Department 29 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse of the Los Angeles Superior Court is a 50-square-foot box of dirty-blond wood and fluorescent light, and a disheartening place of hard-luck stories and forlorn conclusions. On a Friday morning before Christmas, a long succession of civil cases involving special-needs trusts, disputed inheritances, stricken families and various other probate calamities passed in a dull parade before Judge Lesley Green, who announced her decisions, one after another, with a swift dispatch.

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