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RECIDIVISM IN SANDWICH BOARD-WEARING RANKS It’s anybody’s guess what U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will cook up for Shawn Gementera this time. Gementera, 26, was the unlucky guy sentenced by Walker to traipse back and forth in front of a U.S. Post Office of his choosing. This was no walk in the park, however. Gementera was going to wear a sandwich board announcing that he was a mail thief. The unusual “Scarlet Letter” punishment was vehemently objected to by Gementera’s lawyer, Arthur Wachtel. Wachtel was only able to get Walker to reduce the length — or should we say distance? — of the sentence, but could not eliminate it altogether. Walker handed down the sentence in February, which included some jail time. Gementera had been caught with thousands of dollars’ worth of checks he’d pilfered from mailboxes in San Francisco and Burlingame. But both Wachtel and Gementera were back in front of Walker last week. It turns out Gementera was indicted on March 25 for . . . (drumroll, please) . . . stealing mail. No, he wasn’t reindicted after prosecutors uncovered additional evidence. He was caught doing exactly the same thing for which he was sentenced to sandwich board duty. Gementera hadn’t done the walk of shame yet, but was waiting to surrender to authorities. He was sitting in a car with a friend when police ran the plates and got a hit: stolen car. Police found stolen mail in the car. Walker kept a straight face through Gementera’s initial appearance last week. But he’ll be back in court April 22, and if Gementera’s smart he might think about switching from stealing mail to stealing sandwich boards. He could be wearing one for a while. – Jason Hoppin WAIT YOUR TURN The audience at the California Supreme Court’s oral arguments in Los Angeles April 1 got to witness a minor breach of protocol. Justice Joyce Kennard had just finished a long and winding question and was prepared for the response from Oakland solo practitioner Stephen Bedrick. But suddenly, Justice Ming Chin jumped in and said: “Before you answer that,” whereupon he interjected two of his own questions. According to unofficial court protocol, that’s a no-no: A junior justice such as Chin, who joined the court in 1996, is always supposed to defer to a senior justice, such as Kennard who joined in 1989, during oral argument questioning. It’s part of the pecking order that includes where the justices sit by seniority during arguments and speak in private conferences. Bedrick, of course, quickly answered Chin, who thanked him for clarifying a couple of things, and then turned to fellow Justice Kennard and apologized, saying he hadn’t meant to interrupt her. “But you did,” Kennard, smiling through pinched lips, responded, “didn’t you?” Meow! — Mike McKee FEELS REAL The case of two minors accused of killing a fellow high-school student was tried recently in San Francisco Superior Court. Attorneys on both sides interviewed the usual experts and made the usual passionate objections. Only in this case, when the day’s work was done the attorneys went home to their folks. The combatants, high school students from around the city, were part of the San Francisco County Mock Trial Competition. Students tried their cases in front of Judge David Garcia and retired Judge William Cahill. Coached by Michael Laurenson, an employment law attorney at Gordon & Rees, students at San Francisco’s Lowell High School took top honors, “They’re serious, smart, intelligent kids and they get intense about it,” Laurenson said. “I try to instill in them that it’s important to understand the legal process and know what it means to be a lawyer, not just to win.” For their efforts, the 14 students on the team represented San Francisco County against 33 others in the state competition held in Riverside March 28 and 29. Lowell didn’t win — it placed 17th — but Laurenson said the students’ enthusiasm wasn’t dampened. And three Lowell students who participated in the past liked their taste of legal work so much that they went on to jobs as law clerks for Gordon & Rees. This is the third time in the past six years that a Gordon & Rees-led team — guided by Laurenson and associates Mark Russell and Matthew Foy — has taken the county championship. – Jason Dearen

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