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NEWS
April 29, 1988
Burnita Shelton Matthews, 93, a senior judge on the U.S. District Court in Washington, and the first woman appointed to a federal trial court who was named to the bench by President Harry S. Truman in 1949. In the 1970s, she was designated to sit on the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and she remained active in the District Court until September, 1983.
ARTICLES BY DATE
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 6, 2013 | By Jean Merl
In the middle of a widely watched court battle over its system for choosing officials, the city of Palmdale elected its first African American councilman Tuesday. Retired college administrator Fred Thompson won one of two City Council seats on the ballot. But it will be up to an appellate court to determine whether the election is legitimate. Activists recently won a lawsuit that said the city's at-large method of electing officials violates the California Voting Rights Act, citing as evidence that the minorities who make up much of Palmdale's population have been largely unable to elect one of their own due to racially polarized voting.
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NEWS
May 31, 1987 | PHILIP HAGER, Times Staff Writer
The state Judicial Council, moving to reduce congestion in the trial courts, adopted new standards Saturday aimed at systematically reducing delay in civil and criminal cases in California. The 21-member council, made up of judges, lawyers and legislators who function as the policy- and rule-making arm of the state judicial system, voted without dissent to enact the new guidelines as required under the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act, passed by the Legislature last year.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 16, 2013 | By Jean Merl
A divided California Court of Appeal has cleared the way for the city of Palmdale to hold its Nov. 5 City Council election, which a trial court had canceled late last month. Two of the three justices of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in effect overruled the election-barring preliminary injunction issued Sept. 30 by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney.  Mooney's injunction said the city was enjoined from holding an at-large election, counting the ballots or certifying the result.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 28, 1994
Your editorial "Order in the Courts" (Aug. 18) in support of SCA 3, the trial court consolidation initiative, was one-sided. It failed to mention the compelling arguments against the measure. Here are some of the reasons why SCA 3 would be contrary to the public interest: It would eliminate the Municipal Courts, which provide justice at the community level, close to the people. If SCA 3 is enacted, there will be only one class of judges elected countywide, with no community ties.
NEWS
May 2, 1993 | DAN WEIKEL and MATT LAIT, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
The sensational murder trial of Richard K. Overton, who is accused of poisoning his wife with cyanide, has been recessed 10 months without public explanation partly because his attorney suffered a severe depression that cast doubt on the adequacy of Overton's defense.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 22, 2013 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
A former Sierra Madre police union official whose pay raise was delayed after he led a no-confidence vote against the police chief may sue for retaliation in violation of his free speech rights, a federal appeals court decided Friday. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit by Officer John Ellins, who headed the Sierra Madre Police Assn. from 2006 to 2010, against former Police Chief Marilyn Diaz. The police chief should have known that "depriving Ellins of salary in retaliation for his protected speech was unconstitutional," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court.
NEWS
December 10, 2010 | By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
There's no slacking off now for school kids -- the California Court of Appeal has ruled that public elementary schools must provide 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days (an average 20 minutes a day), in compliance with state laws. For middle and high schools, that number bumps up to an average 40 minutes a day. The ruling overturns a Sacramento trial court decision that the law was not legally enforceable, and that parents could not enforce the law. A parent in the Auburn Unified School District had sued the district, the California Department of Education and the school board to enforce the law. "Thankfully, the California Court of Appeals recognizes that law means law and that public schools must provide adequate physical education.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 19, 2011 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
A San Diego County woman who shot and killed her four children failed Monday to win a reprieve from the California Supreme Court, which voted unanimously to uphold her death sentence. In a ruling written by Justice Ming W. Chin, the state's highest court rejected an automatic appeal by Susan Dianne Eubanks, who was convicted of murdering her sons, Brandon, 14; Austin, 7; Brigham, 6; and Matthew, 4, in October 1997. After drinking and taking tranquilizers, Eubanks put a revolver to the temple of Brandon and shot him, according to the court's opinion.
NEWS
November 29, 1985
The Philippine Supreme Court voted 9 to 2 to dismiss a petition for a mistrial in the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. murder case and lifted a restraining order that had blocked a trial court from releasing its verdict. The high court's ruling will allow the trial court to release its verdict on the involvement of the armed forces chief, Gen. Fabian C. Ver, 24 soldiers and a civilian in the 1983 assassination of Aquino.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
June 26, 2013 | By Maura Dolan
SAN FRANCISCO - Vaughn R. Walker, the San Francisco judge who issued the first ruling on the federal constitutionality of Proposition 8, said Wednesday that he believes the trial he presided over affected the outcome of the same-sex marriage cases decided by the Supreme Court. “Subliminally, yes,”  he said in an interview. Now retired from the bench and working as a private mediator, Walker, 69, was expected to play a minor role in the battle over gay marriage. But his 2010 decision overturning Proposition 8 was all that remained Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruled  that opponents of gay marriage had no legal right to appeal it. State officials refused to do so. Walker's court was supposed to be a pit stop on the way to the Supreme Court.
