Monday, December 30, 2013

Central District of California Bankruptcy Court Hosts Another Successful Federal Court Power Lunch

On December 13, 2013, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California hosted a Federal Court Power Lunch for Whitney High School.  A Power Lunch is a program for high school students who come to the courthouse to meet judges and lawyers, and to learn about the law and the legal profession.  Circuit Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein, Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne H, Segal, Magistrate Judges Alka Sagar and Michael C. Wilner, and Judge Holly Fujie of the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, participated in the event.  Additionally, Bankruptcy Clerk of Court and Executive Officer Kathy Campbell, including members of her staff attended and helped make the event a huge success.

Approximately 50 students and staff from Whitney High School attended the Power Lunch.  United States Attorney Andre Birotte, Jr.; David Madden, assistant circuit executive for public information, Ninth Circuit Office of the Circuit Executive; and Julie Pollock, a UCLA fellow, also participated in the event.  Several volunteer attorneys including assistant U.S. attorneys, deputy federal public defenders, and an attorney from the Bureau of Prisons took part in the event.  Judge Klein’s law clerks, Stephanie Rettier and Razmig Izakelian, also spoke with the students and participated in the lunch.
Judge Klein introduced each of the judges and spoke briefly about her background and the importance of mentoring in her career.  Judge Nguyen kicked off the event and discussed her background, dreaming big, and never letting obstacles get in her way.  Judge Segal explained what magistrate judges do and what led her to a career in the law.  Judge Sagar, who was the guest speaker, provided information about her family, her background and the definitive moments in her career, including her recent appointment to the bench.  All of the speakers emphasized the importance of perseverance and never giving up your dreams.    

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inside the Courtroom with District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller

On December 4, 2013, United States District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller visited San Diego High School and spoke with approximately 100 students about his career and the federal courts.  Business law teacher Patrick Goddard interviewed Judge Miller in the style of James Lipton on the T.V. Series "Inside the Actors Studio," providing an opportunity for students to get a real sense of what it takes to become a federal judge and what the job is like on a day-to-day basis.  Judge Miller entertained students with stories of his career and helped them to better understand how our system of justice works.  He discussed the process of federal judicial appointments in the U.S., how cases travel through the federal courts and issues that the courts are likely to grapple with over the next few years.  Students had an opportunity to ask Judge Miller their own questions on cases he has handled and challenges he has faced.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Court of Appeals Hosts Students in Pasadena

Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals welcomed students to the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Courthouse in Pasadena on November 12, 2013. About 50 senior class students from La Canada High School visited the court as part of a Ninth Circuit civics program organized by the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles

Monday, November 25, 2013

Central District of California Bankruptcy Court Honors Pro Bono Volunteers

As a participant in the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Celebration, held the week of October 20, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California honored 307 pro bono attorneys, students, and paralegals who assisted self-represented parties in the district throughout the year.  An annual event, National Pro Bono Celebration Week is held during the third week of October and is promoted by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.  Since 2011, the court has participated by publishing an Honor Roll listing the names of volunteers, which are submitted by the pro bono organizations that serve visitors to each of the court’s five divisions.  This year, the court’s Pro Se Committee added to this tradition by hosting its first Celebration of Pro Bono Volunteers, made possible by support from the Central District’s Attorney Admission Fund.

The celebration, organized by the court’s Pro Se Committee, included an afternoon reception at the Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on October 24.  During the event, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Peter H. Carroll spoke about the difference the volunteers make in the lives of those who can least afford access to the legal system.  Among those who attended the event to personally express their appreciation to the volunteers were Bankruptcy Judge Maureen A. Tighe, chair of the Pro Se Committee; Bankruptcy Judges Julia W. Brand, Catherine E. Bauer, Thomas B. Donovan, Sandra R. Klein, and Vincent P. Zurzolo; and Clerk of Court/Executive Officer Kathleen J. Campbell.  Copies of the 2012 Pro Se Annual Report were provided, along with Celebrate Pro Bono certificates for each of the volunteers. 

