Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of bicycle lights, safety helmets this fall

October 18, 2017 | 9:26 am


At least 30 pedestrians and bicyclists in Kern County have lost their lives in roadway accidents in 2017. Many of them were not properly illuminated during night hours.

As part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, Bike Bakersfield – in partnership with Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Kern Family Health Care – will be giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County over several weeks starting this Thursday, Oct. 19.

“Project Light Up The Night” is Bike Bakersfield’s annual program that delivers sets of free bicycle lights in parts of our community where bicycles are used the most – Oildale, Arvin, east Bakersfield, and southeast Bakersfield. This year, free safety helmets of all sizes will also be provided thanks to support from the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Bike Bakersfield staff and volunteers will install lights for immediate use, and educate bicyclists on how to properly fit and adjust helmets. One set of lights and one helmet will be given per person with his or her bicycle present.

“Many cyclists still ride at night without lights, a practice that is illegal and life-threatening. And with the sun setting early this time of year, it is important that bicyclists be visible on the roadway,” said Jack Becker, Bike Bakersfield program manager. “Being visible to motorists is a key part of staying safe while riding a bicycle on the road, and these bright LED lights will let drivers know you’re there.”

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which often sees victims of vehicle versus bicycle accidents, providing safety equipment to children and adult bike riders who otherwise cannot afford one is just one key step toward improving safety on our roadways. The law firm for several years now has partnered with Bike Bakersfield in its “Kidical Mass” bike repair, safety demonstration, a group bike ride program, as well as the safety light and helmet giveaway.

“We hope these programs led by Bike Bakersfield not only helps raise awareness of the importance of bicycle safety and sharing the road with all vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, but also will help decrease the number of injuries caused by crashes here in Kern County,” said David Cohn, managing partner and veteran personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

If you are a bicycle rider in need of a bicycle light or safety helmet, please take note of the following details to collect yours:

  • WHAT: Bike Bakersfield’s “Project Light Up The Night”
  • WHO: All residents who arrive with a bicycle are eligible for free lights and a helmet
  • WHEN: From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays (Oct. 19, Oct. 26, Nov. 2 and Nov. 9)
  • WHERE: Four locations: Corner of Roberts Lane and N. Chester Avenue in Oildale; Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue in east Bakersfield; Planz Park in south Bakersfield; and Bike Arvin in Arvin. Click here to view a map for locations.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Property maintenance is key to avoid injuries, premises liability claims

October 11, 2017 | 9:31 am


Premises-Hazard-Blog

The following article by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark appeared in the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here

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Maintaining your property so that it is safe for your customers, employees and visitors should be a top priority for all businesses. Premises liability lawsuits are one the most common claims made against businesses.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we regularly receive calls from Kern County residents injured due to poorly maintained property. Oftentimes, these injuries lead to cases, and these cases end up in litigation, costing businesses time and money. In almost every instance, the injury, and subsequent lawsuit, could have been avoided with proper maintenance and inspection, and a basic understanding of premises liability law.

Premises liability claims typically fall into one of two major categories: standard premises liability, or premises liability against a public entity, oftentimes referred to as a “dangerous condition of public property.” In this article, we will focus on the former, which applies to all private businesses and an injury claim made by a non-employee. Also, it is important to note that an injury claimed by an employee normally falls into the worker’s compensation system, which is a “no fault” system, meaning the law relating to liability is largely inapplicable.

Premises liability claims

If someone claims to be injured on your property, he or she needs to prove four things to win their case:

  1. That you owned, leased and/or controlled the property;
  2. That you were negligent in the use or maintenance of your property;
  3. That they suffered an injury; and,
  4. That your negligence was a substantial factor in causing their injury.

Property owners are expected to use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions, and to repair or give warning of any condition that could be reasonably expected to harm others. If an injured party can ultimately prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property, that the owner knew or should have known the condition was present on the property, and that the owner failed to correct the condition, or give adequate warning, the injured party will likely prevail.

But how does it work in a practical sense?  If, for example, you fail to maintain your parking lot to the extent that it is full of potholes, uneven surfaces, or broken and cracked asphalt and someone falls, you may be liable for their injuries. If a customer spilled something inside your store and you have no protocol or procedure in place to regularly inspect the condition of the floor, and then hours later another customer slips and falls, you could be liable. If your business operates at night, and you have an area outside that is so poorly lit that things like curbs, parking bumpers, or medians are invisible and someone falls, you could be liable.

What you can do

As a best practice, your business should regularly inspect your property and keep a record of the inspections (think of inspection records inside most public restrooms, for example). If during an inspection, you come across a condition or defect that poses a danger to others, you should immediately cordon off the area, put up warnings if necessary – such as wet floor signs or warning tape – and then correct the defect as quickly possible.

