Pleading Paper

We’ve had a few requests here recently for pleading paper. You may have seen pleading paper used before–it has a line of numbers down the left hand side, 1 through 28, and is used for legal filings.

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By far the easiest way to use pleading paper is to get it in a Microsoft Word Document format so that you can fill in your own details on a computer. The Ventura Superior Court makes a PDF version of pleading paper available on their website but it is not possible to fill it in on a computer.

We have made a Microsoft Word Document template of pleading paper available to download on our website.

The Courts’ PDF pleading paper, which cannot be filled in using a computer:  http://www.ventura.courts.ca.gov/local_forms/plead.pdf

Please be aware that different types of filings have different requirements for format, content, and length. Some resources for example filings can be found at the library in California Forms of Pleading and Practice, and in other books. The court self help center can also occasionally advise on filings.

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Free Credit Report

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Did you know that you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies [Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion]?

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You can order online from annualcreditreport.com [the only authorized website for free credit reports], call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

To request your report online or on the phone, you will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth when ordering your Credit Report. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address as well. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

If you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.

Whether you order your report online, by phone, or by mail, it may take longer to receive your report if the nationwide credit reporting company needs more information to verify your identity.
But what about all those free credit websites?

Be aware that annualcreditreport.com is the only website that is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.

Some “imposter” sites use terms like “free report” in their names; others have URLs that purposely misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will mistype the name of the official site. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information.

Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.

Are you concerned your identity may have been stolen? You should be aware of how to initiate a credit freeze.

Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit.

A credit freeze does NOT:

  • Does not affect your credit score.
  • Prevent you from getting your free annual credit report
  • Keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.
  • Prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.

How do I place a freeze on my credit reports?

Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:

You’ll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. In California, a security freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report of identity theft. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are under 65 years of age, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $30 to freeze your files. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are 65 years of age or older, it will cost you $5 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $15 to freeze your files.

After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.

How do I lift a freeze?

A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.

If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company.

What if my identity has been stolen?

If you are a victim of identity theft, you should file a police report with the law enforcement agency closest to where you live.

Your local police or sheriff department must take an identity theft report if you have documents to show you were a victim. (California Penal Code Section 530.6)

When/if you go to the police station, bring supporting documents such as:

  • Copies of bills or collection notices
  • Credit reports with fraudulent charges
  • Bank or credit card statements

Make sure to write down the number on the police report. Your creditors may ask for the report number. Individual police departments have their own procedure for reporting identity theft.

Ventura Police Department Create an Online Identity Theft Report
Santa Paula Police Department Contact SPPD to file a report
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department (Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Thousand Oaks, and unincorporated areas) Contact the VCSD to file a report
Oxnard Police Department Contact OPD to file a report
Simi Valley Police Department Contact SVPD to file a report

 

 

The City of Oxnard Police Department also has made a pdf available online with information regarding identity theft that is available here

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Winning the Lottery

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For Wednesday, February 11’s drawing, the Powerball has reached an incredible $485 million. Winning the lottery is a dream for many, but for some winners it’s been the cause of great misfortune, so much so that it’s believed there’s a “lottery curse.”

If your numbers come up tomorrow night, here’s a few articles with advice for you. The consensus is that the most important thing is to sign your ticket, and after that, to find reputable help–an accountant or tax lawyer–to plan out how you’ll get your money and what you’ll do with it. After that, the sky’s the limit…

Get some help with that payout.

12 Things not to do if you win the lottery

7 Money mistakes most lottery winners make

 

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Phone Scams


The library received a very interesting call the other day. A voice on the phone told us we were behind on our utility payments and if we did not send payment immediately, they would send someone to shut off our power. Those of you who have been to the law library might understand why this call was an obvious scam: we’re located in the Ventura County Government Center, a large complex with multiple buildings, and we don’t have a separate power supply from the rest of the building we are located in. However, the scammers were so rude, abrupt, and insistent that it’s easy to see why some people are intimidated into sending them money.

As tax season is among us, there will be an equivalent rise in the number of these scam callers claiming to be from the IRS, demanding payment by money order or credit card. Other callers pretend to be from the courts (the Superior Court of Ventura County warned about these scams last April) or the police department. Some even claim to be a relative in need of cash!

