Checking out the new judge at the Mosk

John J. Nazarian
February 15, 2011

Well , I have been a little anxious to visit Dept. 65 since my friend, Judge Amy Pellman transferred to “childrens court.” Upon entering it did seem odd not to see Judge Pellman, instead I saw Shelley Winters…this new judge looks like one of my favorite actresses of all time. Not to make light of what Judge Christine Byrd has achieved, this bench officer was with Irell & Manella from 1996 till being appointed to the bench by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Judge Byrd has done it all, Asst. U.S. Attorney, criminal divisionwhen I say “done it all,” I should have said “seen it all.” A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she earned a JD, and a BA from Stanford University.

One obvious question comes to my mind — how did she like the pay cut? As a partner of a firm as prestigious and powerful as Irell & Manella, this had to have been a big pay cut, huge, gargantuan. On the other hand, what is a title of “Judge” worth in today’s world? Certainly being recognized as a judge has prestige attached to it, perhaps not as it once did in our society, still one that is respected. And in this case are there bigger plans for Judge Byrd….we will see. Growing up in Boston I can remember the judges had special low number plates on their Cadillacs and Lincolns and could park anyplace his or her honor felt like…..and they did! Ahhh the East Coast.

Today I sat in the audience and listened to Judge Byrd making decisions fast, and from what I could hear and see, her honor was right on target. Her comments are direct and decisive and still she seems friendly. I have heard some say that she “does not read,” well listen up folks, she knew her stuff today. Plus to make a comment like that is ridiculous, much of a judge’s time is spent reading.

On one side we had Susan E. Wiesner, founder of Susan E. Wiesner A Law Corporation, sitting second chair was Adam N. Schanz, Esq,. and Sawan Mansour, Esq. providing back up at the rail. On the other side we had Manley Freid, Esq. and Cori B. Steinberg, Esq. Both of these law firms are representing some real real rich people, very rich…big real estate holdings in Beverly Hills…is that middle eastern music I am hearing?

Wiesner presents her position to the court and of course Cori B. Steinberg, Esq stands and is at the ready to try and take it apart. Steinberg tries and tries but just seems to be missing the mark this morning. Judge Byrd listens very patiently and Manly Fried is sitting and playing with something on the table…it almost looked like casino chips…it beats tapping his finger. Picking them up and them laying them down, he is obviously annoyed each time Susan Wiesner opens her mouth. This goes on and on and each side is trying to convince Judge Byrd that what she just heard from the mouth of the other is not true. Judge Byrd makes very appropriate corrections to both sides and on it goes…Fried and Steinbergs attack of Wiesner is becoming deafening. Judge Byrd is seeing this and in my opinion this is not helping Mr. Fried in his attempt to try and bully Wiesner. Susan Wiesner is going forward and addressing each issue the best she can…we will see in the end that Wiesner did pretty good…real good.

Fried decides to try and ice the cake by what appeared to me as slamming Ms. Wiesner in the eyes of the court. Earlier Mr. Fried sat and shook his head as Ms. Wiesner spoke and presented her case, when he had a chance to make comments he would only reference her as “her” or “she”…It was almost as if Mr. Fried actually spoke Ms. Wiesners name he may end up with a chicken sitting on his head. Mr Fried decides to address the court and it seems he might just as well have sat and remained quiet. His oration was a mistake…Cori Steinberg, Esq was making more sense and in a much less aggressive manner.

It is this reporter’s opinion that Mr. Frieds strong dislike of Ms. Wiesner set a tone that became very obvious to the court. And his taking the reins from Steinberg was a huge mistake. Divorce is an aggressive sport and good lawyering is aggressive, but to show little or no respect for opposing counsel does not seem to work well at The Stanley Mosk…my opinion. Again, Judge Byrd may be new to the bench but she is not new to legal shenanigans and theatrics, she heard it all and was well briefed.

In the end Judge Byrd made it as clear as a bell, $150,000 in legal fees and $ 75,000 in accounting fees…all Mr. Fried could do was ask when this was due? The answer was fair and reasonable, 1/2 in 45 days and the other 1/2 thirty days later.

Judge Bryd suggested that some of the rich guy’s cars could be sold and not to any “arm’s length relatives”…it would seem that Judge Byrd was up on “The Persian Two Step.” That was the middle eastern music I was hearing.

Now before you go feeling sorry for Mr. Frieds client, he owns some huge medical buildings in Beverly Hills and dozens of other properties….rich, real rich. Like it or not it is the system that during the divorce, he or she who has the Do Re Mi has to pay!

Today in Department 65 there was a “boxing” match, Fried vs Wiesner and from where I was sitting, Mr. Fried got a TKO….it was almost as if Mr. Fried had a great plan, Ms. Steinberg, Esq. was in his corner, wiping his brow and patting him on the shoulder. It was all going well until Fried stood up. Wiesner, watching and waiting, and without breaking a sweat got all that she wanted. Someone rang the bell!

After all Judge Byrd was watching and listening too and saw through the silliness of one side stating his client was “a little low on funds”. Ms. Wiesner walked down the hall with her staff, holding an incredible Louis Vuitton hand bag.

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