What are "civil court cases"? [FAQ]
In the broadest terms, civil court cases are all court cases that do not involve a violation of criminal law. When one has been injured, financially or physically, he files his lawsuit, or "action," in civil court. One can bring any such type of claim in a civil court, including, for example, claims for injuries stemming from breach of an agreement, dishonesty, fraud, unlawful acts, defective construction, wrongful termination, breach of a lease, property damage, etc. A civil case plaintiff may obtain both compensatory and punitive damages.
Civil court cases are brought in either the Small Claims, Limited, or Unlimited division of a California Superior Court. Some civil cases can also be brought in federal courts. If his damages are less than $5,000.00, the injured person may file his lawsuit in Small Claims Court, in which case he cannot use an attorney. And, costs in Small Claims Court are much lower than they are in the other divisions of the Superior Court. If the damages are between $5,000.00 and $25,000.00, the injured person is required to file his action in the Limited Jurisdiction division of the Superior Court. Cases worth more than $25,000.00 are filed in either the Unlimited Jurisdiction division of the Superior Court or in federal court.
Does it make sense for me to hire a lawyer? [FAQ]
If you have a legal problem, or a problem that a court of law would address, one of the first issues to consider is whether you would benefit by retaining an attorney. The answer is different in each case, and it depends on a number of factors.
The first issue to consider in determining whether to retain a lawyer is whether you have a claim, or whether someone else has a claim against you. If you have a claim for money (whether it's based on a debt, or damages caused by another person for which compensation would be just) then you should evaluate whether there's a possibility of recovery without an attorney. Will the debtor voluntarily pay, or does the debtor have to be compelled to pay by a court or by the threat of litigation hanging over his head? If there is a potential for recovery without an attorney, then you may ultimately net more money by resolving the issue on your own, depending on how much you are owed. However, if more than $10,000 is involved, and you don't think you can get substantially all of the money on your own, you may wish to contact an attorney to find out how much you could expect to spend in legal fees. If less than $10,000 ($5,000 if a business other than a sole proprietor) is involved, you might try to recover your money in Small Claims Court instead of contacting an attorney.
Any time that you believe the person who owes you money may "counterclaim" against you, you should contact an attorney if informal negotiations break down, unless the amount at issue is certainly below $5,000. A potential counterlcaim for $5,000 turns a matter in which your claim is $5,000 into a $10,000 matter. When that type of money is involved, it often makes sense to get an evaluation from an attorney as to your rights and the strengths of the respective claims.
If someone else has a claim against you, the first issue to evaluate is whether you owe the money. If you know that you do, you can save attorneys' fees by negotiating a resolution on your own. However, an attorney might be able to inform you of valid defenses of which you were previously unaware, even if you believe that you owe the money. For example, a "statute of limitations" bars the prosecution of claims if not made within a certain period of time. If a significant amount of money is involved, it usually makes sense to retain an attorney regardless. Attorneys can often negotiate more favorable resolutions or a payout over time.
If the claim against you is less than $10,000, you should try to resolve the matter without an attorney. However, if you are sued in any court (whether it's Small Claims or higher level court), you may want to talk to an attorney about potential defenses. Even a Small Claims Court judgment will adversely affect your credit rating, so you should present every defense available to you.
If I retain an attorney to help me collect money someone owes me, how long should I expect to wait before getting any recovery? [FAQ]
Most creditors turn to an attorney after their own efforts to recover hit a dead end. In many cases, a letter from an attorney is enough to shake up an obstinate debtor and cause him to immediately pay at least part of his debt. If the debtor doesn't pay in response to the "demand letter," then the only recourse may be to file a legal action, or a lawsuit. Almost all collection cases are set for trial within a year of filing, and over 95% of cases either settle or otherwise get resolved before trial within that year. If your case settles, you should expect some payment at that time, unless the debtor has no money. If the case goes to trial, you can usually expect payment soon after a favorable verdict if the debtor has insurance. If not, you will have to initiate judgment enforcement efforts to get some payment, in which case you will get payment sooner or later depending on the amount of money the judgment debtor has.
I've been named as a defendant in a lawsuit. What happens if a judgment is entered against me? [FAQ]
A plaintiff can get a judgment either by default (if, for example, you fail to respond to the Complaint within the requisite time period), stipulation (your agreement), or trial decision. The "judgment" itself is no more than a judge's decision on a piece of paper, but it can have serious negative consequences. First, the person who obtained the judgment against you has the right to use the judicial system to compel you, the judgment debtor, to give up money or property to satisfy the judgment. Although there are significant protections for judgment debtors, the process is uncomfortable, to say the least. Further, even a small judgment negatively affects your credit. And, a judgment will often stay on your credit record for up to seven years. Although you can always get a judgment removed by filing a bankruptcy proceeding, in general, you should do everything within your financial means to avoid entry of a judgment against you.
What is "lawyer-client confidence," or the "attorney-client privilege?" [FAQ]
Simply stated, an attorney cannot ethically divulge any information or communication made to him in confidence. The rationale for this rule, called the "attorney-client privilege," is that clients or prospective clients will likely be more open in their communications with attorneys if they know that the attorney will not divulge potentially harmful information.