Under most circumstances, businesses make timely repairs to defects they are aware of. The failure occurs when there is not a regular inspection policy in place, and defects go unnoticed.

So, if you take one bit of advice away from this brief article it should be: put a policy in place to regularly inspect your businesses’ property, do the inspections, and keep a record that you did it.

Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, industrial accidents, and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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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.

Veteran local law enforcement officer, spokesman joins Chain | Cohn | Stiles as investigator

October 4, 2017 | 8:44 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles — the Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm — has welcomed a new investigator to its team, and it’s a familiar face for Kern County.

Ray Pruitt, who served as a media spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office for nearly a decade, will be assisting in case development and management, and gathering vital evidence and information for personal injury cases at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Pruitt has nearly 25 years of law enforcement and investigative experience. He began his career in 1988 with the Bakersfield Police Department, worked as a private investigator for three years, and joined the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in 2001. He worked in the KCSO Crime Prevention Department and was the spokesman / public information officer for nearly eight years.

“I have lived my entire life in Kern County and have spent the last 25 years working to serve and protect the citizens of our great community,” Pruitt said. “I feel extremely fortunate to be a member of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles team, a law firm with a rich tradition of protecting the rights of and seeking justice for those who have been victimized.”

Pruitt grew up in Delano and graduated from McFarland High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Phoenix, a worker’s compensation law certificate from CSU Bakersfield. He has taught criminal justice classes at both the college and law enforcement academy level. Ray has testified as a criminal court expert in Kern County Superior Court, and is well known in the law enforcement and business community in Kern County.

He’s been married for 25 years, and has two adult children – a student at CSU Bakersfield the other a student Bakersfield College – as well as a grandson.

Pruitt joins an experienced personal injury department that includes partners David CohnMatt Clark and Neil Gehlawat, and associate attorneys Tanya AlsheikhChad Boyles and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller. Other attorneys on the law firm’s team include partner James Yoro and associate attorney Beatriz Trejo in the workers’ compensation department.

“Standing up for victims and helping them when they have been harmed by the actions of another person is something I am very passionate about,” Pruitt said. “I have spent the majority of my adult life working to help those who need help, and helping their families as well. Ultimately, helping people gain some sense of closure when they have been harmed due to the actions of another is what I am most looking forward to at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Pruitt was recently featured in the “People in Business” section of The Bakersfield Californian. See it here. 

Follow Pruitt on Facebook at Facebook.com/raypruittchaincohnstiles. And to learn more about Pruitt, visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles website at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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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.

Fourth annual ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’, presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, brings out 1,000, raises over $80,000 for MADD Kern County

September 27, 2017 | 9:18 am


Kern County came together Saturday morning at the Park at River Walk to support victims of DUI crashes, call for an end of drunk and drugged driving, and raise more than $80,000 for MADD Kern County in the process.

The fourth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in locally, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Bringing out around 1,000 people registered for a kid’s fun run, 5K and 10K, the event has become one of the largest fundraising running events in Kern County, according to Bakersfield Track Club.

The morning featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman, Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and Bakersfield Councilman Andrae Gonzales, among others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club, timed 5K and 10K runs, with medals awarded in age categories, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

Besides serving as a presenting sponsor, Chain | Cohn | Stiles plays a role in organizing the event. Marketing Director Jorge Barrientos serves as the planning committee chairman, attorney Matt Clark leads the sponsorship committee, and attorney Neil Gehlawat serves as a member of the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.

“This event keeps growing each year, which shows that Kern County has had enough. Our local residents want safer streets,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “We hope Kern County will continue alongside us for the next 365 days as we work to prevent this 100 percent preventable crime, and ultimately end drunk and drugged driving.”

Joining in the event as sponsors were Chain | Cohn | Stiles (presenting sponsor), Chevron, Wells Fargo, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Special Treatment Education & Prevention Services Inc., FedEx, Johnson Attorneys Group, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Ira and Carole Cohen of UBS Financial Services, and Davita.

Media sponsors included KGET-17 and Telemundo, KERO-23 ABC, Eyewitness News KBAK-KBFX, Bakersfield Life Magazine, and KUZZ. “Friends of MADD” sponsors included Action Sports, Bakersfield Track Club, Challenge the Bear, Coud Nine Coffee Co. Costco, Hire A Hero So-Cal, Kern High School District, Martin’s Meats, Wood & Randall, and Sully’s.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, with results being posted on the Bakersfield Track Club website. You can view the complete results here.

