• Donna Bader
  • Attorney at Law
  • Certified Specialist in Appellate Law
  • 668 North Coast Hwy, Ste. 1355
  • Laguna Beach, CA  92651
  • Tel.: (949) 494-7455
  • Fax: (949) 494-1017
  • Donna@DonnaBader.Com



Donna Bader

Attorney at Law

Certified Specialist in Appellate Law

668 North Coast Hwy, Ste. 1355

Laguna Beach, CA  92651

Tel.: (949) 494-7455

Fax: (949) 494-1017





We may have a new California Supreme Court Justice

Governor Jerry Brown nominated a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Marvin Baxter, who was one of the Court’s most conservative members.  The nominee is Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Mexican-born Stanford Law School Professor.  Mr. Cuéllar would become the second Democrat to sit on a Court filled with Republication appointees, except for Justice Goodwin Liu, who was appointed in 2011.  Governor Brown has one more vacancy to fill, which became open when Justice Joyce Kennard decided to retire.  

Cuéllar has substantial experience in immigration, having service as a special assistant for justice and regulatory policy in the Obama White House from 2009-2010.  He co-chaired the Obama transition team’s immigration policy working group in 2008 and 2009.  He also worked for the U.S. Treasury Department from 1997 to 1999 under President Clinton.  

Cuéllar was born in Mexico.  When he was young, he crossed the border legally each day to attend a Catholic school on a scholarship in Brownsville, Texas.  His family then moved to the Imperial Valley in California.  His family was granted green cards and he graduated from Calexico High School.  Cuéllar became a U.S. citizen in 1994 and has taught at Stanford since 2001. 

Cuéllar appointment will add diversity to the panel and will have a Latino justice.  The Court’s only other Latino member, former Justice Carlos Moreno, retired in 2011.  Even though the Court is stacked with Republicans, it is nice to see the appointment of a Latino judge, particularly one who has hands on experience with immigration and a scholar to boot!   If Cuéllar is confirmed, his name will be listed on the November 4thballot for voter approval.


Refresher on Filing Notices of Appeal

                In a recent family law case, In re Marriage of Lin (2014) _ Cal.App.4th _, the appellate court described the actual time limits for civil appeals.  According to California Rules of Court, rule 8.104(a), the time limit is 60 days from when the appealable order or judgment is served by a party or clerk’s notice of entry of judgment or through service by the clerk or party of a file-stamped copy of the order.  Even if a party waives notice of ruling in court, this waiver will not cut down the 60-day period.  If no such notice of entry of judgment has been given, then the outside limit is 180 days from entry of the judgment.  If the court record does not reflect the shortened time, the 180- day period will apply.             

 Since the notice of entry of judgment has the effect of cutting down an appellant’s time to appeal from 180 to 60 days, thus shaving off 120 days, I would expect a prevailing party, especially one represented by an attorney, would want to eliminate the uncertainty of facing a long appeal period by taking this quick, extra step. 

                If a party is served with a printed form or document entitled “Notice of Entry of Judgment,” then I know the 60-day rule applies.  But a file-stamped copy of the order or judgment, without something to announce it is a Notice of Entry of Judgment, also complies and is often overlooked.  As noted in Lin, the “triggering document” must show the date on which it was served.  (C.R.C., rule 8.104(a)(1).)

                If a party is not sure, take the shortest time period, usually the entry of the judgment or order, and calculate 60 days from that date.  That way you will never be late. Don’t wait until the last day.  I gave myself a couple of extra days because I worry about getting into a car accident and fighting with the ambulance to make a quick stop at the Court of Appeal before I go to the Emergency Room.  (I figure worrying about filing a notice of appeal while I undergo surgery will cut down my chances of survival.)


A Bad Court Reporter can Ruin Your Day . . . and Your Appeal


Years ago, I was told that the definition of comedy is “bad things happening to other people.”  In the movies, we laugh when someone takes a big tumble, but we know if we were to fall we wouldn’t want anyone laughing at us.  Not to mention the pain of falling.  Maybe that is why you see comedians taking falls, but never shedding a drop of blood. 

 Appellate law is not the most exciting area of the law.  I like to think of it as more of an intellectual exercise where you are searching for judicial error or misconduct.  It usually isn’t the stuff of exciting movies, unless Al Pacino or Gregory Peck are arguing their cases. 

