Speak up for those who can’t during Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 21, 2017 | 9:07 am


More than 500,000 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities each year in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are abused or neglected each year, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Sadly, many cases go unreported.

During June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who can’t — our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. For decades, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and beyond. For example:

Joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles in honoring the awareness month locally, the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Awareness month as well.

In all, Elder Abuse Awareness Month aims to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders. It also seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population, and brings together senior citizens, and their caregivers, national and local government, academics, and the private sector to exchange ideas about how best to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder friendly policies.

A challenge, however, lies in the reporting of elder abuse and neglect. For every case known to programs and agencies, 24 are unknown; for financial abuse, only one in 44 cases is known, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services (APS) responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult. Reach the 24-hour hotline at 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care. You can reach them at 661-323-7884.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If someone you know is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, it’s important to retain an elder abuse lawyer right away. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been representing victims of elder abuse and neglect for decades. Reach the elder abuse law firm at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins MADD to honor local officers, prosecutors fighting to end DUI crimes

June 15, 2017 | 8:27 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recognized and honored local law enforcement officers and prosecutors on Wednesday, June 14, for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes.

Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to be a sponsor, supporter and organizer of the event.

In all, more than 70 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded at the 2017 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition ceremony, held at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield. Prosecutors from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office were also honored, with the highest awards going to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer.

“These local heroes are potentially helping save lives by removing DUI offenders from our streets,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “They deserve recognition for making our communities throughout Kern County safer.”

To view the names of all of the officers awarded, click here. Among the top award winners were:

  • Probation Department Award, Deputy Luis Gomez: While Deputy Probation Officer Luis Gomez does not conduct traffic stops to arrest DUI offenders, he does work hard at keeping the community safe by supervising felony probationers to ensure they are not consuming alcohol. He also works tirelessly to ensure these offenders remain in compliance with the orders of the court. Through funding provided by the Office of Transportation and Safety, Officer Gomez supervises 75 high-risk, felony and repeat DUI offenders. In 2016 alone, Officer Gomez conducted 947 home calls and 855 office conferences with these dangerous offenders. In 2016, he conducted 522 urinalysis tests by ETG device and 1,125 Breathalyzer tests. Officer Gomez has been swift in his responses to those who violate Court orders by arresting them or placing them on monitoring programs in an effort to reduce their alcohol consumption. Officer Gomez’ diligence in supervising these high-risk worst of the worst DUI offenders is commendable and has gone a long way to help keep our streets safer for the citizens of Kern County.
  • Top Prosecutor 187 Award, Kern County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn: Michael Yraceburn prosecuted the nation’s first successful murder conviction for driving while impaired by marijuana. That March 2014 crash, in which the suspect was driving close to 80 miles per hour before losing control, killed David Aggio on impact. The suspect was sentenced to 20 years to life.
  • Top Law Enforcement, Bakersfield Police Officer Louis James: Officer James was reassigned to the Bakersfield Police Department’s Traffic Section in July 2015. Since then, he has primarily worked the graveyard shift. As a result, he has been one of the most, if not the most, productive traffic officer in regards to DUI enforcement. Though he was assigned to the traffic section for only a year and a half, he maintained his aggressive DUI enforcement to make the citizens of Bakersfield safer. In 2015, He received an award from MADD California for his efforts, and in 2016 he arrested 247 DUI drivers. This was the most of all traffic units within the department and one of the highest in California.

Prosecutor’s Awards were also handed out by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, and were awarded to Kim Richardson, Garrett Rice and Brad Taconi.

The awards ceremony returned to Bakersfield for 2017 after the loss of federal grant funding and budget cuts prevented the 2016 awards luncheon from being hosted in Kern County. This year, several community sponsors, working with MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, stepped up to make sure officers from all Kern County agencies were being honored for their work in fighting against DUI crimes.

The MADD Kern County Advisory Board includes Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat and marketing director Jorge Barrientos.

Sponsors for the awards luncheon included anonymous donors, Chevron, Kern Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield Police Officers Association, Greenlawn Mortuary, Raymond’s Trophy, Clifford & Bradford Insurance Agency, Sally Herald CPA, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,056 DUI arrests in 2016, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here. Bakersfield’s 2017 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — will be held on Saturday, Sept. 23, at Park at River Walk.

