The CCSF Struggle: A report from the trenches

A report on a recent ACCJC/Herrera conference–

A friend of Bird & Beckett writes:

“​If I had known it would be this interesting, I would have urged more to attend. Traffic was a problem in getting there. But inside the courtroom, the half-hour case management conference was rewarding. It started with the usual, the People making their case that Restoration didn’t really solve their problem, and the ACCJC countering that due to Restoration making a “huge” difference, there was really no need to waste the taxpayers’ money on anything more. The ACCJC lawyer did not see any difference between Restoration and what the People were asking for. The judge said actually he did see some differences.

“I thought their lawyer (Sklar) was particularly entertaining in pointing out all the ways he thought money would be wasted if they were to proceed. Except that there were no dollar amounts attached, his description was practically a theoretical itemized bill for court and legal expenses. He stopped just short of describing the PG&E charge for keeping the lights on, but he did include the fact that the judge would have to be paid for his time. Probably that had never occurred to Judge Karnow, haha.

“In a way, Sklar’s description of how expensive this would all be came back to bite him later on when he turned down the unusual offer of the pro bono services of a mediator (Tony Piazza), who apparently is quite well known and respected in SF and globally for his legal mediation. Sklar said the ACCJC didn’t want to settle. It seemed to me (and perhaps others) that he was worried about the taxpayers only if he could get the plaintiff’s suit thrown out, not if the savings involved sitting down like adults and negotiating something. The People’s filings had in fact referred to other previous invitations to settlement talks (not mediation) which were similarly rebuffed by the ACCJC.

‘But to me the highlight, if you can call it that, was when he earnestly explained to the judge that the ACCJC is a judicial entity also, really “just like Your Honor” because in applying the standards, it’s just like applying the law. So “Your Honor” would understand why they couldn’t submit this to mediation but would have to see it through. He got rather worked up about it, and questioned even the propriety of the judge daring to suggest they might consider a settlement!

“Karnow very calmly pointed out that 87% of lawsuits are settled; therefore, he always advises the parties to consider a settlement. He also pointed out that he was legally able to compel them to submit to mediation but if they were dead-set against it, he was not going to force them because it was not likely to be successful if they went into it under those circumstances. The judge’s demeanor was somewhat the wise and unflappable uncle. At the end of the proceeding particularly, he was quite cordial almost as if he were seeing them off after a social event in his courtroom. And I think the handful of spectators felt included in the gracious adieu. There were just a few faculty and an observer who seemed to be from the City Attorney’s office.

“If the ACCJC is to be considered a judicial entity as they wish to be, I’​d say they don’t belong quite in the same league with the Superior Court of CA, and in fact fall considerably short of Judge Judy, if not Punch and Judy as well!”