 In Manhattan, the courts were faced with an odd situation.  One of their court reporters apparently had some type of breakdown, suffering from the extreme pressure of reporting cases, in this instance a high-profile criminal trial.  The New York Post reported the alcoholic court reporter wrote out his own script for the trial instead of typing the words spoken by the parties and the judge.  The reporter sat through the hearing, probably looking as normal as apple pie, and pretended to take down those words, but he was actually writing, “I hate my job, I hate my job,” over and over again.  Apparently the reporter had committed similar misconduct in some 30 Manhattan court cases.  Who would have guessed?

  The reporter’s failure to report the proceedings will have a significant impact on any appeals for which a transcript cannot be supplied.  If this problem was discovered months after the reporter took down the testimony, it may be very difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct what was said on the stand.   The judges have been holding “reconstruction hearings” at which all those involved testify about what they remember.  Tough, because memories fade so easily, especially if you have a heavy caseload. 

  The reporter, who has since been fired and is completing rehab, denied screwing up in court.  I guess the proof is in the transcripts.  Maybe someone will testify at the reconstruction hearing that the witness actually said, “I hate my job” over and over again on the stand, without a single objection or comment from the judge.  If the reporter’s notes are only gibberish, it is going to be very tough to argue that all the witnesses in 30 cases spoke that way.

  Claudia Trupp of the Center for Appellate Litigation in New York was quoted in the paper as saying, “This situation is terrible for everybody.  It’s very difficult to come up with a sufficient record based on everybody’s recollection years after the event.”   Glad it didn’t happen on one of my appeals.


Finding the Passion in Practicing Law

Last week I helped a friend with her small claims appeal.  Even though they call it an “appeal,” a small claims appeal is really a rehearing.  At the initial hearing, she lost and owed the plaintiff almost $6,000.  I thought the law was in her favor and knew if it could be carefully explained to the judge, she would win.  I also knew that I was more experienced at making those arguments, so I volunteered to represent her.  We won and she was very happy.  I have worked on cases involving many millions of dollars, but I worked on this $6,000 claim as if the same amount was at issue.  To my client, that was a substantial amount of money and I really wanted to help her.  When the judge ruled in her favor, I felt relieved and happy that I could remove the burden of this judgment off her shoulders.  Those are the times when I feel satisfied in helping people. 

Several years ago I won an appeal, Plotnik v. Meihaus.  In that case, the Court of Appeal confirmed the right of a pet owner to sue for emotional distress when another person intentionally harms or kills a pet.  It was a very gratifying win for me and I received more publicity and letters on that case than on any other case in my entire career.  Well, my 15 minutes of fame was over, or so I thought.  I recently received an e-mail from retired attorney Sandy Toye, who previously specialized in handling animal-related matters.  She wrote: 

                “A friend of mine recently informed me of Plotnik v. Meihaus.  I just wanted to thank you for accomplishing something I spent my entire professional career trying to accomplish . . . It means so much to all animal lovers and to me personally.  You are truly a hero and an inspiration.  Thank you.” 

That letter made my day and reminded me once again of why I do what I do.  There is a sense of accomplishment in being able to help people, and in this case, pets.  (My dog expects no less from me.)  Knowing there are now potential consequences (big $$$) for harming animals might dissuade some from inflicting such harm.  For that I am happy.


Hey, what happened to the attorney-client privilege?

In this new age of social media, attorneys have to be especially careful about protecting their communications with their clients.  I try to avoid having important or confidential communications through e-mail.  I even worry about taking my computer out of the country, knowing my e-mails and documents could be reviewed by the United States government and maybe even another government.

Was I surprised to learn that a new report leaked by Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency monitored communications between the Indonesian government and a U.S. Law firm that was representing that government in trade disputes with the United States?  This monitoring apparently included spying on these discussions by NSA’s Australian counterpart agency.  Is this about national security?  Doesn’t seem so.  Or perhaps it is more about economic gain for the United States?  If so, then shame on the U.S. Government. 

Maybe my cases don’t involve high level trade disputes between governments, although I have been involved in lawsuits against local governments and the United States.  How would I like to know that those communications were reviewed by the NSA?  And what can I do in the future to protect my confidential discussions with my clients.  It sound like the days of meeting clients in empty parking lots or along the river front are back.