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Featured Expert Witness in Forensic Accounting

February 5, 2014

zieglerName: Jennifer Elaine Ziegler

Company: Berkeley Research Group

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Specialty: Accounting


Expert witness profile information provided by Ms. Ziegler:

Jennifer has provided litigation services for a wide range of industries on issues including accountants’ liability, contractual disputes, construction claims, investigations of embezzlement claims, intellectual property, and probate and estates. Additionally, she has testified in deposition and trial. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of accounting.

Jennifer Ziegler is listed on Courtroom Insight as an expert witness who specializes in providing expertise in forensic accounting, litigation support, and fraud investigations. She has experience in industries including healthcare, start-ups, pharmaceuticals, non-profits, oil, gas, government agencies and homeowners’ associations.

Be sure to check out Jennifer Ziegler’s expert witness profile for more information


Vergara v California: Expert Witness Weighs In

January 31, 2014

The lawsuit, Vergara v California, “has been brought on by students who are challenging state laws that they contend protect ineffective teachers. They say the laws deny students their constitutionally protected right to a quality education.” One of the laws in question provides tenure to teachers after 18 months. Three of the laws deal with the high cost and slow process of firing teachers and the last is a law known as the “Last in, first out”, which forces the favor towards seniority instead of quality when layoffs are needed.

The defendants are the state of California including Governor Jerry Brown, Superintendent of Public Education, Tom Torlakson and two teachers unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers.

The president of the California Federation of Teachers, Josh Pechthalt, spoke out saying “the lawsuit is without merit. It ignores the real problems of education and demonizes teachers and teachers unions for the perceived problems of public education” adding that if successful, the suit would make it “more difficult to attract and retain teachers.”

Theodore J. Boutrous, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said that

the system is dysfunctional and arbitrary. Outdated laws handcuff school administrators from operating in a fashion that protects school children and their rights to equality of education.

The defendants have made three attempts to have the case dismissed and were unsuccessful.

On Wednesday, the expert witness, Raj Chetty, took the stand. He is a Harvard professor and a well known expert in public policy economics. He offered testimony that supported the plaintiffs – the quality of a teacher directly impacts students’ achievements and the current seniority statuses have an unfair impact on minority and low income students. He explained that teacher effectiveness can be measured.

One of the main points on the plaintiff’s side is that California tenure laws “do not provide adequate time to determine a teacher’s effectiveness.” Chetty agreed that 18 months is insufficient and harmful to students.

Driving his point home, Chetty provided graphs from his own research that showed how students test scores are directly impacted with either an effective or ineffective teacher. He added that his research takes into account other external factors that might play a role, but quickly noted that nothing “predicts future success more than effective teachers.”

As John Deasy, Superintendent of LA Unified, finished his testimony on Wednesday, after three days on the witness stand, he was questioned as to whether these laws “prevent LA Unified from assigning more experienced teachers to high poverty areas when vacancies are available.” When asked specifically if a “grossly ineffective teacher was ever intentionally assigned to a high poverty school”, he said “regrettably, yes.”


Source: LA School Report

New Reviews Fault Biases and Lack of Preparedness

January 21, 2014

Courtroom Insight’s most recent reviews seem to have a few similarities. Not only are the ratings low, but biases and lack of preparedness seemed to play a role in each review. A part of a review about Judge Contillo reads “Robert Contillo is a criminal himself and just another lackey for the banking parasites he serves.” An excerpt of a review about Richard Chernick says “he may have conducted hundreds of large and complex arbitrations and mediations employing various rules, but today he failed to live up to his credentials.” Another review, this time about an expert, reads “he is easy to take down because he doesn’t remember any of the detail from the materials, and doesn’t base his opinions on the facts.”

To read these and other recent reviews about experts, judges and neutrals, visit Courtroom Insight.

Expert Witness Gives His Take on the Jahi McMath Controversy

January 3, 2014

Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl, suffered cardiac arrest, heavy bleeding and loss of blood to the brain following a tonsillectomy surgery.  Her doctors have pronounced her brain dead and in California when a person is brain dead, they are considered dead. Court documents show that two hospital physicians and three other doctors, requested by the family, also believe that she is brain dead.

“An independent physician named by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo last week corroborated the determination that Jahi is legally dead, saying that testing showed no blood flow to the brain, no ability to breathe without the ventilator and no sign of electrical activity in her brain.”

Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, has continued to fight for her daughter, insisting she is still alive.

When I go in there and touch her, she moves her whole body, her legs, her shoulders. How can you possibly say my child is dead is she responds to my voice?

Jahi is on a ventilator now, however, since she has been pronounced dead, the hospital’s next step is to stop ventilation. Jahi’s family fought for time and a judge’s order granted an extension to keep Jahi’s ventilator on until January 7th at 5 pm. Today, a federal magistrate is scheduled to mediate talks between the Oakland hospital and Jahi McMath’s family. “Children’s Hospital Oakland argues that Jahi is legally dead and opposes performing medical procedures on a ‘deceased person’. Jahi’s family insists that she is still alive, and wants her transferred to a long-term care facility despite a consensus among neurologists that she is dead.”

New Beginnings Center in Medford, New York agreed to take Jahi and Medway Air Ambulance quoted nearly $28,000 to transport Jahi and a physician. Nonetheless, the family still has not found a physician “willing to perform the procedures necessary for the breathing and feeding tubes.”