Awards were also given to the following top fundraisers:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Prayers for Jourdan
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: Todd Farnsworth
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney
  • Corporate Challenge: Kern Schools Federal Credit Union

As of September 2017, 17 people in Kern County had died this year from crashes caused by people who chose to get behind the wheel while under the influence, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. Hundreds more have been injured with thousands of friends and families affected. Kern County is averaging 11 DUI arrests per day.

Since 2014, the annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has raised nearly $250,000, including this year. It’s not too late to join and donate – donations are accepted until Nov. 22 at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Longtime local attorney, community advocate Milt Younger dies at 86

September 6, 2017 | 9:30 am


Milton Younger, a former esteemed attorney and partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, who spent 53 years at the law firm, died Sept. 1 at age 86.

“Milt was not only a leader in Kern County’s legal community for many decades, but he was also a leader through his generous volunteerism with many other local organizations,” said David K. Cohn, nephew of Younger and current managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Above all else, Milt stood for the working man and woman, and always believed in the fight for the ‘little guy.’ It is that mission that drives our law firm to this very day. He’s an inspiration to many, including myself, as he is the reason I entered the legal world.”

Younger was born July 8, 1931, in Bakersfield, attending Bakersfield High School, and returned to his hometown after graduating from Stanford University, where he received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science.

Milt joined the law firm founded by Morris B. Chain full time in 1956, and took over leadership in 1964. In 2008, He separated from the firm, and the law firm’s name was changed from Chain Younger to Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Younger was a leader of community service, becoming active in local and statewide Democratic politics, labor unions and the arts. The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and CSU Bakersfield were especially close to his heart. In addition, his law firm promoted diversity in its workforce, becoming one of the first locally to hire Latino, black and Asian attorneys. He followed Morris Chain’s legal mission, in becoming an apprentice, to stand up for the ‘little guy.’

Among awards, Younger received the Presidential Award of Merit from Consumer Attorneys of California, the prestigious Bench and Bar Award from the Kern County Bar Association, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kern County Democratic Party, an honorary doctorate from CSUB, and many more. His successes in court led to safety improvements in machinery and equipment in oilfields and other industries. He was most proud in his efforts to make child safety seats both safer and mandatory.

Milt leaves behind his wife Betty and three daughters, Lynda, Lisa and CeCe.

Update: A chapel service will be hosted at 10 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 6, 2017) at Greenlawn Funeral Home Northeast, 3700 River Boulevard. A private graveside service will follow. 

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files claim against City of Bakersfield on behalf of teenager beaten, falsely arrested by police

August 30, 2017 | 3:50 pm


Tatyana Hargrove, an African-American teenage victim of police brutality this summer in a case that received national attention, has filed a legal claim against the City of Bakersfield and its police officers.

Hargrove, her parents, and her attorneys from Chain | Cohn | Stiles hosted a press conference to discuss the claim, and excessive force case that has received national attention, and answered questions about how this experience has affected her and what she hopes to achieve through civil court.

Hargrove was riding her bicycle on June 18 in southwest Bakersfield in search of a Father’s Day gift when Bakersfield Police Department officers stopped and detained her at gunpoint. In the course of the encounter, Hargrove was punched and kneed in the face and bitten severely by a police dog. The police officers claimed they mistook her for a male suspect. Hargrove – who is 19 years old, 5-feet, 2-inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds – suffered major face and leg injuries, in addition to the obvious emotional trauma.

Police initially charged her with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, interfering with a peace officer’s animal, and resisting an executive officer. On Aug. 2, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against her. A video produced by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP regarding the incident has garnered nearly 8 million and attracted national media attention.

“What happened to Tatyana Hargrove is a serious injustice, but perhaps what is even more troubling is that this appears to be a pattern of conduct by the Bakersfield Police Department,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, who is representing Hargrove. “This case is not just about obtaining justice for Tatyana, but about confronting these wider problems.”

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INCIDENT / VIDEO MEDIA COVERAGE

INVESTIGATION / RALLY / BAKERSFIELD POLICE APOLOGY MEDIA COVERAGE

CHARGES DROPPED MEDIA COVERAGE

CLAIM FILED / PRESS CONFERENCE MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles matches donation to MADD Kern County by mother of Tehachapi teenager who died after being struck, killed by DUI driver

August 23, 2017 | 8:44 am


The mother of Leslie Balderrama, a Tehachapi teenager who was struck and killed by a DUI driver in 2015, has donated $2,500 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, following the settlement of her wrongful death lawsuit.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the law firm that represented mother Denise Natividad, matched the donation. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

“When we became victims of a DUI crime, MADD Kern County became our advocate and worked hard to make sure we had a voice, and treated our family with compassion,” said Denise Natividad, mother of Leslie Balderrama. “We’re able to give back now and help another local family who unfortunately will have to deal with the aftermath of the actions of a drunk or drugged driver.”

