Herring Law Group Welcomes Jack Ucciferri

HLG welcomes our newest attorney, Jack Ucciferri! A long-time Santa Barbara resident, Jack brings a unique resume as a local businessman now engaged in the full scope of family law.

Jack attended two tours at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In 2002 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history. He dove straight into business, co-founding and successfully exiting Giant’s Foot Surf in Nicaragua. He went on to consult for Ecometriks LLC (now Solar Census), serve as Board Treasurer for the Fund for Santa Barbara, and work as a Registered Investment Advisor Representative and Research & Advocacy Director for Harrington Investments, Inc.

Nearly ten years later, Jack attained a Master of Arts at UCSB in Global Political Economy. He accomplished this while serving as the Regional Coordinator for Toniic Impact Investor Network. Afterward, he founded OurTown Property Management in Santa Barbara.

During and following law school at the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law (graduating in 2020), Jack clerked and then practiced law at the Santa Barbara offices of the national powerhouse, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Seeking opportunities toward “doing good” for individuals and families in family law, he changed gears by joining a Ventura family law firm before coming to HLG.

Jack enjoys speaking Spanish whenever the occasion presents. In his spare time, you are likely to spot him adventuring with his family in the hills of Ojai or relishing the beaches of the Central Coast.

With Jack on board, we are now five attorneys strong and more capable than ever!

Another Successful Annual Trial Basics Seminar!

Our American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Southern California Chapter presented its seventh annual Trial Basics Seminar through Zoom on June 10. Herring Law Group founded the program in 2015. It has become a major annual event. We are pleased to continually host eager and focused family law lawyers from throughout Southern California.

Our Chapter presents TBS at no cost to our students – not a cent has ever been charged! We provide substantial Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Credits to boot!

As South Carolina AAML Fellow and former National President, James T. McClaren, once put it, each family law case has different needs. Our AAML Fellows recognize the availability of various alternative courses of resolution. But we believe that if a case cannot be settled, then the consequence is that the courts are there to decide the issues. Our job is to be prepared to expertly litigate those cases to their logical ends.

We have been blessed each year by the active presence of family law guru and friend, Garrett Dailey, as our moderator. Garrett’s contributions to California Family Law, through his Attorney’s Briefcase legal research and update service, annual Family Law Boot Camp, Family Law 101, and Year in Review seminars, plus advocacy in the trial and appellate courts are unparalleled.

TBS is a fast-moving event. We gave a whopping 22 presentations throughout the day. Topics ranged in chronological order from Pre-trial Discovery Planning all the way through to Appellate Considerations. Our audience continually interacted with us via Zoom’s “chat” and “Q&A” features.

Sincere thanks to all who made it happen: Garrett, Chris Melcher, Robert Benavente, Sandra Mayberry, Annette Hall, “newbie” Kyle Siems, and Justice Sheila Sonenshine (ret.). Supporting all of us was one of HLG’s Legal Administrators, Kristiné Kirschke — without whom we could not have succeeded as we did.

In the seven years that our Chapter has presented TBS, we have educated over 1,000 family law attorneys throughout California! It remains a huge pleasure and honor to continue serving as TBS’ Dean and an ongoing presenter.

The Honorable John R. Smiley – Retired!

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Smiley elegantly retired a couple weeks ago on his 75th birthday. He was a great judge, and we will miss him.

Famously a graduate of Princeton University (his chambers were adorned with Princeton tigers and his orange and black Repp tie was in high rotation), Judge Smiley began his legal career at the Ventura firm, Lucking, Bertelsen, Bysshe, Kuttler & Smiley. There, he specialized in family and business law for thirteen years. As he later joked, he found himself to be a better lawyer than a businessperson. So, he sought appointment to the bench and succeeded in 1986.

