Civil Costs Added To Double-Dip Red Light Ticket

Los Angeles TV station NBC4 is reporting about a “double-dip” situation involving civil assessments and those red light cameras. The problem focuses on what happens when the owner of the car in the photo is not driving the car. One family paid the $500 fine, but also noted that the owner was not driving. On the back, they said who was – and that driver got a second fine.
 
“… nearly 3 months after paying the ticket [the driver] received a letter from the court stating ‘as a result of your failure to appear’ … a civil assessment of $300 was added. Then this: “The court will refer this citation to a collection agency.”
 
In response to the NBC4 I-Team’s questions, the station said, the court is re-instating the original citation for Kim, ending the collections process and waiving the $300 fee for failure to appear. The courts are refunding $500 to the Kellys, and they’ve waived $300 in late fees for Kim. For those unable to interest a television news team in helping, there is some advice. If you get one of those tickets, and the owner of the car was not driving, just indicate that and send the document in – leave it to the courts to tell who was driving.
 

Even China Looks For Civil Court Reform?

For those wondering about transparency in American courts and the demise of our “rule of law” culture, given the rationing of justice in civil courts, there’s a great report in Foreign Policy magazine about China. It seems reform is afoot, and Fordham University Professor Carl Minzner notes that the Chinese “… have made judicial transparency a priority, with some provincial court authorities striving to make all of their verdicts available online. Central authorities have partially revived concepts of judicial professionalism that had gone into eclipse during the later years of Hu Jintao’s administration. One example is the attempt to separate out legal disputes and court cases from the poorly-defined petitioning channels many citizens use in practice to resolve their disputes.”
 
He also adds that “… authorities are experimenting with insulating judges from interference by local officials. Pilot reforms in six provinces remove control over the funding and appointment of local judges from the hands of county authorities, vesting it instead with provincial courts. This does not mean a repudiation of any core policies. Far from it. Beijing’s commitment to maintaining social stability above all else remains unchanged. But central authorities appear to be gambling that recentralizing control over the court system will help curb social dissatisfaction by combating incestuous relationships between local judges and government officials that are the source of many citizen grievances.”
 
Compare and contrast here: What Does China Mean By ‘Rule of Law’?

Supreme Court Considering Key Low-Level Drug Deportation Issue

The United States Supreme Court famously likes to use small cases to make big decisions, and thus we have the case of a man deported over a sock. The International Business Times explains that “… Moones Mellouli, an immigrant from Tunisia who has been fighting the grounds of his deportation order since 2012. A high court ruling against him could widen the deportation net for immigrants convicted of low-level drug-related crimes — even if the drugs in question aren’t designated controlled substances under federal law.”
 
The Times offers the backstory: “Mellouli came to the U.S. in 2004 on a student visa. He completed two master’s degrees, taught mathematics, secured a job as an actuary and received his green card. In 2010, he was stopped and detained in Kansas for driving under the influence, and then charged and convicted with possession of drug paraphernalia — specified under Kansas law as anything used to “store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce a controlled substance into the human body.” In this case, it was a sock containing an unspecified drug… in Kansas, this counted as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine. Under federal law, and in many other states where “drug paraphernalia” has a stricter definition, Mellouli’s behavior wouldn’t have amounted to a crime at all.”
 
The idea was that his sock, where he had stashed four Adderall pills, was paraphernalia. The Justice Department’s Immigration Court upheld the deportation. Now, says the Times, “… if the Supreme Court agrees, it could open the way for more of these types of low-level drug crimes to become deportable offenses… the case also highlights the degree to which the variability of state laws factors into deportations: If Mellouli had been in California, rather than Kansas, he may not have been convicted in the first place.
 

Immigration Judges The ‘Cinderellas’ Of Justice System?

San Francisco immigration judge Dana Leigh Marks, who sidesteps a Justice Department gag order on her profession because she is also president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, is continuing to give voice to those who work inside the “border kid” crisis. She tells ABC News that “… we call ourselves ‘the legal Cinderellas’ in the Department of Justice, because we feel that we have been ignored resource-wise.”

She told ABC that, this year, “… $18 billion was spent on immigration law enforcement and only 1.7 perfect of that went to the courts…” Marks also cited non-functioning equipment and understaffed offices as key culprits in the “massive dysfunction” that immigration judges are currently facing. The judges are actually Justice Department employees.

Judge Marks outlined the scope of the problem: “Nationwide there’s more than 375,000 pending cases before 227 immigration judges who are sitting in the field,” Marks said. This works out to more than 1,500 cases per judge, but individual caseloads vary across the country. For example, Marks’ docket in San Francisco has more than 2,400 pending cases. The judge said the administration’s decision to “flip” the docket to move border kids to the front has meant longer delays for others. 

