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COUNSEL MAY NEED TOURNIQUET IN LANDLORD/TENANT BLOOD FEUD Ever since Marc Seidenfeld filed a malicious prosecution suit against Paul Halvonik five years ago, the two Bay Area lawyers have been at each other’s throats. But on Wednesday, Seidenfeld got a leg up in the fight. That was when San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that while Halvonik — a member of the appellate bench some 20-plus years ago — had some good points, Seidenfeld, a San Mateo solo practitioner who lost a bid for superior court last year, won the day. He had made enough of a “ prima facie showing” that he might prevail, the court held, “to permit the bloodletting to continue.” The twosome’s feud — as the court called it — began in 1997 when Seidenfeld represented landlady Maricarol Rodgers in an unlawful detainer action against tenant Paula Korn. Korn was represented by Berkeley solo Halvonik. The case settled in Rodgers’ favor later that year, but Halvonik then sued Seidenfeld on Korn’s behalf, alleging abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Seidenfeld responded with a suit for malicious prosecution. Halvonik then filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which was denied. The appeal court’s ruling, authored by Justice Stuart Pollak, came down to Seidenfeld’s argument that a release Korn signed discharging any further claims in a related wrongful eviction action should have deterred any reasonable lawyer, including Halvonik, from filing an abuse-of-process claim. The appeal court justices agreed, saying that Halvonik’s contrary argument was a “strained interpretation” that “borders on the absurd.” Justice Carol Corrigan had signaled the court’s intentions during oral arguments Sept. 11. “If a safe fell on one of these people as they left the courthouse, they couldn’t recover,” she said. “This is a full and final release.” It’s back to Alameda County Superior Court now for more bloodletting. The case is Seidenfeld v. Halvonik, A100505. — Mike McKee IMAGINE HOW THEY WOULD HAVE DESCRIBED PROP 209 Any doubts Ward Connerly might have had about the politics of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals have flown out the window. And it’s not just the three-judge panel’s decision last week to delay the Oct. 7 election, when voters were scheduled to decide the fate of Gov. Gray Davis and Connerly’s Prop 54 ballot initiative. Connerly, a University of California regent who wasn’t technically a party to the case, is also upset at the way the unsigned opinion in Southwest Voter Registration Education Project v. Shelley, 03-56498, characterized his controversial measure. On page 12 of the opinion, while the court was ostensibly reciting facts leading up to the present issue of whether voters would be disenfranchised, Prop. 54 is described this way: “[A]nother proposed amendment to the California Constitution which would prevent the state from collecting or retaining racial and ethnic data about health care, hate crimes, racial profiling, public education and public safety.” Connerly says that’s a mischaracterization put forth by opponents to the measure. He would have preferred the court used the objective description of the initiative that voters will see on their ballots. The judges did use that description, stating, “Proposition 54 would amend the California Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from using race, ethnicity, color or national origin to classify current or prospective students, contractors or employees in public education, contracting or employment operations.” But that does not appear until page 59 of the 66-page opinion. “Batting .500 is good in baseball, but not good enough for a United States circuit court,” Connerly said in a press release. “They’re using political rhetoric instead of facts to make a legal precedent.” — Jeff Chorney OAKLAND’S PREDATORY LENDING LAW PASSES MUSTER The city of Oakland has won a significant battle to preserve its predatory lending ordinance. On Wednesday, the First District Court of Appeal rejected lenders’ claim that the city rule conflicts with state law. “Oakland was free to fashion its own policies even if the Legislature opted to strike a different balance,” wrote Justice Sandra Margulies, who was joined by Justices James Marchiano and William Stein. Oakland and state lawmakers have sought to regulate high-cost “sub-prime” loans to low-income borrowers. The Oakland City Council passed a local ordinance with tougher provisions than the state law because it has many poor homeowners with high property values. For example, Oakland’s ordinance calls for mandatory loan counseling and covers loans sold on secondary markets. In a statement, City Attorney John Russo and outside counsel Joseph Cotchett Jr. of Burlingame’s Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy hailed the ruling. According to the city, American Financial Services Association v. City of Oakland, 03 C.D.O.S. 8535, will affect similar litigation over Los Angeles’ lending ordinance. “Predatory lending is an unethical and malicious tactic that targets minorities and the elderly,” Russo said. American Financial’s lead counsel, Severson & Werson Managing Partner Mark Kenney, said he plans to petition the Supreme Court. Another Severson partner, Jan Chilton, argued the case before the First District. Kenney says the ruling may make some lenders think twice about staying in Oakland. If one legitimate lender pulls out of the city, it will hurt consumers, the San Francisco lawyer said. “You can’t have different standards and rules in every city,” Kenney said. — Jahna Berry

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