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FRUGALITY IS THE NEW ORDER IN ALAMEDA COURTS When the state’s budget woes trickled down to the East Bay, the Alameda County Superior Court had to shave about $10 million out of its $97 million budget. Everything — even the Kleenex in the courtrooms — was on the table when it came to cost-cutting, the presiding judge said. Among the most noticeable changes: The court will close the clerk’s office an hour early. The department will close at 4 p.m., but will answer phones until 5 p.m. Judges and commissioners must end court proceedings by 4:30. The changes are expected to save millions on overtime that the court pays to sheriff’s officers, court clerks and court attendants, said PJ Harry Sheppard. The court has already laid off temporary workers, Sheppard said, and it’s doing everything it can to avoid further job cuts. The budget crunch helped motivate the court to put the court-appointed attorneys program out to bid for the first time. For years, the Alameda County Bar Association ran the program, which provides lawyers when the public defender’s office has a conflict of interest. The bar association’s president says the court’s contract decision, which was done in part to comply with new legal requirements, was understandable. “As a bar association, we want to keep the program,” said Richard Waxman, an attorney at Oakland’s Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean. “I think that the judges are very concerned about the budget. Everyone is going to feel the crunch.” — Jahna Berry BRIGHT LIGHTS The theatrical production featuring teen lovers John Doe and Jane Roe probably won’t win any Tony awards, but their story was good enough to garner a Kleps — the California Judicial Council’s annual prize for outstanding court programs. Doe and Roe are the main characters in a skit performed as part of an outreach effort by San Benito County Superior Court designed to teach teenagers about the legal consequences of early, unmarried pregnancy. “We used to just go out and try to tell them about family support issues, but it was hard to get [teens'] attention,” said San Benito Commissioner Jean Flanagan. Rather than just lecture teens about paternity tests, court-ordered child support payments and the other joys of family court, Flanagan called on her experience as a high school teacher to come up with the educational skit. That was about three years ago. Now it’s part of a 100-minute, interactive program that court staff take out to local ninth-graders each school year. Students are selected to play Doe and Roe, while court staff members, including Flanagan, play themselves. In the story, Roe gets pregnant during a one-night stand after the prom. Doe learns he’ll probably have to give up his expensive truck in order to pay child support. The program is one of 10 across the state to get a 2002 Ralph N. Kleps Award from the Judicial Council. In order to qualify, court programs must be innovative and transferable. Flanagan hopes the award will give little San Benito — a county with only three judicial officers but many of the same problems as more populated surrounding areas — enough attention that larger counties will copy the idea. Flanagan emphasized that the court is not trying to teach morality. Rather, the goal is simply to show youngsters the financial and legal consequences of their actions, something Flanagan said people of all ages often don’t consider. “If they choose to have sex with someone they don’t live with, it’s going to impact them for the rest of their lives,” she said. — Jeff Chorney STRAIGHTEN UP Like baseball, sometimes the Fourth Amendment is a game of inches. Efrain Estrada-Nava and Eric Colin have learned this lesson, and so has Los Angeles police Sergeant Thomas Carmichael. Estrada-Nava and Colin saw their convictions for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine overturned recently by a unanimous 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel led by Judge Richard Paez. The pair were spotted on Interstate 15, traveling at the speed limit. Carmichael observed their car make two safe lane changes, but also noticed that it rode near the edges of the lanes, with the wheels sometimes touching the lane dividers. The court held that Carmichael had no reason to make a traffic stop for “lane-straddling” because the wheels of the car did not, in fact, cross the lane dividers. Instead it was the officer who crossed the line. To do so, the court had to interpret the lane-straddling statute of the California Vehicle Code, which has rarely been addressed by California’s courts. It decided that state courts would have ruled that a car has to cross completely over the line to violate the traffic laws. “Touching a dividing line, even if a small portion of the body of the car veers into a neighboring lane, satisfies the statute’s requirement that a driver drive as ‘nearly as practical entirely within a single lane,’” Paez wrote. California courts have held that pronounced weaving within a lane can lead to a traffic stop, but whether the court would have decided this case the same way is anybody’s guess. — Jason Hoppin TOGETHERNESS El Dorado County, about 40 miles northeast of Sacramento, attracted the head of state judiciary with an unusual occurrence: Its entire trial court bench was sworn in at the same time. Chief Justice Ronald George conducted the swearing-in ceremony for three newbies and three incumbents in a ceremony that no one at the Judicial Council could remember having happened before. Stephen Cascioppo, chief executive officer of the El Dorado court, said the county courthouse in Placerville was packed for George’s visit. “It celebrated an interesting event, and perhaps every six years it could be redone,” Cascioppo said. As unlikely as it seems, strange timing is how El Dorado got here in the first place. Cascioppo said a combination of unification, end-of-term retirements and other factors led to three vacancies at the same time that incumbents were coming up for retention. The open seats were hotly contested in races that had four to six candidates trying for each judgeship, Cascioppo said. Normally, races and openings remain staggered over the years so such an odd coincidence is avoided. — Jeff Chorney SHOW TIME California’s high court told the motion picture industry it didn’t have jurisdiction — and now a Norwegian court has told Hollywood it doesn’t have much of a case either. A Norwegian court acquitted 16-year-old Jon Johansen for writing computer code that unscrambles encryption and protects copyrighted movies sold in DVD format. The Norwegian court in Oslo ruled there was “no evidence” that Johansen or others used the decryption code called DeCSS for illegal purposes. Nor was there any evidence that Johansen intended to contribute to illegal copying. The court determined that it is not illegal to use the DeCSS code to watch DVDs that have been legally purchased. The motion picture industry had pushed for the prosecution against Johansen, and also sued Internet users around the globe who have posted the encryption-cracking code on the Internet. The Norwegian decision comes on the heels of Pavlovich v. Superior Court, 02 C.D.O.S. 11383, in which the California Supreme Court ruled that DVD Copy Control Association Inc., an arm of the motion picture industry, could not sue an Indiana college student in Santa Clara Superior Court for trade secrets thefts because he allowed the code to be posted on a Web site. “I’m pleased that the court in Norway has verified what we have been saying for the past three years, namely, that DeCSS is a legitimate, useful and ultimately legal computer code that was created to advance playback systems for lawfully purchased DVDs,” said Pavlovich’s lawyer, Allonn Levy, an associate with Hopkins & Carley. — Shannon Lafferty

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