Major victories in January 2024


The new year brought major appellate victories for two of the firm's clients.  On January 17, 2024, the First District Court of Appeal issued its remittitur reversing a $3.5 million rent reduction against our client, a commercial landlord, rejecting the lower court's ruling that the client had waived its right to arbitrate the rent for a renewal term.  Our principal "Grosvenor brief" can be accessed below.  Then, on the 23rd of the month, another Division of the same Court issued its remittitur affirming a city's grant of a permit to our client for maritime improvements at his home.  Our principal "Belvedere -McCloskey brief," which we submitted on behalf of the city as well as our client, can also be accessed below.


8456belvedere-mccloskey brief.pdf
8493grosvenor brief.pdf

"The Marin Lawyer" publishes my article on help for self-represented litigants


Today's Marin County Bar Association publication, The Marin Lawyer, features my attached article on the establishment of a new resource for self-represented appellate litigants in the county.  Entitled "It Took a Village," the article recounts how civil appeals were added to the subjects available for free 20-minute consultations under the auspices of the "Lawyers in the Library" program, a longtime project of the Marin County Bar Association and Marin County Law Library.  Experienced civil appellate lawyers are welcome to join the list of required volunteers by contacting either myself or the law library at  Thank you in advance!


9402it took a village.pdf

Elliot joins a new task force on artificial intelligence


At my suggestion in late June of this year, the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers formed a new task force a few weeks later to study the implications of lawyers' expanding use of artificial intelligence programs. The main concerns I'll be pursuing as a member of the group are ensuring that lawyers have full knowledge of the programs' methods and weaknesses before using them; ensuring they obtain informed consent by clients in advance; ensuring they provide effective supervision and review of the programs' output; and ensuring that their reliance on the programs doesn't diminish their ethics and professionalism in research, evaluation and drafting.  For example, the programs should not distract them from careful evaluation of the client's best interests and the duty of honesty in briefs, such as revealing any adverse authority and the source of anyone else's language being used.

Firm named to exclusive listing


Once again, Bien & Summers has been recognized as a top appellate firm in the 2023 edition of Best Lawyers of Northern California. Notably, only 21 firms in the entire "San Francisco" region -- from San Rafael down to Redwood City -- achieved this recognition for appellate practice.

Another recent victory


In 2022, the firm prevailed at the First District Court of Appeal in its rejection of claims against a group of veterinarians alleged to have breached a written agreement leasing an animal hospital and alleged oral promises to refer cases there.  The appeal featured statute-of-frauds and alter-ego issues.  (Poodles, al. v. Roger C. Kuhn et al. (2022) 2022 WL 946374)


28362021-09-09 brief for respondents.pdf

Judicial Council continues to study delay-reductions proposals by Elliot's task force


In February 2021, the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers asked Elliot, a past president, to chair a new task force exploring ways to improve the efficiency of the State's appellate process without sacrificing quality. On October 21, after consultations with other bar groups, the Academy submitted the attached recommendations to the Judicial Council addressing all phases of appeals. After a period when the Council focused primarily on delays in the Third Appellate District in Sacramento, the Academy's recommendations for statewide reforms continue to be studied.


9698recommendations to judicial council on appellate efficiency.pdf

Judicial Council continues to study's Elliot's rule proposal on amended judgments


What do you do if your client's judgment or order gets amended? Appeal the original version or the amended version? California law has been dangerously uncertain, with wrong guesses threatening the right to appeal either version. The principal line of cases, for example, says if there's a "substantial modification" by amendment the original version is no longer appealable at all, so you must appeal the amended version within the prescribed time limits. But what's a "substantial" modification? The cases provide no reliable test on this fateful issue. In June 2020, accordingly, Elliot submitted the attached rule proposal to the California Judicial Council. To eliminate doubt, the new rule would always require timely appeals from the original version of an appealable judgment or order affecting a party, and amendments of any kind -- whether "substantial" or not -- would be reviewable on the same appeal as long as they're entered by a date certain.


1369proposed rule on amended judgments or orders.pdf