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Poochigian nominated to state appeals court

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today nominated Chuck Poochigan, the former state Senator from Fresno and the 2006 GOP nominee for state Attorney General, to the California Court of Appeal’s Fifth District. And so soon after having a highway named after him!

Poochigian, 60, has been an attorney with Fresno-based Dowling, Aaron and Keeler since November 2007. Earlier, he’d represented the 14th State Senate District from 1998 to 2006, and the 29th Assembly District from 1994 to 1998. He’d been Gov. Pete Wilson’s appointments secretary from 1991 to 1994, and Gov. George Deukmejian’s chief deputy appointment secretary from 1988 to 1991.

Earlier yet, Poochigian was an attorney in solo practice from 1975 to 1981, and a partner at Vartabedian and Poochigian from 1975 to 1981. He holds a law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Fresno.

California appellate court nominees must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of California Chief Justice Ronald George; Attorney General Jerry Brown (who won his post by defeating Poochigian in 2006); and the senior presiding justice of the Court of Appeal of the affected appellate district – in this case, James Ardaiz.

But before a candidate is nominated by the governor, his or her qualifications are reviewed by the California State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. Los Angeles attorney Roger Grace, who publishes a legal newspaper called the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, wrote a column a few days ago claiming the JNE found Poochigian “not qualified,” but I’m not sure how he could know that given the JNE’s confidentiality rules:

The commission reports its recommendations, in absolute confidence, to the Governor. The rule “. . . prohibits disclosure of any information of any nature to anyone. . .” except as otherwise provided by the statute. The commission does inform a candidate who has been found not qualified of that fact.
The only other exception is if the Governor appoints a person to a trial court who has been found not qualified, the State Bar may make this fact public after due notice to the appointee of its intention to do so.
When the Governor nominates a person to the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal, the JNE Commission submits its recommendation, and the reasons for such recommendation, to the Commission on Judicial Appointments, and appears at the public hearing to present its recommendation and reasons.

So I guess we’ll know the truth of it when CJA holds its public hearing.

At any rate, I guess Poochigian probably won’t be needing the $68,000+ he has in his campaign committee account for the 2010 Attorney General’s race.

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Nejedly son drops lawsuit

John T. Nejedly

John T. Nejedly

Contra Costa Community College District Trustee John T. Nejedly, son of the late state Sen. John A. Nejedly, has dropped his lawsuit against siblings Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho and Central Contra Costa Sanitary District member Jim Nejedly.

John T. says he did not want to spend any more money on the case and that he had learned everything he wanted to know during depositions of the various parties to the lawsuit.

Each of those factors, of course, cuts both ways.

I also suspect that John T., who became a lawyer in December 2007, wanted to avoid publicity generated through what was very likely to be ugly courtroom testimony about his past personal problems.

He has said he is considering a run for Contra Costa District Attorney next year and he is running for a seat on the State Bar of California’s Board of Governors. His term on the Contra Costa Community College ends in 2010.

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Chevron counsel targeted for alleged torture role

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, a liberal political and social justice nonprofit, yesterday delivered more than 100 complaints against former Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes – now chief corporate counsel for San Ramon-based oil giant Chevron – to the California State Bar’s offices in San Francisco.

The guild says the complaints came from ordinary Americans demanding that the State Bar thoroughly investigate and issue a written decision on Haynes’ actions and inactions at the Defense Department regarding the legal framework for indefinite detentions, military tribunals and “enhanced interrogation” – which many since have deemed torture – of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. Complaints came mostly from California residents but also from as far away as Maine and Washington D.C., the guild said, and still are arriving by mail to the guild’s offices, all eventually to be forwarded to the State Bar.

“This campaign is appropriate because William Haynes was one of the lawyers shaping policy that harmed so many prisoners and put all of us in greater danger,” NLGSF Executive Director Carlos Villarreal said in a news release. “Anyone can file a complaint against a California lawyer, and while the process should never be abused, the process ought to be available to anyone and everyone when a lawyer commits wrongdoing from a position of power in our government resulting in such a devastating and widespread effect.”

The State Bar closed without prejudice – meaning, allowing the right to re-file – a more detailed complaint filed by the NLGSF in March; the NLGSF intends to ask for a formal review of that decision next week.

“The State Bar investigates and disciplines far less powerful attorneys who have committed far less egregious acts,” NLGSF Executive Board Member Sharon Adams of Berkeley said in the release. “It was surprising that they would close our complaint without even initiating an investigation. It seems to contradict one of the most important functions of the State Bar – to protect the public.”

“Haynes is still in a position to do great harm, undoubtedly shaping the actions of a major corporation that has committed human rights abuses around the world and had a major impact on our environment,” she added. “There is no doubt that the public needs to be proactive when a lawyer like Haynes is still granted the privilege of practicing law and crafting policies that will continue to have an enormous impact on people.”