You, too, can be involved in the fight to end drunk and drugged driving locally. You can help by signing up as a walker, runner (5K or 10K), team captain, or volunteer. Parents: The event also features a kid’s “fun run,” where each child of walk and race participants gets a free superhero cape. You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected.

For more information on that event, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

— Alyssa Wood of Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this report. 

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Steps to take to identify and prevent heat-related illness at work

June 7, 2017 | 8:53 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo appeared in the Kern Business Journal

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Summer is here, and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Kern County, employers and employees must take precautions against the summer heat.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death, with local agricultural and construction industries are particularly affected when temperatures rise.

Under California’s Heat Illness Prevention Act, growers and contractors are required to provide water, shade and rest breaks to workers. In addition, supervisors are required to receive training on the signs of heat illness, and fines for not adhering to these rules could reach $25,000.

In addition, employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. To successfully tailor procedures to your work activities, evaluate and consider the special conditions at your work site. An employer should consider the size of the crew, the length of the work-shift, the ambient temperature, and the presence of personal protective equipment or additional sources of heat.

If you as a worker begin to suffer any of the signs or symptoms associated with heatstroke, you should immediately notify supervisors so that remedial steps can be taken. Do not delay in reporting your situation, as heat-related medical conditions can be life-threatening if left unattended. If first aid is not sufficient to treat symptoms or complaints, and medical attention is required, the filing of a workers’ compensation claim may be necessary.

Here are some other notes to keep in mind regarding heat-related illnesses:

 

Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water and salt; in other words, the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, and rapid heartbeat. If not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, the most serious of heat-related illnesses.

During a heatstroke, a person’s core body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, which directly affects the nervous system. Symptoms of heatstroke include fainting, throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, lack of sweating, hot or dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, confusion, disorientation, staggering, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 

Prevention

There are several ways to avoid a heat-related emergency. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid loss. Drink plenty of water when you know you will be in a hot environment. Make sure to wear loose, light, and lightweight clothing when exposed to heat to encourage heat release. Avoid hot, heavy meals during the work day. A heavy meal will divert blood flow to aid with digestion. Make sure to take frequent breaks to rest under shade, and hydrate.

In the event of a heat-related emergency, call 9-1-1. Move the victim to a cool shaded area, and loosen and remove any heavy clothing. If the person is still conscious, have them drink cool water, and try cooling the person down by fanning them. If ice is available, place ice packs are on the person’s head, armpits and groin. Heat-related illnesses are 100 percent preventable.

 

James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney focusing on work injuries at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Two-wheeled transportation safety tips for bike, motorcycle month and beyond

May 31, 2017 | 10:18 am


May is National Bike Month as well as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, where we celebrate the benefits of riding on two wheels, while remembering the dangers of doing so and measures to help keep everyone as safe as possible.

California is ranked No. 4 in the United States for percentage of commuters who bike to work, according to the 2016 Benchmarking Report by the Alliance for Walking & Biking. California was also above the state average in commuters who walk, bike or take public transit to work, and in getting 150 minutes or more of aerobic exercise.

But the increase of people enjoying life on two wheels has unfortunately led to an increase of bicycle and motorcycle accidents on our roadways.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 818 bicycle fatalities in 2015 in the United States, which was a 12 percent rise from the previous year. Nearly 40 percent of all these fatalities were influenced by alcohol. To combat this disturbing trend, California has passed legislation, including the “Move Over Law” which requires motorists to have a 3-foot space from cyclists. Read more about that law here.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe we should all share the road, and be extra careful when driving around motorcyclist and bicyclists.

Our law firm has been a proud partner of Bike Bakersfield, whose mission it is to promote bicycling as a safe, fun and environmentally-friendly means of everyday transportation. Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles served as a sponsor for Project Light Up The Night, where volunteers hand out hundreds of free bicycle lights in various locations throughout Bakersfield. The law firm also donated 100 safety helmets to east Bakersfield students during a Bike Bakersfield “Kidical Mass,” which featured bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.

