Bar Soap: February 2016

Bar Soap: February 2016

It has been a bit too long since I penned a Bar Soap column, but no shortage of information to round out 2015, and move into 2016.

The annual MCLE Spectacular was once again the event of the year. Hard to believe it has been 21 years for that great event. Dick Frankel was on the board back when the event was conceived and the worry was, “What if we sponsor such an event, rent the hotel space and no one shows up?”

Well, we all know it continues to be a resounding success each year. So a pretty good gamble, don’t you think? It is, of course, a great way to get those needed continuing legal education credits. But it is also a great way to see old friends, do your own legal marketing and have some fun.

At one time, the CCCBA holiday party was the event of the year. Things are a little quieter nowadays, however. For a long time, the holiday party was at a hotel. The 2015 party at the Bar Association office was indeed a success, but from an attendance standpoint, not quite as spectacular as the MCLE Spectacular.

And speaking of parties, the 40th anniversary celebration by the Veen Firm was off the charts. The party was held at the Waterbar and Epic Roasthouse in San Francisco. Goodness! What an event. For those of you lucky enough to get an invitation, you know what I am talking about. It reminded me of the Zandonella holiday parties back in the day.

On a sadder note, we lost several more friends and colleagues since my last column. Judge Richard Arnason quietly passed away in his sleep at the age of 94. And his private invitation-only funeral service was equally quiet. He certainly was a legal giant in our world and many of us are sad we didn’t get to participate in a final send-off for that wonderful human being.

We can all take comfort in the fact the dedication of the Richard Arnason Courthouse in Pittsburg back in 2010 was a grand and wonderful event for Judge Arnason, and that will have to be our send-off memory. On a more personal note, my mother, who was a French and English teacher at Alhambra High School, taught Judge Arnason’s children, also “back in the day.”

Equally quiet was the passing of David Del Simone. David was a delightful and talented criminal defense attorney. We met when I was a deputy district attorney. He was a real force in the West County legal community. David was a Cal grad and a USF law school grad. Look up his obituary in the October 11, 2015, Contra Costa Times, and you can get a real sense of that wonderful man.

Most of you probably heard of the sad and untimely passing of Mark Coon. He, too, was a special lawyer. He and I had a nice chat on a Friday night at the Veen party in San Francisco and he was gone the following Monday. For those of you who did not know Mark, he was the city attorney for Concord.

William “Bill” Shinn passed away in October 2015. When I first met Bill, he was a lieutenant with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. He was a true professional and a no-nonsense public servant. Bill rose all the way to commander in the Sheriff’s Office, and then ran for City Council in Concord. He served for almost 10 years on the council, and during that time, was vice mayor and mayor (just not at the same time). Although Bill was not an attorney, he certainly was a part of our Contra Costa legal community.

I always like to mention people on the move in this column. Let’s start that topic with judges on the move. The judicial assignments for 2016 came out and there are a few changes of note. I say “note” only because people often ask me about those assignments and I generally refer those asking to the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine. Here are the latest assignments.

As far as lawyers on the move, here is what I have heard: Richard Frankel is now on his own with an office on Front Street in Danville. So I guess that means Stuart Goldware is also on his own, with an office in San Ramon. Amy Foscalina has hung her own shingle as well. Looks like she may have a Livermore office now. Rumor has it that Terence Church has left Brown, Church & Gee. Wait until next time for more information on the move and the remaining partners. Happy hunting to all who have made those recent moves.

Greg Rolen is a partner at Haight Brown & Bonesteel in San Francisco, continuing his legal work in, among other areas, public entity litigation. Attorney Sharon C. Collier of Archer Norris recently achieved board certification in civil trial law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Congratulations to both Greg and Sharon.

I am always pleased to learn that someone actually reads my columns. Recall in my December column, I made a little tongue-in-cheek comment about the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and how difficult it is for anyone to qualify, given the fact fewer and fewer cases actually go all the way to jury verdict in our civil courts.

Well, I do know David Samuelsen of Bennett, Samuelsen, Reynolds, Allard, Cowperthwaite & Gelini read that article. He kindly advised that ABOTA changed the entry level eligibility requirement in recent years. The new requirement to apply as a member is to have “completed 10 civil jury trials to jury verdict as lead counsel.”

Thanks, David, for that information. Don’t forget, folks, that ABOTA is also by invitation only. One has to be a nice person, competent and sponsored by ABOTA members. It’s not enough just to have tried 10 cases to civil jury verdict.

Please keep those reports, rumors and gossip coming, so I can tell all in my next column. Email me at