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FEDERAL JUDGE NIXES HOTEL TAKINGS CASE A federal district court backed the city of San Francisco in a takings case last week by dismissing the last of several complaints from owners of a residential hotel in North Beach. The city attorney’s office declared the decision a victory in defending a city law that restricts residential hotel conversions. But plaintiffs’ attorneys vowed their 10-year-old fight isn’t over. Attorney Paul Utrecht said he and fellow solo Andrew Zacks plan to appeal to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. State and federal versions of San Remo Hotel v. San Francisco, 93-1644, have been wending their way through the courts since 1993. Under San Francisco’s Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance, it’s illegal to convert a residential hotel room to another use, such as a tourist hotel room, without a permit. To get the permit, property owners must “replace” the units being converted, either by building new units, rehabilitating old ones or paying an “in lieu” fee into a residential hotel preservation fund. The owners of the 62-unit San Remo Hotel challenged the conversion law as well as the city’s planning code. The plaintiffs argued that those laws resulted in an unconstitutional taking of their property and should be declared invalid. The California Supreme Court decided in favor of the city on all issues in March 2002. The plaintiffs then brought federal claims before Judge D. Lowell Jensen in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Jensen’s Wednesday decision precluded the hotel owners from re-litigating some of their claims in federal court due to collateral estoppel. He dismissed other complaints based on a statute of limitations. Though the cases are factually the same, the plaintiffs’ attorneys maintain that the question they brought to the federal court was different than the one the state decided. “Under the state constitution, our clients have no claims, but we think under the federal constitution our clients do have claims,” Utrecht said. Deputy City Attorney Andrew Schwartz, who argued for the city, disagreed. “You can’t get another bite of the apple,” he said. “The federal courts respect the judgments of state courts, if the issues are the same.” — Pam Smith BANKRUPTCY JUDGE WINS A SECOND TERM Judge Arthur Weissbrodt, a federal bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of California, has been reappointed to a second 14-year term. A former trial attorney for the Department of Energy, Weissbrodt has served as a bankruptcy judge in San Jose since 1989. During that time he has presided over bankruptcy cases including Metricom Inc., Novalux Inc. and Infonent.com. With an annual salary of $142,324, Weissbrodt is one of nine judges in the state’s Northern district, which has divisions in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Santa Rosa. In addition to presiding over individual and business bankruptcy cases, Weissbrodt also supervises the Northern District’s bankruptcy dispute resolution program, and he has served pro tem on the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Weissbrodt was reappointed to his post by Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Schroeder. — Alexei Oreskovic TOY TOILET RESULTS IN JUDGE’S SANCTIONING NEW YORK — A toy toilet that makes a loud flushing noise might be a hilarious desk item in a business office. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that using one in court was conduct unbecoming a judge. For flushing the toilet during a lawyer’s argument and for other demeaning conduct, including continually asking counsel, “What, are you stupid?” the court has sanctioned Broward County Circuit Judge Sheldon Schapiro, ordering him to undergo psychological sensitivity training. In re Schapiro, SC01-2419. In one sexual battery case, the judge said to defense counsel, “Do you know what I think of your argument?” and then pressed a button on the device designed to simulate a toilet flushing, according to the official charges against him. In another case, a lawyer was hospitalized by complications in her pregnancy. Schapiro notified her that unless she reported to court, he would dismiss her case. Against medical advice, she left the hospital and appeared in court. The initial charges alleged that, in a murder case, the judge traumatized the mother of a victim by asking, “What do I need to hear from the mother of a dead kid for?” Schapiro claimed he referred to the victim as a “deceased” kid. — Special to the National Law Journal

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