Things to remember, based on advice from fraud.org and local police departments:

  • Legitimate companies and government agencies will never ask for a money order or wire transfer;
  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector, ask for the person’s name and address, the company they represent and the original creditor (if indeed you have an outstanding loan). If they can’t provide this information, hang up;
  • If you’re concerned about the status of an unpaid debt, hang up and call the creditor back yourself at the phone number provided on your loan paperwork;
  • If the amount demanded is significantly more than the debt you owe, it’s probably a scam;
  • Check your credit report. If the debt the caller claims you owe is not listed on there, it’s probably a scam;
  • Don’t be intimidated if the debt collector is abusive or threatens legal action or arrest. Request that written notice of the debt be mailed to you and tell them that you do not wish to be contacted again about the debt. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector must respect this request.

Here’s where you can go to report these scams:

If you feel you are the victim of a crime please report it immediately to your local police department.

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Pneumatic tubes and other newfangled devices

Interesting news out of the year end report on the state of the Federal Judiciary from Chief Justice Roberts–

The Supreme Court will bypass the federal judiciary’s somewhat troubled electronic case-filing system in favor of its own, expected to come in 2016. But the chief justice’s accounting is perhaps most useful for what, with a bit of between-the-lines reading, it reveals about why, he admits, “the courts will often choose to be late to the harvest of American ingenuity.”

The history of the pneumatic tube and the Supreme Court’s slow adoption of it is discussed in the first few pages, making this anything but a dry read.

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Now Offering Westlaw Next

For the past few months VCLL has had access to Westlaw Next available to patrons and staff, and the response has been fairly positive. While change can be difficult, Next offers enough improvements and interesting features that the learning curve has not been as steep as some might have expected. Curious about how to use Next?

Hofstra Law Library recorded the following basic tutorial:

 

Next uses its single search bar to offer results without needing to narrow focus area. The search bar is powerful–it’s often compared to Google, and runs similarly. It can correct spelling, suggest search results, and picks up more results than ever before.

 

Stop by the Ventura County Law Library any time to test out Westlaw Next!

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New California Laws!

A whopping 930 laws are going into effect this year, most starting January 1st. The LA Times has this article covering the new laws, which deal with everything from sports team owners taking a tax deduction for penalties (inspired by Donald Sterling), the new “affirmative consent” standard on college campuses, an increase in California’s film production tax credit, and more.

 

The Ventura County Star also covered the new laws, including one allowing dogs to dine with their owners on restaurant patios, so the next time you’re out to brunch, don’t forget Fido!

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Ventura County Law Library on Social Media

Bring out your Likes and Retweets–we’ve joined Twitter and Facebook!

We hope to use these resources to highlight library programs and services.

 


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Social Media for Lawyers

Building a social media presence is an effective way to attract new clients, but not all platforms are created equal, and many require regular updating and engagement.

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LinkedIn

This eBook from James Toolbox, written last year, lays out the basics of linked in: how to use it strategically and how to make the most of its strengths as a platform. An updated booklet identifies “6 New LinkedIn Strategies for Lawyers” in light of several changes to the LinkedIn platform this year. The ABA offers LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, and a basic guide to a LinkedIn marketing plan, to get you started.

Great for: Networking, professional connections, publicizing qualifications. The new blog interface allows you to communicate effectively with potential clients about your strengths.

Cons: Success on LinkedIn depends heavily on the amount of time you put into it. But the rewards can be great: This Forbes post discusses the success one Northern California attorney had with LinkedIn, after spending 30 minutes a day using and updating it.

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Facebook offers the option of Pages for businesses, offering a more official face than your typical personal Facebook profile. Real Lawyers Have Blogs has a tag compiling all Facebook related posts on the blog, ranging from practical tips to the pluses and minuses of using a personal profile as your public Facebook face.

Pros: Ubiquity. Facebook has a larger user base than LinkedIn. This post discusses some basics for getting started. Facebook also has extensive analytics for Pages and targeted ads, as discussed in this guide to Facebook Pages.

