A Demurrer Day in Court

San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and his wife Guisselle Nuñez.

This afternoon, at 1pm, I walked into the Hall of Justice Department 24 of the Superior Court and I took a seat. I found myself sitting directly across from San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and his wife Guisselle Nuñez.

Except for the bouncing of his left leg and his heal clicking on the courtroom floor,
Mayor Gonzales sat with his eyes closed only opening them to respond to something said by his wife. It would be a long half of an hour wait for the Mayor, until Judge Rene Navarro made his appearance.

We all rose as Judge Navarro was seated. After the formalities were out of the way, the Judge asked if the Mayor was ready to enter a plea. Attorney for Mayor Ron Gonzales, Allen Ruby, asked if the court would grant a demurrer for a future date. Mr. Ruby suggested July 26th. His request was granted for that date at 1:30pm.

Along with members of the press, I rushed out in an attempt to get photos and any possible statement from the Mayor. Dodging the huge cameras I did my best to keep up. I only managed a shot of the Mayor’s rear. The Mayor and his wife were whisked away in a town car.

I then noticed everyone gathered around a man who was giving an interview. I’m only 5′ 4″ so getting a shot or even hearing what was being said was difficult. He said, “Goodbye.” as all the cameras and microphones were lowered. I asked the reporter who did the interview who the man was, and she replied that he was Mark Topel, the Attorney representing Norcal Waste.

As I was walking back to my taxi I caught up with Mr.Topel. I said, “Excuse me but what is a *demurrer?” He said it is when the other side may not have what they need and he opened his car door.

*demurrer: In common law civil procedure, a demurrer is a pleading by the defendant that contests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. It is filed before the answer and can be characterized as the defendant’s way of asking, “so what?”

1 Comment so far

  1. cd (unregistered) on June 26th, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

    Great firsthand reporting!

    As for demurrer, it’s more accurately a party’s method of saying that, while another side may be upset, there’s nothing in law that gives the court a way to relieve them – that is, there’s no law that says someone can file such a suit or charges and there’s now way for a court to give the angry side money or stick a person in jail or otherwise punish them.

    So it’s sort of “so what,” but more like, “what exactly are you looking to get out of my client because there isn’t anything the judge can do for you that I can find in these papers you’ve served my client. So either explain it better or you can’t do anything more here.”

    I knew that law degree would come in handy some day.

    I’m guessing from the way you explained the situation, the Mayor’s attorney wants leave to file a demurrer and time to do so before he commits the Mayor to a course of action. If memory serves, if you don’t say “demurrer!” before everything else you do, you can’t try to use it later because once you start playing ball, you can’t later go back and say the ball never existed.

    Again – fantastic job getting the story like that!

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