The Honor Roll is published on the Court’s website, as well as a letter from Chief Judge Peter H. Carroll acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of the volunteers and the positive impact they have on not only the parties themselves, but also the Court and the public.  Self-represented filings continue to comprise approximately one quarter of the Court’s total filings, even as the number of total filings decreases.  The assistance of pro bono volunteers streamlines these cases, which are often delayed due to the difficulty parties meet trying to complete their cases without attorney representation.  The benefits of pro bono assistance are far-reaching, because they allow the Court to operate with greater efficiency and enhance access to justice and service to the public.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Central District Judges Speak to Law Students About Externship Opportunities

On October 21, 2013, more than 100 eager law students attended a Federal Judicial Externship Panel hosted by Loyola Law School.  The event was designed to inform students about the nature of externship programs in the federal courts and the hiring process.  The panel featured three judges from the Central District of California: United States Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein, U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, and U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal.  The judges were joined by Angella D. Yates, law clerk to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Neil W. Bason, who is involved in Loyola's externship program and serves as a mentor to Loyola students seeking judicial externships and clerkships.

The panelists discussed a wide range of topics, including judges’ selection criteria for externs, the “do’s and don’ts” of interviewing, and the type of work assigned to externs in their respective courts.  They also emphasized that externs have the opportunity to observe many different court proceedings.
Judge Segal advised students that the most important thing to get out of their externship is to improve their legal research and writing skills.  “It is how lawyers communicate, and it is the most important thing you will do in your career,” she said.  “An externship will teach you to succinctly and persuasively get the attention of the judge,” Judge O’Connell added.

In addition to discussing how valuable the experience can be for law students, the panelists also noted that the “fresh perspective” from externs and their enthusiasm for learning are highly appreciated in chambers.  Judge Klein, who moderated the event, said that she uses the externship program as a chance to both teach and learn from the students.  She also described the high level of staff interaction within chambers and referred to her law clerks and externs as “family.” 

The benefits of the externship program were strongly echoed when former externs at the event talked about their own experiences.  When asked which aspect of his externship surprised him the most, Joshua Aberman, former extern to Judge O’Connell, replied, “The level of responsibility you get at the start.”  Ahree Song, former extern to Judge Klein, said that she was most surprised by how accessible and approachable the judge was.  Angella Yates mentioned that bankruptcy cases involve a broad range of legal issues and that externing for a judge can be the first step to a post-graduate judicial clerkship. 

The event had a great turnout and was an overwhelming success.  It was a truly unique opportunity for law students to hear firsthand how a judicial externship can supplement and enrich their legal education and their legal careers.

Friday, November 8, 2013

OSHER Students Visit Federal Courts in San Diego

Over 30 students from San Diego State University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute visited the United States District Court for the Southern District of California on November 7, 2013.  The students, ages 55 and over, toured all three courthouses and met with Bankruptcy Judge Margaret M. Mann and Senior District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller.  They learned about the federal court system from Clerk of Court W. Samuel Hamrick, Jr., and observed bankruptcy court proceedings and district court sentencings. They had an opportunity to hear from representatives of local branches of the Office of the Clerk, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Office of the Federal Public Defender, U.S. Probation Office, U.S. Marshals Service and even the warden of Metropolitan Correctional Center. It was an excellent opportunity for the group to learn about their court system.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

San Diego Teachers Make "The Court Connection"

Twenty five San Diego County social studies and law career path teachers participated in an event created specifically for them through the joint effort of  the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, San Diego County Office of Education and the San Diego Unified School District. The program held October 2, 2013, was designed to support the 5th, 8th and 12th grade transition to common core state standards, to focus on the importance of the judicial branch of government, and to help teachers promote civic responsibility and good citizenship among their students.

District Judge Janis L. Sammartino, Senior District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller, Chief Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes, Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major, Clerk of Court W. Samuel Hamrick, Jr., and Assistant Circuit Executive David Madden all presented information to the teachers and presided over specially set calendars giving the teachers an opportunity to observe actual court proceedings. The presenters then engaged with the teachers in small groups over lunch to discuss what they had seen and learned, allowing them to ask individual questions and delve more deeply into the subject matter.

The teachers reported that the program exceeded their expectations and that it was one of the best professional development opportunities they had been given. Having the opportunity to speak face-to-face with a federal judge was a highlight of the event.  So, despite the obstacles of having to find a substitute teacher and navigating traffic into downtown San Diego, the teachers felt they had gained a lot of useful information from the program that they could take back to their students.  They also learned about the numerous community outreach programs available in the Southern Distict of California for their students to participate in throughout the school year.

The court hopes to build on the success of this event and host another Court Connection program in June, 2014.

