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STATE JUSTICE’S DEPARTURE LEAVES STAFF’S FATE UNCERTAIN Now that Justice Janice Rogers Brown has left the state Supreme Court, the fate of her secretary and five staff attorneys rests in the hands of her successor. “It will be up to the new justice to decide whether to retain all or some of the staff of Justice Brown or to bring new people on board,” Chief Justice Ronald George said last week. In the meantime, George said, Brown’s staff “will be working on material that was assigned to her chambers” and “presenting that to members of the court, including the new justice when he or she is appointed.” Staff attorney James Cumming, a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate who joined the Supreme Court staff in 1995, most likely won’t be around to meet the new person. He said last week that he’s leaving the court, but wouldn’t elaborate. Danny Chou, Brown’s head of chambers and a Harvard Law School alumnus who’s been with the court for six years; Elizabeth D’Orazio, a 13-year employee out of Boston University School of Law; and Daniel McGovern, a UCLA School of Law graduate who joined the court in 1999, declined to comment on their situation and future hopes. James Sawamura, a Loyola Law School graduate who joined the court last year, and Harriette Helmer, Brown’s secretary since 1996, didn’t return telephone calls seeking comment. Chief Justice George said the court normally tries to find a way to retain its staff attorneys — either in chambers or on one of its central staffs — if a new justice chooses not to retain them. That happened four years ago when George created a position in the Administrative Office of the Courts for Peter Belton, former Justice Stanley Mosk’s longtime staff attorney who wasn’t picked up by new Justice Carlos Moreno after Mosk passed away. (Belton retired in April after 45 years with the court and the AOC.) Staff attorneys “really contribute so much in so many ways,” George said, “and one way is their institutional memory.” When a new justice arrives on the bench, he added, the staff attorneys will present their work product for his or her review. In the meantime, he said, Brown’s staff “will not be circulating anything on the merits of deciding a case.” Asked whether there was a farewell party for Brown, who left for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 30, George would only say, “it was offered and declined.” — Mike McKee BLOG SIDESTEPS GAG ORDER A gag order is keeping the lid on key players in the murder trial of three men accused of killing transgender teen Gwen Araujo in 2001. But it couldn’t stop chanteuse Connie Champagne from blogging. The Bay Area singer has been posting frequent updates from the trial on “ Justice for Gwen Araujo,” a blog sponsored by Community United Against Violence, a lesbian, gay and transgender anti-bigotry group. “It’s really up to the community to have dialogue,” Champagne said. “There are organizations out there trying to get the message out to folks to not forget about this.” Champagne provides snippets of and perspective on proceedings in the second trial against Jason Cazares, Michael Magidson and Jose Merel, who are accused of killing 17-year-old Araujo after discovering she was biologically male. A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, is testifying for the prosecution. Nabors was initially charged with murder and later reached a plea agreement. Champagne, who runs CUAV’s speaker’s bureau, watched the first trial and decided to get more involved after talking to Araujo’s family and friends. Last year, she said, defense attorneys “really dragged Gwen Araujo’s reputation through the mud � they were able to say all kinds of outrageous and hurtful things in the press.” Despite the opportunity to blog, Champagne said she’s in favor of the gag order. “I feel it’s good for keeping the jury focused on what their job is,” she said. “I know it’s been frustrating for some folks who are directly involved in the case to not make their points of view known … but ultimately, it’s going to come down to the jury.” — Warren Lutz SEEKING AN EAR TO LEAN ON Kenneth Schmier, a solo practitioner from Emeryville, is suing the Judicial Council in Santa Clara County Superior Court, claiming he is being denied access to public meetings. Schmier, a longtime advocate of citing unpublished opinions who was once arrested for trying to ask a Marin County judge a question during a public forum, wrote the court a letter earlier this year, requesting an “agenda and permission to attend any meetings of [the Council] or its sub-bodies.” Schmier said his request was denied in a letter from the Supreme Court clerk. “While the committee would be pleased to consider any material you or your organization might wish to present in the deliberations, the meeting of the committee will be private,” wrote court clerk Frederick Ohlrich. Shortly after receiving the letter, Schmier showed up at an Article VI Workshop and was told to leave. In his complaint, Schmier said such treatment was a “direct and flagrant violation” of his rights. He added that this has caused him “irreparable harm” and is demanding that all future meetings be open to the public. Schmier said he has filed similar complaints against the Judicial Council in San Francisco, but said he got tired of being rebuffed, so he decided to try his luck in a different county. — Julie O’Shea

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