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Photo credit: WNYC Audio Report, 1/17/17

Photo credit: WNYC Audio Report, 1/17/17

New York’s WNYC radio has an excellent report on why the Big Apple’s immigration courts are backed up, noting that more than a half-million cases are pending nationwide and tens of thousands of those are in NYC. The reporter visits one of the city’s 28 immigration courts, which are actually not federal courts but administrative functions of the Justice Department. The story follows one immigrant and notes ” the whole process took about five minutes for each case, and Khan was scheduling future court appearances as late as August of 2018. This isn’t so bad given, that Schmidt said he was scheduling hearings for 2021 before retiring last summer.”

The reporting is in the context of Donald Trump presidency and any attempt to increase the pace of court-ordered deportations. The take-away is that there’s no real capacity to increase or even keep pace

See the story here: Why New York’s Immigration Courts Are Overwhelmed

Children hold up “Parent Revolution” signs during a press conference held next to Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in Adelanto in 2013. Parents used a state law to transform their local low-performing public elementary school into a not-for-profit charter campus. (Los Angeles Times)

Children hold up “Parent Revolution” signs during a press conference held next to Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in Adelanto in 2013. Parents used a state law to transform their local low-performing public elementary school into a not-for-profit charter campus. (Los Angeles Times)

As Democrats leveled sharp questions at Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s education nominee, this week, they stressed her decades of support for the charter school movement. Clearly, the Trump Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress will make “school choice” a spotlight issue, including the “parent trigger” movement that didn’t really come up in the DeVos questioning, perhaps because her efforts have mostly been in Michigan.

Parent trigger is the idea that parents can more or less take over a failing school. A half-dozen states have some level of parent trigger law, but the one that’s been most lawsuit-tested is California’s. The Golden State actually passed the nation’s first such law in 2010, and of course litigation came shortly after.

Natasha Lindstron, a respected reporter who has covered the California Parent Trigger since its passage, offers a good overview report here http://hechingerreport.org/parent-trigger-showdowns-loom-nationwide/

And if you’d like to see how The Los Angeles Times, which supported the original parent trigger legislation, feels about it now, check that out here:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-parent-trigger-20150803-story.html

BEACON FILE PHOTO

BEACON FILE PHOTO

After months of community meetings, a Montana panel has found (among other things) “… that low- to moderate-income Montanans most often face legal crises stemming from housing problems, custody disputes, domestic violence, and debt collection. These issues are often compounded with other complicating factors, the report said, such as mental illness or diminished capacity, substance abuse, physical disabilities, threats to safety, and child care. Many of these issues are intersectional, meaning they affect and intensify the other.”

The Flathead Beacon reported on the panel’s findings, noting that “… many Montanans don’t realize, for instance, that they don’t have the right to an appointed attorney while facing civil issues. They can be evicted, lose custody of their children, or lose their home without ever having the right to an attorney.”

The Beacon also reported that the Access to Justice Commission “… concluded that there needs to be a statewide inventory of services and programs available in each region, and a means for making this inventory known in those regions. Along with the inventory, the commission said there should be a means for linking Montanans with legal problems to the programs and service providers.”

Read the report, and find a link to the Commission’s complete findings, here:
Report Details Need for Education, Increased Access to Civil Legal Resources – Flathead

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times 1/10/17 report

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times report 1/10/17

The Los Angeles city attorney is blaming distrust of police as a significant reason the city will have to borrow $70 million or dip into reserve funds. Those are the options laid out in a new city report. 

The Los Angeles Times reports that “… the city paid out $110 million in legal cases last fiscal year, according to budget staff. In January 2016, the city agreed to pay out $24 million to settle lawsuits from two men who alleged that dishonest LAPD detectives led their wrongful murder convictions and caused them to spend decades behind bars… city lawyers concerned about the police misconduct allegations recommended the settlements, saying in confidential memos to the City Council that taking the cases to trial could be even costlier.”

In an interview with the Times on Monday, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer “… cited several reasons for the increased payouts. He said juries are more skeptical about law enforcement when it comes to police liability, and cited a “significant” amount of deferred maintenance of city infrastructure.”
With payouts projected to total at least $135 million this fiscal year, budget officials said Monday that the city needs to immediately borrow up to $70 million to avoid dipping into its emergency reserve fund.

Read the story here: L.A. needs to borrow millions to cover legal payouts, city report says

In this Dec. 28, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump gave a videotaped deposition on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, for a lawsuit stemming from a clash with a celebrity restaurateur at his new Washington hotel. It was a rare legal proceeding for a president-elect or sitting president that highlights the legal woes that could follow Trump to the Oval Office. Photo Credit, San Francisco Chronicle file photo

In this Dec. 28, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump gave a videotaped deposition on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, for a lawsuit stemming from a clash with a celebrity restaurateur at his new Washington hotel. It was a rare legal proceeding for a president-elect or sitting president that highlights the legal woes that could follow Trump to the Oval Office. Photo Credit, San Francisco Chronicle file photo

President-elect Donald Trump may be the first president to conduct multiple lawsuits while in office. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Trump “… sat for an hour at Trump Tower to give testimony in a lawsuit he filed against Jose Andres after the chef cancelled plans to open a Spanish-themed restaurant at a new Washington hotel. Andres pulled out after Trump, in declaring his candidacy for president, called some Mexican immigrants “rapists” and said some were bringing drugs and crime to the U.S.”

