A Tribute to Bernard E. Witkin

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

Most practicing attorneys have an appreciation for practice guides, which are succinct, helpful volumes dedicated to how to do particular things.  Usually, we are taught in law school, we should not cite directly to practice guides, because they are secondary sources.  One exception may be (and still, it should be done sparingly) is a citation to Bernard E. Witkin’s treatises, the Summary of California Law, California Procedure, California Evidence, and California Criminal Law.  My legal research and writing instructor even referred to Mr. Witkin as “Uncle Bernie.”  Our courts in California have had little trouble citing to Witkin (according to one source over 20,000 times) versus using primary law, but that is an honor usually reserved to the judiciary.

To say that Bernard Witkin is held in high esteem is an understatement.  Here are some epithets given to Bernard Witkin and judicial sentiments reflecting the esteem felt towards Mr. Witkin  in California case law:

“the eminent Bernard E. Witkin” Continental Airlines, Inc. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp. (1988) 216 Cal.App.3d 388, 421.

“the venerable Bernard E. Witkin” People v. Hinton (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 655, 662.

“Bernard E. Witkin, beyond question the foremost commentator on California law” People v. Barraza (1979) 23 Cal.3d 675, 695.

“The legal sage Bernard E. Witkin authoritatively advises” Corbett v. Franchise Tax Bd. (1985) 167 Cal.App.3d 808 (Not officially published).

The California Legislature held Bernard Witkin in similar esteem; California Education Code section 19328(a)  reads:

The Legislature hereby finds and declares that Bernard E. Witkin’s legendary contribution to California law is deserving of a lasting tribute and an expression of gratitude from the state whose legal system, he, more than any other single individual in the 20th century, helped to shape.

The Supreme Court of California convened in San Francisco on December 3, 1996 to remember Bernard Witkin about a year after he died.  The Supreme Court holds such sessions when someone connected to the court dies, but according to his remarks on that day, then-Chief Justice Ronald M. George said it was the first time an individual other than a staff member or justice of the court was so honored.  Justice Ming Chin said that Governor Pete Wilson called him “the Guru of California Law,” that former Chief Justice Lucas said that the “Witkin summaries of California Law made us the envy of the nation” and Justice Ching said that “Bernie Witkin and California law have always been synonymous.”  Justice Norman Epstein of the Second District Court of Appeal called him “the Justinian of California.”

The reason why Witkin was– and is –so revered is that he laid down black letter law without the nonsense that you see in more academic writing about the law.  Even more than 16 years after his death, I am indebted to the work he pioneered in the last century.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Using a Bluetooth Keyboard WIth an iPad 2: First Impressions

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I have written before about the iPad 2 about whether it was a serious legal tool.  I concluded  that it was not particularly because you couldn’t touch type on the screen.  I had meant to buy a case keyboard combination for the iPad 2, but I neglected to do so.  Until today.

I bought the Logitech / ZAGGmate case keyboard combination at Costco.  It was on sale with an instant rebate for about $50.

First, the good.  There are a few special iPad tools, such as cut and paste, but like special keys on a regular keyboard, you usually have to look down to find them.  The best feature are cursor keys.

You can touch type on it, but it’s only about as good as a keyboard on a netbook.  Good, but not as good on a full size  keyboard.  But it is light years away from the keyboard version.  However since it is a case combination,  my palms tend to rest on the somewhat hard aluminum of the case

I am used to a trackpad and find myself reaching for one.  However, since the touchscreen capabilities of the iPad still work, I think that I can find a work around for it.

The keyboard is good enough for a quick blog post (which was so difficult with the  keyboard), for a medium size email.   There appears to be some redundancy that makes typing really quickly problematic.  Wordpress seems to have some problem with cutting and pasting, but that’s probably a WordPress problem.

I can see it would be good to take notes at a deposition, but I don’t have an app right now that does that.  I’m not sure I would write a summary judgment motion on it, even if you could rig it up.

In short, probably worth $50, don’t expect miracles, makes it easier to write email and short blog posts.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Today is the 13th Anniversary of My Admission To the State Bar of California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Today is the 13th anniversary of my admission to the State Bar of California.  I was sworn in at 351 N. Arrowhead Avenue, San Bernardino California, way back on this day in the late 20th Century. Thank you to my present and previous clients for thirteen great years.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
      Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

Is the Apple iPad a Serious Legal Tool?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I have had my iPad 2 for about six months now. I do not use it much for work. It has its plusses. The Westlaw Next app works as well as the web version. Email is much easier than on the iPhone. This post is being mostly created on the iPad, but I am going to add the HTML on a real computer.

