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REMEMBERING A LEGAL TRAILBLAZER What more can be said about Stanley Mosk, the legal giant who died last year after serving 37 years on the California Supreme Court? Plenty, as many showed last week when several of California’s political and judicial heavyweights gathered in Sacramento at the unveiling of a 7-foot-tall bronze statue of Mosk outside the front entrance of the newly renamed Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, across the street from the Capitol. Speakers representing the judicial, legislative and executive branch of state government — as well as prominent members of the legal community — spoke eloquently at the hourlong indoor and outdoor ceremonies about the man whose many rulings over the years were, as one person said, “trailblazing and brimming with courage.” Attendees included Chief Justice Ronald George, the six other current Supreme Court justices, newly re-elected state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, State Bar President James Herman and several members of Mosk’s family, including wife Kaygey Kash Mosk and son Richard Mosk, a justice on Los Angeles’ Second District Court of Appeal. Several shared fond memories of Mosk, including Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who talked about the many “pithy dissents” Mosk, a diehard liberal, issued for much of his last 15 years on a court dominated by Republicans. “He never minced words,” Corbett noted, referring fondly to Mosk’s dissent in 1988′s Moradi-Shalal v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Cos., 46 Cal.3d 287, in which the Supreme Court, over Mosk’s opposition, voted 5-2 to repudiate a third party’s right to sue an insurer for bad faith. “The insurance industry asked for a loaf of bread,” Mosk thundered in dissent. “The majority, with remarkable magnanimity, give it the whole bakery.” Chief Justice George recalled how Mosk survived the political firestorm of the 1980s — which saw fellow liberals on the Rose Bird court voted out of office — by not campaigning and vowing only to spend 22 cents on the stamp needed to file his retention papers. “That brilliant non-campaign threw any opponents off balance,” George said. “And Stanley was delighted when friends around the state began mailing him 22-cent stamps.” Son Richard Mosk half-jokingly suggested more buildings be renamed for his father, after noting that West Virginia has 30 public structures named after homegrown U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd. And he related how growing up in the Mosk house in Los Angeles was an adventure. “He married many movie stars at our home,” Richard Mosk said. “I had to clean up the rice.” Chief Justice George summed up his thoughts about Mosk by pointing, during the outdoor ceremony, to words inscribed in stone on a state building directly across the street. “Bring me men,” it read, “to match my mountains.” — Mike McKee GO SOAK YOUR HEAD A claim that insurers should cover the billable hours that a Southern California law firm lost when a burst water pipe flooded one of its offices has come up all wet. On Nov. 1, Los Angeles’ Second District Court of Appeal rejected Buxbaum & Chakmak’s claim of $6,805 in lost billable hours, saying the firm had never suspended operations within the meaning of its insurance policy. “After the flood, the firm may have functioned at less than normal capacity and with less than normal resources,” Justice Robert Mallano wrote for the court, “but it continued to operate nonetheless, as the time sheets indicate.” Justices Vaino Spencer and Miriam Vogel concurred. According to the ruling, attorneys at Buxbaum & Chakmak, which has offices in Claremont and Newport Beach, returned to the Claremont branch on Feb. 22, 1994, after a three-day holiday weekend, to find two inches of water, ruined carpet, soaked wallpaper, wet furniture and crashed computers. A water pipe had broken on Saturday. Aetna Life and Casualty Co. eventually paid more than $13,000 for property damage, but then the firm made a claim under its business interruption coverage for the lost billable hours of three of its seven attorneys. After investigation, Aetna initially offered $125, then later agreed to settle for $3,220. Buxbaum & Chakmak sued, claiming breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing and violation of the California Unfair Competition Law. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William McVittie granted summary judgment to Aetna, and the appeal court affirmed. In reaching its decision, the appeal court noted that each of the three attorneys in question had worked on client matters, as well as flood-related issues. They also pointed out that the water damage didn’t prevent the firm’s attorneys from working outside the Claremont office. “The firm is engaged in the business of providing legal services to clients,” Justice Mallano wrote, “and, notwithstanding the flood, it did so without interruption.” In unflattering comparisons, the court cited cases where coverage for business interruption was denied for far more serious incidents. Among them were a Texas fire that destroyed one of three apartment buildings in an integrated complex, a theft of merchandise from a Georgia retail store and a Washington motel’s business loss after being covered in six inches of ash from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. “Turning to the facts of the present case, the law firm claims a loss of income for the week following the flood,” Mallano wrote. “The claim is limited to the work of three attorneys.” The partially published case is Buxbaum v. Aetna Life and Casualty Co., 02 C.D.O.S. 10919. — Mike McKee WHO’S ON FIRST? Even Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cecil had trouble keeping straight the high-profile attorneys who crowded his courtroom last week for the plea deal in the Symbionese Liberation Army bank robbery case. Three times Cecil referred to William Harris’ attorney, Charles Bourdon of San Francisco’s Bourdon & Reisman, as “Mr. Hanlon,” as in Stuart Hanlon. That was Thursday, when Harris and co-defendants Emily Montague, Sara Jane Olson and Michael Bortin all pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the 1975 shooting of Myrna Lee Opsahl during a bank robbery in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael. Hanlon was actually sitting next to his client, Montague, just a few chairs away. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Harris worked as an investigator for Hanlon. Oh, and Harris and Montague used to be married. And the interwoven relationships don’t end there. For a time, Hanlon represented Olson in her other SLA case in Los Angeles. After Hanlon left that case, J. Tony Serra, also of San Francisco, stepped in. In the Sacramento case, Serra represents Bortin. Bortin and Olson are also brother- and sister-in-law. All these relationships prompted Sacramento prosecutors to file a motion asking Judge Cecil to explore potential conflicts of interest, but the defendants said they were cool with their lawyers. Just to be sure, though, last week’s plea agreement also required the defendants to give up their right to appeal based on such a conflict. — Jeff Chorney

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