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LAW AND MOTION, OTHER COURTS GET NEW JUDGES It didn’t take long for new San Francisco Superior Court Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens to shake things up. In handing out new assignments effective Jan. 13, Hitchens moved out Law and Motion judges James McBride and A. James Robertson II. She replaced them with judges David Garcia and Ronald Quidachay. Garcia formerly sat in Law and Motion, but was replaced by McBride a year ago. Quidachay gave up his Law and Motion court two years ago to become the court’s presiding judge. His PJ term ran out and now he’s back dealing with demurrers, summary judgment and other motions. McBride and Robertson have been assigned to civil courts in the Civic Center courthouse. Hitchens said McBride will begin working with her to establish a new early settlement program. “I need him there,” she said, adding that Garcia had asked to return to Law and Motion. Hitchens said Quidachay also asked to return to Law and Motion, a wish she granted by virtue of a court tradition that the outgoing PJ gets his or her request for a new assignment. Judge Charlotte Woolard succeeds Hitchens as supervising judge of the unified family court. Joining her will be Judge Katherine Feinstein, who moves downtown from the Youth Guidance Center. Judge Patrick Mahoney succeeds Feinstein at YGC. At the Hall of Justice, Judge Mary Wiss moves from a misdemeanor courtroom to presiding over felony preliminary hearings. She succeeds Judge Julie Tang, who moves into Mahoney’s former felony trial courtroom. Judge Charles Haines moves to regular felony preliminary hearings. Judge Peter Busch replaces Haines in the long preliminary hearing courtroom. The court’s newest judges — Nancy Davis and Gail Dekreon — were assigned to misdemeanor courts, succeeding Wiss and Judge Wallace Douglass. He will preside over the Polk Street civil courtroom beginning Feb. 3. — Dennis J. Opatrny HIGH PRAISE The swearing-in last Friday of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi resembled the roundup of the lefties in law and politics. There were Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez, law school dean Peter Keane and attorney J. Tony Serra. But it was Adachi’s wife, Mutsuko, whose anecdote best caught the essence of her husband as a defender of the poor and forgotten. She recalled a time early in Jeff’s legal career when they bought a new car, and the couple was extremely proud of it. At the same time, Adachi was defending a man accused of murder but unable to post bail. Adachi suggested to his wife that they put the car up as collateral to spring the suspect from jail. “Thank God that [the defendant] was found not guilty,” Mutsuko Adachi said. Keane told the standing-room-only audience in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers that it was unfortunate that the man who hired Adachi as a deputy public defender was absent. “I’m sorry Jeff Brown is not here today,” said Keane, a former chief attorney under Brown. “But time heals all wounds.” Although initially an Adachi supporter, Brown had a political falling out with him and switched his support to Kimiko Burton. Gonzalez, a former public defender and friend of Adachi, said the campaign opened political wounds, when defectors like Brown decided to back Burton. In the end, it worked out, he said. “The election showed me the good that can be in politics,” Gonzalez said. Serra called Adachi an “idealist” who was elected in a system where few dare to be high-minded. “In the political realm, virtue has been rewarded,” he said. Adachi pledged to operate a diverse office, maintain as best he can a full staff of attorneys, and provide good interpreters to all non-English-speaking clients. “We can’t cut back on justice,” he said. “That’s the dream I want to make happen at the public defender’s office the next four years.” — Dennis J. Opatrny CEREMONIOUS WORDS Bill Lockyer kicked off his second term as state attorney general with a ceremony Monday morning steeped in diversity — a Buddhist judge led the group prayer, and the keynote speech was by Justice Carlos Moreno, only the third Latino to serve on the Supreme Court. In the prayer, Orange County Superior Court Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, a former deputy attorney general, highlighted Buddhism’s tenets of peace and tolerance. He drew a parallel between those teachings and Lockyer’s role as defender of California’s multicultural population. “Having worked with him, it appears he is undertaking [those] noble duties,” Nguyen said. Moreno began his comments by reminding the 900-person audience that he’s currently the only Democrat on the Supreme Court. He then continued the morning’s liberal theme with a speech about making sure everyone, including those who cannot afford lawyers, have access to the courts. As for Lockyer, he thanked his supporters and highlighted his accomplishments. And he reviewed some of the things that make California great, including “self-rule, self-reliance and self-expression.” — Jeff Chorney SUE HAPPY A run-of-the-mill dispute over the cost of newspaper advertisements gave a Los Angeles judge the chance to scold an extremely litigious plaintiff. The plaintiff, William Little, an owner of “many low-income apartment buildings,” sued the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion for allegedly running up advertising charges without his knowledge. He said the paper increased the size of classified ads he had placed, thus increasing the cost. Judge Judith Chirlin found lots of problems with Little’s case, including exhibits “riddled with errors” and “lacking in consistency.” She also pointed out Little’s litigious history: “Mr. Little is not the naive, trusting man he attempts to portray. He is sophisticated, successful and clearly a litigious man. Indeed, he admitted that he has been involved in over 300 lawsuits, excluding unlawful detainers.” Jeffrey Riffer, a partner in the L.A. office of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, represented the newspaper. “I believe the court did not believe Mr. Little when he said he was a trusting person and that’s why he didn’t check to see the size of the ads actually published,” Riffer said, adding that he has never come across a more litigious person in his career. “There are litigators that will tell you in your career you won’t see 300 lawsuits,” he said. It seems Little’s experience with lawsuits didn’t help him in this case, and this is one case he’d been better off without. The judge not only found that the ads were done with Little’s authorization, but ruled that he owed the newspaper almost $18,000. In addition, Riffer is filing a motion asking for attorneys fees. — Jason Dearen STEPPING DOWN Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian will step down as acting presiding judge of the Sixth District Court of Appeal two weeks before her only Democratic colleague, Conrad Rushing, is sworn into the top spot. Bamattre-Manoukian’s abrupt decision to resign forces Chief Justice Ronald George to appoint Justice Eugene Premo as acting presiding judge for the two-week period. Bamattre-Manoukian, a Deukmejian appointee, did not return a call Monday, but it appears she may be smarting from being passed over for the permanent position. Bamattre-Manoukian, a Republican who is considered the staunchest conservative on the court, was evaluated by the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission for the PJ spot. Her four Republican colleagues also wrote letters to the governor on her behalf. Bamattre-Manoukian had served as acting presiding judge since September 2001, when then PJ Christopher Cottle retired. In a press release, George praised the justice. “For the past 15 months, Justice Bamattre-Manoukian has provided the Sixth Appellate District with strong leadership and excellent service as Administrative Presiding Justice,” George wrote. “I extend my sincere appreciation for her contributions to judicial administration during that time, and look forward to her continuing service as a leader and faculty.” Gov. Davis appointed Rushing to the court in December 2001 and elevated him to PJ last month. He will be sworn in at the end of January. — Shannon Lafferty

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