under the national health care system for people who qualify.

Before the revolution, there was a very low literacy rate among the entire Cuban population and especially among women. After the revolution, Vilma Espín was a leader in getting women into the workplace, setting up child care centers, and spreading literacy. Within a few years, Cuba’s literacy rate jumped to 99%, where it has remained.

The top jobs in government and scientific institutions still mostly go to men, and the machismo element of the culture is still evident in the expectations that women hold down jobs and do the cooking and housework. Cubans we met were shocked to learn that American women on average earn less than men. All crime, including rape, is very low. Domestic violence is still an issue as it is everywhere in the world. Domestic violence in Cuba is categorized along with any other assault or physical violence as a crime. There is no special legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, nor is there an attitude that the victim is to blame. Any offensive contact is treated the same no matter who the perpetrator is. Cuba is changing economically, but women’s rights and gender equality are so ingrained in Cuban society that the status of women will keep improving. Even machismo culture celebrates women for their hard work and contributions to the family and society, not just for their looks.

Joan Vignocchi, earned hers at UC Santa Barbara, All are 2018 JD candidates from the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law. 

CUBAN ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION

by Tyler Potter

Most often, lawyers are drawn to be prosecutors by the opportunity to seek justice. Seeking justice often entails fairly and aggressively prosecuting offenders who have committed heinous crimes, but not every offender deserves a lengthy sentence, and in some cases, justice requires the application of grace and mercy. A criminal conviction, even for a low-level offense, can have a profound impact on a person’s life. For certain minor crimes involving people who made an uncharacteristically poor choice, I believe it is possible to obtain justice outside of the courts.

Toward that end, effective Oct. 1, the District Attorney’s Office implemented a pre-filing Misdemeanor Diversion Program. Under this program, individuals with no recent or serious criminal history who commit certain low-level misdemeanor crimes are offered a chance to avoid having a criminal case filed against them. To be eligible, an individual must never have been convicted of a felony and may not have participated in a diversion program or been convicted of a misdemeanor in the past ten years. Participation is entirely voluntary. Serious misdemeanor crimes, such as driving under the influence, gang crime or domestic violence, will not be considered for diversion.

Individuals who accept diversion will attend courses led by Pacific Educational Services (PES), an industry-leading diversion provider. The courses are aimed at increasing personal accountability and are based upon a therapeutic concept known as cognitive behavioral therapy. The number and type of courses depends on the circumstances of the crime, but are focused on topics such as victim impact, theft prevention, life skills, substance abuse education and anger management. If appropriate, the offender must also pay restitution to the victim.

This program is a pre-filing opportunity, only. Once charges are filed against a defendant, they will not be eligible to be diverted for that offense. The decision to offer diversion is made only after a deputy district attorney has reviewed the case and determined that it would be appropriate to file criminal charges. If an individual does not wish to participate, or fails to complete the program outlined for them, charges will be filed and the case will proceed through the courts as it normally would.

Those who choose to participate will pay PES between $300 to $600, or sometimes more, depending on the number of courses required and whether restitution is owed. If they successfully complete the required coursework, remain crime-free and pay all restitution and fees, no criminal case will be filed. This program will be entirely offender funded, with no cost to taxpayers. Neither the District Attorney’s Office nor the County will receive any portion of the offenders’ fees. Since a person’s access to justice should not be dictated by their income, PES will establish an “indigent fund” to defray the costs for qualifying participants.

We chose Pacific Educational Services as the provider for our Misdemeanor Diversion Program because of their proven track record. A similar program in Orange County was shown to have a significant effect on reducing recidivism. A study by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office showed that 21 percent of individuals who declined to participate in their diversion program re-offended within one year. Conversely, only six percent of individuals who completed the diversion program re-offended in that same period.

My hope is this program will provide low-level offenders with an opportunity to address the issues that led them to break the law in the first place. If we can do that, we will improve the safety of our community and empower offenders to change their lives for the better. If you have any questions about this program, feel free to contact Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brent Nibecker at
brent.nibecker@ventura.org.

