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SUBTLE RACISM? If you buy the argument that you’re not really a man until you’ve been part of a lawsuit, then David Kermani’s bar mitzvah seems to have truly ushered the young man into adulthood. In fact, the Ninth Circuit last week went so far as to give Kermani its own coming-of-age lesson: A hotel can be sued for discrimination after bumping an African-American fashion show from a ballroom in favor of your bar mitzvah. That was the thrust of a three-judge panel’s unanimous opinion authored by Edward Reed Jr. � a senior U.S. district judge from the District of Nevada � that was issued Dec. 20. Reed reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess of the Central District of California dismissing the suit. He said the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel’s refusal to allow Panache Images � an African-American-owned company putting on the fashion show � to use the hotel’s Grand Ballroom may have been discriminatory, since that was the only room that would fit the show, and the bar mitzvah could have used a smaller space. A hotel manager’s “complete refusal to accommodate the hundreds of African-Americans arriving at the Westin in the room best able to handle them � should be considered by a jury as possible evidence of racial discrimination,” Reed wrote in ordering the case to stand trial. Felipa Richland, the L.A. solo who represented Panache, said she was shocked when the case was referred to her. “It’s fabulous, isn’t it?” she said, with sarcasm. “Racism is alive and well.” She said the bar mitzvah � an event a fraction of the size of the fashion show � didn’t even use the whole ballroom. And, she added, the hotel told her clients that the bar mitzvah was actually a wedding. All in all, she said, the case is indicative of the shape racism takes nowadays. “They didn’t have their Klan garb, but racism is now about subtlety,” she said. For their part, Westin’s lawyers with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius argued that since the bar mitzvah was scheduled first, the hotel had the right to put it in the ballroom. Richland said that after the Ninth Circuit opinion was published, she received several calls from discrimination lawyers. The panel had struggled to adapt employment discrimination law to a non-employment contract, and in doing so laid out some guidelines new to the Ninth Circuit. While Richland is now hoping to go to trial, she said Morgan, Lewis lawyers told her Westin was planning to seek reconsideration by the Ninth Circuit. And even if the case is tried, she said, there’s a big question out there. “How do you punish a company whose profits increased $200 million in one year?” she said. � Justin Scheck UNIFORM CIVIL FILING FEES GO INTO EFFECT WITH NEW YEAR The Judicial Council will start 2006 with a bang next week when it introduces a new system designed to streamline civil filing fees in trial courts across the state. Starting Jan. 3, various civil filing surcharges and add-ons will be rolled into one fee and will remain unchanged for a minimum of two years. In addition, the vast majority of court service fees will be the same for all 58 counties in the state. The changes are part of the Uniform Civil Fees and Standard Fee Schedule Act, which was approved by the state Legislature earlier this year. Average fees in most courts will see a “modest” increase, according to the Judicial Council. For example, under the new structure, small-claim filing fees will increase to $30 for claims of $1,500 or less. For claims between $1,500 and $5,000, the fee will be $50, and for those greater than $5,000, expect to pay $75, according to a statement from the council. Motion fees will increase to $40, and summary judgment motions will be bumped to $200. The new setup will also establish, among other things, a statewide, uniform consolidated probate filing fee with the lowest level set at the same amount as the unlimited civil filing fee. It will also establish a $180 filing fee for guardianship petitions and responses. After examining structures set up in various counties, the Judicial Council discovered that different fees were assessed in 89 assorted filings. The differences affected fees covering law libraries, dispute resolution programs, and children’s waiting rooms, to name a few. To view the new fee schedule, visit www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courtadmin/civilfees.htm or the clerk’s office in each court. &# 151 Julie O’Shea

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