Notable exceptions to my discouraging experiences of the California judiciary were two incisive younger judges I met in 2015 at a settlement conference near San Francisco connected indirectly to the case described on this site. They made a point of warning everyone present about the importance of litigants preserving their own court records. Their court, they told us, was among those that had been ordered to destroy all case documentation after a specified time — and they seemed as unconvinced as everyone else in the room by the claim in jurisdictions across America that this has to be done for economic reasons. Electronic storage is cheap and has for decades been getting steadily more inexpensive.
As critics of this trend have been pointing out, records of how courts have been conducting trials — exactly who decided what, and how — will be lost to public watchdogs, legal reformers, historians, and everyone who cares about accountability.
This is another reason for litigants to make their court filings available for downloading from the cloud, in addition to using the net to counter slanted, twisted and libellous allegations that can find their way — inadvertently or otherwise — into judgements or statements of decision published on the internet with or without permission from litigants or court personnel.
From this site, readers can inspect filings by me in two courts in the case of Cheryll Barron v. Roger L. Meredith (CGC13-535537 and A145849). The relationship between these documents and the conduct of the trial of my case will be best understood by legal specialists — but the gist is easily graspable by almost anyone:
• Objections filed in the San Francisco Superior Court to the tentative statement of decision — principally about the trial judge’s refusal to read court reporters’ records of trial testimony: Plaintiff’s Objections to Proposed Statement of Decision 25 March 2015 (Barron v. Meredith CGC13-535537)
• Declaration in response to a notice from the clerk of the court Someone told the Office of the Clerk at the San Francisco trial court to stop me from sending notarised and witnessed documents crucial to proving my case to the appellate court. I had to file this protest to get that bar lifted: Plaintiff’s Declaration re Clerk’s Notice 21 November 2015 (Barron v. Meredith CGC13-535537)
• Appellant’s opening brief The document setting out the reasons for my appeal to the First District Court of Appeal for a review of the judgement against me by the trial court. Appellant’s Opening Brief 18 May 2016 (Barron v. Meredith A145849)
• My reply brief — responding to the defendant/respondent: Appellant’s Reply Brief 24 August 2016 (Barron v. Meredith A145849)
• A petition for rehearing by the appellate court, after it issued its opinion affirming the trial court’s ruling: Appellant’s Petition for Rehearing 20 March 2017 (Barron v. Meredith A145849)
• A petition for review by the Supreme Court of the appellate court’s decision: Appellant’s Petition for Review 7 April 2017
The last two briefs on this list had to be written in less than five weeks in which I somehow had to learn the rules for their composition and submission — with eyes protesting fiercely about symptoms diagnosed by my eye doctor as ‘computer vision syndrome’. They contain typos I am not proud of.
The best tutorial for writing appellate rehearing briefs I could find was an essay posted online by William Robinson, an appellate lawyer at the Sixth District Appellate Program in San Jose with decades of experience to his credit. Without this encouraging instruction, I might have been too disheartened to make my case to the First District.
In the Robinson guide — written not for the likes of me but chiefly other appellate lawyers — he explains that an appellate case is said to have been ‘slimed’ by a court of appeal when its opinion ‘distorts the facts, miscasts the legal arguments presented, ignores federal constitutional claims, and generally obfuscates the issues on the way to affirming [the judgement of the trial court].’
Readers of the appellate documents posted here and on the rest of this site will know why every one of those words could not have resonated for me more powerfully — justifiably or not.
I have been asked why I devoted two years of my life to appellate research and the torture — for anyone outside the legal profession — of reading and writing legal documents without the compensation of the high fees lawyers that lawyers collect for this work. Or, in my case, any hope of prevailing in a legal action against a veteran lawyer — with neither legal qualifications nor help from members of a profession obviously too afraid to come to my aid.
The answer is simple. People have to see what is happening in courts. Leaders of reform like Lord Justice Briggs, taking justice online in Britain, need the public to understand why letting in daylight is overdue.
As I was writing my Petition for Review by the Supreme Court of the lower appellate court’s decision, I saw on the web site of Berkeley Law that California’s ultimate deciders grant only 2-3 per cent of the roughly 1,000 civil petitions that they receive each year. I decided that I would anyway submit the best petition I could complete, to be able to say truthfully that I had exhausted all the remedies for injustice that this state offers.