We ask you, the reader, to take responsibility in making sure our roadways are safe for cyclist and motorist alike. Here are a few tips on how we can make cycling, riding and driving in Bakersfield safer and more enjoyable:

Rules of the Road for All

  • Know the Rules of the Road: Bicycles and motorcycles are considered vehicles on the road with all the rights and responsibilities of automobiles.
  • Be Predictable: Ride in a straight line, use signal turns, and signal lane changes.
  • Be Easily Seen: Dress “bright and tight,” which means being seen, and not getting tangled up in your bike.
  • Think Ahead: Anticipate what other motorists will do next, whether it’s turning, braking or accelerating.
  • Ride Ready: Make sure everything on your bicycle is in working condition.
  • Ride and Drive Focused: Never ride or drive distracted.
  • Safety First: Always wear a helmet when on a bicycle or motorcycle, and a seat belt when in a vehicle. A DOT certified helmet is recommended for riders. Cyclists should consider a horn or bell to get others’ attention, as well as reflectors. Motorcyclists should make sure headlights and taillights are in working order, too.
  • Alcohol and Drug-Free: Never get behind the wheel (or wheels) under the influence of any substance.

For more bicycle and motorcycle safety tips, click here to read previous Blogging for Justice posts related to two-wheel safety.

 

— Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles as soon as possible at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles wins ‘Kern Green Award’ for making positive environmental impact in Kern County

May 24, 2017 | 10:04 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has been awarded a 2017 Kern Green Award, which recognizes business, organizations and individuals going above and beyond to make a positive environmental impact in Kern County.

The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm won the award in the “Green Building Material and Design” category for the array of “green” features in its new office in downtown Bakersfield.

The Kern Green Awards Gala took place May 10 at Aera Energy LLC. Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney and partner Jim Yoro and marketing director Jorge Barrientos accepted the award from representatives of Granite Construction, which sponsored the award.

“We here at the law firm are committed not only to the revitalization of the downtown Bakersfield area, but we want to do so in an environmentally conscious way,” said Yoro, veteran workers’ compensation lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, accepting the award. “We took the initiative when we were building our new office to keep that in mind, and go ‘green’ as much as we could.”

 

‘GREEN’ BUILDING 

After spending 30 years in the Bank of America building on Chester and Truxtun avenues, the 83-year-old local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles moved into a new building, and in doing so contributed tremendously to the revitalization of downtown Bakersfield.

The six-month renovation of the 30,000 square-foot building on the southwest corner of Chester Avenue and 18th Street changed the landscape of one of downtown Bakersfield’s most historic intersections. With the help of architect Paul Skarphol and contractor Dave Whitezell, Chain | Cohn | Stiles took a shell of a building that once housed Goodwill Industries and sat vacant for nearly three years, and turned it into a modern workplace for the 30-employee firm, while instilling “green” measures that took into account our environment.

Some of the green elements instilled by Chain | Cohn | Stiles include:

  • LED, energy efficient lighting throughout the building, which use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Motion sensor lighting and outlets to guarantee computers and other equipment aren’t wasting energy.
  • Cutting-edge, high-tech, energy-efficient climate control system to cut down on unnecessary heating and air conditioning; more than 20 thermostat stations. The Daikin air conditioning and heating unit uses an inverter that can save 30 percent more in energy than traditional non-inverter units. Considering HVAC systems occupy about 40 percent of a building’s entire energy consumption, the savings are immense.
  • Water-based paint.
  • Recycled carpet.

In addition, the front lobby – with hanging LED ring lights, a glass LED lit logo sign – is a welcoming sight for clients and visitors. New windows were also cut into 17-inch reinforced concrete walls on the north side of the building, creating more natural light into work spaces. The law firm has worked with Boss Pizza and Bakersfield Downtown Business Association to install energy-saving lights to make the alleyway and nearby area safer.

A challenge for law firms who care about the environment involves the huge amounts of paper produced. To tackle this challenge, Chain | Cohn | Stiles scans and stores all documents electronically. The firm also employs email and fax capabilities, which do not require the printing of documents to send.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 7, 2015, and celebrated its one-year anniversary in the building in late 2016. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was nominated for a Beautiful Bakersfield Award, also received the Downtown Beautification Project award from the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association.

 

KERN GREEN

Kern Green, a local non-profit committed to protecting the environment through education and awareness, partners with local organizations to promote a more sustainable future in Kern County. Kern Green works with residents, schools, businesses, other local non-profits and the community to demonstrate the social, economic and environmental benefits of integrating green practices in daily work and professional life. Kern Green intends to focus on the positive sustainability efforts in Kern County and celebrate them with the public.

