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MARSHAL ESCORT GETS ATTORNEY TO COURT IN OAKLAND Alameda County court watchers are still wondering why U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong sent federal marshals after Fremont attorney Todd Bequette on Feb. 21. According to attorneys who were at the Hayward courthouse that day, Bequette was arguing a motion in a misdemeanor drunken driving case before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Peggy Hora around 10 a.m. Arguments over the motion took about 20 minutes — and when he was finished, federal marshals were waiting for him at the back of the courtroom. Bequette was whisked over to Oakland, where he was scheduled on another case before Armstrong. The attorneys, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bequette appeared to have been arrested and released. In fact, Bequette was seen back at the Hayward Hall of Justice later that day. Calls to Bequette and the Oakland marshals’ office were not returned. Armstrong said only, “No comment.” — Jahna Berry QUALITY OF MERCY The government is dropping a high-profile case in which it sought to deport an immigrant to an almost certain death in her native Colombia. The government’s brief was due last week in the case of Maria Rosciano, who was indicted as part of a drug conspiracy case but later helped the government in exchange for a lesser sentence. Instead of filing a brief, however, the government asked the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to dismiss the case. “It’s great. They just released her from custody [last] week,” said Rosciano’s San Francisco immigration attorney, Robert Jobe. “I think it’s in part because of the bad publicity on the case.” Jobe said he believes the solicitor general’s office made the decision to drop the appeal. A San Francisco immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals both found that even though Rosciano was likely to be killed if returned to her native Colombia, she had no legal recourse to stay in the United States. Rosciano was indicted as part of a drug conspiracy case connected to Colombian drug cartels. At the government’s request, she gave agents the true name of a Colombian drug figure then known only as “El Indio.” Rosciano’s sister Cristina, who gave her the information, was killed shortly thereafter. Her brother, Francisco, was killed a few months earlier in a failed New York City drug transaction. In 2002, U.S. District Judge Frederick Martone ordered that removal proceedings against Rosciano be halted. The government appealed. Nevertheless, Rosciano remained in custody until last week. She has been a lawful permanent resident since 1984 and has two children who are U.S. citizens. — Jason Hoppin TOUGH AUDIENCE Judge Kevin Murphy is introducing his own brand of justice in Santa Clara Superior Court since taking over as new supervising judge at the Hall of Justice in January. Murphy, known for starting court five minutes early and his demanding attention to detail, has changed the way business is done in Santa Clara, attorneys say. The judge has already told the private defense bar that they cannot withdraw as counsel after the preliminary hearing, even if they are not getting paid. Attorneys say that’s just the start of it. Murphy is less lenient with continuances and will deny motions if he feels the points and authorities filed with the court are incomplete. Also, don’t expect a lot of discussion. Murphy clips through high-volume case management calendars, handling 60 items in an hour’s time. He rarely takes time for small talk or explanations but almost always throws in a “thank you” or “you’re welcome” with every attorney who appears on his calendar. Murphy has developed his own loyal following of attorneys who like his quick, formal style. One attorney described him as an “equal opportunity hard-ass.” “With Judge Murphy there is no wink and nod. He follows the law,” said Deputy DA David Boyd. “He expects everyone to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. Once you get used to it, everyone will get a fair shake from Judge Murphy.” — Shannon Lafferty TWISTS AND TURNS Clovis lawyer David Gottlieb has set a California Supreme Court precedent without getting an opportunity to argue his case. It seems that the high court had never rescheduled an oral argument because of a lawyer’s appointment to the bench. Gottlieb changed all that when he was named a Fresno County court commissioner, forcing the Supreme Court to reschedule the case he was supposed to argue in San Francisco on March 13. “No one around here can ever recall an attorney, on a case that’s about to be argued before the court, being appointed as a judge,” Supreme Court Administrator and Clerk Frederick “Fritz” Ohlrich said. “At least in modern times no one can recall that happening.” Gottlieb, a solo practitioner specializing in criminal defense, was named to the bench in mid-January, and two weeks later — after he had confirmed his first day as a commissioner for March 3 — was notified that the high court had set argument in his case for March 13. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’” the 41-year-old Gottlieb said last week. “Once you’ve committed to a date [to be on the bench] they want you to stick to it.” The Supreme Court, in a rare move, rescheduled Gottlieb’s case, Peracchi v. Superior Court, S103681, to the April calendar in Los Angeles to accommodate Fresno lawyer Roger Nuttall, an acquaintance who agreed to take over the case pro bono — as Gottlieb had handled it. Nuttall, a partner at Nuttall Berman Associates, asked the court for an extension because he wasn’t prepared to proceed with the case. “I’m vaguely familiar with the factual history of it,” he said. “But when I say vaguely, I mean I know very little about it.” Nuttall said it was “very nice” of the high court to take the extreme step of postponing oral argument a month. Even Janine Busch, the Sacramento deputy attorney general arguing against Nuttall, couldn’t argue with the postponement. “When I saw their motion to continue,” she said, “I said, ‘If there’s ever a reason to continue, this is it.’” In the case, out of Fresno’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether a defendant facing re-sentencing following a partial reversal of his conviction can seek to disqualify the original trial judge from resentencing. Gottlieb’s bummed he has to bail out. “It was going to be my first opportunity to argue before the Supreme Court,” he said. “But you can’t say, ‘Let’s put the judicial position off until I argue the case.’” — Mike McKee

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