Cons: Facebook is thought of as a personal platform, and the potential to mix the personal with the professional can have consequences. Attorneys have gotten in hot water for posting negative comments to their Facebook profiles, so be mindful of your privacy settings, as well as potential conflicts and the need for disclaimers.

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Twitter is the most unstructured of the three platforms covered here, and as a result getting started can be daunting. The average Twitter user only has 61 followers, and the time needed to develop content, create connections, and engage with others can be daunting. As with LinkedIn, the ABA has published Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers, though its 2012 publication date makes it somewhat out of date. There are many great blog posts on utilizing Twitter effectively, from “5 Tips to Help Lawyers Make the Most of Twitter,” which covers some of the basics of getting started, setting goals, and understanding the fast, breaking news style cycle of Twitter. There’s a great list of 50 Twitter accounts for lawyers to follow, part 1 and part 2; and a great presentation from Janet Fouts on Twitter for Lawyers.

Pros: Twitter moves fast! There’s a tremendous opportunity to connect with others and present interesting information to potential clients.

Cons: The potential for missteps is high, and in order to effectively engage on Twitter you need to find a balance between being professional and being yourself. Like all three platforms discussed here, there’s a time investment required to do well on Twitter. Third party Twitter apps like HootSuite can allow you to schedule tweets and otherwise keep up a steady momentum, but interactions are especially important on Twitter.

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10 Tips for Drafting a Parenting Plan

This material is reproduced from the CEBblogTM, 10 Tips for Drafting A Parenting Plan (http://blog.ceb.com/2014/09/24/10-tips-for-drafting-a-parenting-plan/) copyright 2014 by the Regents of the University of California. Reproduced with permission of Continuing Education of the Bar – California. (For information about CEB publications, telephone toll free 1-800-CEB-3444 or visit our Web site, CEB.com).

 

When parents don’t agree on a child custody issue, the parenting plan is the tiebreaker. Given this power, family law attorneys need to draft parenting plans with the utmost care to make sure that uncertainty and ambiguity don’t undermine the best intentions.

A court-ordered parenting plan governs how parents will share the “care, custody and management of their child.” What goes into a proposed plan is often the result of extensive negotiations and mediation.

Parenting plan provisions must be clear, certain, and directive. The goal is that anyone who needs to review the plan, e.g., parents, judges, court personnel, school/daycare personnel, or law enforcement officials, can quickly find and understand the relevant provisions. Ambiguous language can create conflict, result in unenforceable or impractical provisions, and often requires litigation to achieve clarity.

Regardless of the specific plan provisions, follow these 10 tips for every parenting plan you draft to guide all parties towards maximum clarity—and minimal conflict:

  1. Use an outline and label sections with headings.
  2. Use the simplest possible language, never exceeding a 12th-grade vocabulary and avoiding legalese.
  3. Keep sentences short.
  4. Use the present tense.
  5. Use the terms “legal custody,” “physical custody,” and “visitation” to increase the probability of recognition and enforcement in other jurisdictions. Generally, this requirement is satisfied by stating: “The parents are awarded joint legal custody according to the following plan” or “The parents are awarded joint physical custody according to the following schedule” or similar language that brings the plan within the statutory scheme and goes on to provide the specifics.
  6. When using terms of art based on the Family Code, cite the relevant code section and, when appropriate, incorporate the language of the code section into the plan.
  7. Distinguish between duties and elective acts by using “must” (or “will”) or “may.” “Shall” creates ambiguity because it has at least eight separate meanings.
  8. Avoid provisos. The phrase “provided that” may be read as an exception, condition, addition, or limitation.
  9. Never use the passive voice; always specify who “must” or “may” do what.
  10. No one ever remembers who is the petitioner and who is the respondent once they get off the caption page. Use “Petitioner-Mother” and “Respondent-Father” (when the parents are opposite sex) or identify the parties in the first paragraph, and then refer to them consistently by name throughout the order.

For everything you need to know about drafting parenting plans, turn to CEB’sCalifornia Child Custody Litigation and Practice, chapter 4.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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