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FOR HIGH COURT, CALIFORNIA IS NOW JUST A STATE OF MIND Chief Justice Ronald George is now free to move about the country without having to fly home for every court opinion. On Nov. 24, the California Supreme Court — in a press release and in a footnote in a ruling — said it had amended the court’s internal procedures to let appellate justices communicate their votes on issues even if they’re out of state. The previous rule had demanded that justices be physically within the state of California if they wanted to participate in a decision. But in a murder case called People v. Billa, 03 C.D.O.S. 10083, Justice Ming Chin stated in a lengthy footnote that the rule, as upheld by many court decisions, was “no longer persuasive and should be overruled.” The amended rule lets justices communicate their position to the calendar coordinator in writing or even by faxed signature. Though not stated outright, the amendment may have been made to accommodate George, who has been out of the state often recently as the current president of the national Conference of Chief Justices. Chin’s footnote pointed out that George was outside California when he cast his concurring vote in Billa. — Mike McKee CAN’T WAIT FOR VOIR DIRE Perhaps you can sympathize. Upset with unsolicited e-mail hawking penile enlargement medication, 44-year-old Charles Booher had apparently had enough. Prosecutors say he tracked down a Canadian company he thought was sending the ads and threatened to take matters into his own hands. Booher allegedly left voice and e-mail messages over a period of months promising to come up to “sunny Canada” and use a variety of instruments on employees there: duct tape, plastic wrap, a .22 caliber gun, a power drill, an ice pick — even Anthrax spores. Booher, who is also accused of demanding the company “get your [expletive] popups off my screen,” was arrested late last month by the FBI and charged with making death threats. It probably won’t help Booher’s case that he had already been visited by the Sunnyvale Police Department and told to stop. Booher was released on $75,000 bond. His next scheduled court appearance is Dec. 11. — Jason Hoppin THEY’RE HONORED When Attorney General John Ashcroft handed out his annual Director’s Awards earlier this month, five local prosecutors were among those recognized for their work on tough cases. One FBI agent and one financial fraud investigator also were honored. The kudos came in three Northern District cases prosecutors took to trial. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Callaway and Audra Ibarra won for their work prosecuting Michael Rostoker, a patent lawyer convicted of traveling overseas to engage in sexual activity with an underage Vietnamese girl. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison. AUSAs Matthew Jacobs and Hartley West won for their bank fraud prosecution of Phongsoon Dejanu. Dejanu was convicted of taking out fraudulent loans to fund high-stakes gambling trips to Las Vegas. He failed to show up for his first trial, instead leaving for Reno. Dejanu lived as a fugitive in Tijuana before the FBI found him back in Las Vegas. Financial fraud investigator Philip Villanueva and FBI agent Jason Richards also won awards for the Dejanu case. Finally, AUSA Jeffrey Cole won for his work on the prosecution of Edward Powers and Jose Garcia, two former Pelican Bay State Prison guards accused of brutalizing inmates. The case was difficult because it turned on the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses — a rogue’s gallery of some of California’s worst offenders. Lead prosecutor Melinda Haag would have won too, but she’s no longer with the office; she’s now a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. There were more than 250 award recipients across the country. — Jason Hoppin SARKISIAN READY TO HANG IT UP Just as Gov. Gray Davis filled the last two judicial vacancies on the Alameda County bench last month, another judge revealed that he was heading out the door. Veteran criminal Judge Philip Sarkisian will retire in July, after putting in 20 years on the bench. Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Sarkisian to the Oakland-Piedmont-Emeryville municipal court in 1984, and later elevated him to superior court in 1986. During his judicial career Sarkisian has handled many criminal trials, including death penalty cases. Sarkisian plans to sit on assignment, but looks forward to a relaxed trial schedule that will allow him to indulge in much lighter fare: his golf game and trips to South America and New Zealand. “I’d like to do some traveling,” the judge said. “There are a lot of places that I haven’t been.” — Jahna Berry

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