Hon. Howard L. Halm (Ret.)

Profile

Hon. Howard L. Halm brings the vast depth of experience he gained during the course of his nearly 50-year legal career to his dispute resolution practice. Judge Halm served over 9 years as a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and spent 40 years practicing as a civil trial lawyer with an emphasis on toxic tort/asbestos, legal malpractice, business, and personal injury cases involving complex factual and legal issues. In his law practice, he was known for handling some of the largest cases in California.

Having tried or presided over more than 100 jury trials, Judge Halm has gained both a civil trial lawyer’s perspective and a nuanced understanding of how juries react to a variety of claims and defenses. Additionally, throughout his decades of practice, Judge Halm has participated in scores of mediations and arbitrations. As a judge, he presided over an unlimited personal injury pre-trial courtroom responsible for 6,000 cases and also presided over hundreds of informal discovery conferences where he mediated discovery disputes so well that less than five cases were ultimately submitted as motions.

Throughout his career, Judge Halm has been an active member of his community, bringing cultural awareness to the bench and pursuing justice for disadvantaged communities in his litigation practice. He has served as the president of the following organizations: California Asian American Judges’ Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Asian American Bar Association of Los Angeles, and Korean American Bar Association of Los Angeles. He was also the first non-Japanese president of the Japanese American Bar Association of Los Angeles. Judge Halm has been heavily accoladed as Judge of the Year from numerous Asian-American bar associations as well as the Southeast District Bar Association. He has been a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates since 1989.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

  • Business and Contracts
  • Employment
  • Insurance
  • Legal Malpractice/Professional Liability
  • Real Property
  • Toxic Tort and Personal Injury

JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE

2009-2018       Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court

  • General jurisdiction, unlimited, all-purpose, pre-trial and trial court (independent calendar court)
  • General jurisdiction, unlimited, pre-trial personal injury court, responsible for 6,000 cases
  • Limited jurisdiction, civil collection court, where along with another judge, handled over 40,000 limited, civil collection cases
  • Misdemeanor, criminal pre-trial, trial and post-conviction court at the Downey Courthouse, where he tried over 55 jury trials, including personal injury claims

LEGAL EXPERIENCE

2000-2009       Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP (Equity Partner)

  • Specialized in civil trials, legal malpractice, business, asbestos living mesothelioma/toxic torts, brain injury, real property damage and insurance coverage/bad faith

1975-2000       Breidenbach Buckley Huchting Halm & Hamblet (Shareholder 1978-2000)
Cummins White & Breidenbach (Associate 1975-78)

  • Specialized in civil trials, legal malpractice, mass toxic torts, environmental, asbestos living mesothelioma, brain injury, FELA, real property damage, insurance coverage/bad faith, inverse condemnation, governmental entity, and common carrier

1968-1975       Office Of The Attorney General, State Of California (Deputy Attorney General 1969-75, Tort and Condemnation Section; Legal Assistant, 1968, Criminal Appeals Division)

  • Specialized in inverse condemnation, dangerous condition of public property, negligent tunnel inspection, civil rights, and medical malpractice

EDUCATION

2000    Mediation Training (40 Hours), UCLA Extension Department of Business and Management

1968    J.D., University of San Diego School of Law
Notes & Comments Editor, San Diego Law Review

1965    B.A., University of California, Los Angeles

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

  • Judicial Council for the State of California: (Advisory Committee on Civil; Sub-Committee on Limited and Small Claims 2018; Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness)
  • Los Angeles Superior Court: (Bench & Bar 2016-18; Temporary Judge 2015-16; Access to Justice 2010-11; Historical 2011-13)
  • Los Angeles Superior Court Volunteer Work as Lawyer: (Mediator and Temporary Judge 1979-90; Mediator, Special Olympic Panel with Judge Wenke 1984)
  • California State Bar Association: (Executive Committee, Litigation Section 1999-2001; Chair, Sub-committee on Complex Litigation 1999-2001; Judicial Nominees Evaluation Committee 1984-85; Special Committee on Civil Discovery 1978-79)
  • American Bar Association: (Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates, Los Angeles Chapter: (Associate 1989-Present; Executive Committee 1995)
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association: (Member & Chair, Judicial Evaluation Committee 1988-90)
  • Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference: (Member 1999-2002)
  • Association of Southern California Defense Lawyers: (Chair, Benefits Committee 1985)
  • California Asian Pacific American Judges’ Association: (President 2016)
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar Association: (President 2000; Trailblazer Award 1998)
  • Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles: (President 1997)
  • Korean American Bar Association of Los Angeles: (President 1989)
  • Japanese American Bar Association of Los Angeles: (President 1985)

