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JUSTICE TALKS GOD AND COUNTRY TO NEW LAWYERS She didn’t sing or dance, but in a recent — and rare — public appearance, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown joked, invoked God and encouraged 290 graduating lawyers to defend the American way of life. Speaking on May 24 at commencement ceremonies for The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., Brown, 54, took up the patriotic banner by denouncing the idea that “all beliefs and perspectives are equal,” and coming to the defense of Western society. Alluding to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which she called “a moment of awful moral clarity,” the seven-year justice asked the youthful audience to protect the freedoms that the comic book character Superman embodied in the fight for “truth, justice and the American way.” “By accepting the beguiling proposition that all perspectives are equal,” she continued, “we left Western civilization, the God of light and light itself undefended. “All perspectives are not equal; evil is not merely a matter of opinion,” she went on. “There are ideas worth defending to the death; there are lies that must be defeated at all costs. Freedom is not free, and it will never be the legacy of the lazy or the indifferent.” “Moral and cultural relativism is more than an educational anomaly,” Brown lectured. “It is a calamity. That is why the lawyer classifieds need a new ad: Wanted: Keepers of the Faith, Defenders of Light.” Added the justice: “Nothing less than Western civilization and the rule of law are at stake.” Brown didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. But the speech could play well with President George W. Bush, who has the conservative Brown on a short list of candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court. The talk, with its pro-democracy overtones, was also laced with religious references. At one point Brown chided scientists and philosophers who, she said, have tried for 300 years to reshape society “as if God did not exist.” They were trying to bring forth “a new and improved humanity,” she said, and failed. “Like it or not, our political institutions are a product of our culture,” Brown said. “Culture is organic. Culture is something you must grow.” Today’s law school graduates, she said, are in a “critical epoch” of time and “may well be the most important generation of lawyers” since America’s founding. “Law becomes the terrain on which Americans are struggling to decide what kind of people they are,” Brown said, “and what kind of society they wish to bring into being.” Before the speech, Dean Douglas Kmiec, a friend of Brown’s, stated that Brown is the kind of justice who reaches decisions “in prayer and quiet study of the Bible.” He also said she accepts few speaking invitations, finding it “more useful lending a hand in her church community.” Pushing the prospect of Brown joining the nation’s highest court, Kmiec indicated he’d like to see her more often. “Perhaps,” he said, “somebody in the neighborhood will bring you closer.” The campus is six miles from the White House. — Mike McKee IGNORE THE PINK SLIPS Santa Clara District Attorney George Kennedy will sidestep attorney layoffs. Kennedy’s office made the announcement just days after pink slips went out to seven deputy DAs. After months of hand wringing, Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu said a retirement and additional grant money means the DA’s office is able to tear up attorney pink slips. “George worked his magic,” Sinunu said. Sinunu said the DA’s office will leave a manager position vacant when one of Kennedy’s six assistant DAs retires this year. Sinunu said some additional grant money also made layoffs avoidable. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors asked county law offices to cut 13.5 percent of their budgets. That’s $8 million for the DA and $4.5 million for the public defender. The PD is still negotiating with the board about budget cuts. Public Defender Jose Villarreal estimated that as many as 24 attorney layoffs were necessary to meet budget targets this spring. – Shannon Lafferty RISING COSTS San Francisco Superior Court will increase per diem fees beginning July 1 for its civil, family and probate divisions to $280 per half day, the court announced Thursday. The $100-per-half-day increase is the result of a cost re-evaluation, and reflects a salary adjustment given to court reporters more than a year ago, said Civil Court Administrator Elena Simonian. The fees are meant to recover the cost of court reporters’ time and overhead, and they’re charged for those proceedings that require more than an hour of judicial bench time, or that involve witness testimony, according to the court. Qualifying proceedings that begin in the morning but last past noon incur two half-day fees. Those that go past 5 p.m. are charged for another half day, according to a statement from the court. Per diem fees are split by plaintiffs and defendants, Simonian said. — Pam Smith INSULT ON TOP OF INJURY Miguel Hernandez encountered a one-two knockout punch when he went to trial against Newport Beach Dr. Richard Paicius for allegedly causing nerve damage while treating him for an injury to his right hand. First, the trial court judge refused to block testimony that Hernandez was an illegal alien, suggesting that it went to his credibility. And second, the defense lawyer went after Hernandez’s expert witness, Dr. Fred Aengst, by using information against him that her own law firm had gathered while defending Aengst against charges in an unrelated medical malpractice action. Both were extreme no-nos, Santa Ana’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled June 3 in remanding for a new trial in Hernandez v. Paicius, 03 C.D.O.S. 4702. The justices said Orange County Superior Court Judge James Brooks stepped over the line when he denied Hernandez’s request to exclude testimony on his residency status. Brooks was adamant at trial that the fact that Hernandez was an illegal alien went directly toward his credibility. “It’s too bad this poor gentleman hurt his foot, hand, whatever, but he came here to work illegally,” Brooks said. “So he’s running the risk of getting injuries. He’s running a risk of getting injured on any job if he is injured and outside the system. Tough. That’s your problem.” And that was only a small portion of what the judge said. The Fourth District declared the residency evidence “entirely irrelevant” and “highly inflammatory” and said the judge’s comments raised serious doubts about his impartiality. “Defendant’s contention that immigration status and other suggested ‘bad acts’ are somehow admissible to attack plaintiff’s credibility must be rejected,” Justice Raymond Ikola wrote. Justices William Rylaarsdam and Eileen Moore concurred. On remand, the court ordered that a different judge hear the case. As flawed as the justices found Brooks’ reasoning, though, they were more incredulous that Newport Beach defense lawyer Constance Endelicato viciously impeached expert witness Aengst, even though her Los Angeles-based law firm, Tuverson & Hillyard, had represented him in an unrelated disciplinary hearing and the ensuing medical malpractice case. Endelicato, a partner, had called Aengst, of Santa Ana, a “liar” and read accusations against him from the disciplinary proceeding in which her firm was involved. “Indeed, the bulk of counsel’s argument was devoted to destroying her own client’s professional reputation,” Justice Ikola wrote. “The spectacle of an attorney skewering her own client on the witness stand in the interest of defending another client,” he added, “demeans the integrity of the legal profession and undermines confidence in the attorney-client relationship.” The court ordered both its own clerk and Endelicato to file copies of the opinion with the State Bar. — Mike McKee

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