Gregory D. Totten is the District Attorney of the County of Ventura. He was elected in 2002 and is now serving his fourth term.

Exec’s Dot…Dot…Dot…

by Steve Henderson, M.A., CAEs

From Judge Kent Kellegrew – recently, Justice Arthur Gilbert wrote something I thought CITATIONS readers would find amusing. In Beaudoin v. Westar Transportation (Aug. 17, 2017, B271072), Justice Gilbert wrote the following, “Westar concedes its arbitration agreement is one of adhesion. It acknowledges that such an adhesive employment arbitration agreement contains at least some degree of procedural unconscionability, but claims that the adhesive nature of the agreement establishes only a ‘modest’ degree of procedural unconscionability. [Citation.] Here the concept of a modest degree of unconscionability amounts to an immodest oxymoron”…Mock Trial Advisor for Buena High School, Matt Colton, tells me he needs a lawyer to assist in preparing for the competition. They are currently meeting two nights a week and are willing to be flexible in schedules. They have eighteen eager students in need. matthew.colton@venturausd.org

Jordan? Dead Sea, Jerash, Petra (where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed) and Egypt? Dien Le at 658.7800 or le@srllplaw.com… The California State Supreme Court ruled Oct. 18 that the California Bar Exam
cut score will remain
at 1440. You may read more at
newsroom.courts.ca.gov/news… Beach  Cowdrey
Jenkins, LLP, has promoted three of its attorneys to the position of partner.
Darryl Hottinger, Mindee Stekkinger and David Loy were promoted Aug. 14…

The Central Coast Chapter of Applicants Attorneys Association awarded their first lifetime achievement award to Alan Ghitterman on Sept. 27. Ghitterman has been representing injured workers since 1959 when he first came to Ventura. He now resides in Santa Barbara and still practices at age 91 with his son Russell. In addition, our own Lou Vigorita received an award for his ten-year leadership service with the Central Coast Chapter… Executive office available immediately in a professional suite. Many amenities. Call Sally at Ron Harrington’s firm, 658.0998…

The Channel Islands Maritime Museum hosted the 227th Anniversary of the U.S. Coast Guard on Aug. 4. During the event, CIMM Model Guild Award Captain Richard Walton presented a model of the USCG Lightship NANTUCKET to the US Coast Guard Station Channel Islands Harbor… City of Oakland seeks a Deputy City Attorney II or III for Land Use—www.oaklandcityattorney.org. The Ventura County Barristers is hosting a CLE entitled, “Guardianship of the Person Proceedings and the Use of a Power of Attorney for the Car of a Minor Child.” Speakers are the Hon. Tari Cody and Rennee Dehesa. Held Nov. 15, and costs $15 (Barristers) and $25 (non-Barristers)…

Not to be outdone, the Ventura County Family Law Bar Association has scheduled a Saturday morning gathering, Nov. 4, inside the Hilton Garden Inn in Oxnard. A three-hour CLE entitled, “Introduction to Dependency.” Speakers are Amanda Sanderson, Andrew Wolf, Carlos Najera, Robert Garcia, Richard Gilman and Judge Cody…

LASTLY, do me a huge favor and attend our Annual Dinner honoring Joe Strohman, Dolly Night and Chris Beck. Not only do we celebrate these three exemplary attorneys, the Silent Auction is a major fundraiser for Ventura County Legal Aid, Inc. It’s on a Friday night (first time ever) Nov. 17, and at the Camarillo Ranch House (first time ever)… FCOP has announced Josh Hopstone has matriculated to partner with the firm effective Jan. 1…

Steve Henderson has been the executive director and chief executive officer of the bar association and its affiliated organizations since November 1990. Folks will be celebrating his ten years of service Nov. 16, with some of his friends including Elle McPherson, Tom Brady, Yasil Puig and Sean Spicer. Proceeds benefit Henderson’s Foundation for the Future, a group effort insuring his retirement fund. Henderson may be reached at steve@vcba.org, FB, Twitter at steve@hendo1, LinkedIn, Instagram at steve_hendo, or better yet, 650.7599.