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DOMESTIC PARTNERS RULING LEFT INTACT The California Supreme Court had Judge Loren McMaster’s back Wednesday. When the Sacramento County Superior Court judge upheld an expansion of domestic partner rights last year, his ruling prompted a fledgling grassroots effort to knock him off the bench, and an appeal. But the high court, minus an absent Justice Janice Rogers Brown, declined a petition for review in Knight v. Schwarzenegger, S133961. That leaves in place a Third District Court of Appeal opinion that concluded McMaster had reached the decision “compelled by the law.” The Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had argued that state politicians illegally amended a voter-passed initiative when they passed Assembly Bill 205, essentially treating same-sex couples too much like married couples. Prop 22, passed in 2000, states that California only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. “The Supreme Court sustained a decision that essentially allows the Legislature to play semantic games in order to overrule the will of the people,” said Robert Tyler, who represented the fund. Attorney General Bill Lockyer was “personally very happy with the result,” a spokesman said. David Codell, a Los Angeles attorney who jumped into the case to defend the law on behalf of Equality California, said he was particularly pleased to have the Third District opinion stand because it contrasts the rights given to domestic partners and spouses and can be cited in future cases. (Codell also argued on behalf of 12 pairs of domestic partners in Knight, including San Francisco Superior Court Judges Donna Hitchens and Nancy Davis.) Though McMaster’s critics have a little longer to get a recall question on the electoral ballot, the official proponent says the effort has already been abandoned. After the Third District’s affirmation of McMaster, and a San Francisco Superior Court judge’s recent conclusion that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, said Tony Andrade, Judge McMaster was no longer “an island.” — Pam Smith 6TH DISTRICT INTERPRETS JUDICIAL CONFLICT RULES Judges who handle pretrial motions, but not the actual trial, in limited-jurisdiction cases, must be disqualified from sitting on any subsequent superior court appellate review panels, a state appeal court ruled Wednesday. “Where a judge decided a contested pretrial matter that involved an issue related to, though not the same as, the one on appeal, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid the appearance of impropriety if that judge were to participate in the appellate review,” Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh wrote. He was sitting by assignment on San Jose’s Sixth District Court of Appeal. “This conclusion holds true,” Walsh continued, “even if, as here, the particular judge involved states that she maintains the ability to decide the appeal fairly and there are no specific allegations against her of bias or prejudice.” Sixth District Justices Conrad Rushing and Eugene Premo concurred. Michael Jones, a caterer, had sought to have Monterey County Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley disqualified from hearing his appeal to the court’s appellate division based on the fact that she had handled two pretrial motions in his dispute with Monterey County’s Housing Authority. Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell presided over the actual trial. The court’s appellate division refused, saying state statutes don’t require disqualification if the appeal involves different issues than those heard in pretrial proceedings. In reversing, the Sixth District said disqualification is required by statute if someone “aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial.” The ruling is Housing Authority of the County of Monterey v. Jones, 05 C.D.O.S. 5820. — Mike McKee COOLEY IP LITIGATION CHAIR JOINS LATHAM Stephen Swinton, the San Diego partner who became the chair of Cooley Godward’s IP litigation practice a year ago, is moving on to Latham & Watkins. Swinton joins Latham’s San Diego office in the litigation department effective the beginning of July. He was traveling in Europe and unavailable for comment Wednesday. “Steve and I were both at Luce, Forward [Hamilton & Scripps] together more than 20 years ago,” said Michael Weaver, the litigation chair at Latham in San Diego. “He is a great person and a person you would enjoy working with [and] a talented lawyer who is a prolific business developer.” Swinton spent more than a decade at Cooley. His career also includes several years with the San Diego-based firm of Aylward, Kintz, Stiska, Wassenaar & Shannahan. (Many lawyers from that firm merged into the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison in the mid-1980s.) “He’s a great lawyer and a terrific patent litigator,” said William Gaede III, also a former Cooley IP litigator now at McDermott, Will & Emery in Palo Alto “It’s a good gain for Latham.” Cooley lost Gaede in February to McDermott. And a year ago, the firm lost Jeffrey Randall, the chair of the firm’s IP practice groups, to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. — Marie-Anne Hogarth ‘MR. DIVORCE’ FOUND GUILTY OF TAX EVASION Demetrious Eugenios, a Campbell lawyer who calls himself “Mr. Divorce,” was convicted of tax evasion Tuesday. Eugenios, who has practiced law for more than 30 years, represented himself during the six-day trial. The jury deliberated for an hour and a half. The Northern District U.S. attorney’s office indicted Eugenios in 2003 for not paying $613,126 in taxes between 1990 and 2000. Eugenios faces a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of his conviction. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October in front of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer. Eugenios evaded his taxes by failing to disclose all of his assets and submitting false statements, said a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office. In a search of Eugenios’ property, FBI agents found a Porsche, a Toyota Tundra truck, $42,575 in cash and $10,686 in gold and silver coins that he had not declared. Eugenios’ office declined to make him available to comment Wednesday. Eugenios, 58, graduated from UC-Davis’ King Hall School of Law and lives in San Juan Bautista. He runs a Web site, “www.mrdivorce.com,” on which he offers advice for choosing a divorce lawyer. “Find someone you can talk with and trust. Ask for explanations. Don’t be taken in by big reputations and high fees,” the Web site says. “And most importantly, try to achieve a just result that can be lived with by all concerned rather than a great victory that devastates one party financially or otherwise, and leaves the family in shambles.” Despite his conviction, Eugenios can still practice law in California. While he may face an investigation by the State Bar, the conviction will not lead to an automatic disbarment, a Bar spokesman said. — Adva Saldinger

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