Kern County has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in California, and Bakersfield ranks as having one of the worst air pollution ratings in the country. The level of air pollution in the region of Kern County poses both environmental and public health risks. From increased respiratory diseases to damage to the area’s ecosystems, there is a serious need to address the air pollution problem in this region. While geographical and topographical issues play a role in the problem, the level of industrial activities, the presence of major transportation corridors, and the car-dominant design of the population centers also contribute heavily to the region’s problems. The Kern Green program provides education and resources for businesses and residents to reduce their environmental impact and improve quality-of-life in the region.

The Kern Green Awards banquet acknowledges and provides positive reinforcement to students, educators, businesses and individuals for their efforts to perform green and sustainable practices.

To see photos from the 2017 Kern Green Awards Banquet, please click here.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo delivers keynote speech at CSU Bakersfield’s ‘Chicano Commencement Celebration’

May 17, 2017 | 9:28 am


Beatriz Trejo, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorney, was recently honored to deliver the keynote speech at the CSU Bakersfield “Chicano Commencement Celebration” held May 14 at the Icardo Center.

Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. She returned to Bakersfield after earning her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio.

She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, Bakersfield Chapter. She also supports local programs focused on advancing Latinos and Latinas in Kern County, including Latina Leaders of Kern County and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Academy. Recently, she was selected as the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

CSUB celebrated its first “Chicano Commencement Celebration” in the spring of 1980.

“It is a celebration of the Latino struggle in higher education and of growing academic success of all underrepresented communities,” said Dr. Thomás Martinez, professor of public administration at CSUB.

Trejo delivered the speech in front of more than 200 graduates, and over 3,500 in attendance. Her complete speech is below:

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Primero que nada, le quiero desear un muy feliz Dia de las Madres a todas las madres presentes, incluyendo a la mía quien es esta aquí hoy. A las que apoyaron as sus graduados y a las que hoy celebran su propia graduación.

I’d like to thank Omar Correa, the Chicano commencement planning committee, and Cal State Bakersfield for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. This is a tremendous honor.

By now you’ve heard it from your family, faculty, significant others, SnapChat and Instagram friends, but I will say it again: Congratulations — #TurnUp.

For those of you that don’t know me, and haven’t had a chance to google me, I am an attorney here in Bakersfield who sat in your seat 14 years ago. I am like you from the future. I really doubt google says that last part.

I was informed by the commencement committee that there are 215 graduates in attendance today and we have over 3,500 people in the audience. That means each of you brought an average of 16 guests.

Let’s think about that for a minute. That means that only half of your cousins got tickets.

But seriously, this means that each and every one of you has an entire community that not only supports you but is proud and wants to see you succeed. As Latino college graduates You have beaten the odds. You fought and struggled and today you celebrate this great accomplishment.  You beat the odds that were stacked against you when it came to high school graduation rates, college enrollment, retention, and now graduation.

You as educated Latinos you now carry all of our hopes and dreams for this community, mine included. Your success reflects on all of us. Our hope is that you will bring about change, change here in Bakersfield and our communities and neighborhoods.

Whether you like it or not, you will now be held to a higher standard than others. I don’t think this is news to anyone here. For the Latina women here today, this goes double for you.

I have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a juris doctorate’s degree, three years of experience working in higher education, and five years as an attorney, yet not a week goes by that I am not mistaken for a secretary or an interpreter. Please don’t misunderstand me for these are perfectly fine professions, but not once has anyone assumed that I was the managing partner of my firm.

A while back, I was at a mediation with two senior partners. Once we reached a settlement, we all sat down together and I began reviewing the terms of the agreement, to which I told our opposing counsel that there were terms in the document we would not agree to. With a look of dismay, he turned to my boss and asked ‘is this your paralegal?’ After I explained to him my role he agreed to our proposed changes. I think this was more shocking to my boss than it was to me. Unfortunately, I see this much too often. The challenge for me that day was balancing professional decorum and civility with pride and ego.

You too will have those challenging days, days when someone will challenge your ability not based on your performance but based on what you look like. It is the hard days the days that challenge you to very core that will determine who you are; your character will be defined not just by what you achieve but also by how you react in the face of that challenge.