However, it is next to impossible to type anything but a short note. The keyboard does not give the right feedback, and even a netbook gives you a better typing experience. I have considered a Bluetooth Keyboard, but isn’t the Leading feature of the iPad its size? I also don’t understand the people buying a massive iPad protector. For one, it is pretty durable. But once again, you lose some of its agility

The iPad 2 does some things great (video, amazing battery life, the calendar [September 19, 2011 update from a computer: instant on]) other things well ( reading, the web), and some things not well (syncing, backup, printing, multitasking, copying, and multi-touch sometimes is not a precise as I would like), but I have not even bothered to try to do the one thing that I need the most: word processing. Yes, I know there are a few apps out there.

When I started my own practice, I finally abandoned WordPerfect. I had tried before, but pleadings were more difficult, and I always had support staff or colleagues who were resistant. I started off using WordStar before I even learned to type. When I switched from MS-DOS to Windows 3.1, I had to switch out to do word processing. If only there was a better way. Through the miracle of academic pricing, I discovered the best piece of software ever designed, and never bettered: Microsoft Word 2.0. It did everything.

But I digress. What I need is Word (and Excel) for iPad. I don’t want an emulator, because I cannot have any glitches that take an hour to get out of a pleading. Until that moment arrives, the iPad cannot “party seriously.”

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address : 300 E. State St. #517
Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

How To Write Compelling Legal Prose: A Clever Paragraph With Impact

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Here is a paragraph I found while doing some research on the Internet.  It is from the Complaint, Page 14, Lines 1-4,  Rodriguez et al. v. Burbank Police Department et al., Los Angeles Superior Court Case BC414602, Filed May 28, 2009.

It should be noted that, as of the date of the filing of the within complaint, no African-American employee in the entire history of the Burbank PD has ever been promoted above the title of “police officer.”  No African-American detectives. No African-American sergeants. No African-American Lieutenants or Captains.  Never.”

Usually, sentence fragments are to be avoided in formal writing.  But this simple paragraph forcefully delivers one of the themes of the case.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Friday Aside: Mildly Amusing Legal Humor Site

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I recently stumbled upon a mildly amusing legal humor site (think The Onion instead of lawyer jokes).  It is called LOLawyer.com.  It appears to be one person who probably is or was a lawyer.  If you like the meta, navel-gazing, behind-the-scenes, business side of law, this is the site for you.  The proprietor gets an A for effort.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Always Check the Pocket Part: Doing Your Due Diligence In Law

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The first week of law school, if not the first day, my Legal Research and Writing instructor at Santa Clara University School of Law JoLi Schunk, taught me to always check the pocket part. Bound legal publications, such as the United States Code Annotated consist of a bound book with a pocket in the back. The pocket contains the pocket part. The pocket part is a soft bound packet, varying in thickness, that has updates from the bound version. “Always check the pocket part” means, for example, that if you found a statute that supports your case, make sure that it is today’s black letter law, and it was not repealed by later legislation seen in the pocket part.

Today, most physical law libraries are getting smaller, so much research is done using online sources that are constantly updated. “Always check the pocket part” means that you cannot rely on others in quoting the law. For example, do not rely on a secondary source, or a case squib to tell you about a case. Go directly to the case. Go to a primary source.

This truism was illustrated in the San Bernardino City Attorney’s race. Challenger David McKenna erroneously accused the accuser of accepting money related to an ongoing corruption scandal in San Bernardino County, when in fact, the money was used to oppose the City Attorney James Penman  in the 2007 City Attorney’s race. According to the news reports, David McKenna based this false accusation upon a newspaper report in the Press-Enterprise that was in error. The original campaign filing showed the correct information (that the money from the PAC was used to support City Attorney Penman’s opponent, Marianne Milligan ).

According to the online edition of the San Bernardino Sun posted today:

McKenna said he did his due diligence, discovered the error and called Penman to apologize and let him know that he would send another email saying the previous message was wrong.

Read more: http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_18604446#ixzz1U0Lw4bdH

“Always check the pocket part” means doing the due diligence before you quote an outdated statute in a pleading, or cite checking a citation before filing your opposition to a Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the case of the challenger to the City Attorney’s office, looking at an original document instead of quoting a secondary source like an out-of-town, out-of-county newspaper.

It’s also a matter of taking care of little details. An attorney I worked for repeated this proverb, a copy of which I found online:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes in the practice of law, there is not as much time as we would like. However, if you, as the self-represented, as an attorney, or anyone for whom words are important, do your due diligence and always check the pocket part, you’ll be much better off.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517

Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

Why an In-House Public Lawyer Should Stay Out of Politics and Not Express Their Opinion if They Are Not Asked

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Some attorneys are very political.  They donate to local, state and federal candidates.  They hold fundraisers at their multi-million dollar houses (yes, even in the Inland Empire). Sometimes they are very associated with one political party or another.  Some become local officials.  I have no idea if this is beneficial or detrimental  for their practices, firms, well-being, or pocket book.

