Archive for December, 2008

Newdorf Legal and City Attorney Win 12-0 Jury Verdict That Clears Two San Francisco Police Officers Of Alleged Excessive Force And Civil Rights Violations In Arrest of 76-Year-Old Man.

December 21st, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO  ( December 21, 2008) –Following a one-week civil rights trial,

a San Francisco jury took only ten  minutes Friday to vote 12-0 to clear two San Francisco police officers of wrongdoing in a lawsuit brought by a 76-year-old man who had been arrested for threatening his wife and resisting arrest. 

 

The San Francisco Superior Court jury of nine women and three men in Miller v. City and County of San Francisco, No. 459169, deliberated for only 10 minutes before finding in favor of the officers

in the unusual case filed by Raymond J. Miller, a retired City electrician, who accused officers of barging into his house and breaking his arm while he was peacefully watching pornography. Mr. Miller’s estranged wife, who still shared their home, called 911 after Mr. Miller allegedly became enraged when his wife refused to watch the movie “Asian Co-ed Butt Babes” with him.  Mr. Miller at the time was 5’ 9” tall and weighed 275 pounds and had been drinking.  His wife was 4’11” tall and weighed 100 pounds.
 

San Francisco Trial Attorney David Newdorf of Newdorf Legal, who defended the officers along with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said:  “The police officers that night did their job and followed their training in arresting Mr. Miller to protect a potential domestic violence victim.  Although Mr. Miller’s claims of excessive force lacked any merit, San Francisco takes these claims seriously.  When the evidence shows no wrongdoing by police, it is gratifying to be able to present the facts to a jury of citizens so that officers’ reputations will not be stained by baseless accusations.”

 

The jury heard evidence at trial that the officers involved immediately called paramedics, who treated and released Mr. Miller for minor wrist lacerations due to handcuffing.  The officers notified their supervisor about the arrest and documented a “bar-arm takedown” that the officers used when Mr. Miller refused to put his hands behind his back and advanced angrily at the officers.  The officers took photographs of Mr. Miller’s injuries.  X-rays taken later that evening at San Francisco General Hospital showed a possible hairline fracture of the radial head, one of the bones of the elbow joint.  

The jury also heard testimony from Don Cameron, an expert in police training and use of force, who demonstrated the bar-arm take down and hand-cuffing on Mr. Newdorf for the jury.  “Jurors said the demonstration of the actual technique used to guide Mr. Miller to the ground and the handcuffing corroborated the officer’s testimony and dispelled the plaintiff’s claims that the force was unreasonable,” Mr. Newdorf said.

Mr. Miller claimed officers used excessive force the night of Jan. 7, 2006, after his wife called 911 from their Potrero Hill home. He claimed he was sitting in an easy chair in the living room of his home on Texas Street, drinking vodka and watching the movie when the officers burst in, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. He was asking for $50,000 in damages because, he said, the officers broke his arm and cut his wrists.

Miller testified during the trial that he had simply invited his wife of 35 years, Jean Miller, to watch a “sexually explicit” movie, but that she decided she didn’t like it and instead called 911 for “no reason.”
Mrs. Miller testified that she and her husband had long been separated and that she had refused his request to sit on his lap and have sex while he watched pornography.  He became angry, she said, and pushed furniture at her and threatened to kill her. When she called 911, she said, her husband wrestled the telephone away and hung up, which he denied. Police emergency dispatch records showed a 911 call was made and it was disconnected, which automatically prompted a police response to their home.
When officers arrived, Mr. Miller, who appeared to have been drinking, was wearing only swim trunks and watching pornography, according to court testimony. He told the officers “Get the f— out of my house!” and did not comply with a verbal command to place his hands behind his back.  He then advanced toward the officers and attempted to pull away from their grasp, prompting the takedown.

“We’re gratified that a San Francisco jury needed only 10 minutes to clear the officers from Mr. Miller’s outrageous allegations,” said Deputy City Attorney Daniel Zaheer, who represented the officers along with Newdorf Legal. “We felt that Mr. Miller’s allegations had no foundation at all and we’re thankful that good cops can protect the safety of domestic abuse victims like Mrs. Miller without having to fear frivolous lawsuits.”

