High Profile Cases In The News...




Trials of a muddled mind


Who Caused This Tragedy

Courts weigh sanity of teenager charged with murdering his mother
By Jeanine Benca and Chris Metinko

Article Launched: 10/21/2007 03:00:36 AM PDT
Church community proves a godsend for stricken familyPeter Mantas can't stop shivering.
He has been in a cold sweat since 3 a.m., when, in a flurry of lights and sirens, four squad cars showed up at his San Ramon duplex to inform him there was "a problem" with his family. Now it is just after 7 a.m., and the estranged father is being told to follow officers into the room at the Danville police station where his 16-year-old son, Andrew Mantas, sits in shackles.

Since Peter last laid eyes on Andrew a year and a half ago, something has gone terribly wrong with the boy.

He is snapping his head around and can't focus on his father's questions. He won't stop asking for cigarettes. "What was that?" he repeats every so often to no one in particular.  More...  or   More...  


Major Contributors:

Commissioner Josanna Berkow

Commissioner James Libey


Hearing Voices



KRON 4's Vicki Liviakis Presents "Hearing Voices"

KRON 4's Vicki Liviakis sits down with Peter Mantas, the father of a boy whose mental illness may have led to the murder of the child's mother.   


Part 1


Church community proves a godsend for stricken family



Cathedral that couple gave their time to gives back after woman's death

By Kelly Rayburn

Article Launched: 10/21/2007 03:00:23 AM PDT

Peter Mantas struggled to describe his shock when he learned that his son, Andrew, was suspected of killing his ex-wife, Dimitra, with a baseball bat.

"How can I even explain it?" he said. "I don't know if you've ever been in water and you're sinking and you're fighting for breath. That's what it was like, like I was drowning."

If there's one force responsible for pulling Mantas, along with his two daughters, from the water in the past year, it is the church community at the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland. More...





Danville teen (Rylan Fuchs) fatally shot outside home

The Associated Press - CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Where did it start?

The Associated Press
Posted: 01/21/2009 11:46:19 AM PST

DANVILLE, Calif.—Authorities say a 17-year-old boy has died after being shot during an altercation on the front porch of his home in an affluent suburb east of San Francisco.
Danville police Chief Chris Wenzel said San Ramon Valley High School senior Rylan Fuchs was shot once in the throat Tuesday night.

He was pronounced dead at John Muir Medical Center early Wednesday morning. More...   

Editorial: Taking care of our kids
MediaNews editorial
Posted: 01/29/2009 12:01:00 AM PST

THREE CONTRA COSTA teenagers shot to death within less than a week. Two in Richmond. One in Danville. All unrelated. It's tragic. We shouldn't overreact. But we should take notice and ask ourselves if we're paying enough attention to our kids. . More... 

Family, friends gather to remember slain teen
By Aaron Swarts Correspondent
Posted: 01/31/2009 05:55:46 PM PST

DUBLIN — Several hundred mourners filled CrossWinds Church on Saturday morning to pay their final respects to Rylan Alexander Fuchs. Fuchs, 17, was slain in front of his Danville home the night of Jan. 20.

Rylan's father described him as "an extraordinary and brilliant young man" who was his "son, best friend, basketball buddy and fellow creative spirit."   More...

Could have Commissioner Berkow and company prevented yet another tragedy?


Of love & murder: Polk case


Where did it start?

Journalist digs deeply into the mesmerizing trial that rocked bucolic Orinda and the nation
By Bruce Gerstman

Article Launched: 07/08/2007 03:06:30 AM PDT
BERKELEY psychologist Felix Polk knew his sons' piano teacher really well. Same with the baby sitter and many of his friends who came to dinner at his home on a regular basis. They were all his patients. It's not surprising that at some point in his career, he met a patient whom he decided to marry, Susan Bolling.   More...


Case MSD01-01732 - Superior Court of California - Dept. 51 - Honorable Commissioner Berkow





Judge says county can't ban oral divorce testimony

CONTRA COSTA: State Supreme Court strikes down paper-only rule aimed at speeding up dissolution process

Why is the Elkins case important?

Read the opinion...

By Malaika Fraley


Article Launched: 08/14/2007 06:47:33 AM PDT
Contra Costa County Superior Court violated state law with a rule that prohibited people in divorce trials from presenting oral testimony, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
The ruling means a new divorce trial for Jeffrey Elkins, a Danville business consultant who challenged the county court's rule that required evidence to be submitted exclusively by written declaration, except in unusual circumstances.  More...


Justices strike down Contra Costa family court rules

East Bay Business Times

by Marie-Anne Hogarth
Article Launched: August 10, 2007

The California Supreme Court sided with a Danville man who sued Contra Costa County Superior Court saying that local rules adopted to speed up trials in the family courts robbed him of justice.

The rules requiring parties to submit testimony in writing ahead of the trial haven't been enforced in Contra Costa County since state Supreme Court justices held oral arguments last May. The case could be the beginning of a larger discussion about balancing efficiency and justice in the family courts.  More...

State may ease laws on divorce trials

By Bruce Gerstman

Article Launched: 06/18/2007 03:04:51 AM PDT
As the final step to end more than 20 years of marriage, Danville residents Jeffrey and Marilyn Elkins showed up in Contra Costa Superior Court for their divorce trial.
Marilyn Elkins had an attorney. Jeffrey Elkins, like the majority of divorce litigants, represented himself.

Jeffrey Elkins, a business consultant, was in for several surprises.

First, he learned that Contra Costa family court rules only allowed him and his wife to provide written declarations. Any oral testimony had to come from that written material, including any questions he might ask his wife if he called her to the stand.

Then he found out that he was prohibited from presenting nearly three dozen items of evidence -- ranging from e-mails to documents about his salary.   More...


The Justices' Opinion...

  • The Court of Appeal explained that “a measure implemented for the sake of efficiency cannot jeopardize the constitutional integrity of the judicial process [citation]. In other words, court congestion and ‘the press of business’ will not justify depriving parties of fundamental rights and a full and fair opportunity to present all competent and material evidence relevant to the matter to be adjudicated.” (Id. at p. 1319.)
  • Courts must earn the public trust. (See Cal. Stds. Jud. Admin., § 10.17, subd.(b)(5)(A) & (B).) We fear that respondent’s rule and order had the opposite effect despite the court’s best intentions.
  • Executive Summary, p. 2 [80% of the cases have at least one unrepresented party by the time of disposition].) In its 2006 report, the Judicial Council estimated that “although family and juvenile cases represent 7.5 percent of total filings, they account for nearly one-third of the trial courts’ judicial workload . . . .” (Judicial Council of Cal., Ann. Rep. (2006), p. 26, italics added.)
  • Actually, in its use of courtroom time the present judicial process seems to have its priorities confused. Domestic relations litigation, one of the most important and sensitive tasks a judge faces, too often is given the low-man-on-the-totem-pole treatment.” (In re Marriage of Brantner (1977) 67 Cal.App.3d 416, 422.)
  • Although authorized to impose sanctions for violation of local rules (Code Civ. Proc., § 575.2, subd. (a)), courts ordinarily should avoid treating a curable violation of local procedural rules as the basis for crippling a litigant’s ability to present his or her case.

Supreme Court's Opinion



Exhibits to Amicus Curiae Brief



  NOTICE: Notwithstanding anything contained herein, all reference information, posts, replies, comments and blogs in www.cccjustice.org are to be considered mere opinions or allegations, and are not to be viewed as statements of fact or legal advice. Please contact a licensed attorney prior to taking any action.