Representative Cases

Civil Rights & Official Misconduct

  • False arrest of student leader at local college.
  • False arrest of civil rights attorney.
  • Constitutionality of higher witness fees for peace officer witness.
  • Shot fired through window after 20 mile high speed chase.
  • Excessive force requiring disabled, senior citizen to retrieve rubbish from dump site.
  • Free speech claims involving picketers protesting use of underpaid garment making employees.
  • Wrongful death of victim buried under earth slide due to police failure to do proper investigation.
  • Defamation and false arrest action by lawyer against court personnel for accusation that lawyer made criminal threats.

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Commercial Contract & General Business

  • Breach of contract for sale of bar and restaurant business.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty claim by minority shareholder of LLC leasing computer payment terminals.
  • Breach of fiduciary duties of trustee and general partner in managing real property.
  • Breach of fiduciary duties of general partner in failing to sufficiently fund product development.
  • Breach of joint venture agreement to form and operate a medical care entity under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Breach of lease by tenant for failure to pay rent.
  • Breach of contract for sale of Cartier 10 carat diamond ring, return of deposit.
  • Breach of construction loan contract where bank insisted that primary contractor be replaced.
  • Breach of contract by medical corporation for failing to provide departing shareholder with patient list.
  • Breach of contract by Chinese coffee maker manufacturer to develop, manufacture and sell coffee makers.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty by majority shareholders to fully develop invention of minority shareholder.

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Complex Litigation

  • 4,000 plus claims for toxic contamination and property damage emanating from hazardous waste disposal site.
  • CERCLA damage to the environment (loss of a salmon race) from copper mine waste polluting Sacramento river.
  • CERCLA clean-up of hazardous waste disposal site.
  • Methane gas explosion in tunnel involving multiple deaths and injuries.
  • Class action involving failed tax avoidance scheme.
  • Class action involving wage and hour claims.

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Construction

  • Homeowner vs. contractor for over-billing and shoddy construction.
  • Water intrusion damage involving sealing of aluminum-frame windows.
  • Contractor/sub-contractor vs. property owner involving cement pipe construction contract.
  • Property damage action for usage of asbestos in commercial office buildings.
  • Contractor negligence in design of coal fired power generating station to allow differential settlement.
  • Cement sub-contractor abandons project without notice.
  • Negligence and breach of warranty in construction of condominium project.

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Discovery Reference

  • As a Superior Court Judge Assigned to both the Personal Injury Hub and an independent calendar court, Judge Halm presided over hundreds of Informal Discovery Conferences (“IDC”).
  • As a result of Judge Halm’s efforts at mediating discovery disputes, he issued rulings on only 5 submitted discovery motions. Four of the rulings were the same as the “tentative-tentative” rulings at the IDC. In the remaining one, the ruling changed after considering the parties’ written arguments.

Employment

  • Sexual harassment by male supervisor against male employee.
  • Racial discrimination involving Japanese employer and Korean employee.
  • Sexual harassment by male supervisor against female employee.
  • Wage and hour claims by bank employees.
  • Failure to accommodate bank teller with severe anxiety.
  • FEHA discrimination, race and retaliation.
  • Racial discrimination, African-American disqualified from taking promotional exam because employer had preference for Hispanic employees.
  • Breach of employment agreement by school principal’s contract with government.
  • Wrongful termination and discrimination action against church, applicability of religious association and ministerial exemptions.
  • Harassment for sexual orientation and anxiety disability.
  • Gender discrimination action by not having bathroom facilities for female worker in the field.
  • Age discrimination, failure of employer to allow weekly medical treatments.
  • Employee seeks reimbursement for criminal defense costs under Corporations Code §317(d).

