I always wanted to be an attorney so I could help people. I realize this is an idealistic statement. But, I beg to differ. There have new beginnings for some of my clients. Here are some examples:
A 14-month old baby was returned to the parents in time for Thanksgiving after months of separation. The parents had a case opened in dependency court after their child was in the hospital for severe injuries thought to have been caused by them. It was eventually concluded that the injuries were not caused by the parents.
After seven months and numerous court hearings, the judge concluded that the young child would be returned to the parents. The parents fulfilled and completed the close scrutiny and review of all court personnel and social workers. This was a very intense case since the baby would have been placed in a “foster” care home if she was not returned home.
A client was facing deportation after being placed on removal proceedings due to a prior criminal conviction. It took ten months, but after providing the court and the government a brief citing our opposition to his removability, the judge agreed with our position and ruled that termination of the removal proceedings was warranted.
A Filipino father’s annual visit in California to see his children and grandchildren turned “ugly” when this 70+ year old man was arrested for making a criminal threat against a family member. This charge is taken very seriously by the prosecutors and the courts. I advised my client that a dismissal would be nearly impossible and a trial may be required to insure that he has no criminal conviction.
Notwithstanding all the mitigating factors in the case, the prosecutor did not want to dismiss the case. Both sides prepared for trial. But after discussions with all the witnesses and even the judge, I was able to convince the prosecutor that a dismissal would be a reasonable conclusion to the case. The prosecution agreed and my client is now enjoying the holidays back home in the Philippines.
A local Catholic priest called me to help a parishioner who was about to be sentenced to prison. She was a young person with a very bright future. A responsible individual-she bought her own home at a very young age and was a vocational nurse on her way to becoming a registered nurse. She became involved with the wrong people and the result was predictable. Her co-defendants were sentenced to state prison but after lengthy negotiations with the special prosecutor assigned to the case, she was granted home confinement for 6 months.
However, due to this conviction, her professional license was being revoked. She again came to see me to help her with this new problem. I realize that terminating her felony probation and expunging the case would be nearly impossible. Both relief I requested were discretionary and would require the judge to use the broad inherent powers bestowed on his office.
The realistic percentage of success would be 5% to 10%. Before Christmas, I was able to convince the prosecutor, probation officer and most importantly, the judge that it would be in the furtherance of justice to have my client’s probation terminated and her conviction expunged. They agreed and both motions were granted. It was a miracle and the first step to insuring that she has a new start.
After months of telephone calls and letters from a law firm representing a credit company, my client came in to see me and in his words, “fight his battle” for him. I spoke with the lawyers that were representing the bank and finalized a payment plan that he could handle. His case will be dismissed this month. With one creditor now gone, he could focus and start regaining fiscal responsibility.
Last, but not least, a case involving a mistake, many of us could make. She was making a left turn – all of a sudden, she hears a noise. A motorcyclist hits her car and dies. She is charged with vehicular manslaughter. I succeeded in having the charge reduced from a misdemeanor. But the fact remains—there is a dead person. Hence, the prosecutors were not going to dismiss the case.
However, this client had no prior arrest or conviction. She was a college graduate and pursuing a master’s degree in social work. There were no issues of her talking on the cell phone, eating, putting on makeup etc. I was compelled to get her a dismissal. She was too young to have a record. After months of negotiations with all interested parties, an agreement was reached that upon completion of certain terms and conditions, the case would be dismissed.
I have clients coming in to see me because they are in trouble—serious trouble. I am there to guide them through the legal maze and to insure that the best disposition for them is reached. The lesson I learn everyday is that “we are all flawed,” but it is my job to “humanize” my clients. Additionally, I also tell my clients to pray and go light a candle.
These are a compilation of some of my cases that I have had “good” conclusions but clients in both family and criminal cases continue to call my office. Some are not even close to being in these two areas of law. But I am compelled to take the time and see if I can assist in anyway. I have a gentleman (a Filipino Veteran seeking his rights to have military pension). I told him, I am not a military attorney or even a civil attorney per se but I will see what I can do.
Is it easier just to say, “no I do not do this type of law?” Absolutely, but I am reminded of what my father tells me all the time, it is my job to help. Easier said than done, but trying to tell that to my dad is not easy. I pray I have the time, the resources, and the continued health (as many of my clients tell me that they pray for my health)—probably because if I am not healthy, I cannot work on their case. Yes, I understand there is some selfishness to this act, but I can use all the good thoughts and blessings for 2019.
Law is a grind-some of my law school classmates are no longer practicing in the traditional sense. I still put on the suit, go to court, draft motions and if necessary, take a case to trial. It is a great deal of work but there are some highlights. Most of these “wins” mentioned above were in the early years of my law firm and fortunately, there have been more throughout the years. I opened the Law Offices of Carina Castaneda nearly 13 years ago, and have been an attorney in California since 1995 which will make it 24 years in 2019. I know there are still many people to help, problems to solve, and a lot to learn as I am sure this Filipino veteran case will teach me.
Thank you to all of you who continue to support the growth of the Law Offices of Carina Castaneda and as always, any comments or inquiries, do not hesitate to email me at [email protected] or call my office at 310-601-7144. People are always shocked to know that I actually respond personally and talk to them without the need of an assistant.
Happy New Year Everyone and Thank you!