Author Archives: Tim Kowal

State Agencies: A Tough Nut

William and Julie Ann Sarale were perturbed when PG&E suddenly began hacking down their walnut trees. PG&E had operated power lines on the grove since 1915 and never did more than keep a 10-foot clearance neatly trimmed from the trees. But in 2004, PG&E started removing whole walnut-rich branches, declaring it now needs a 20-foot clearance and too bad about the Sarales’ $150,000 reduced crop yields. You don’t like it, sue. In fact, it took three lawsuits to get two sentences of analysis rejecting the Sarales’ claim. The right result, probably, but still a bad one. Read more at California Read More

TVA June 2017 Newsletter

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment. —Mark Twain Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws. —Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher If law, like politics, is downstream from culture, get ready for some backflow: the Supreme Court’s reviled 2005 eminent-domain decision Kelo v. New London is now a motion picture. Korchula Productions’ Little Pink House — referring to Suzette Kelo’s home taken by her city and given to Pfizer Corp — premiered in February at the Santa Barbara Read More

The Ninth Circuit makes life much more difficult for individual Chapter 11 debtors

Debtors considering a personal bankruptcy under Chapter 11 previously had an edge in California that gave some added leverage against classes of creditors. A Ninth Circuit decision last year, however, eliminated that edge. Overview of the Bankruptcy Chapters As most lawyers and many lay people know, there are several types of bankruptcy cases – Chapter 7 (liquidation), Chapter 11 (reorganization) and Chapter 13 (wage earner reorganization) being the most common. In a Chapter 7 case, the debtor surrenders all non-exempt property to a trustee, who liquidates it for the benefit of the debtor’s creditors. In most cases, the debtor is Read More

TVA May 2017 Newsletter

[The courts] may truly be said to have neither force nor will, but merely judgment….” —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist no. 78 On behalf of our deserving and longsuffering client, my firm recently won reversal of a $5.1 million judgment that was given to a successor trustee on a missing promissory note. Missing, as in, the trustee had never seen it, and never even thought to look for it — though his predecessor did make off with at least $2 million in trust assets (not including later funneling cash to Liechtenstein and spending a night in jail for contempt). This resulted in Read More

TVA Successfully Reverses $5.1 Million Judgment on a Missing Promissory Note

TVA’s client Bill Dohr gave a $15 million promissory note to buy a real-estate development company from his partner and father-in-law, Bob Lintz. Given their close ongoing business and personal relationship — and because the California real-estate market in the early 2000s was flowing with milk and honey — the parties were not terribly concerned with documenting the payments on the note. But after Lintz’s health declined, his fourth ex-wife and then fifth wife (long story) usurped control of the trust, stole millions from Lintz, and sued Bill on the note, in a case styled Shapiro v. Dohr, et al. Read More