Areas Of Practice
John L. Dodd & Associates handles all types of appeals and writ petitions throughout the State of California, primarily in State court.
Read about the different types of cases here:
“Civil” cases are defined broadly are any cases which are not “criminal,” and include lawsuits concerning business, real estate, and personal injury matters. Before specializing in appeals, Mr. Dodd spent many years handling civil litigation in the trial courts, giving him a thorough understanding of the litigation process many other civil appellate attorneys may lack. We successfully have represented clients on appeal in real estate, trust, personal injury, and contract cases. We have experience in appeals after judgments following demurrers and summary judgment motions, in which the case is decided before it even gets to trial. We understand the special rules for these appeals and can effectively represent your position, whether as an appellant or respondent.
Finally, civil cases often involve discovery disputes or other pre-trial rulings which must be brought to the attention of the Court of Appeal by a “writ petition,” instead of an appeal, often involving short time frames in which to effectively analyze the case and present it in a professional manner to the Court. If a writ petition does not follow precise procedural rules, it generally will be denied “summarily,” meaning with a “one line” rejection. Many experienced civil trial attorneys seek out an appellate specialist when a writ petition is necessary.
Family law cases seem prone to error because the issues often can be complex, and the emotions run high; but the time allotted to them in the trial court runs low. Our office successfully has represented parties in family law appeals, both as appellants and respondents, concerning custody, property division and support. A family law appeal may have numerous “issues” over which the parties continue to disagree. However, we analyze which issues may bear fruit at the appellate level and which ones probably will not be productive. Perhaps more than other areas of the law, we believe family law cases in particular can benefit from a “fresh look” in order to present the most effective arguments to the Court of Appeal.
Trusts, Estate and Probate
Probate law is another area in which the “stakes” often are high, justifying the expense of an appeal if it appears the trial court has committed a legal error. Probate appeals could concern trust administration, will contests, duties of trustees, or conservatorships. These appeals are governed by special rules and so can benefit from the attention by a certified appellate specialist.
Parental Rights and Adoption Appeals
Mr. Dodd is the leading California appellate attorney concerning parental rights and adoption appeals. He has been involved in many of the landmark cases over the last 30 years, representing children, adopting parents, grandparents, guardians and parents. He understands the serious nature of the appellate issues involved. We define “parental rights” cases as those in which a party is seeking either to institute an involuntary guardianship or to terminate parental rights for purpose of an adoption or step-parent adoption. These are not “regular family law” cases in which the parties disagree over the number of weekends of visitation. These cases decide who, and who will not, be part of your family forever. They require a high degree of sensitivity and familiarity with this field of law, which we are uniquely qualified to provide.
“Juvenile” matters include “delinquency,” which are actions to declare a person under 18 a ward of the court because of an act which would be a crime of the minor was an adult, and “dependency” cases, in which a minor is declared a dependent of the juvenile court because the child has been abused or neglected. Our office has had experience in both types of juvenile cases.
The dependency system involves its own court with its own rules and procedures. It is neither a “criminal” nor a “family law” court. It is important to have an attorney on your side who understands those rules. Our office has handled literally hundreds of dependency appeals over the last 30 years in California, probably more than any other private law firm. We have represented not only children and parents, but also grandparents, guardians, foster parents and adopting parents; who often find themselves caught up in the “dependency system” through no fault of their own and need an experienced dependency appellate attorney to help them navigate the system, whether as an appellant or as a respondent.
If a defendant is indigent, in California the appellant is entitled to have an criminal appellate attorney appointed by the state in the first appeal after a judgment of conviction, and sometimes in other types of appeals. However, if the defendant is not indigent, the appellant is not entitled to a state-appointed attorney. We have represented defendants on appeal in state court in a wide variety of matters and will give your criminal appeal the attention it deserves. Additionally, it often is the case that, even though an entire conviction is not reversed, the sentence may be modified or reduced by several years, which alone may justify pursuing an appeal.
|This February, the Court of Appeal filed a published opinion, granting our writ petition on a jurisdictional issue in a family law matter. Writ petitions present a procedural minefield so an appellate specialist can provide key assistance.
January's victory came in a dependency case in which the Court of Appeal reversed an order "removing" a child from a non-custodial parent. "Removal" has special significance in dependency proceedings and generally is a prerequisite to later termination of parental rights, so it is key to attack these types of orders by a timely appeal.
"I recently turned to John when I believed the trial court had made an erroneous ruling on a complicated procedural and jurisdictional question. Although I enjoy research and writing when I have the time, my family law practice often does not permit me that luxury. Also, this problem called for a writ petition, which would involve its own complex procedural rules, so I enlisted John’s support, and the result was a home run: a published reversal!"
Kayleene H. Writer, Family Law Attorney