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Appealing cases: Judge Eugene M. Hyman '72

  Mary Boone  

Eugene M. Hyman ’72 spent the early part of his career enforcing the law as a member of the Santa Clara, Calif., Police Department. Now, as a Superior Court judge, he’s charged with interpreting those laws.

Hyman attended Cornell for two years and graduated from Claremont Men’s College in 1972. He earned his juris doctorate from the University of Santa Clara Law School in 1977. He was in private law practice from 1979 to 1990, specializing in personal injury litigation, workers’ compensation law, and criminal law. He served as a judge of the Municipal Court from 1990 to 1996, when he was elected to the Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Clara.

In April 1999, with the assistance of the Juvenile Probation Department, Hyman started the Juvenile Delinquency Domestic and Family Violence Center, which is thought to be the first in the nation dedicated to this issue. More than 100 cases currently are assigned to the court.

Judge Hyman has been actively involved in domestic violence prevention issues and has written extensively on the topic. He’s appeared on “Nightline” and “Good Morning America” focusing on both juvenile delinquency mental health issues and juvenile domestic and family violence. He has lectured widely and taught at the University of Santa Clara Law School for 13 years.

Judge Hyman received the Women’s Fund (San Jose) “Man of the Year” award in 1998 in recognition of his efforts in domestic violence prevention. He received similar awards in 2000 and 2001.

The Case: Abbondanza
Judge Hyman presided over a civil case many years ago that involved a wedding party (the defendants) and the owner of a wedding hall (the plaintiff).

The defendants were being sued for not paying heir bill after the wedding. They owed the caterer several thousand dollars. The plaintiff paid the balance because of the business rela ionship and was now proceeding against the defendants for what was owed.

The plaintiff presented part of he wedding video to demonstrate the guests were enjoying themselves and liked the food. This was important evidence as the defendants said they hadn’t paid the bill for two reasons: the food didn’t taste good and the “abbondanza,” or abundance, of food was insufficient and insulting to the host and guests.

The bride was the only daugher of an Italian immigrant. His wife had died and he felt responsible for making sure the wedding went well. He had advised all the potential caterers their food must taste excellent and that there must be a sizeable amount of food. He did not want his family to be embarrassed in any way.

During the trial, all the defense wittnesses testified regarding how the father had told the caterer his requirements using a combination of English and Italian. “Abbondanza” was mentioned by every plaintiff witness as a requirement the father had made. By the fifth or sixth time “abbondanza” was stated, the jury began to snicker; they continued to laugh every time the word was spoken and Judge Hyman struggled to keep a straight face during the testimony.

After all the witnesses had testified but before he case was submited to the jury, Judge Hyman attempted to settle the case. He knew all he parties had been well-received and was cerain jury deliberations would be difficult and lengthy.

After about two hours, Judge Hyman was able to convince the family and hall owner to split the difference.

“For several weeks thereafter, staff in he courthouse talked about the ‘abbondanza,’ ” said Judge Hyman. “No civil case has given me so much enjoyment.”

The Case: Marilyn Ezzy, petitioner, v. Workers’ Compensation Board, Gassett, Perry & Franks et al, respondents
Marilyn Ezzy was a second-year law student who worked as a law clerk for the firm of Gassett, Perry & Frank. As an attorney, Hyman represented her in her workers’ compensation claim.

Ezzy participated in an employer-sponsored softball team at the urging of one of the firm’s partners, who was also the team coach. She said there was pressure on female employees to participate because of the league’s requirement that four women be on the field at all times. A benefit to the firm came in he form of improved office cooperation, spirit, morale, and camaraderie. The firm paid for all equipment, T-shirts, post-game refreshments, and an awards banquet.

During a game on Aug. 15, 1980, Ezzy injured her finger as she attempted to catch a fly ball.

Ezzy testified she believed her employer expected her to participate in the softball team and consequently, felt she should be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. Code specifies workers’ compensation benefits may not be recovered when an injury arises from voluntary participation in athletic activities except when those activities are either a “reasonable expectancy of, or are expressly or impliedly required by employment.”

Hyman’s client lost the case at the trial level, but the appeals court determined Ezzy’s injury resulted from participation in an activity that was a “reasonable expectancy” of her employment and she received compensation.

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