The newspaper backgrounded that “… under the doctrine of immunity, presidents cannot be sued for actions they take in carrying out presidential duties. But anything outside that is open season. In its 1997 decision in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton, the Supreme Court ruled that presidents can be sued while in office for actions unrelated to official acts.”

Given his vast business empire and several ongoing civil actions, its expected that the new president may be doing depositions fairly routinely.

Read more here:
Trump, amid legal battles, gives deposition against chef

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

What will the Trump administration mean in terms of reform for the nation’s longest-running injury lawsuit industry? Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner has some thought published in The Huffington Post:
 

Photo Credit: LA Times video clip 1/3/2017

Photo Credit: LA Times video clip 1/3/2017

One impact of the pending Trump administration is already being felt as some states and cities are preparing funds to fight deportation. While it’s only one part of the issue, the funding is a boost to the movement for a “civil Gideon” policy that would provide a right to an attorney in some civil cases – like the right to an attorney for criminal cases. The Gideon case was the policy-setting decision for that criminal-case right.

Immigration advocates have long argued that some deportation cases should be among those requiring representation, especially when children are involved. Funding has always been part of the discussion, but some governments are finding cash in the wake of President-Elect Trump’s victory. For example, the Los Angeles Times reports that  LA city and county leaders have “… unveiled a $10-million fund to provide legal assistance for residents facing deportation, the region’s boldest move yet as it prepares for an expected crackdown on illegal immigration by Donald Trump. If approved by lawmakers, Los Angeles’ two top government agencies could find themselves in the position of using public funds to challenge policies sought by the White House and Republican Congress.”

Similar efforts are under way in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and the state of New York.

Read more here:
http://www.latimes.com/local/ lanow/la-me-ln-lafund- 20161219-story.html

Filmmaker Paul Johnson will show a work-in-progress documentary, UnSettled, this week. Photo Credit, Huffington Post 12/12/16 Post

Filmmaker Paul Johnson will show a work-in-progress documentary, UnSettled, this week. Photo Credit, Huffington Post 12/12/16 Post

For the past year, the Canadian journalist Paul Johnson has been making a documentary on the asbestos litigation industry. Entitled “UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits,” it examines how the “business” of asbestos litigation has evolved over the years and focuses on just how politically aligned lawyers are on reform issues. Courts Monitor publisher, Sara Warner, spoke with Paul about the project and you can read the full interview in the Huffington Post.

Note: UnSettled will be screened for audience feedback at the Edward R. Murrow Room at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. this Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 3:30 p.m. Paul Johnson will hold a Q&A immediately following the screening. You can see the trailer at www.unsettledthemovie.com.

AP/John Minchillo A protestor holds his fist in the air during a demonstration outside Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati, November 11, 2016.

AP/John Minchillo
A protestor holds his fist in the air during a demonstration outside Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati, November 11, 2016.

If you’re looking for a great argument in favor of a “civil Gideon” right to counsel in some non-criminal cases, you can’t do much better than an article by Rebecca Backwater-Poza posted at the Center for American Progress. Civil Gideon refers to the criminal-law right to an attorney even if you can’t afford one. The “civil” idea is that some life-altering cases, especially involving housing evictions and family law, should include representation for the poor.
 
She notes that: “While 90 to 95 percent of landlords are represented by lawyers before the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the D.C. Superior Court, only 5 to 10 percent of tenants have legal assistance.2 Unlike criminal defendants, parties in civil cases do not have a generalized right to counsel. While all states provide a right to counsel for at least a few types of civil cases, most parties in civil cases that involve high stakes and basic human needs, such as housing, do not have a right to representation.3
 
In more than three-fourths of all civil trial cases in the United States, at least one litigant does not have a lawyer.4 Figures are even starker when it comes to family law, domestic violence, housing, and small-claims matters—those involving disputes over amounts up to $25,000, depending on the state. At least one party lacks representation in 70 to 98 percent of these cases.” 
 
She also notes that those are only the cases that make to to court; many do not, often because people do not know their rights. It’s compelling reporting.
 
An inmate’s hands are seen folded together outside a cell at the jail at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

An inmate’s hands are seen folded together outside a cell at the jail at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

Citing lessons learned from Ferguson, Mo., the treasurer of San Francisco is warning that the city may be practicing “predatory government,” a reference to “predatory lending” that targets lower income families. Jose Cisneros notes that a Justice Department investigation revealed “… a pattern of of ticketing people for minor offenses – like having a busted taillight or high grass in their yard. If people couldn’t pay the ticket, which averaged a few hundred dollars, then their fines grew.”
 
But the treasurer quickly shifted to his city, noting that the famously liberal city levies more fines per capita than most California counties, and assesses more fines per capita than Philly, Louisville, Ky. and Nashville – all cities of similar size. Cisneros is launching several efforts to confront the problem and one idea is for non-monetary alternatives to fines and even bail. He says two thirds of people in California jails have not been convicted of a crime but are there because they cannot afford bail.
 
The commentary, published in the Chronicle print edition and online, is one of the best-argued pieces in recent memory on the subject of the Ferguson issues, especially because it comes from an elected official who is, after all, the local government’s “debt collector.” It should be printed and tacked to every bulletin board of every City Hall in America. And faxing a copy over to Trump Tower couldn’t hurt.