How much does it cost to hire an attorney? [FAQ]
Experienced attorneys in the San Francisco Bay Area generally charge anywhere from $175 an hour to nearly $1,000 an hour. The attorneys at Redenbacher & Brown may charge anywhere from $275 an hour to $450 an hour. Attorneys will often take personal injury, collection, or wrongful termination cases on a contingency basis. Mr. Redenbacher provides pro bono representation for certain charitable causes.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Working for You
Redenbacher and Brown is a Northern California civil litigation firm owned by 25-year veteran attorney Gary Redenbacher. The firm's reputation was built upon a primary founding principle: The practice of law is a privilege – an honor that must be earned and sustained each and every day, case-by-case.
Mr. Redenbacher, a member of the California State Bar, understands the imperative of fiduciary responsibility. A lawyer is to always serve the best interest of the client—period. His personalized practice of law exemplifies an unyielding dedication to ethics, to client and to a certain objective: deliver results sooner, not later.
After a 15-year partnership, Mr. Redenbacher and his partner, John Brown, joined the Cornerstone Law Group. Please visit Cornerstone for information on the firm. This site is specific to Mr. Redenbacher’s individual law practice.
On this site you can learn a bit about the firm, the lawyer and, perhaps, a bit about the law pertaining to your case. If you have any questions or require consultation concerning any legal matter, feel free to contact Mr. Redenbacher at his Santa Cruz office.
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CONTACT GARY REDENBACHER
REDENBACHER & BROWN
ABOUT GARY REDENBACHER
PROFESSION AND SERVICES
Mr. Redenbacher earned his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He also holds an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master’s degree from Fresno State University.
Mr. Redenbacher’s areas of specialized legal practice include:
Commercial and residential construction issues including mechanic’s liens, breach of contract, public works and defects
Landlord / tenant issues, including evictions and property management - extensive experience in drafting leases and other associated landlord / tenant interactions
Real estate issues including nondisclosure, easements, boundary disputes, rights of way
Representation of homeowner associations and disputes with HOA's.
Professional licensing including representation of nurses, contractors, architects and others whose licenses are subject to suspension or revocation.
Student conduct, discipline and Title IX matters.
Code violations ("Red Tags")
General counsel to smaller firms
Civil appeals and writs
Mr. Redenbacher is frequently retained by other attorneys as a consulting expert for construction matters. He provides ongoing and preventive counsel to real estate developers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and owners. Mr. Redenbacher is a licensed general contractor (presently inactive).
A longstanding statewide advocate for children's issues, since 1993 he has served on the Board of Directors of the Children's Advocacy Institute. Based at the University of San Diego, CAI is one the most respected child advocacy groups in the nation.
Mr. Redenbacher has served as a judge pro tempore in Santa Cruz County and as a member of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court Mediation Panel. For seven years he wrote a monthly column for the local newspaper addressing subjects of general legal interest. Archived articles can be read at www.pressbanner.com.
Mr. Redenbacher is the grandson of Orville (1907–1995), the successful businessman best known as the co-founder of Orville Redenbacher Popcorn and as the popular product’s very affable TV spokesman.
Legal Resources on the Web —
Note: The links below open a new window. While these sources are deemed reliable, Redenbacher & Brown is not the author thereof and is in no way responsible for that content.
American Bar Association
The homepage of the national organization includes its journal, publications and other information.
Access to the California state laws. Feel free to contact Mr. Redenbacher if you require assistance in navigating through the code.
Dictionary of Legal Terms
All Greek to you? Look it up with this online resource. Very useful for terms common and not so common.
Not just for lawyers -- a sort of cross-discipline encyclopedia and Q&A clearing house, with a lot of practical info and useful links.
Homeland Security Department
No, it's not just a place to check today's color. The newest Federal behemoth sports a host of advisories and regulations. As an added bonus, now encompasses what used to be the INS.
Internal Revenue Service
If you haven't been there lately (somewhat ironically) the IRS website is now very user friendly. A lot of useful content and, best of all, you can download about any form you need.
One of the leading websites for asking free and paid legal questions from a network of attorneys. Do free legal research, search a law library, and download legal forms.
Law News Network
Cutting-edge information for legal professionals.
Nolo Publications' legal encyclopedia may provide answers to the legal issue you are researching.
Outstanding self help legal site for those who don't want a lawyer, don't trust a lawyer, or don't want to pay for a lawyer.
San Francisco Codes
Access to the San Francisco laws. Send an email ifif you need help navigating through the code, and we'll try to help you out.
San Francisco Law Library
You may find a publication on the legal area you are researching in the library catalog.
San Francisco Rent Board
If you are looking for information on rent control issues in San Francisco, this is the place to find it.
United States Codes
Cornell University provides access to the U.S. legal codes.
U.S. Dept. of Justice
The U.S. Department of Justice provides information on programs, new laws and many other topics.