California then separated “municipal” courts, where Judge Smiley initially served, from the Superior Court. In 1998 California voters passed a constitutional amendment that provided for voluntary unification of the superior and municipal courts in each county into a single, countywide trial court system. He was then elevated to the Superior Court. As soon as 2004, he was elected Presiding Judge of the Ventura County Superior court, managing the court, assigning cases to other judges and specialized courts, overseeing the court calendar, and deciding cases.

I first met him in about 1999, when I was building a family law specialty on my ten years of experience as a business litigator. I found him not “smiley,” but intimidating. He projected a no-nonsense control of his courtroom. A law professor, too, he knew his stuff through and through — when I might not have!

But that changed. The more cases we had together, the more I appreciated his intelligence, even demeanor, and dry wit. He came to trust me as a straight-up advocate, offering minimal “BS” while still arguing my client’s positions 100%. I learned to modulate in that realm, maintaining credibility while still pushing envelopes where warranted.

Judge Smiley tolerated that. I listened and learned the steps to that dance. I did not always agree with him, but he made no secret that he was doing his best as an imperfect human in a tough job. He did not always agree with me, but he respected that I always did my best, representing clients in complex, expensive, and emotional situations.

An early case “together” involved a client who settled by “buying” the beloved family dog, Pheobe, through assumption of $11,000 of community credit card debt. The next day, she reconsidered, harshly asking me how I could ever have “let” her do that – spending so much for a dog?! This led me to a motion to set-aside the settlement, where Judge Smiley heard me emphasize in open court that it concerned a “shit – zu named Phoebe.” Not quite hiding his amusement, he called counsel into chambers where he helped us work it out absent further drama and fees.

In one of my early multi-day family law trials, opposing counsel’s examination over the family’s assets become interminable. Barely hiding his frustration, Judge Smiley dryly asked counsel if he might stipulate to avoiding any item not worth … “say, at least $75.” Blessedly, counsel got the drift and likely cut the trial time by half! One way or another, Judge Smiley got results.

An annual treat for the Ventura County Bar Association’s Family Law Bar was his “State of the Family Law Courts” address. There, he put his wit on full display, amusing all while still reporting the not-always-good news (Governor Brown and his perennial cuts to the courts’ budget …!) When he later took over the annual address, Judge Liebmann openly complained about what a hard act he had to follow. He was right.

A highlight for both of us was when I was chosen to present Judge Smiley with the Southern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ annual “Judicial Officer of the Year” award in 2007. I was then a newly minted Fellow of the AAML, nervous as could be but also proud!

The stories abound. Ultimately, Judge Smiley was every family law lawyer’s dream – a judge who listened, considered, and cared about his decisions and the families they affected. He did the same for the attorneys, witnesses, and other advocates regularly giving their all in this uniquely complex and challenging area of practice. Herring Law Group fondly wishes Jack a well-deserved, happy, and healthy retirement on his beloved golf courses — and anywhere else he might find himself!

Family Law Gains Representation on the California Supreme Court

Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Patricia Guerrero has been confirmed to serve as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. She is a widely respected jurist with extensive experience as an appellate justice, trial court judge, partner at a major law firm and Assistant U.S. Attorney. Justice Guerrero replaces Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who left the bench effective October 31, 2021.

Much attention has been paid to Justice Guerrero’s status as the first Latina to serve on the California Supreme Court.

Herring Law Group also salutes her prior leadership as a family law trial judge in the San Diego County Superior Court. Justice Guerrero served in that position from 2013 to 2017. She was the Supervising Judge for the Family Law Division of that court in 2017.

In 2017, the Southern California Chapter American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers awarded her the Judicial Officer of Year award. We noted her efforts in the trial court toward improving efficiency, consistency, and fairness in family law. I recall meeting her at our awards gala and having a great conversation. She is personable as well as brilliant!

We also appreciate the family law perspective she will now bring to our Supreme Court. Justices with family law backgrounds are still too rare in the higher post-trial courts. Justice Guerrero’s appointment to the highest level provides a refreshing correction. This is a great thing for the complex and specialized practice of family law in California.

Santa Barbara - Ventura County - San Luis Obispo