Added Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney for the Natividad family:

“The crash that claimed the life of Leslie Baldarrama was incredibly tragic and 100 percent avoidable like all DUI crashes. Our law firm is honored to continue to help MADD Kern County, and it’s touching to know that Leslie’s family feels the same way.”

The $5,000 will go toward the fourth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County’s annual event that raises funds to help innocent victims of local DUI crashes, raises awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund MADD Kern County programs, including the court advocate program that helped the Natividad family through the criminal trial. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is serving as a presenting sponsor for the event.

“Our wish is to get to a point where MADD Kern County’s services aren’t needed,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist with MADD Kern County. “Until then, we’re grateful for the support from Denise Natividad, which helps us continue to advocate for victims, and fight to end drunk and drugged driving in Kern County forever.”

The 2017 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash will be held the morning of Sept. 23 at Park at River Walk. You can help by signing up to walk, run (free kid’s fun run, 5K or 10K), joining as a team captain, donating or volunteering. The family of Leslie Balderrama has formed a team, and will be in attendance. For more information, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit against Bakersfield convalescent hospital after patient’s fall, death

August 2, 2017 | 8:03 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a lawsuit against Valley Convalescent Hospital in Bakersfield on behalf of the family of an 80-year-old patient who died as a result of neglect at the facility.

Robert Hopkins fell from his bed in February while housed at the facility after a nursing assistant failed to ensure a guard rail was properly set. He suffered a fracture in his vertebrae below the skull, spent a week in the hospital, returned to Valley Convalescent Hospital on Feb. 28, and died the following day.

The California Department of Public Health determined Hopkins’ death was a result of his fall. The Department fined the facility $100,000 and it received the most severe penalty under California law (Class AA Citation). Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed an elder neglect and wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Hopkins’ family.

“The purpose of filing this lawsuit is to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring again in the future,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat. Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced the filing of the lawsuit during a press conference, streamed live by KERO-23, ABC. “Valley Convalescent and other skilled nursing facilities need to understand that if they drop the ball when it comes to patient safety, there will be consequences, and those consequences will be severe.”

Valley Convalescent Hospital has had a long history of complaints for elder abuse and neglect. Since 2012, the California Department of Public Health has recorded nine complaints of patients falling, and has taken action against the facility 15 times since 2006, according to reports. Valley Convalescent has been fined more than $160,000 since 2003. This year, it has received eight complaints, and the Department has found 28 deficiencies, reports show.

The family of Robert Hopkins hopes to prevent future similar incidents in Kern County. The Hopkins family is being represented by Neil K. Gehlawat and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller of Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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VALLEY CONVALESCENT FINES, PENALTIES COVERAGE

LAWSUIT MEDIA COVERAGE

The death of Benjamin Greene and the legal issues surrounding it

July 12, 2017 | 10:06 am


On June 20, 2017, local lawyer Benjamin Greene collapsed and died while running in a 5K run at Hart Park. Temperatures were soaring in Bakersfield during the race, hovering around 107 degrees.

Immediately, civil liability and legal questions arose, and local media contacted the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for expert legal opinions.

Questions circled around waivers distributed to all runners by Bakersfield Track Club, water and hydration stations available during the event, aid stations and medical care on site, “assumption of risk,” gross negligence, and more.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matthew Clark was interviewed by The Bakersfield Californian about the incident. Clark stated it was too early to come to any hard and fast conclusions about the circumstances behind the tragedy — Greene left behind a wife and nine children.

Legally speaking, Clark said, it was important to explore two major areas in investigating the question of civil liability: the waiver ostensibly signed by each 5K participant, and a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk.”

“Was there a waiver?” Clark stated in The Bakersfield Californian. “Was it signed for that event, that date? Did it have all the right language?”

According to the track club’s website, the waiver reads as follows:

“In consideration of this entry acceptance, I hereby for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, waive all of my rights for damages I may have against the County of Kern, the Bakersfield Track Club, the race sponsors, or any individual associated with the above and for all injuries sustained by me in this event. I attest and verify that I am physically fit and have sufficiently trained for this race.”

KERO-23, ABC News interviewed Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat, also discussed the waiver issue in relation to the “assumption of risk doctrine,” which looks at whether a person knows the inherent risks and dangers for participation. Greene posted on Facebook before the race that he was nervous about the race, and his preparedness.

On KERN Radio 1180, Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn told host Richard Beene that the No. 1 factor in determining the liability is the cause of death, as well as the waiver issue. The Kern County Coroner’s Office has not yet released the cause of death.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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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