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Representing Modest Means Homeowners in Association Disputes: Key California Statutes and Consumer Protections

Speaker(s): Commissioner Dave Jones, Eric M. Schiffer, Justin T. Berger, Marjorie Murray
Recorded on: Jan. 17, 2018
PLI Program #: 235591

Dave Jones is California's Insurance Commissioner.

He was first elected Insurance Commissioner on November 2, 2010 and re-elected November 4, 2014. Jones leads the California Department of Insurance and regulates the California insurance market. Insurers collect $289 billion a year in premiums in California, making it the nation's largest insurance market.

Jones served in the California State Assembly from 2004 through 2010, where he chaired the Assembly Health Committee, the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. Named "Consumer Champion" by the California Consumer Federation, Capitol Weekly named Jones California's "most effective legislator" other than the Assembly Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore. The American Psychiatric Association awarded Jones its prestigious Jacob K. Javits Public Service Award in 2015 for his work on mental health parity. In addition, Jones received the Phillip Burton Award for Courage from the Orange County Labor Federation on April 23, 2015.

Jones began his career as a legal aid attorney, providing free legal assistance to the poor with Legal Services of Northern California from 1988 to 1995. In 1995, Jones was one of only 13 Americans awarded the prestigious White House Fellowship. He served in the Clinton Administration for three years as Special Assistant and Counsel to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Jones served on the Sacramento City Council from 1999 to 2004.

Jones graduated with honors from DePauw University, Harvard Law School, and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He and his wife, Kim Flores, have two children, Isabelle and William.

Eric Schiffer is a principal and co-founder of Schiffer & Buus, APC, an Orange County-based boutique litigation and appellate law firm.  Eric’s practice areas include the following:  real estate and banking litigation involving lending, escrow, title, and homeowner associations; intellectual property (including trademark, trade dress, copyright and design patent infringement); business disputes; and complex class action matters.  Certified by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization as an Appellate Law Specialist (one of only about 300 statewide), Eric heads up the firm’s appellate practice, and has argued dozens of appeals in both state and federal appellate courts across the country, some of which have resulted in published opinions on important issues.  Eric was the handling attorney in the published opinion of Wittenberg v. Beachwalk Homeowners Association, 217 Cal. App. 4th 654 (2013 Cal. Court of Appeal, Fourth App. Dist., Div. Three), where he successfully argued on behalf of dissenting homeowners for violations of the HOA election process involving equal access to association media.  He is currently the handling attorney in Black Sky Capital v. Cobb (California Supreme Court case number S243294), where he represents borrowers seeking to have the California Supreme Court clarify whether the antideficiency statutes (CCP section 580d) permit a creditor that holds both a senior lien and a junior lien on the same parcel of real property arising from separate loans to seek a money judgment on the junior lien after the creditor foreclosed on the senior lien and purchased the property at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale.

In addition to the practice of law, Eric has also served as Associate Adjunct Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School, where he taught in the Graduate Advancement Program (GAP), and Adjunct Professor of law at Western State University College of law, where he taught Legal Research and Writing. Eric has also presented seminars on topics including preservation of evidence, handling intellectual property litigation, preparing corporate clients for depositions, and various topics in lending litigation.  In his free time, Eric enjoys theater, choir, and appearing on game shows, including “Win Ben Stein’s Money.”

Justin T. Berger is a Principal at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, where he focuses on false claims act litigation, consumer protection, financial elder abuse, employment law, and other complex civil litigation.

Justin has been recognized as one of the top young litigators in California. In 2016, Justin was named by the Daily Journal as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” attorneys in California. In 2012, Justin was named in The Recorder’s "Lawyers on the Fast Track," as one of the top 50 attorneys in California with less than 10 years of practice. In 2012, Justin received a California Lawyer Magazine Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award, along with Niall McCarthy. Each year since 2013, Justin has been selected as a Northern California “Super Lawyer" by San Francisco Magazine, and from 2009 to 2012, was named as a “Rising Star.”
Justin specializes in representing individuals who have been wrongfully terminated by their employers, whistleblowers in qui tam actions under the federal and California False Claims Acts, and other high-profile cases of corporate fraud. 

Justin also represents employees, homeowners and consumers in class actions. In 2008, Justin was selected as a finalist for the 2008 Consumer Attorney of the Year Award by the Consumer Attorneys of California, for his work on Komarova v. National Credit Acceptance.

Justin received his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University, graduating Cum Laude, with Honors in the Major. He received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). At Boalt, Justin was a member of the California Law Review and the LAS-ELC Workers’ Rights Clinic. In addition, through Boalt’s International Human Rights Law Clinic, Justin served on the trial team that successfully prosecuted the case Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Following law school, Justin clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California.

Prior to law school, Justin served for two years as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador. Justin also served for a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at Casa Cornelia Law Center, a non-profit immigration law firm in San Diego. Justin is fluent in Spanish.

Justin is a past-President of the San Mateo County Barristers, and is the President of the Board of Directors of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates. Justin is a member of the San Mateo County Bar Association, Consumer Attorneys of California, American Business Trial Lawyers, and the San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association.

Marjorie Murray is President and CEO of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law ( She founded the Center in 2002 to protect seniors and the disabled from discrimination and financial abuse by homeowner associations. Its first goal was to initiate state legislation to strengthen the consumer and civil rights of homeowners living in California’s 52,000 associations. The Center’s continuing concern is high-risk owners who are seniors or are monolingual or limited English speakers.

The Center now trains Legal Services and private bar lawyers, homeowners, and the staffs of fair housing agencies in the complex laws governing associations. In 2009 the Center was nominated for the American Bar Association’s Ralph M. Brown award for its access to justice work.

Trained as a policy analyst at UC Berkeley, Ms. Murray has decades of experience in housing policy, public finance, and the law. At the California Department of Housing, she worked with cities and counties to bring their affordable housing plans into compliance with housing element law. At the Century Freeway Program in Los Angeles she negotiated with lenders and the secondary markets to provide mortgage financing for the thousands of homes built under the program’s federal Consent Decree arising from Keith v Volpe, 352 F. Supp. 1324, 4 ERC 1350 (C.D. Cal. 1972)

Fannie Mae then hired her to set up the first public finance department in its Los Angeles Western Regional Office. The department aided local governments in issuing credit-enhanced bonds to finance the construction of thousands of units of multi-family housing throughout Fannie Mae’s Western Region comprising 11 Western states.

Ms. Murray is the author of countless articles published in policy journals and on the web. Her BA cum laude is from College of Notre Dame, Belmont. Her graduate degrees are from the University of California, Berkeley.