OPINION
June 6, 2013 | By The Times editorial board
When a Guatemalan court found the country's former dictator, Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, guilty of genocide last month, it was the first time a Latin American leader had been convicted of such a crime in his own country. The verdict was hailed as a victory not only for Guatemala's fragile courts but also for Latin America generally, where weak judges and fearful prosecutors have all too often failed to bring human rights abusers to justice. That triumph, however, is now at risk. Just days after Rios Montt was convicted, the trial court's verdict was thrown out on a procedural technicality by the country's Constitutional Court, which ordered the lower court to rehear all evidence presented after April 19, when the procedural mistake occurred.
WORLD
April 25, 2013 | By Richard Fausset
MEXICO CITY -- Guatemala's highest court issued a ruling late Thursday that appears to have broken the complicated legal logjam in the case of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who is facing genocide charges in the slaughter of ethnic Maya during the country's civil war. The decision by the Constitutional Court appears to avert the possibility that prosecutors might have to start the trial from scratch, re-creating a case in which more than 100...
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 22, 2013 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
A former Sierra Madre police union official whose pay raise was delayed after he led a no-confidence vote against the police chief may sue for retaliation in violation of his free speech rights, a federal appeals court decided Friday. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit by Officer John Ellins, who headed the Sierra Madre Police Assn. from 2006 to 2010, against former Police Chief Marilyn Diaz. The police chief should have known that "depriving Ellins of salary in retaliation for his protected speech was unconstitutional," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 25, 2012 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
Police suspected that William Richards had killed his wife, Pamela, the night her body was found. There was no sign of an intruder, and police said the crime scene appeared staged. But Richards denied killing Pamela, and authorities had trouble obtaining a conviction. After two juries hung, a third heard new evidence: A forensic odontologist testified that a "bite mark" on Pamela's hand was consistent with Richards' unusual dentition, a pattern the prosecution expert said was found in only about 2% of the population.
WORLD
August 9, 2012 | By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
BEIJING - AfterO.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995, a well-connected Chinese lawyer pointed to the case as proof of the failure of the American judicial system. "An American trial always gives bad people a chance to take advantage of the loopholes," the lawyer, Gu Kailai, wrote in a 1998 book about her experiences working in the United States. "The Chinese judicial system is fairest.... If you kill somebody, they'll arrest you, try you and shoot you. " On Thursday, Gu, the wife of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, was on the receiving end of Chinese justice.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 31, 1999
Re "In Los Angeles County, Two Courts Are Better Than One," Opinion, May 23: I am the immediate past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., which has voiced its support for trial court unification in California. Charles L. Lindner is far off the mark in his conclusion that the Los Angeles Superior Court should not unify with the local municipal courts. Lindner's primary argument also is voiced by some local Superior Court judges, namely that trial-court unification will not work in Los Angeles.
OPINION
March 24, 2012
The right to a fair trial by a jury of one's peers is one of the most sacred guarantees of the Bill of Rights, but the dirty secret is that it isn't exercised very often. More than 97% of federal convictions and 94% of state convictions result from guilty pleas. Recognizing that reality, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 this week that defendants have a constitutional right to be informed by their lawyers about the possibility of a plea bargain and the implications of turning one down.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 10, 2012 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
A death row inmate who represented himself during a 1994 hearing to determine whether he was mentally competent to stand trial should either be reevaluated or receive a new trial, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, writing for the court, said state law clearly requires defendants to have legal representation during hearings to determine whether they are sane enough to be tried. Legal representation during competency hearings "is consistent with upholding the dignity and autonomy of the defendant and, more importantly, protects not only the fairness of the proceedings but also the appearance of fairness," Werdegar wrote.
BUSINESS
May 24, 2012 | By Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times
A company headed by cellphone pioneer Craig O. McCaw asked the California Supreme Court to reinstate a $603-million fraud and breach-of-contract verdict against Boeing Co., alleging that two appellate justices had conflicts of interest. ICO Global Communications, a subsidiary of Pendrell Corp., said in its appeal filed Wednesday that two state 2nd District Court of Appeal judges considered Boeing's petition to toss out the trial court verdict even though they owned stock in Boeing.
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