Public lawyers, and by public lawyers I mean in-house civil attorneys, typically in an in-house City Attorney’s Office or Office of County Counsel, may have opinions but it is usually best if they do not openly express them.  The entity, of course, is the client, but an entity is run by actual human beings.

As long time readers know, I was the Assistant City Attorney of the City of Redlands and a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, each for over four years, for a total of almost nine and a half years.   The environment in each office was different.  In Redlands, it was (then) a two person operation, which, for the size, workload and complexity of the organization, could have accommodated three attorneys.  The City Attorney was and is appointed by the City Council.  A majority of a Council quorum can remove the City Attorney, subject to the City Attorney’s agreement with the Council.  That is a different kind of political environment from the City of San Bernardino.

The City of San Bernardino, with an elected City Attorney, elections every two years, with charter fights, was a Politically-charged entity.  By “Politically,” with a capital P,  I mean municipal election politics.  While the employees of that office felt the secondary effects of the political winds, I was always allowed to do my job.  Certainly, when someone aims for the elected City Attorney, sometimes they hit a deputy.  But for the most part, the Mayor and Common Council, and the staff of the City viewed me, as a Deputy, as a non-c0mbatant.  Humorously, they sometimes treated me as if I were a victim of an evil regime.

People sometimes interpreted, when I was a prosecutor, that I was personally prosecuting people because I was a supporter of whatever ordinance I was prosecuting.   No, I was doing my duty to enforce the rules made by the policy makers.  If there was a problem with a particular rule, a political solution needed to be forged to change the rule.  That political solution was not one that I, as a Deputy City Attorney or the Assistant City Attorney, was going to be a part of, unless I was directed to draft an ordinance by the City Attorney.

Obviously, a wise public lawyer has to fit into the inter-office politics in the in-house environment.   That’s not what I am talking about, and that’s the same in any office with more than one person.  The public lawyer must be political in that sense.

Similarly, as an independent attorney, I do not hold any particular positions on the subjects that I write about.  Even if I am recounting my past actions, I did the things I did because it was my job to do them, because they benefited my public entity client, and it was at the direction of the political decision-makers of the entity.   I was never asked to do anything that was unethical, and even if I were asked to do something unethical, I would not do it.  However, very seldom does the public entity practitioner reach the bounds of the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

For example, someone thought I had a position on allowing Food Trucks in San Bernardino County.  I do not have a personal opinion on the subject.  If a small business retains me to represent them on the subject, my opinion is the same as the client.  I give advice in a neutral fashion, the pluses and minuses of any particular situation.  However, the best interest of the client must be kept in mind at all times.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374

T: (909) 708-6055

E: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

 

Modern Technology in the Law Office – The Place of the Typewriter in Today’s Legal World

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Attorneys are often early adopters of technology, often to their detriment as technology advances, gets cheaper or goes obsolete.  However, there is one piece of old-fashioned technology that refuses to die – the typewriter.

I own two typewriters.  When I started law school in 1995  at Santa Clara University School of Law, notebooks and laptops were almost as fully-featured, if not as powerful, as they are today.  However, the California Bar Examination, in 1995, did not allow for the use of computers.  At the time, only typewriters with no more than one line of memory were allowed.  The idea was that you could put some valuable information into the device to gain an advantage in taking the bar exam.  I purchased a Smith Corona Memory Correct 400.

I typed all of my law school examinations on the Smith Corona. I learned to touch type in 1987 thanks to the Norman Feldhym Public Library and a host of Apple II GS computers (and some forgotten software).   In the summer of 1998 while studying for the July 1998 bar examination, I was able to procure a second, back-up typewriter just in case the Smith and Corona broke.

By the time I took the bar exam, laptops were allowed with the use of a special program designed to lock out the hard drive.  It was new technology, and though I had about a year’s notice, it was not time to switch horses in the middle of the race.

The Smith Corona still bears a sticker that says “July 1998 California Bar Examination” and my applicant number.  I didn’t have to use the back-up typewriter, and the convention center did not lose power.  I received my successful bar results in November 1998 and was sworn in the first week of December 1998.

When I arrived at Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino, at least one of the typists was still using an IBM typewriter to fill out Judicial Council forms.  Not some of the forms, or some of the information, but everything.  I always used a computer there, unless I had to type a form not included in Legal Solutions.

In the cities of San Bernardino and Redlands, the City Attorney’s Offices still have typewriters for forms that need to be typed, and envelopes and that sort of thing.  I would occasionally borrow the IBM Selectric at a secretary’s station.

When I started my own practice, I dragged out the Smith Corona for government claims provided by entities as non-fillable PDFs.  Sometimes, it is easier to use a typewriter on an address then to print it from the computer.

The Smith Corona is holding up pretty well.  It was manufactured in the United States, just before Smith Corona moved its typewriter manufacturing to Mexico.  I think it will survive for auxillary tasks in the law office for a long time, even if it is not state-of-the-art technology.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055