On October 1, 2013,  Hon. Michael Anello of the Southern District of California invited 25 high school seniors to observe opening statements and witness testimony in a criminal trial involving drugs being brought across the U.S./Mexico border. He then spent time answering the students questions about what they had observed and general questions about the court system. Judge Anello's law clerk, Colin MacDonald, then shared additional information with the students about high publicity cases heard
 in the Southern District.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Court Commemorates Independence Day with Naturalization Ceremony

Back row from left are Magistrate Judge Joaquin V.E. Manibusan, Jr., and Chief District Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, and in front is Ms. Marilyn Alcon, naturalization clerk
The United States District Court for the District of Guam held a naturalization ceremony in celebration of Independence Day.  Held July 3, 2013, the court welcomed 38 new citizens, who are from the countries of China, the Federated States of Micronesia, Italy, Philippines, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka.  Chief District Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood made welcoming remarks and administered the Oath of Allegiance while Magistrate Judge Joaquin V.E. Manibusan, Jr., led the group in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “I am honored to be a part of this special Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony and celebrate with 38 new naturalized citizens the 237th birthday of our nation,” said Judge Tydingco-Gatewood.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Central District of California Welcomes Student Groups

As the school year winds down and the summer break approaches, May is typically a busy month for educational outreach activities at the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  Several judges in the Western Division welcomed students from local area schools for mock trials and educational programs in May, including the following:  
On May 15, approximately 50 third-grade students and two teachers from Wilmington Park Elementary School visited the Spring Street Courthouse for a discussion with Senior District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr., and a presentation by the U.S. Marshals Service in Judge Hatter’s courtroom.  The students also visited Judge Hatter’s chambers.
On May 17, approximately 25 fifth-graders from Utah Street Elementary School visited the Spring Street Courthouse for a mock trial presided over by District Judge S. James Otero in his courtroom.  The mock trial served as the culmination of a year-long course on the criminal justice system presented by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.  After the mock trial, U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Jr., congratulated the students and presented them with their graduation certificates.  U.S. Attorney Birotte and several assistant U.S. attorneys who taught the course also spoke to the students about the benefits of an education and careers in the law and law enforcement over a pizza lunch at the U.S. attorney’s office.

On May 22, approximately two dozen 12th graders from Inglewood High School visited the Spring Street Courthouse as part of a new “We the Students” program sponsored by DLA Piper.  The event was hosted by Senior District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in her courtroom, and District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Jr., and former U.S. Marshal and Inglewood High School alumnus Tony Perez spoke to the students about their respective career paths.  Following a visit to Judge Marshall’s chambers and a demonstration by her court recorder, the students who won a related essay contest read their winning essays and received their awards.

On May 23, a class of third-grade students from Mount Washington Elementary School visited the Spring Street Courthouse to participate in a mock trial presided over by Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh.  After the mock trial, the students were treated to a pizza lunch by Judge Walsh.

"Bring Your Child to Work Day" at The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California


The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California welcomed the children of staff from the Office of the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Defenders of San Diego Inc. for a day of fun and learning about the court system in which their parents work.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Justice Kennedy's Guide for Young Readers

Young people interested in learning more about the American heritage of liberty and democracy need go no further than the books, speeches and films most admired by one of the nation’s preeminent jurists.

"Understanding Freedom’s Heritage: How to Keep and Defend Liberty" is a young people’s list of summer reading and viewing suggested by United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The list was shared by Justice Kennedy earlier this year at the opening of the Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Library and Learning Center, which is housed in the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse in Sacramento.

Working with organizers of the foundation formed to support the library and learning center, the Ninth Circuit Library has posted the list along with links to many of the titles available in the public domain on its Internet website.

Western District of Washington Holds Ceremony to Welcome Youngest U.S. Citizens

Chief Judge Pechman with Lily and Aaron Woods
On June 21, 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, in partnership with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, welcomed five children who became new U.S. citizens. They were introduced by the Kent American Legion Color Guard during the welcoming ceremony. Chief District Judge Marsha J. Pechman, who administered the Oath of Allegiance.