Read the story from the front lines of immigration court here: Immigration Judge Says Court System Has Been Ignored, Underfunded

California Considers Raising Famous Med-Mal Cap

After failing in the Democrat-controlled legislature several times, advocates of raising the California medical malpractice damages from $250,000 to $1 million are going directly to voters. “Proposition 46,” explains public radio station KPVR, which also explains that the proposition “… is actually three measures in one. It would require drug testing of doctors. It would require physicians to check a database before prescribing patients addictive substances. And it would raise the limit on damages awarded in medical malpractice suits…”
 
The NPR affiliate reports that the current cap “… was set in 1975 under MICRA – The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act.  Prop 46 would raise the cap to over a million dollars. Dr. Haskins says that would make medical liability premiums go up.”
 
Read both sides of the debate, and what it might mean to medical practice in the Golden State, here: Proposition 46 Has Physicians and Attorneys At Odds

Making A Business Case For Fully Funding Courts

An opinion piece in The Boston Globe is the latest to make the business case for a well-funded justice system. It cites a recent white paper that illustrates how “… inadequate funding of the state court system has an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.” It also notes the oft-cited Los Angeles study documenting billions of dollars in economic losses.
 
The column argues that “… efforts to quantify the economic harm caused by underfunding have revealed staggering losses. For example, a 2009 Micronomics Group study of the County of Los Angeles revealed that superior court budget deficits of between $79 million and $140 million would result in economic losses greater than $59 billion. Other studies have shown similar results. Given the established correlation between underfunding and economic loss, why would we ever choose not to fully fund and staff our state courts?”
 

‘Kafka’s’ Immigration Trials Spark State and National Response

CCM’s publisher, Sara Corcoran Warner, has another post up on Huffington Post regarding the Border Kids legal representation issue. Take a look!

Most ‘Border Kids’ Show Up For Court

It’s been a nagging part of the “border kids” immigration crisis: How many of those children actually show up for court? Especially since many are sent to live with relatives and may have court dates set months into the future – easy enough to miss. A new government report, covered in the Wall Street Journal, says that “… the vast majority of migrants who recently entered the U.S. illegally are showing up for their scheduled deportation hearings, even as the government said most adults who arrived with children have skipped separate required check-ins with immigration offices.”
 
Reports the WSJ: “Between July 18 and Sept. 30, about 85% of unaccompanied minors showed up for a scheduled first hearing, and about two-thirds of adults with children appeared, according to data obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the nation’s immigration courts. The agency said on July 18 that it would expedite deportation hearings for the two groups, following the Obama administration’s decision to prioritize their cases to discourage further illegal immigration.”
 
About 30,000 unchaperoned children and 40,000 people entering in family units flocked to the U.S. during a surge of such immigrants between May and August this year, the latest month available, said the WSJ, adding that “… that surge has since subsided.” Some states and the federal government have allotted millions of dollars to provide legal representation for the border kids, who are not provided with lawyers because the violations are potentially civil, not criminal.
 

John Oliver Somehow Makes ‘Civil Forfeiture’ Funny

There has long been a rule of inverse interest in the media, which holds that the more important an issue is, the more boring coverage becomes. Example: The United Nation’s committee work on feeding the world’s starving children is vital to humanity and not the stuff of spectator sport; a bunch of guys running around a field kicking a ball has no real impact and is obsessed over by billions.
 
But John Oliver, the comic host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, defies the rule with an informative and very funny report on the nation’s civil forfeiture practices. The laws vary among states, but basically allow authorities to seize property even if the owner is never charged with a crime – just like in immigration court, many rights associated with police action are not in play because these are civil actions.
 
A recent less-funny report in The New Yorker magazine noted that “… unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence. One result is the rise of improbable case names such as United States v. One Pearl Necklace and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.” Those were cited by Oliver in his report.
 
It would be much funnier if it did not illustrate just how messed up and abused our civil justice system can be. Take a look – and it’s worth watching the whole video. Click Here.

Jails Refusing ICE Requests On Immigration Holds

“Emboldened by recent court rulings, more and more counties and cities across the country are refusing to jail inmates extra days to give federal authorities time to deport them,” reports Governing Magazine in an important trend story from the civil immigration wars, adding that “… in most jails until recently, inmates booked on criminal charges and suspected of being in the country illegally were often held for an additional 48 hours at the behest of federal immigration officials.”
 
Governing explains that “.. these ‘holds’ created a pipeline for the deportation of thousands of people from the United States in the last decade. Now, that enforcement tool is crumbling. Although some localities started limiting the number of immigration holds a few years ago, the trend of completely ignoring the requests gathered steam this spring after a series of federal court rulings determined that the immigration holds are not mandatory and that local agencies should not be compelled to follow them.”
 
In California, for example, a new state law this year orders that Golden State law enforcement can only honor immigration holds if the inmate has been charged with a “serious” crime. And Governing reports that “… most law enforcement agencies in the state — including the Los Angeles Police Department — adopted policies ignoring the immigration holds altogether after the federal rulings came down.” And Colorado this year became the first state to pass a law compelling local agencies to ignore immigration-detain requests.
 
In all, Governing says more than 225 local law enforcement agencies nationwide have adopted policies to completely ignore requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials for the 48-hour holds.
 
Read the story, and the immigration enforcement response, here: More and More Localities Rejecting Federal Deportation Requests