Managing Partner Bill Seki was recently appointed by Director of Selective Service in the name the President of the United States to the Selective Service Local Board. This selection is based on recommendations from state governors or local officials and serves a great honor. Mr. Seki, upon a draft, will help to decide who among the registrants in the community will receive exemptions, deferments and postponements from military service.
This past March, Managing Partner Bill Seki was honored with the 2016 Alumnus of the Year for Southwestern Law School. As one of the most treasured and esteemed adjunct professors on campus, Mr. Seki co-established the law school’s award-winning Trial Advocacy Honors Program.
For a recap of the event, click here
Andrew C. Pongracz and Janet L. Keuper represented six Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in a Los Angeles Superior Court jury trial in which the Plaintiff claimed violation of his civil rights. Plaintiff alleged that, while an inmate at Men’s Central Jail, the defendants used excessive force on him following an altercation between Plaintiff and another inmate. Plaintiff claimed that, in addition to striking him, the defendants also carved a racial slur onto his head.
A motion for summary judgment narrowed the issues for trial and removed former Sheriff Baca as a defendant. Causes of action for Battery by a Peace Officer, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and violation of civil rights (the Bane Act) were tried to a jury. After a three week trial, the jury returned a defense verdict on December 4, 2015 on all causes of action on behalf of all defendants. The jury found that the Plaintiff lacked credibility and did not prove that the defendants violated his civil rights.
Andrew C. Pongracz and Janet L. Keuper served as counsel for two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies named as defendants in a U.S. District Court case. Plaintiff appeared in the action through the Administrator of his Estate, as the plaintiff had been murdered two years after the March 13, 2010 incident. Plaintiff sued the deputies pursuant to §42 USC 1983 alleging Excessive Force in Violation of his Constitutional rights. While incarcerated in Men’s Central Jail, Plaintiff assaulted a deputy and resisted arrest which resulted in a physical altercation involving three deputies. Plaintiff sustained two broken teeth in the altercation, along with a laceration to his lower lip. Plaintiff was criminally charged for the assault on a peace officer but the charge was later dropped.
The case was significantly streamlined prior to trial in Federal Court in front of Judge Pregerson, with the court granting summary judgment as to most of the claims and causes of action. As originally filed, the case alleged six causes of action against sixteen individually named defendants. The case went to trial on only one claim of excessive force against two deputies. The sole witness for plaintiff on liability was a current prison inmate who testified he witnessed the assault of deputies. With the assistance of expert testimony regarding law enforcement practices, the jury returned their unanimous defense verdict in less than two hours finding that Plaintiff had not sustained his burden of proof. The jury found that the force used by deputies was reasonable and was not in violation of plaintiff’s civil rights.
Associates, Andrew C. Pongracz and Ashlee P. Clark, served as counsel for two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies named as defendants in a U.S. District Court case. Represented by a multinational firm, Plaintiff brought two causes of action pursuant to §42 USC 1983: Use of Excessive Force in Violation of the Fourth Amendment and Substantive Due Process Violation under the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendants conducted a lawful traffic stop of Plaintiff. Plaintiff and one of the deputies had a physical altercation after Plaintiff assaulted the deputy and resisted arrest. Following Plaintiff’s arrest, a parole compliance search of his home found a firearm, ammunition, a digital scale and marijuana. Plaintiff was charged with several criminal crimes and incarcerated. The criminal charges were later dropped.
The issues related to Plaintiff’s claims were streamlined prior to litigation, allowing for trial to last only two days. Despite Plaintiff’s attempt to attribute ear injuries to the force claims, which was supported by expert testimony, a unanimous jury verdict ruled that the force was not unreasonable and the deputies did not fabricate the contraband found in Plaintiff’s home in order to arrest and incarcerate Plaintiff unlawfully.
Gilbert M. Nishimura and Kari C. Kadomatsu defended two deputies in a U.S. District Court case involving allegations of Unreasonable Seizure in violation of Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment Rights. The Defendant Deputies stopped and pulled over Plaintiff for a traffic violation. As the deputies approached the vehicle, Plaintiff announced that he was an open carry advocate and that he had put his gun down while pointing toward the floor of the car. He admitted that he removed his unloaded firearm from his right hip holster and placed it on the transmission hump located on the floor of the vehicle. Plaintiff claimed that he placed the firearm on the transmission hump, rather than the dashboard, in order to place it in “plain view” of the deputies. Unable to see the firearm, the deputies conducted a search of Plaintiff and the vehicle which ultimately led to the gun being found “under” the front driver’s seat. Plaintiff was subsequently arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and incarcerated for five days, despite being given an OR release. Plaintiff claimed that his arrest was unlawful and lacked probable cause.
During three days of trial, Mr. Gilbert M. Nishimura and Ms. Kari C. Kadomatsu overcame emotional testimony from the Plaintiff and his family and rebutted claims of incompetence and ignorance of open carry laws by the deputies. With the assistance of expert testimony regarding law enforcement practices, SNW successfully defended the defendant deputies and was able to receive a unanimous verdict finding that the arrest of Plaintiff was reasonable.
Unanimous jury verdicts in two joined cases after only a short deliberation.
Associates, Janet L. Keuper and Ashlee P. Clark, successfully defended three Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies.
Two separate sets of plaintiffs brought suit against the County of Los Angeles for alleged civil rights violations, including excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure. State claims were also included in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs’ cases were joined for trial per judge’s order. Both sides presented their case meticulously and thoroughly, including witness and expert testimonies. But after only a short deliberation, the jury reached a unanimous verdict and found for defendants in both cases.
Double win for SNW!
After three weeks of trial and four days of deliberation by the jury, a mistrial was declared in the perjury trial of a Los Angeles Police Department Officer. Partner Bill Seki represented Officer Manuel Ortiz, one of three officers charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury associated with a narcotics arrest of a gang member. After four days of deliberation, the jury was unable to reach a verdict only as to Officer Ortiz. A mistrial was declared by the court as to the charges against Officer Ortiz.
Partner Edwin Rathbun successfully petitioned the California Dental Board for the reinstatement of a dentist’s license that was revoked due to charges involving the sale and use of narcotics and a guilty plea in criminal court. After a one day bench trial that involved several witnesses and pieces of evidence, the Administrative Law Judge and California Dental Board concluded that Mr. Rathbun, on behalf of his client, successfully demonstrated that the dentist was entitled to have his license reinstated.
The Recorder’s editors chose the winners after reviewing materials on more than 300 nominees, all California lawyers in their first 10 years out of law school. Nominees were judged as leaders, lawyers and community members. Making the list typically required either substantial accomplishments in all three areas — leadership positions within the firm or practice community, significant responsibility in high-stakes matters and extensive community involvement — or a jaw-dropping example of accomplishment in one.