Our lives are shaped by the cutting edge of our experiences. I want you to keep this in mind, your struggles and challenges have made you a better candidate for success.

Fourteen years ago while sitting where you are sitting now I had a plan, I knew exactly what my life would be both in my personal life and in my professional life. I cannot tell you how happy I am that those plans failed. I would not be speaking to you today had those plans came to fruition.

About a decade ago I was living in L.A., freshly introduced to the world of student debt working a job that was not very challenging; needless to say, I was very frustrated with this situation. I assumed right after graduating with a master’s degree, doors would open and I would find the career of my dreams. This did not happen. I took this as a failure on my part. This is when I learned the piece of advice I want to pass on to you – there is no such thing as a failure, only a change of plans.

To give you an example: I know there are some of you that perhaps failed a class in your time here at Cal State, but you did not allow that failure to be an option, you kept going. You took the class again, you changed majors, or you were able to compensate with other classes. But for you failure was not an option, you simply had a change of plans.

As for me, I took my career failure and began to look into other careers. Somehow, I got the brilliant idea that I could go to law school because frankly, I didn’t know any better.

I enrolled at the University of Akron school of law in northeast Ohio. I was one of only three Latinos in the entire entering class. There were so few minorities at this school that the Asians and Latinos had to unite in order to have enough students for a student club, so we had the Asian-Latino law student association. Not only that, but there were no good Mexican restaurants in Akron, Ohio  and it snowed 5 months out of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ohio. But if someone would have told me on the day I graduated from Cal State Bakersfield that five years later I would be in Ohio, unemployed, and digging my car out the snow in order to make it to class, I would have said, ‘You have the wrong person.”

The same goes for you. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans and by no means should a change in plans be considered a failure.

Having a plan is great, but just know that you will likely have several changes of plan throughout your life, but each change of direction is only getting you closer to where you need to be. Where you are needed and where you can provide the most benefit to those around you.

And as you start your journey into the post-grad era of your life remember that your path will be unique and there is no point in comparing your path to others. With social media it is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others or creating an alternate version of your life for others. In the end no one cares what you had for lunch and anyone that knows you, knows that you are not that pretty without a filter. #Truth True identity is not found in any app in your phone. Your identity is something that you are constantly earning; it is an ongoing and ever evolving process.

So for those of you graduating with a plan, good for you, you are on the right track, and for those of you graduating without a plan, good for you, you are on the right track. Remember that this is a world of infinite possibilities. Do not feel that your next step is the most important step you’ll ever take. It’s not. It is simply another step in the evolution of you.

Do not feel rushed to feel that sense of accomplishment. It took me 14 years and in invitation to speak at the Chicano commencement before I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Los planes son geniales pero las metas son mejores. Plans are great, but goals are better.

A goal is not nearly as rigid as a plan. Your goal could simply be to help others, or to provide for you family. The path that your goals will take you, will be ever changing. No matter what goal you set for yourself today I can honestly tell you that achieving a goal will not come without hard work.

When I was in law school a professor shared this piece of advice that has stuck with me throughout the years. He said, ‘throughout your career you will encounter opposing counsel that will be smarter than you, more experienced than you, and with more resources than you, but they will not outwork you. That’s the part that you control.’

We cannot control our background, we cannot control our upbringing, we cannot control our gender, or race, or the state of the economy, we cannot control the cards we were dealt, but we can control how hard we work to achieve our goals.

We can control how late we stay and how early we arrive. We know that we cannot knock on doors and climb the ladder of success with our hands in our pockets. Most of us learned our work ethic from our parents. Before all the graduation celebrations are over make sure to thank your parents and those who supported you  for their hard work and sacrifice.

Así de duro como han trabajado para llegar aquí hoy, ellos han trabajado más duro para darles la oportunidad de estar aquí hoy. As hard as you have worked to get here today, they have worked harder to give you the opportunity to be here today.

Make sure to thank that entire community that is here for you, even the ones that didn’t get a ticket are happy and proud of you.

In fact, let’s thank them right now. Can I get all of the graduates to stand up for moment? OK, I want you to turn to the audience and give them a round of applause.

