The Legal Lessons Learned from the Fight against Big Tobacco

You may have heard the commercials, the ones that end with the dramatic warning: NICOTINE IS BRAIN POISON.

Launched by the Tobacco Control Program of the California Department of Public Health, the Flavors Hook Kids campaign seeks to educate the public about the country’s newest epidemic-teen vaping. Listeners learn that teen vaping is on the rise. According to the latest preliminary results from The National Youth Tobacco Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27.5 percent of high school students reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. (That is 7 percentage points higher than it was…

A Case of Gender Pay Discrimination in Silicon Valley

As a Director of Sales Operations of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Company (HPE), R. Ross regularly encountered financial and personnel documents, some of which revealed confidential details about the salaries of her male colleagues.

She began to notice a pattern.

It appeared as though the base pay of male employees consistently exceeded those of female employees who were hired at HPE at the same, a disparity that existed even when the female employees had more extensive work experience. This pattern quickly became personal. …

How the Community Redevelopment Law Paves the Way for a Gentrified Los Angeles

Its design resembles an ocean liner, with rounded edges and porthole windows. The building is surrounded by a small village of bungalows, a commercial complex constructed in 1936 by Robert V. Derrah, the architect behind the Coca-Cola Building in Los Angeles. This is the Crossroads of the World.

This cluster of buildings began as a shopping center. Then, in the 1940s and 1950s, it transitioned into offices, housing Standard Oil, American Airlines, and the Screen Actors Guild. Now, it is slated for redevelopment.

The Crossroads Hollywood Project is a $1 billion project designed to bring 950 units of residential housing

Gilead Sciences, HIV Antiretrovirals, and the Pursuit of Profit

Over the summer, a series of pharmaceutical product liability actions have been brought to California state courts against Gilead Sciences, Inc., a Bay Area-based pharmaceutical company that researches, develops, and commercializes antiviral drugs used to prevent and manage Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV).

More than 50 patients treated with HIV antiretroviral drugs have filed a lawsuit against Gilead Sciences, claiming that the company placed profits before safety when it withheld from the market a safer and more effective antiretroviral than the one that it sold.

This story begins in the mid-1990s when…

A new law will go into effect across California on January 1, 2020. California Senate Bill 188 revises the definition of race articulated in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (1959). This definition will now include hair texture and protective hairstyles-traits historically associated with race.

Senate Bill 188 creates an opportunity to review the ways in which the courts have-or have not-helped to enforce employment discrimination laws throughout the state. Let’s begin by looking at the data for Los Angeles County.

The graph below outlines the number of trials for employment-related cases in Los Angeles County from 2009 to 2018…

(Visit here for my first look at 170.6.)

Everyone knows that a lawyer must understand the legal thresholds applicable to their cases. However, it is just as important that a lawyer understands their judge-their background, their preferences, their tendencies. This is the information through which a lawyer can map an effective litigation strategy, a strategy that includes careful consideration of whether or not to “ding” a particular judge, meaning request assignment to a different judge through a CCP 170.6 peremptory challenge.

Between 2006 and 2018, the largest percentage of CCP 170.6 challenges filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles…

“What’s happening all across this country is that lawyers are filing baseless suits against hospitals and doctors,” began George W. Bush to a room filled with medical professionals and industry allies. “That’s just a plain fact. And they’re doing it for a simple reason. They know the medical liability system is tilted in their favor. Jury awards in medical liability cases have skyrocketed in recent years.”

In this story, lawyers and plaintiffs are not the only ones to blame. There is also the civil jury, the panel of peers that always sides with the plaintiff, that always awards excessive damages.

Enacted in 1957, Section 170.6 of the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) granted litigants the opportunity to peremptorily disqualify a superior court judge from presiding over their case. This disqualification requires no justification other than a litigant stating that the assigned judge is prejudiced against the attorney, the attorney’s firm, or the attorney’s client. That’s right, no facts are needed to prove any of these allegations. As long as it is timely filed, the disqualification is granted as a matter of right.

Throughout Los Angeles County, the number of CCP 170.6 filings as a percentage of total court filings…

As the legal tech sector intensifies its global expansion, governments around the world are grappling with ethical, technical, and political questions about public access to electronic court records. The digitization of these records has allowed artificial intelligence and machine learning companies to collect this public data, synthesizing it in ways that allow them to model how individual judges rule on particular types of matters.

On March 23, 2019, the French government intervened in the debate, passing a law that bans the publication of statistical information derived from judicial analytics. Article 33 of the Justice Reform Act prohibits anyone from revealing the patterns of a judge and their rulings, threatening a five-year prison sentence as the maximum punishment.

Mon dieu!

(Thankfully Trellis isn’t planning on going abroad….)

Originally published at

The United States District Courts adopted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) in 1938. Drafted in reference to the types of cases most common at the time, these rules were designed to regulate pre-trial pleading and discovery practices. In doing so, they presented three pre-trial mechanisms for undermining a plaintiff’s complaint, one of which is a motion to dismiss- Rule 12(b)(6).

Most states have modeled their civil procedures after the FRCP. However, the State of California is a notable exception. It is one of the few states that refused to follow the FRCP’s abolishment of the demurrer and its…

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