Read more about this event

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bring a Child to Work Day

On June 26, 2013,the Southern District of California hosted its annual Bring a Child to Work Day.  65 children of court staff, Probation, Pretrial Services, Bankruptcy and the Clerk's Office visited the Court to learn what happens when mom and dad leave for work each day. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Latham welcomed the children to the District and gave them an overview of how the federal court system works. Deputy U.S. Marshal Joanne Boyd and her partner Ella taught the children about the life of an explosive sniffing canine and her handler. The younger children visited a courtroom and got to see a holding cell. The older children visited MCC and learned about life in a jail and had an opportunity to observe court proceedings.  Both groups participated in age appropriate mock trial proceedings presided over by District Judge Dana Sabraw, Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Mann and Magistrate Judge Barbara Major. It was a very fun, busy and educational day for all.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Making it Real

On June 17, 2013, District Judge Anthony Battaglia (Southern District of Californa) hosted a group of high school students attending a summer "Criminal Justice Academy" coordinated by Exploring. These 25 students, who are all planning to pursue a career in law or law enforcement, had an opportunity to watch actual sentencings and probation revocations followed by a panel presentation consisting of representatives from some the many careers available in and associated with the federal judiciary. From ICE to MCC, court reporting to interpreting, prosecution to defense, nearly a dozen representatives shared their stories with these students and told them what it takes to be competitive for these government jobs.  It was a wonderful learning experience for the students and an enjoyable presenting experience for the professionals.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Jury hung over whether teen texting was grossly negligent

On May 31, 2013, United States Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Mann hosted 30 high school students for a mock trial to determine whether an 18 year old was guilty of gross negligence of the death of a fellow passenger killed during an automobile accident after sending a text. Judge Mann was assisted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Scholpler and Federal Defender Bridget Kennedy.  After the mock trial, the students had an opportunity to learn about the various careers associated with the federal courts.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Big Bad Wolf Not Liable for Pigs' Losses

A mock jury, comprised of third grade students in the Southern District of California, found the Big Bad Wolf was not liable for damages caused when he sneezed, causing two houses, owned by plaintiffs Curly and Wurly Pig, to fall apart.  Wolf argued that his allergies were the problem and he did not intend to injure the pigs in any manner.  The Pigs' assertions that he intentionally huffed and puffed and blew their homes down did not persuade the jurors.  United States District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel presided over the mock trial.  Assistant United States Attorney Dan Butcher and Federal Defender Deke Falls also participated in the mock trial.  The 8- and 9-year-old students played all the roles and deliberated the facts diligently before reaching their verdict.  After the trial, the students had the opportunity to step into a holding cell, try on a bullet proof vest and watch a demonstration by the U.S. Marshals Service's explosive-detecting canine.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Learning Over Lunch

On May 14, 2013, Senior District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller of the United States Disrict Court for the Southern District of California had lunch with 10 students he had met at the naturalization ceremony he presided over on April 24, 2013.  At the naturalization ceremony, the eighth grade students spoke before a crowd of several thousand people on the topic of the American Dream.  Judge Miller was so impressed with the poise of the students and the content of their speeches that he invited them to a brown bag lunch in his courtroom to discuss the federal court system.  The students came fully prepared to make the most of this rare opportunity to ask questions directly of a federal judge in an informal setting. They spent two hours discussing the court system, discussing a hypothetical legal issue and asking general questions.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mock Jury Determines Wicked Stepmother Owes Cinderella Back Wages

Bankruptcy Judge Christopher S. Latham hosted 65 students in the Southern District of California for a civil mock trial to determine if Zelda Tremaine, aka the wicked stepmother, owed Princess Ella, more commonly referred to as "Cinder"ella, back wages for the years of services rendered to her "wicked stepmother and stepsisters."  The 5th grade students took on all the roles for the mock trial and then four separate juries deliberated the merits of the case. After completion of the mock trial, deputy U.S. marshals gave the students a glimpse into the life of a federal law enforcement officer.  Finally, the students watched a demonstration by two explosives detecting canines and their handlers.  One teacher commented that she really felt that this experience created a spark in some of her students that could last a lifetime.

Friday, May 3, 2013

U. S. District Court for the Southern District of California Invites 4 Graders to Participate in a Mock Trial

On May 3, 2013, Senior District Judge Irma Gonzalez welcomed 34 fourth grade students and some parents to the United States Disrict Court for the Southern District of California to participate in a mock trial involving two students accused of possessing fireworks with the intent to distribute.  Assistant United States Attorney Jill Burkhardt and Leila Morgan of Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., assisted Judge Gonzalez with the presentation. The students, ages 9-10, took on all the roles inculding judge and jury, defendants, attorneys and witnesses.  They engaged in the mock trial very seriously and acted out their respective roles enthusiastically.  Observers were particularly impressed by the way the students approached deliberations and discussed and debated the merits of the facts presented during the mock trial.