Class of 2017, as you leave here today, I would like for you to continue to think of Cal State Bakersfield as your home. This university has now been my home for over a decade. In fact, I continue to attend alumni events. Just a few days ago, I attended the Spring barbecue. In 2011, I studied for the bar exam on the third floor of the library. I left a pink sweater there that hopefully is still in lost and found. The point being is that this university is also part of your community of support.

In conclusion, I leave you with the following thought. The poet, Omar Kyaam, once said, “Not one returns to tell us of the road, which to discover we must travel ourselves.” I have returned to tell you that your road to self-discovery is just beginning. Embrace the journey ahead.

Enjoy your commencement festivities, you have earned every minute. Felicidades

‘Law Day at the Mall’ provides free legal advice to people of Kern County

May 10, 2017 | 10:15 am


Once a year, lawyers throughout Kern County come together for one day to offer free legal advice to anyone who may have a legal question.

It’s called “Law Day at the Mall,” and it took place on May 4 at Valley Plaza Mall in Bakersfield.

“What we try to do is give the public the opportunity to come out for a few hours talk to lawyer in a variety of fields and ask whatever questions they may have, and get some free information,” said James Yoro, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer on KGET-17’s Sunrise Show. Yoro also serves as the president of the Kern County Bar Association.

Yoro continued: “What we try to do is give people the opportunity to have a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting with lawyers that they normally may not go to, but here’s their opportunity to ask whatever legal questions they may have and hopefully get some answers to help them in whatever their situation might be … All of their attorneys are volunteering their time on a pro-bono basis, so that members of the public will get this opportunity.”

“Law Day” is presented by the Kern County Bar Association in collaboration with the Kern County Law Library, which is a self-help center that provides legal resources to assist those representing themselves in court. First celebrated in 1958, Law Day is a day to honor the rule of law, and an opportunity to educate the public. It’s officially celebrated on May 1 each year in the United States.

“Law Day” is celebrated in other places throughout Kern County as well. At Bakersfield College each year, the campus hosts a conference focused on law, including panels and information sessions for prospective law school students.

It’s also a chance for individuals to discuss these issues with the confidential nature of an attorney-client relationship without actually forming such a relationship. Dozens of attorneys are available during “Law Day at the Mall,” and have expertise on family law, criminal defense, real estate, personal injury, workers’ compensation, immigration, and much more.

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or at the fault of someone else, please call the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. Chain | Cohn | Stiles always provide free consultations on your potential injury case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, attorney David Cohn selected among the ‘Best of Kern County’ for fifth year straight

May 3, 2017 | 9:27 am


For the fifth year straight, the people of Kern County have voted Chain | Cohn | Stiles as one of the best law firms in the area, and managing partner David K. Cohn as one of the best lawyers.

The law firm and Mr. Cohn were each selected as one of three finalists, named a “Favorite,” in the annual Bakersfield Californian Readers’ Choice Poll, also called the “Best of Bakersfield” or “Best of Kern County” poll. The contest for more than 20 years has had readers of The Bakersfield Californian and Bakersfield Life Magazine choose their favorite people, places, businesses and organizations in the Kern County area.

The poll this year featured more than 75 categories and received hundreds of thousands of votes, according to Bakersfield Life Magazine.

“Readers make their voices heard in selecting the people, places and organizations that exemplify excellence in Bakersfield,” according to the publication. “The competition is fierce and, at times, unforgiving but the honor of being dubbed ‘Best Of’ is well worth it.”

Winners were announced April 29 in the May 2017 issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine.

“Five years ago, when the ‘Best of Kern County’ poll featured the ‘Best Law Firm’ and ‘Best Lawyer’ categories for the first time, local residents gave myself and the law firm the biggest compliment by voting us as one of the ‘best’ in these categories,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer David K. Cohn. “Five years later, and Kern County residents continue to endorse us. We are deeply humbled, and grateful for this honor and will continue to do all we can to help the people of Kern County during their times of need.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the oldest personal injury law firm in Bakersfield, with attorneys and staff bred locally, giving them an extra edge that other firms would never have. In all, the staff and attorneys at the law firm care about their hometown, and hold those accountable to make sure local residents are treated properly.

As an example, take this testimonial from a confidential plaintiff who was sexually assaulted by a law enforcement officer. Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented her and her family in the case:

“They talked to me through everything and even helped me look for a therapist to help me deal with everything. They made sure I was well taken care of. We think of them like family now. They made the whole process 10 times easier than it could have gone.”

