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Since Judge Beckloff’s move to Santa Monica earlier this year, the documents related to the civil cases Beckloff oversees are no longer scanned and added to the online documents system. That meant we only had the public case summary information available to us. Unfortunately case summary system only provides limited information, showing the names of the documents filed, hearing dates and outcomes. While it provides some information, we still have to guess what is happening. As the case summary system showed some new documents at Robson case, I thought it would be best if we can try to get the documents so that we could learn the new developments in both Robson and Safechuck cases. Luckily Betty Brynes graciously agreed to go and get the documents. We wouldn’t have this information if it wasn’t for her. I’m grateful for all her help.

The last information we had about Robson case as follows:

  • -       September 21, 2015 - Judge overruled Estate’s demurer, Robson’s case proceeds to the next phase of discovery and summary judgment.
  • -       November 23, 2015 - Estate appeals Judge’s ruling on demurrer.
  • -       February 17, 2016 – Estate’s appeal has been denied.
  • -       March 3, 2016 – Case schedule including a tentative trial date is set.
  • -       July 13, 2016 – Robson changes lawyers. Manly, Stewart, Finaldi are his new lawyers.

This brings us to August 2016. Case summary has shown two things: mental evaluation of Robson and Robson’s deposition. The motions we got from the court helped us tremendously to learn what happened over the last few months.

MJ Estate Protective Order Robson Deposition: https://www.scribd.com/document/323025122/Mj-Estate-Robson-Deposition

Robson Opposition: https://www.scribd.com/document/323025246/Robson-Deposition-Opposition

After Estate’s appeal were denied, parties started to work on discovery. April 2016, there were some discovery issues about Estate’s responses to Robson’s written discovery request. That dispute was resolved amicably. At this time Estate also told Robson lawyers that they would seeking to take an independent mental examination of Robson and Safechuck.

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May 2016, Robson’s then lawyers agreed to the mental examination in principle and requested Estate to pay Robson’s travel expenses to California (This is normal under CA court rules). June 16, 2016, Estate contacted Robson lawyers to determine the date of the mental examination. Parties agreed on August 1st, 2016.  However Estate couldn’t get a confirmation from Robson lawyers. When they called and asked Robson lawyers said there would be some developments in the case. 2 days later Robson would change his lawyers and his new lawyers would be Manly, Stewart and Finaldi.

Robson’s new lawyers immediately objected to Robson’s independent mental examination happening on August 1st and they tried to renegotiate the terms of the independent mental examination. After discussions parties agreed that the mental examination will happen as previously agreed but they delayed the date of it to August 22, 2016.

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 Soon after Robson’s new lawyers sent a notice that they would be deposing their own client Robson on August 24th, 2016. This was unexpected news for Estate as Robson lawyers never mentioned their intention before.

Then the Robson deposition has turned into a mini war. First Estate was curious as why Robson lawyers were trying to take the deposition of their own client and so soon after the mental evaluation. Robson lawyers’ initial response was that it was because Robson would be in CA for his mental evaluation and it would be a convenient time to get his deposition. Later on in their responses and in their opposition motion, they would mention how abuse victims tend to be high risk for suicide. However Robson lawyers would also state that Robson isn’t actually actively suicidal. Robson lawyers also said that they would only need one hour to depose Robson.

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Understandably Estate wasn’t happy with Robson lawyers setting the deposition date without consulting and seeking an agreement from Estate and forcing the Estate to either depose Robson at that time or not at all. Estate expressed that they wanted to depose Robson after they get the mental examination report from their expert and have time to go over it. According to the court rules, expert doctor will have a month to prepare his report. According to the media, Estate is planning to depose Robson sometime in October. In their opposition papers Robson lawyers question why Estate isn't ready for Robson deposition 3+ years later. Estate repeatedly say they want to depose Robson after they get the results of the mental examination.

Estate responded to Robson lawyers saying if they wanted to depose Robson on August 24th as a precautionary measure, it was fine. Estate lawyers would show up to the deposition and listen. However Estate wanted to preserve their right to depose Robson at a later date, after they got the mental examination report.

Robson lawyers wouldn’t agree to any of it. They wouldn’t budge on August 24th date. Robson lawyers would also say a person can only be deposed once in a case and for 7 hours. They would tell Estate lawyers, they better show up on August 24th and be prepared to ask questions or they would forfeit their chance to depose Robson.  

This prompted Estate to file a motion to preserve their right to depose Robson and depose him more than 7 hours if needed after they completed the necessary discovery and ready to proceed with the deposition.

Estate pointed out that Robson should not allowed to delay mental examination and then force Estate to take his deposition at a time his counsel perceives it to be strategically advantageous.

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In their opposition papers, Robson lawyers keep misrepresenting Estate's position saying Estate wants to forbid them from deposing their own client. However from the start Estate said they were okay with Robson's lawyers deposing him on August 24th. They just wanted to be able to depose Robson at a later date themselves.

According to the case summary Estate’s request was granted. Media (THR) reported that August 24th deposition didn’t happen and the deposition will be sometime in October. Apparently parties also arguing about whether to depose Robson at Hawaii or California.

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In my personal opinion this was a very obvious tactic by the Robson lawyers to force Estate to depose Robson before they can get the mental examination report. Claiming they want to preserve Robson’s testimony because he is high risk for suicide but not actually suicidal doesn’t make any sense at this time. This case has been going on for 3+ years and Estate is planning to depose Robson in 2 months. If there was a suicide risk his deposition should have been brought up long ago. Furthermore if Robson lawyers were truly worried about preserving Robson’s testimony as a precaution, they could have taken their own deposition on the August 24th regardless of when Estate takes Robson deposition. When judge granted Estate’s request and Robson lawyers weren’t able to force Estate to depose Robson unprepared, Robson lawyers suddenly gave up their desire to depose Robson and decided to wait until October.

Finally some tidbits:

  • -       Robson lawyers want to downplay significance of Robson’s deposition, calling it a “simple deposition”.
  •         According to the Estate however Robson’s deposition is “critical”
  • -       Robson family members will be deposed late September 2016.
  •     During discovery Estate have recived Robson's all medical and therapy records.
  • -       Robson mental examination will be done by Dr. Harrison Pope of Harvard University and McLean Hospital.
  • -       Estate is also planning to seek a mental evaluation for Safechuck if his case survives demurrer.
  • -       Safechuck is still represented by Gradstein and Marzano. 
  • -       Robson lawyers are trying to find experts in the areas of Standards of Care as well as Psychiatry / Psychology.
  • -       Motions for summary judgment are due November 2016.

Note about the documents: Both motions had the Robson deposition notice and email exchange between the parties as exhibits. I only scanned those once to save time.