ALMOST DESERTED  by PETER (another pun), WVRC on July 17th

Well, you see, President PETER wasn’t there – but there was dessert, hence the pun…

Now, you may think YOE is overdoing this pun business, andyou may be right – so I’m taking a week off, for R&R.  ELLIOTT TURNER will cover next Thursday's meeting, I’m glad to say.  But today, Senior Past President JIM COLLINS stood in ably for President PETER.

PP JIM started off with a joke.  During breakfast, wife asked husband about his fixing the garbage disposal – he says "Do you think I’m Roto Rooter?"  Then she tells him the wash machine isn’t working – he says, "Do you think I’m the Maytag man?"  Finally, as he goes out the door, she says, the car isn’t working – and he says, "Do you think I’m Mr. Goodwrench?"  Arrives home that evening, asks how her repairs are coming.  “Oh, I got everything fixed”.  “How much did all THAT cost”?  “Nothing – the man next door took care of it, free!  He said, “You can either bake my favorite chocolate cake, or I can come over and we can spend a little time together".  "Well, what are you gonna do?”  “You don't think I’m Betty Crocker, do you?”

MIKE YOUSEM led the Pledge. LENNY FRIEDMAN and GREGG ELLIOTT took us through The Star Spangled Banner, and we did OK.  RALPH SMITH dedicated his Invocation to his uncle, Harold Capron, who was the Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Whitman, Mass, where RALPH grew up. He asked our Maker to prepare our hands for touching, to give us new ways of communication, to move into more meaningful relationships.  RALPH then invited our newest member, TONY DERYAN, to come forward so he could introduce him to us all. TONY is a native Californian, graduated from UCLA (a small cheer followed), and he is in the financial services industry, specializing in retirement planning. He is a trained, master guitarist – and might play for us!  TONY is a bicyclist, plays tennis, and feels his most satisfying achievement has been his mentoring of an at-risk youth, who now is on his own and doing well.  He hopes to continue such service within WVRC. TONY, Welcome Aboard!

PP JIM offered tickets to the tennis tournament coming up at UCLA, and they were immediately picked up. CHARLES MAGNUSON spoke about Visiting Rotarians, and named Bert Kreisberg, now in BH but a former WVRC member, who in turn introduced his wife, Vera.  CHARLES then philosophized that he couldn’t really count RUDY ALVAREZ as a visitor, since he’s been with us three times in a row – but he did feel it was appropriate to introduce BILL MICHAEL, who apparently is both retired and unemployed. – and got picked on since he wasn’t wearing his badge!  SALLY BRANT brought along her grandson, Stewart Brant, who has finished his first year of Law School, and is assisting our Speaker, Judge Rodney Nelson. Cassandra KLIEWER accompanied LILLIAN.  STEW GILMAN again introduced our new member, ED GAULD.

The District Breakfast is coming up – July 29th at the LAX Marriott – and Chancellor Albert Carnesale of UCLA will be the Speaker.  Reservations are due, so please call KEVIN KOMATSU right away to hold a place, OK?  ANN SAMSON presented a short ‘slide show’ of the camping activity of the Westside Family YMCA.  They take a bunch of kids, aged 8 to 17, for a week in the Big Bear Mountains – and WVRC provides some scholarships for those who need financial help. This year they had 271 in attendance, of whom 55 were on scholarships, so it is a most active, and meaningful program. We have supported this program for almost the entire life of WVRC, and it was great to see so many kids experiencing our wonderful local mountains. The Westside Y also conducts a short Winter Camp – first time in the snow for almost everyone. 

Despite my best efforts (read, warning) of last week, I was still fingered by PP JIM for what he considered inappropriate dress on July 10th.  He nicked me for a hundred clams – and all I can say is that I was one hell of a lot cooler than the rest of you more formal types!  Attention Rotary Auxiliary Members – Your new roster will be going to print late in August.  If you have any changes, additions, or corrections re address, phone number, e-mail address, hobbies, etc, please notify Margie Downie as soon as possible. (310) 394-4827, or SEAN McMILLAN rose to remind us that he will be presenting our support checks for research at UCLA on medulloblasstoma next week, and urged everyone to get their checks in right away, please. 

