By Lori Werderitch, Esq., Greenberg Glusker, LLP
After a year and a half of only virtual offerings, the Century City Bar Association is thrilled to announce its first ever outdoor Installation Banquet and Awards Ceremony on September 2, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. This annual event honors six outstanding attorneys in their respective fields of practice and is now in its 53rd year. Alongside the broader legal community, the CCBA has to adapt and maintain flexibility in an ever changing landscape of pandemic related regulations and norms. Last year, we met the challenge by hosting a 100% virtual banquet and networking events. This year, we look forward to a banquet evening under the open sky in the beautiful and expansive courtyard behind the twin towers in Century City.
Information on the event can be found, and tickets and sponsorships purchased, on our website. We hope you can join us to celebrate an amazing slate of lawyers working in Los Angeles, and to partake in this step toward resuming much missed personal connection and networking with legal professionals practicing throughout the city.
As the world continues to combat the ongoing pandemic, the CCBA is committed to fulfilling its mission by uniting the legal community with networking opportunities and quality CLE and topical programming that is both engaging and safe. We hope to see you soon.
Conversations about fairness and equity within the justice system rarely center on the judge who sits at the front of the courtroom. Gavel in hand, these individuals set the rules for how the courts will decide certain cases, yielding vast amounts of power over attorneys, parties, and juries. Yet their unvaried black robes evoke the idea that this power belongs to a system, that justice blindly moves through judges in accordance with the laws of the land and the facts of the case. “But that’s not what all judges are doing,” says Laura Beth Nielsen, a law professor at Northwestern University.
Judges Are People
Judges aren’t computers. California legal teams can’t feed competing arguments into the bench and expect predictable outcomes. Judges are people, filled with their own beliefs and their own experiences, both of which shape how they interpret laws, apply facts, and consider arguments. This observation is just as important as it is obvious. “Judges are given broad discretion,” explains Donald Ricketts, a former civil litigation attorney in Southern California. “[And] if a particular ruling is discretionary, it is unlikely that an appellate court will reverse it.”
In these situations, knowing your judge and their predilections is just as—if not more—important as knowing your case law. The ability to enter the mind of a judge is an extremely useful skill. “If I’m heading to trial, the judge is the person I need to know best, besides my wife—I need to get inside the judge’s head to figure out what will work and what won’t,” one attorney confides to Daniel Lewis, a Vice President of LexisNexis and a former civil litigation attorney.
In the past, attorneys learned about their newly assigned judges through office-wide emails, short pleas begging for any information that might be helpful in the litigation process. As many will attest, such requests are often met with anecdata, anecdotal responses filled with non-actionable sentiments about a judge being “a real stickler for the rules” or “hating when you leave your hands in your pockets during oral arguments.” While this information does inform, it doesn’t provide a lot of decision-making guidance, especially when it comes to formulating litigation strategies.
Curating Actionable Analytics
AI-powered judicial analytics emerged from the frustrations of day-to-day life as an attorney. California attorneys want actionable information about their judge. They want to know how (s)he thinks about different types of cases or causes of action. The absence of this information is frustrating because judges produce a rich stream of data every single day. This data has just been impossible to access, especially for attorneys litigating at the state trial court level. The formats in which the data comes are clunky. The data is not integrated. It’s not standardized.
Each county in each state authors its own protocols for collecting, cataloging, and publishing court documents. Navigating these archives requires targeted searches through multiple websites. Users need to input a docket number or a case number in order to access individual case files. All of these complexities have trapped state trial court data within the confines of courthouse walls, rendering it virtually impossible to browse the archives in search of unknown cases.
Luckily, legal tech platforms have found ways to manage these challenges at the state trial court level. Users can now take deep dives into state trial court records. Trellis Research and Premonition, for example, both use artificial intelligence to mine state court records, aggregating data in ways that allow users to ‘Google’ search through the state trial court records held by multiple counties. Gone are the days when users needed docket numbers and case numbers to browse through the archives.
Once made available in a single place, the uses of this data are endless. Some California litigators prefer a qualitative approach, performing close readings of the tentative rulings filed with the courts, collecting examples of the types of arguments that resonate with particular judges. From this, we have already learned that certain judges “[accord] themselves to patterns, like focusing on the third factor in a four-factor test.” Other judges tend to reuse the same language over and over again. This kind of information removes some of the mystique around a judge’s decision-making process, which allows attorneys to tailor their arguments to the priorities of their specific judge. It can also be combined with sentiment analysis techniques, which can indicate how unfavorably your judge is likely to be to your client’s position. All of this information is crucial in making a timely decision on whether or not you should bring a peremptory challenge.
Undercutting Anecdotal Data
Other California legal teams prefer a more quantitative approach. Is this judge more defense-friendly in employment actions? How often does that judge issue sanctions? How long do his cases remain active? After millions of docket events have been collected and standardized, the answers to these questions can easily be extracted from a comprehensive database.