ABOUT NEWDORF LEGAL

Newdorf Legal represents businesses and public entities in trials and appeals.  David Newdorf has been a trial lawyer focused on business litigation and representing public entities for 14 years.  He recently obtained a $3.4 million judgment for attorney’s fees and cost for his client, San Francisco International Airport, in a dispute with a Houston developer.  He was a litigator at the San Francisco office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP and a trial attorney and supervisor at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.  He has been lead counsel in hundreds of lawsuits, including class actions and high-stakes commercial disputes.  He founded Newdorf Legal to provide business and public entities large-firm results combined with small-firm service and attention.  For more information, visit the firm’s website, http://www.newdorflegal.com

 

How Newdorf Legal Uses Technology To Reduce Client Costs And Improve Service In Business Litigation

December 13th, 2008

It’s nice — especially for the lawyer — when the client has a six-figure litigation budget for a case.  But not every client can afford that, and even if you can, not every dispute is worth it.  Fortunately, advances in technology have leveled the playing field so that small firms with low overhead can provide many of the same services that were once the exclusive domain of the large law firms. 

Newdorf Legal uses the latest legal software and technology to provide cutting-edge service together with excellent value for the client.  Here’s an example of what’s available to our clients.

Document Databases.  When I started as a lawyer at a large national law firm in 1994, I was led to a document room (bigger than my current office) with file boxes full of hundreds of thousands of documents for an environmental insurance coverage case.  I spent months trying to master the contents of those boxes, but couldn’t make a dent.  Today, document storage and review  has been simplified by electronic imaging and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).  In a case with 1,000 documents or 100,000 documents, you can sort and review e-mails or memos by date, author, subject or keyword.  The cost of scanning large numbers of documents with OCR included can be as low as 15 cents a page, depending on the complexity of the database required.  The documents can be accessible anywhere via the internet.  Though some cases still require a platoon of young associates and paralegals to comb through documents in a warehouse, there are economic alternatives that allow small firms to compete in document-intensive business litigation.

Trial Presentation.  For large trials, big law firms these days always use trial presentation software that allows documents and videos to be displayed on TV monitors or projected on large screens in the courtroom.  The software allows the user to highlight and enlarge portions of documents on the fly.  More and more courtrooms are being rewired and remodeled to accommodate electronic display of evidence.  The software also saves the time and expense of poster-sized blow-ups.  In the internet age, jurors are pre-conditioned to learn from screens.  And judges appreciate it, too.  The cost of the software and LCD projectors is falling.  In my opinion, even a small trial these days requires at least a PowerPoint presentation for closing argument.

Mediation Presentation.  As fewer and fewer cases go to trial, the emphasis is increasingly on mediation and arbitration.  The same graphic display techniques used at trial should be used at mediation.  A persuasive PowerPoint that incorporates blow-ups of key documents almost always benefits the client.

Deposition Software.  Most court reporters can provide “real time” transcription, so the lawyer’s notebook computer is hooked up to the court reporter’s computer.  With “real time,” you see the rough draft transcript of the testimony almost simultaneous with the witness’s words.  No more waiting for rough drafts.  Back at the office, the electronic transcripts can be loaded into a database that permits easy word searches.

E-filing.  Federal trial and appellate courts and a growing number of state courts use e-filing for court documents.  No more sending a messenger to the courthouse with stacks of paper documents.  E-filing has numerous benefits, including saving on the cost of photocopying, delivery and postage.  With a push of the button, the lawyer can submit documents to the court and all other parties in a case via the internet.  Elecontric document assembly is efficient and eliminates hours of work formerly done by paralegals and secretaries.

On-line legal research.  In a junior high school science class, I learned how to use a slide rule.  It was my father’s vintage 1940s slipstick.  Within a few years, slide rules went the way of the abacus and rotary dial phone.  Much later, in law school, I learned how to “Shepardize” a case — the process of using hardcover books and softcover update pamphlets to determine whether a case had been overruled.  By the time I graduated, that skill was as useful as the ability to calculate with a slide rule.  On-line legal research — Westlaw and LexisNexis are the main services — is the standard today.  

Specialized legal technology, together with ubiquitous applications such as Mircosoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, has narrowed the achievement gap between large and small firms.  

But I do confess to sneaking down to the law library about once a week.  I enjoy the peace and solitude (no one goes there anymore) as I flip yellowed pages amid the rows of dusty tomes.  You just might catch me, Dad’s slide rule in hand, as I double-check the bookkeeper’s ledgers.