We have just learned of a lovely tribute in honor of PP SUNNY JIM SUMNER.  Bob and Marion Wilson have established the James D. Sumner Research Assistant Fellowship at the UCLA School of Law.  This will support the hiring of a student research assistant to work with a member of the Law School faculty, principally in Jim’s fields of Contracts and Wills and Trusts. This will be an annual award, matching the student selected each year with the right research skills to assist a faculty member who can benefit from them most effectively.  For further information, please contact the Wilson’s at (858) 756-8212 in Rancho Santa Fe, or Dean Jonathan D. Varat  at the UCLA School of Law.  

SALLY BRANT introduced our Speaker, Superior Court Judge Rodney E. Nelson.  He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1956, then studied Political History at Stanford. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he moved to California and joined O’Melveny & Myers.  Judge Nelson formed his own law firm, and then in 1995 was appointed to the Superior Court Bench by Governor Pete Wilson. He and his wife of 36 years, Shari, have two grown children, and he enjoys reading history and biography.  Judge Nelson is also active in his church and several community programs.

The purpose of our Courts is to find out what happened in the past – and it is expensive.  Los Angeles County has about ten million people, and there are six hundred judges and commissioners in our Superior Courts – probably the largest court system in the whole world.  In addition to the Civil and Criminal courts, there are a number of specialized courts scattered around the county – almost one hundred in total.  The merger of the Municipal and Superior Courts really means they now have two different courts, with a much smaller limit of liability. Above this there are six Appellate Districts, served by 105 Judges.  The highest court is our California Supreme Court, with six justices and a chief.  In total there are two thousand judges and eighteen thousand employees statewide.  In a recent year, 8.5 million cases were filed, of which 2.7were in LA, so we cover about one third of all the legal action.

Judge Nelson is in his ninth year on the Superior Court.  After appointment, you are subject to re-election every six years, but he had no opponent and thus was automatically reelected.  Federal judges, on the other hand, are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate –they serve for life and do not have to stand for re-election. His first four years were in Criminal Court, which is usually where new judges begin.  One major difference is that in criminal cases, a unanimous vote of all twelve jurors is required for a decision, while in civil suits, nine votes is sufficient. Criminal cases go more quickly than civil, generally.  And criminal cases are seldom successfully appealed, while almost 50% of civil cases are overturned on appeal.

Each judge has between 250 and 400 cases on his docket.  Most mornings are 0830 there is a calendaring session, where as many as 20 cases may be briefly reviewed.  Particularly in civil litigation, the variety of issues is extensive – and that is one of the most interesting aspects of the work.  Both mediation and arbitration are part of civil cases, with attorneys volunteering for the first three hours of such work, and thereafter being paid. Arbitration works in about l/3rd of the cases, while mediation solves up to 50% of its cases. Civil cases usually go to a jury trial, and the defense prefers this. In his opinion, juries really want to do a good job, and judges are reluctant to set aside verdicts.

Jurors are now paid $15 per day, and must serve ten days, unless not called within that time. Usually, 35 prospective jurors are called, to finally select 12 plus 2alternates.  After the judge questions the jurors, each side can reject six, without cause.  In a recent five day test which Judge Nelson conducted, he found that the plaintiff prevailed 93 times, and the defense 53times.  About 10 to 15% of cases are tried without a jury, per agreement of counsel.

Q&A – YOE, how easy is it to avoid serving?  With the new 10 day rule, it is tough to escape this citizen duty.  SEAN McMILLAN, are most cases jury or court (before a judge, only)?  Count is more frequent.  CHARLES MAGNUSON, how is the court location chosen?  It usually depends on where the action occurred.  PP STEVE SCHERER, what is the effect of the Three Strikes Law? It is not as tough as it sounds, since judges have considerable flexibility in sentencing.  CLARK McQUAY, are the contestants paid on TV shows? Yes, all are paid.  ANN SAMSON, how have budget cuts affected the courts? Budget has been cut 5 to 6 %, which means you lose support help.  PP MIKE NEWMAN, do you limit the time attorneys can question prospective jurors?  Yes, I interview them for 30 minutes, and allow the attorneys the same total time. MARK BLOCK had some question regarding Ron George, which I totally missed – sorry. PP JIM COLLINS, will these ‘fast food’ suits charging the kids are too fat get anywhere.  No.  PP BOB WESSLING, does the 10 day rule work?  Yes, it has some defects, but is generally effective.  PP JIM then summed up the talk by pointing out that we learned a not – and it didn’t cost a thing!

A late bulletin – JACK HARRIS had surgery very recently, butis back home and doing well – give him a ring, please.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe