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LAWYER TRIUMPHS OVER BAD NEIGHBOR If Arcata attorney Russell Clanton didn’t have the neighbor from hell, he came close — and he got a lot of sympathy from San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal. Last week, three justices upheld a $100,000 damage award to Clanton and his wife, Vickie Hawkins-Clanton, for a “campaign of harassment” by former neighbor Melvin Carr II. “The record,” Justice Laurence Kay wrote, “amply demonstrates that this characterization is not hyperbole.” Justices Timothy Reardon and Patricia Sepulveda concurred. According to the court’s 21-page unpublished ruling, the Clantons, who purchased their home in 1992, got into a dispute over driveway ownership soon after Carr moved in next door in 1995. The disputed portion was 21 inches in width and 100 feet in length. Carr responded by throwing nails on the driveway, draining the Clantons’ water tanks, vandalizing their irrigation system, plaguing them with telephone calls at all hours of the day and night, installing floodlights aimed at their home, and operating a gasoline-powered chainsaw “when it could cause maximum discomfort to the Clantons.” He also made obscene gestures and insulting remarks. When confronted, the court said, Carr made flippant comments such as, “You’re the pretty boy” and gestures such as air kisses. He also was videotaped telling Clanton: “You started it three years ago, fucker. You’re going to eat it.” The Clantons sued for invasion of privacy and other claims in June 2001, but Carr cross-complained, accusing the Clantons of assault and battery based on a physical clash a month earlier. An agreement was reached limiting the hours Carr could operate machinery, but he didn’t abide by it. The Clantons eventually moved, the court noted, “because — as Mr. Clanton put it — Carr had ‘ruined any shred of tranquility any family could have in an otherwise utterly tranquil spot.’” Trial ensued in Humboldt County Superior Court, with jurors awarding Clanton $50,000 in compensatory damages and his wife $40,000. Both also got $5,000 in punitive damages. Carr appealed, seeking a new trial on several grounds, including claims that Superior Court Judge J. Michael Brown was biased in favor of the Clantons, and one juror had written — and read — negative limericks about Carr during deliberations. The court rejected every claim. The Clantons may have had to move, but $100,000 provides a good measure of sweet revenge. The case is Clanton v. Carr, A104203. — Mike McKee LISTEN UP, PEOPLE! Anyone who has pleaded a case in front of a city council knows it can be tough to hold council members’ attention. But the problem is especially acute in Los Angeles, where the city council has long had a reputation for being heedless of whoever is at the public lectern. City Hall attention spans have finally attracted notice from a higher authority. Last week, the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Eight, ruled that Los Angeles council members’ distractedness robbed a business of its right to due process. The plaintiff is a business that might be expected to get a lot of attention from the mostly male, 15-person council: Lacy Street Hospitality Services Inc., which runs an East Los Angeles strip club called the Blue Zebra. Lacy was granted a preliminary permit allowing its female dancers to gyrate beyond the club’s 2 a.m. closing time, but strip club opponents appealed to the full council. As the case was being heard during a public meeting, council members chatted with each other, gabbed on their cell phones, and generally ignored the public speakers. Lacy attorney Roger Diamond brought along a videographer to tape council members in action. “Only five council members and the council president sat at their desks spending most of their time not talking to anyone — but even some of them turned their attention to other things from time to time,” according to the ruling, which was written by Justice Laurence Rubin and signed by Presiding Justice Candace Cooper and Justice Paul Boland. The city argued in its appeal that the hearing was fair because the council also ignored opponents of the nude dancers. But the justices said everyone had the right to be “equally heard, not equally ignored.” The decision, Lacy Street Hospitality Services, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 05 C.D.O.S. 56, reverses a superior court judge and sends the case back to the council for a fair, and presumably more attentive, hearing. — Jeff Chorney PRISON PERSEVERANCE John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, once said that “patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” That aphorism certainly applies to a San Quentin inmate who finally prevailed after numerous go-rounds with San Francisco Superior Court officials. Paul Bolin sued prison officials for alleged civil rights violations. He later sued his attorneys, Herman Franck V and Stephen Gargaro, for malpractice, claiming they botched the civil rights case. But the malpractice case was thrown out by San Francisco Superior Court Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens because Bolin failed to appear for trial. Bolin went back to work and said he wasn’t ensured equal access to the courts — actually, he claimed the courts were ignoring his paperwork. A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal agreed in an unpublished opinion and reversed the decision. Bolin’s Kafkaesque ordeal began in 2000 when he filed a malpractice complaint against both attorneys, claiming they failed to “exercise reasonable care or skill in the conduct of their representation,” among other charges. But the inmate immediately began to encounter problems. “Plaintiff stated he was being denied access to the courts because his motions were returned unfiled, which plaintiff claimed had happened more than once,” Justice James Marchiano wrote on behalf of the panel, which included Justices Douglas Swager and Sandra Margulies. “He noted he was an indigent prisoner held in a unit with very limited access to a prison law library,” Marchiano added. Despite the fact that the criminal justice system is routinely knocked for letting prisoners pursue lawsuits, Marchiano said Bolin should be allowed to argue his case. “Whatever the merit of the plaintiff’s suit, he appears to have taken numerous steps to prosecute his action. Many of his documents were not responded to, and some were not even filed. We are compelled to hold that the superior court abused its discretion,” Marchiano concluded. What remains to be seen is whether all the patience and perseverance will help Bolin’s underlying case. — Justin M. Norton

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