Added the plaintiff’s mother: “I felt like they wanted to help, and we felt safe and comfortable. Never did we feel pressure to do anything we didn’t want to do. I felt like they really felt the trauma we were going through. Our problems were their problems. As a mother, I was appreciative. We’ll always remember how they treated us. It was a tough time and they took care of us. They will always have a place in my heart. To me, they are family.”

To read more real-life testimonials from real clients of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, including video testimonials, click here.

And to read the 2017 “Best of” issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine, click here.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident due to the fault of someone else, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com for a free consultation on your case.

Wrongful death case involving speeding deputy continues after plea deal in criminal case

April 26, 2017 | 9:37 am


A former Kern County Sheriff’s deputy has pleaded “no contest” in connection with a crash that killed a 72-year-old Oildale woman in 2014, a crash also connected to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of her family.

Nicholas Clerico will receive three years probation, must pay a $570 fine and serve 240 hours of community service after pleading no contest on April 25 to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when Clerico struck and killed her in his speeding patrol car. The filing came after the California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) report found Deputy Clerico at fault in the September 2014 crash, at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark, who is representing Garrett’s family in the case, commented to local media on Clerico’s plea and the ongoing wrongful death civil lawsuit.

“In talking with the family, they’re glad that (Clerico) has finally accepted some responsibility for what he did,” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian, adding that the family, however, has not received closure, and continues to mourn Garrett’s loss. “This was no accident. This was totally preventable.”

Family members have described Nancy as a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and the pillar of her family. She was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provides DUI awareness services. At the time of the crash, she was returning home from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Garrett’s family is seeking changes within the sheriff’s department in how deputies are trained to drive. Her death, unfortunately, is not the only one related to driving by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies.

  • Larry Maharrey was killed when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive in Oildale directly into Maharrey’s motorcycle. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash. That wrongful death case represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is ongoing.
  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were killed in December 2011 when Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed them as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled that case in March 2014 for $8.8 million.

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Chain | Cohn Stiles supports Kern County’s first dance and disability program

April 19, 2017 | 10:56 am


Kern Dance Alliance has teamed up with the League of Dreams to bring the first dance and disability program to Kern County, called “danceABILITY,” and Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to help make the program possible.

The dance program is led by AXIS Dance Company, one of the world’s most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities. Its aim is to inspire diverse populations to dance. League of Dreams is a nonprofit adaptive sports program for athletes ages 5-22 with physical and developmental disabilities.

The danceABILITY program will take place over five weeks beginning in October. Participants, ages 5 to 22, will learn inclusive, creative dance that is accessible to movers with and without physical disabilities, and will culminate with a performance at the historic Bakersfield Fox Theater.

It’s sponsored by Chevron, Garces Memorial High School, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“Dance is another form of expression, and every person, regardless of their abilities, should have the opportunity to express themselves through this avenue,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller, who is also a member on the League of Dreams Board of Directors. “Plus it’s fun!”

Registration for the program opens Aug. 1, and takes place from Oct. 7 to Nov. 4 at Garces Memorial High School.

AXIS Dance Company exists “to change the face of dance and disability through artistry, engagement and advocacy,” according to the company. Based in Oakland since 1987, AXIS is the nation’s most acclaimed ensembles of performers with and without disabilities, and has toured to over 100 cities in the United States, Europe and Russia. You may have seen the company on FOX TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“Through education and outreach programs thousands of children and adults of all ages and abilities are inspired to dance each year,” the company states.

AXIS Dance Company will be hosting a teacher training in physically integrated dance for those interested in providing dance classes for the disabled community, while learning from the world’s leading dance and disability experts. The “AXIS Dance Company Teacher Training in Physically Integrated Dance Course” on May 6 includes learning and experiencing participatory exercises and activities for use in classrooms as well as discussion about disability, language, and the development of AXIS’ inclusive community education program.

The cost for educators is $100 for Kern Dance Alliance members or $125 for non-Kern Dance Alliance members. For more information, go to kerndance.org.

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If you or someone you know is injured at the fault of someone else, call the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. To learn more about lawyer Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller, visit her biography page here.