Property tax issues can be a big yawn to anyone not steeped in that particular area of the law.

So it came as a blast of fresh air last week when California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard cracked a joke during oral arguments in a rather dry, but really important, dispute between the city of Dinuba and Tulare County.

Dinuba, which is southeast of Fresno, sued the county, claiming it owed five years of property tax revenue that wasn’t distributed because of clerical errors. Tulare claims immunity from liability under the state’s Tort Claims Act, which says public entities aren’t liable for an injury unless a statute expressly declares them liable.

Joseph Quinn, a partner in San Francisco’s Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson who represents Dinuba, had just concluded his argument on Thursday when his opponent, Michael Wallenstein, noted Quinn hadn’t used nearly 10 minutes of his allotted time.

Joking, but possibly hoping the court would take him seriously, Wallenstein � an associate in Los Angeles’ Brown, Winfield & Canzoneri who had already made his main argument � asked about using Quinn’s leftover time during his rebuttal.

Kennard seized the moment.

“First you don’t want to give back money,” she quipped. “And now you want his time.”

The packed crowd attending the argument in City of Dinuba v. County of Tulare, S143326, roared its approval � and woke up those audience members who had been drifting off.

Mike McKee


Several Bay Area plaintiff shops grabbed headlines late last year when they settled a wage-and-hour suit with IBM for $65 million.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if other companies took note,” one plaintiff’s attorney who worked on the case, Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff’s Steven Zieff, said at the time.

Now, it seems, some of the same lawyers want to make sure that tech companies are still paying attention.

Attorneys at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Rubin & Demain who worked on the IBM suit announced last week that they are suing Cadence Design Systems, a San Jose-based computer services company, for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages to hundreds of employees. The claims are similar to those that were pursued against IBM, said Kelly Dermody, a partner at Lieff Cabraser.

“I imagine this is a problem that exists throughout Silicon Valley,” she said.

Dermody said tech companies “very, very rarely” want to talk until after she has already filed suit. “I’ve had general counsel who don’t return my calls.” When they do, she said, “it’s really the exception, not the norm.”

Higazi v. Cadence Design Systems, 07-02813, filed in the Northern District, claims that Cadence classified employees who install, maintain and support computer software and hardware as exempt from certain federal and state labor laws. The proposed class consists of current and former Cadence engineers.

A call to Cadence on Monday was not immediately returned.

In addition to compensation and damages for the plaintiffs, the suit is asking for an injunction requiring the company to provide overtime to eligible employees.

Matthew Hirsch