Wave of future takes justice at ULV

by Kendra Bridel
Staff Writer

Villa Real vs. the City of West Covina, a civil trial, took place in room 2 in the University of La Verne’s College of Law. The trial began April 16 and the closing arguments were May 2.

The verdict was decided on Wednesday, May 7, in favor of the defendant.

“There was a lot of inconsistency on behalf of the plaintiff,” said juror Mary Hall. “There was a lot of going back and forth in there.”

Juror Rosemarie D’Andrea, said, “There was a lot of evidence against the plaintiff and a lot of inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s testimony.”

“The reason this is getting a lot of publicity is because it is considered ‘the wave of the future.’ Civil justice will be dispensed in the future,” said H. Randall Rubin, associate professor of law.

Both parties agreed to have the matter heard before a retired judge and a private jury.

According to Rubin, this is only the third time that there has been a private jury case in the United States.

The case was a civil matter against a city agency about a man arrested for auto burglary who was bitten by a police dog after becoming unruly with the officers.

Rubin said, “It is not unusual for a retired judge to try to settle disputes in a trial-like format outside of the courtroom.”

In a criminal case the defendant has the right to be tried in a speedy manner.

“They [criminal cases] require special preference because of the three strikes law where the defendant gets a third felony and receives 25 years to life in prison,” said Rubin. “There are not enough judges or court rooms to handle civil trials because they are busy handling criminal cases. Sometimes they have to wait three to five years before their case is heard in front of a jury.”

In Villa Real vs. the City of West Covina, the lawsuit was originally filed through Superior Court.

Judge Paul Egly, professor and dean emeritus of law, is friends with Judge Jim Piatt, a retired Superior Court Judge appointed by the Superior Court to preside over the case.

Piatt was looking for a place to hold the trial and Egly thought it would be good for ULV students of law to have it at ULV.

“Our students were really excited about it. They could, at their convenience, pop in and see how the court room runs. It was a unique opportunity,” said Rubin.

The jury was chosen by Inland Valley Arbitration Mediation Services (IVAMS), which advertised in local papers requesting volunteers.

There were 400 responses to the ad to be put in the pool to get selected as a juror.

Both parties agreed to pay for the judge, the jury, the court reporter and any other people to run a court.

“It is not cheap, but both parties decided getting the case over sooner is worth the money,” said Rubin.

The jury members were paid $65 a day. The first $50 is the set rate plus an additional $15 for expenses.

The case involved a suspect who was being transported to jail, when supposedly he became belligerent, kicking the police officers.

The police called for backup, including a K-9 unit. The dog got out of the car and allegedly attacked the suspect, Javier Villa Real, between 18-25 years-old, and bit him, supposedly causing him pain in the presence of his mother, Maria Elena Martinez, 57.

Months later, the suspect died for reasons unrelated to the dog bite.

The lawsuit is being brought by his estate and his mother against the police officers who were individually involved and the city.

The personal injury allegation refers to the three police officers on the scene who, the plaintiff claims, failed to keep control of the dog and were negligent in letting him out.

The mother of the victim claimed emotional distress in the lawsuit because she saw her son being bitten by the police dog.

The West Covina Police Department was responding to a call regarding an auto burglary.

Rubin believes that the problems began before the police got Villa Real into the car.

The jury hearing the case worked Monday through Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with an hour and-a-half lunch break at noon.

This trial has the same authority as a Superior Court trial, including the right to appeal. However, both parties agree beforehand to abide by the ruling as though it were in a traditional courtroom.

“The advantage of this trial is that it is a real trial; it is going very quickly with no interruptions that you would get at a court house,” said Rubin.

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