It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know. And Friedenthal Knows Em All.
Ooops. We were trying to get a restraining order against Justin Cannatella, the owner of P.B. Sports. He allegedly hit Laura on December 5 and allegedly threw a bell at Mike’s face at 2 a.m. on December 14th. He was challenging Mike to a fight, over and over again. Mike would not take the bait. Instead, we decided to ask for a restraining order.
We were pretty confident going into it that a restraining order would be issued. We had filed several police reports against Justin, including the two incidents mentioned above, for which the police thought they had enough evidence to get a criminal conviction. The cases were sent to the City Attorneys Office for prosecution.
The morning of the trial, the judge, Tamila Ipema was overworked. Some other judges were on vacation and she had to handle name changes, as well as restraining orders. We waited in the hall until 10 a.m.
At first Judge Ipema was impressive. She is an attractive older woman with an accent from her native Iran. She explained the rights and burden of proof afforded in restraining order cases. She called the other case on docket first. She handled it the way we thought was fair.
When our case was called, the defendant did not want a court reporter. Judge Ipema did a good job. First she asked for the reporter’s credentials. Then she asked questions about our prior relationship with the court reporter. When we said we had just called a large service in San Diego and they sent a woman we had no previous relationship with, the judge ruled that the court reporter could stay.
We presented our case and the defendant gave his side, that part of the case took from about 11 a.m. to almost noon. Judge Ipema said we would need to adjourn for lunch. When we returned, it would be time for rebuttal testimony from us and the defendant could present his counter-claim. He was asking for a restraining order against us, based on our writing on another blog and our many calls to the police department about his alleged activity.
We were feeling pretty good about the whole thing. We had presented detailed accounts of what we considered to be violence and threats of violence. The defendant claimed that when we made 911 calls about him at two in the morning, that he was just minding his own business, hanging out. He was slouched back in his chair when he said this, in his entitled pose, wearing sunglasses on his forehead. We presented numerous independent claims of Justin’s violent and dishonest behavior from people we did not know, who either filed lawsuits against Justin or wrote one star reviews about him on Yelp.
The Judge had just listened mostly.
After lunch, Laura presented evidence to support her claim of being a knowledgable journalist, who never wrote anything defamatory. She gave as an example, that she wrote about a commissioner named Alan Friedenthal. Friedenthal had foolishly admitted on transcript that he was reading Laura’s blog outside of court and eventually he was admonished for that by the California Supreme Court.
Big mistake. When Laura said the word “Friedenthal”, there was a dramatic change to the judge’s face. The judge questioned the relevance. From then on in, Laura felt like she was back in the court of Judge Elizabeth Feffer, when Feffer took over Laura’s void family law proceedings from Friedenthal. Or in the Wild West.
Laura pointed out that Justin said he had tapes of her taken by his surveillance cameras, but did not present them as evidence. Justin finally showed two tapes taken on his camera. While the judge was in chambers making her decision, Mike and Laura agreed that the tapes actually supported their contentions more than they supported Justin’s. But Laura mentioned that she felt the judge had taken a sudden disliking to her. Laura said and then made a note to remember to ask the judge for a statement of decision. The vibe had become L.A. II.
After a rather lengthy interval, Judge Ipema returned. She apologized for the length of time it took her in chambers, and said a lot of reading material had been supplied.
She then gave a liturgy of complaints Laura had filed, stating after each, there was no proof. Her voice contained disdain. She denied the request for a restraining order.
She then turned to Justin and apologetically told him she was not allowed to issue a restraining order to restrict our freedom to file legitimate grievances. She said that though Laura had a legal right to write that she suspected Cannatella was a CI, it was written with no concern for Cannatella’s safety. She then gave him legal advice in a caring tone, suggesting he might file some other form of complaint against us.
The judge’s statement of decision was lengthy and detailed, obviously one she prepared back in chambers. But she omitted one fact.
She forgot to mention that she had done post law school studies at Georgetown, like Friedenthal, endorsed Patricia Nieto for judge, like Friedenthal and had worked in L.A. in the family law section at Stanley Mosk, much like Friedenthal.
It is reasonable to believe she was not able to be a fair and impartial judge, and should have offered to recuse herself, or at least put the potential conflict in the open. Instead she issued a ruling with no concern for Mike and Laura’s safety. What do you think?