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Environmental, Toxic Tort, Asbestos

  • Living mesothelioma caused by exposure to construction products.
  • Brain injures (diminished IQ) caused by exposure to photographic developing chemicals.
  • Living mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products found in shipyard.
  • Pulmonary asbestosis caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products found in shipyard.
  • Habitability cases involving mold and bed bug exposures.
  • Living mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos mined by mining company and incorporated into asbestos-containing products.
  • Exposures from toluene in glue causing stroke.

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Fee Disputes

  • Quantum meruit involving work done by multiple law firms in coordinated business litigation cases.
  • Multiple fee awards in Song-Beverly cases.
  • Fee awards involving inverse condemnation and contract cases with fee award provisions.

Governmental Entities

  • Applicability of design immunity to intersection with limited sight distances causing catastrophic injuries to 10 year old girl.
  • Sand on beach pathway creating dangerous condition of public property and broken leg.
  • Decorative glass panel on public sidewalk as dangerous condition of public property as distraction to pedestrian.
  • Applicability of recreational trail defense to dangerous condition of public property claim resulting in golf ball causing brain damage to infant.
  • Applicability of recreational trail defense to dangerous condition of public property resulting in fall and quadriplegia from cliff at end of trail.
  • Playground equipment as dangerous condition of public property.

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Insurance Coverage & Bad Faith

  • Failure to pay pre-tender attorney fees and post-tender reasonable attorney fees involving general liability policy.
  • Breach of manuscript builder’s risk policy and sue and labor clause.
  • Breach of tenant personal property policy.
  • Breach of mobile homeowners’ policy.
  • Breach of construction policy involving commercial building.
  • Numerous first party property damage involving fire policies.
  • Coverage under professional liability policy, applicability of funds and fiduciary exclusions.
  • Coverage under excess policy involving underlying property policy, duty to defend neighborhood dispute action.

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Legal Malpractice

  • Underlying legal malpractice prosecution with underlying workers’ compensation claim.
  • Underlying prosecution of claim against famous entertainer for breach of talent management contract.
  • Underlying work involving filings with the FCC.
  • Underlying work performing incorporation services for accounting firm.
  • Underlying defense of foreclosure of real estate personal loan guarantee.
  • Underlying commercial real estate transaction and subsequent litigation involving liquidated damages clause.
  • Underlying medical malpractice action involving missed diagnosis of encephalitis in infant.
  • Underlying discrimination in restaurant.
  • Underlying immigration matter.
  • Underlying probate issues.

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Personal Injury

  • Truck vs. tractor-trailer resulting in traumatic brain injuries and broken leg.
  • Numerous premises liability cases involving a variety of surfaces.
  • Numerous common carrier cases involving sudden movement claims.
  • Numerous auto v. auto cases involving neck and back injuries.
  • FELA claim by laborer for knee injury.
  • Common carrier causing degloving injury of chest to debarking passenger.
  • Common carrier inaction causing passenger to be shot leaving bullets in heart and next to spinal canal.
  • Collapse of crane causing brain injuries to operator of crane.
  • Defamation per se action by former wife of former boxing champion for accusation of adultery.

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Product Liability

  • Meat grinder lacking permanently attached guard causing loss of arm.
  • Overhead meat conveyor system causing back and brain injuries.
  • Electric shaver causing carotid artery dissection and stroke.
  • Pull-up truck door caused severe back injuries.
  • Numerous Song-Beverly cases involving breach of warranty claims.

Professional & Medical Liability

  • Mother’s death from post-partum hemorrhage caused by defendant’s failure to properly manage mother follow caesarian delivery.
  • Mother injured due to misleading instructions when she arrived to deliver.
  • Veterinary malpractice involving a dog.
  • Real estate broker negligence.

Real Property

  • Eminent domain involving local transit property acquisitions.
  • HOA dispute involving non-conforming improvements to owners’ units.
  • Inverse condemnation claim against city for damage to commercial property involving broken water main.
  • Inverse condemnation claim against county for damage to home caused by earth movement.
  • Inverse condemnation claim for increased construction costs of floating basement in large retail store.
  • Inverse condemnation claims for loss of property values due to State draining local lake.
  • Smoke damage to collection of designer haute couture gowns.
  • Title insurance company sought recovery of amounts paid to policy holder for overlooked support judgment lien.

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