Robert M. Veatch, a professor of medical ethics, ethics consultant, and expert witness has written an opinion piece on the matter. The following are excerpts of what can be found in his CNN opinion.

A significant minority in the medical profession continue to believe people with dead brains and beating hearts are still alive. Believers include some of our wisest minds — a Harvard professor, an National Institute of Health theorist, a chief of neurology at UCLA, and the former chair of the U.S. President’s Council all reject brain-based death pronouncement. They agree with Jahi’s parents that death is linked to circulatory loss.

“Others take a position more liberal than the standard law that defines brain death. They favor pronouncing death in some cases even when some parts of the lower brain are still functioning. I have defended that view since 1973.”

“Why, then, does American law continue to force one standard of death on Jahi’s parents and others who have plausible alternative definitions? Once one realizes that the choice among the options is not a cut-and-dried matter of medical science, why not let people have some choice based on their personal religious and cultural views?”

“The trouble arises when physicians want to stop life-support, perhaps because they believe the case is hopeless, and the patient or family insist that life support continue. We call this the “futile care problem.” I defended in court the mother of a severely brain-damaged baby referred to as Baby K who wanted life support to continue even though her doctors wanted to stop. Society should show sympathy for mothers who want their children to be kept alive.”

“If preserving life requires high-tech support like a ventilator, doctors are the ones who should provide it. The costs shouldn’t be borne by the hospital. The health insurance company or Medicaid shouldn’t pay. But if the family can raise the funds, like Jahi’s parents are doing, and the patient is beyond feeling pain, no harm is done by continuing, especially if they can find a facility willing to take the case.”

“Whether this right to medical support should extend to those considered dead by one standard, but alive by another is the question we face with Jahi McMath. If the patient does not suffer, and private funding is available, people should have the right to make this decision for their loved ones.”

Sources: LA Times and CNN Opinion

Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2013

We wish you all the best this holiday season and look forward to working with you in the new year. 

Happy Holidays from the Courtroom Insight team!

Picture taken from ELM website

Julie L. Davis, the “Superstar Witness”

December 16, 2013

As we have all heard, Apple Inc. was awarded more than $290 million in their latest trial against Samsung that ended last month. We now know that a significant contributing factor was the testimony of damages expert Julie L. Davis. Ms. Davis is an expert who came on to this case to replace another expert who died (besides her, Apple used the same people from their trial back in 2012).  Jury woman Colleen Allen said “Ms. Davis was on it”, a “superstar witness” who was steady “even when she was cross-examined.” Other jurors said that she provided clear evidence that made it easier to calculate the damages sum.

The Apple trial is not the first time we have heard good things about Julie Davis.  In February 2013 a positive performance review was posted on Courtroom Insight. In a patent case related to high technology, Ms. Davis was described as a “great testifier [with] good command of the facts [and] nice jury appeal… overall a quality expert.”

Our subscribers can see the full review here:

Update on Chevron case: Donziger Takes the Stand

November 22, 2013

On Monday, Steven Donziger (U.S. attorney accused of bribing judges in order to win a multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron) took the stand. His defense relied on downplaying his role in the case. He claimed that he was not the lead lawyer, passing that role off to a lawyer in Ecuador named Pablo Ferjado. Donziger’s testimony was the most anticipated part of this trial and there were more than 70 people in the courtroom (including musician Sting, whose wife offered aid and support to the villagers).

Randy Mastro, Chevron’s attorney, made a point of trying to undermine Donziger’s claim with a slew of questions. Randy questioned Donziger about the multiple times he referred to himself as lead lawyer, to which Donziger agreed that, at times, he had. Mastro also brought up the discrepancy in salary amounts between Pablo Ferjado, the lawyer in charge according to Donziger, and Donziger who were making $24,000 and $150,000 respectively. This was done to discredit Donziger’s statement “I work for them; they do not work for me.” In addition, Randy Mastro pointed to “Donziger’s 2011 retainer agreement, which called for him to receive nearly one-third of any contingency fee. Even with the award slashed in half last week, his portion would still be worth $600 million”.

Donziger did admit to “paying a supposedly independent court-appointed expert in Ecuador out of a secret account; altering the expert’s report hours before it was submitted to the court; and receiving an e-mail from his co-counsel soon after a new judge was assigned to his multibillion-dollar pollution lawsuit against Chevron, saying ‘the puppeteer won’t move his puppet unless the audience pays.’” Days following that e-mail, $1000 dollars was moved to and given to Alberto Guerra (a former Ecuadorean judge who testified against Donziger – refer to previous posts for more details). Donziger claims that he was simply following laws in Ecuador and that Chevron’s attorneys are taking things out of context.

Although some believe there is enough evidence to make a case that Donziger violated civil racketeering laws, others do not think that Randy Mastro has made a case. Chris Gowen, spokesman, said the following after the first day of cross-examination:

Viewing Randy Mastro’s cross-examination of Steven Donziger today, one could be forgiven for thinking Mr. Mastro is a bad lawyer but I can assure you he is one of the best lawyers in the country. Unfortunately, when you are cross-examining someone who is telling the truth and you have no case against him, not even Perry Mason would look good, Randy Mastro failed to establish a single legal claim against Mr Donziger.

On the other hand, according to Randy Mastro “this case is proving that when reality doesn’t jibe with the fiction that’s being presented to foreign courts, there are ways to remedy that fiction, expose it, and remedy it and we’ve been honored to help Chevron do that.”


Source: Reuters and Forbes


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