This type of judicial analytics undercuts the problem of anecdotal evidence. Instead of relying on a single observation, users can now have access to hundreds of thousands of equivalent observations. With a large enough dataset, these users can identify the trends that hide behind the exceptions and the outliers. The conversation moves from a series of stories about individual judges to a list of their tendencies, the patterns they tend to follow.
Huong Nguyen, senior director of intellectual property at Impax Laboratories, uses judicial analytics to capitalize on the timing of legal proceedings. As a pharmaceutical company tasked with bringing generic drugs to market, Nguyen knows that timing is crucial. The process is highly structured and litigious, with each step requiring adherence to a specific timeline. “Knowing the history of a judge, especially how fast cases move through his or her court, can be critical,” says Nguyen. James Yoon, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, echoes these sentiments. Yoon uses the graphs generated through judicial analytics to quickly model the litigation budget for a new case. “I know for any given judge or court the amount of time to Markman, to trial, to termination, and I use this information to provide accurate budgets for my client.”
An Era of Transparency
One of the underlying goals of judicial analytics is to bring transparency to an aspect of the legal system that has been shrouded in secrecy. At first glance, this feels unnecessary. The legal system, after all, prides itself on fairness, a value made possible by a commitment to make all court records publicly available. These court records are detailed documents. Judges spend multiple pages outlining the manner in which they arrived at their decisions. The problem, however, is that these documents have been virtually impossible to locate, access, and utilize. This is especially at the state trial court level, where judges typically have a significant amount of discretionary power. Things are different now. Civil litigators are scouring these documents in new ways, bringing to light the ways in which the administration of justice is more than a game of plugging the facts of a case into legal precedents. Judges make decisions. The best California attorneys know how those decisions get made.
By Nicole Clark
CEO and co-founder of Trellis Research
Business litigation and labor and employment attorney
Trellis is an AI-powered legal research and analytics platform that gives state court litigators a
competitive advantage by making trial court rulings searchable, and providing insights into the
patterns and tendencies of your opposing counsel, and your state court judges.
Reader Perk: Trellis is providing Century City Bar Association members with complimentary 14-day access to its platform. Click here to start your free trial today.
Raines Feldman LLP is committed to diversity and inclusion. Among other initiatives, each month the Firm spotlights an organization that focuses on diversity to encourage everyone to become more involved in organizations that are meaningful to the members of the team. Matthew Pate, an associate with the Labor & Employment practice, recently spotlighted Equality California.
Equality California brings the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating, and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve.
Equality California works to achieve their goals by advocating for pro-equality legislation, helping to elect pro-equality leaders, advancing LGBTQ+ civil rights through impact litigation and providing services to the LGBTQ+ community across the state of California — including educational programs, leadership training, and efforts to boost civic engagement. In just the past year, Equality California championed bills protecting intersex children, protecting incarcerated transgender people, and providing easier access to the judicial system for transgender individuals desiring to amend their name on government-issued documents. In Washington, DC, they’re working to pass the Equality Act, advance racial justice, and advance women’s rights.
Why I Support Equality California (Matthew Pate)
Californians probably believe there isn’t much more to do for the LGBTQ+ community in our state, but Equality California demonstrates year-after-year that the progress we’ve made falls short of the equity LGBTQ+ individuals deserve — especially in parts of the state like the Central Valley where there is less support for the community. While marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections are critical, Equality California consistently shines a light on the oft overlooked struggles of BIPOC members of the LGBTQ+ community, transgender individuals, and disadvantaged youth. Equality California’s motto is, aptly, “Until the work is done,” recognizing that so many members of the LGBTQ+ community are less concerned about who they can marry than where they will live (homeless youth), how they can find healthcare (trans-affirming care), or even just walk down the street without being a target of murderous harassment (murders of trans women of color). They take an intersectional approach to their work, recognizing that to achieve full, lived equality for all LGBTQ+ people, we must also achieve full, lived equality for women, communities of color, immigrants and people with disabilities. I support Equality California because their work is just as critical now as ever and we need their brand of bold, effective leadership that advocates for necessary (but at times uncomfortable) change, while building the power of the LGBTQ+ community across California and the nation.
How to Get Involved
You can get involved with Equality California through volunteering, fundraising, hosting events, and advocacy. Equality California hosts a number of community events throughout the state, and with California reopening, they are always in need of volunteer support. If you have particular expertise, Equality California hosts a number of webinars and informational events for LGBTQ+ folks to learn about housing, healthcare, legal advocacy, and numerous other topics.
Links to Organization
Equality California Home Page: https://eqca.org
Equality California Donation Page (501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) options):
Equality California Volunteering Page: https://www.eqca.org/take-action/
June 14 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Century City Bar Association
P.O. Box 24273
Los Angeles, CA 90024