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HENDERSON ‘THUNDERSTRUCK’ AT THE TURNOUT FOR HIS BIOPIC Of the 800 or so people at the Herbst Theatre on Friday night, only one seemed surprised at the size � and enthusiasm � of the gathering. “I’m thunderstruck,” Judge Thelton Henderson said on his way into the lobby. “I really am. It’s really amazing.” The preternaturally humble senior Northern District federal judge was doing his best to act as if it were really no big deal that much of the local public interest bar � lawyers, activists, judges both state and federal � had gathered to watch a movie about him. The film, “Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey,” has been three years in the making, explained Abby Ginzberg, its producer and director, after the showing. Henderson didn’t see it until last week. “I looked at the film this morning. I wasn’t going to do it, but Abby said I should, that way I can relax,” he said. Henderson apparently liked what he saw. The documentary traces Henderson’s path from Watts to the federal bench, where he’s gained renown � and, among conservatives, infamy � for striking down a state anti-affirmative action initiative, enforcing federal laws keeping dolphins out of tuna nets, and mandating overhauls of the California state prison system. Most recently, he put the state prison health system under federal receivership. Along the way, the movie details Henderson’s work just out of law school as the first African-American civil rights lawyer in the Department of Justice (he was fired for lending Martin Luther King Jr. his car) and his time at Stanford Law School, where he worked to diversify what had been a bastion of whiteness. Ginzberg said she wants the movie to reach a general audience and hopes to show it at Sundance. Its first public screenings will be Sunday, Monday and Oct. 14 at the Mill Valley Film Festival (times and locations are at www.mvff.com). The Friday crowd, though, was anything but a general audience; in fact, it was composed largely of die-hard Henderson fans. “I haven’t seen these people since the Impact Fund dinner,” said Michael Rubin, a partner at labor firm Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Rubin & Demain. And many of those in attendance helped Ginzberg fund the film. They were joined by family and old friends of Henderson’s who flew in from around the country and Canada. After the show, Ginzberg made her thank yous, and Henderson joined her on stage for a brief word. He thanked his mother, and also the crowd. “Thank you all for coming,” he said, “and making this the most special day of my life.” &# 151 Justin Scheck IT ALL COMES DOWN TO ‘IT’ After being sued for breach of contract over the sale of their Orange County home, Arthur and Jane Molinari succeeded in compelling arbitration. But on Sept. 26, Santa Ana’s Fourth District Court of Appeal � in a colorful opinion � said that shouldn’t have happened: The sales agreement never directly required arbitration. “The only arbitration language in the parties’ agreement is the warning language required by statute to accompany any arbitration agreement contained in a real estate sale contract,” Justice William Bedsworth wrote. “That language is not itself intended to be an arbitration agreement, and we cannot construe it as one.” Justices David Sills and Richard Fybel concurred. Nicolas and Clare Villacreses purchased the Molinaris’ Laguna Niguel home in 2001, but six months later filed suit for breach of contract after finding a multitude of undisclosed problems � among them, faulty drainage and electrical wiring, a defective shed and an improperly operating garage door. The Molinaris � in a petition the appeal court described “as bare bones as a medical school skeleton” � successfully compelled arbitration. The couple prevailed and were awarded $30,000 in costs, which an Orange County Superior Court judge affirmed. The Fourth District, however, said the only hint that arbitration was intended was in language initialed by both couples in agreeing “to have neutral arbitration of all disputes to which it applies.” The justices found that vague. “To paraphrase the immortal words of a former president of the United States,” Bedsworth wrote, “the applicability of this purported arbitration agreement to the instant dispute ‘depends upon what the meaning of the word “it” is.’” “Unfortunately,” he added, “‘it’ is never defined anywhere.” Bedsworth dubbed the case “a cautionary tale. If the first rule of medicine is ‘Do no harm,’ the first rule of contracting should be ‘Read the documents.’” The ruling is Villacreses v. Molinari, 05 C.D.O.S. 8591. &# 151 Mike McKee BIG WHEELS Around Sacramento, John Sullivan is best known as president of the Civil Justice Association of California, the tort reform group ever poised to do battle against the forces of the trial bar. But subscribers to the online Capitol Morning Report learned of another side of Sullivan in a Sept. 26 story titled “Racy Sullivans.” Apparently, Sullivan and his wife, veterinarian April Halliday-Sullivan, like to spend their spare time racing 175-pound open-wheel karts as part of a his-and-her racing team at the Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area near Folsom. Sullivan and his wife, who own matching red karts, got into the sport a few years ago, and their love of it has taken them across the world. They’ve been to Holland, where they spent the better part of two weeks experiencing indoor racing, and more recently, Turkey, where last month they attended that country’s first-ever Formula 1 race. Sullivan, in his early 60s, acknowledges that while people of all ages participate in the sport, most of his fellow racing enthusiasts “are in their high 20s and 30s.” He says he particularly enjoys the quick maneuvering kart racing requires, and says it’s not all that easy decelerating from 65 to 20 miles per hour on tight corners. Good training for negotiating with trial lawyers, too. � Jill Duman

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