Dems Endorse For LASC Judgeships

LACDP_Seal_FB-290x160

Image from www.lacdp.org

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has named its endorsement for the 2014 L.A. Superior Court judicial elections while declining to endorse anyone in four of the ten races. The endorsements are included on the party’s website along with other state and local picks.

Endorsement included:  

Office 22 – Pamala F. Matsumoto
Office 48 – No Consensus
Office 54 – Debra L. Losnick
Office 61 – Jacqueline H. Lewis
Office 76 – Helen Kim
Office 87 – Andrew M. Stein
Office 97 – No Consensus
Office 107 – Emma Castro
Office 113 – No Consensus
Office 138 – No Endorsement

See more at: http://www.lacdp.org/endorsements/#sthash.cu7DLRPn.dpuf

Kansas Latest To Tie Cash To Judicial ‘Reform’

 
Kansas, like California, is following the national trend to tie state judicial reform to funding, leading the Wichita Eagle to editorialize against the changes as eroding court independence. The newspaper writes that “Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss warned this was coming, objecting in an Eagle commentary last month to ‘the diffusion of the unified court system’s centralized authority in exchange for money to keep courts open.’ 
 
The funding-linked legislation, pending a decision by Gov. Sam Brownback, would allow the chief judge of each of the state’s 31 judicial districts to submit and control his own budget. The Eagle fears that “… the new legislation also allows judges to select the chief judge for their own district court, further eroding the Supreme Court’s authority.” 
 
You can read a detailed argument on the Kansas argument here.

$70m Shortfall Is Budget Cred Issue

 
There’s another issue surfacing in the upcoming knock-down, drag-out fight over the 2014-15 California courts budget, and it likely works against increased judicial brand funding. The discussion involves an Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) estimate that filing fees and other sources would bring $1.3 billion million into the courts – but now those estimates are though to be short $70 million.
 
The Courthouse News reports that “… much of that shortfall was due to a long-term decline in filing revenue which the administrators said they were well aware of.” That, in turn, has sparked a debate over the AOC’s budget credibility as court officials lobby for something like $300 million of increased funding in the next state budget.
 
You can read Maria Dinzeo’s well-detailed account here.

Gov. May ‘Remake’ State Supreme Court

 
You can add “new supreme court” to the issues for Gov. Jerry Brown’s re-election bid. The Los Angeles Times is taking notice that three of the high court’s seven justices are in their 70s and the governor is already making a second appointment to the bench. He is replacing Justice Joyce L. Kennard – considered a “moderate” by modern court standards.
Photo: gov.ca.gov.com

Photo: gov.ca.gov.co

 
The Times reports that “… he court, one of the nation’s most influential, has no Latino or African American, or anyone from Southern California. Brown faces political pressure to change that. Judges and lawyers are betting Brown will pick a Latino. Some analysts said they would not be surprised if he elevated San Francisco appeals court Justice James Humes, an openly gay lawyer who served Brown in the governor’s office and when he was attorney general.”
 
Of course, adds another longtime observer of both the court and the governor notes, Brown adds the wild card of “doing whatever he feels like doing.” It will be interesting if any of the potential candidates dare to make courts funding an issue in taking the job. Read the Times story here.

Clients Need a ‘Bill of Rights’ argues CCM Publisher in HuffPo

California Courts Monitor publisher, Sara Warner, makes an argument for a “Client Bill of Rights” to protect clients in civil litigation today in the Huffington Post.

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

In her post, she states:

“We hear about personal injury cases being “bundled” with other cases to increase settlements, often without client knowledge. We hear that some attorneys distribute settlement money based on which client arrangements benefit them most. We hear about lawyers creating companies, like document courier services, that they use to drive up the “expenses” they can deduct from client payments…Hopefully, if true, these are rare events. A solid bill of rights might help keep them that way.”

Read the HuffPo piece here and join in the conversation.

Chief Justice Seeks Another $266m For Courts

Think what you will of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, she is proving relentless at advocating for increased courts funding. A recent example came with an KABC Los Angeles Eyewitness News interview with Adrienne Alpert, who asked tough questions about court management and budget issues. 

Alpert notes that “… chief justices rarely agree to interviews, but Cantil-Sakauye is adamant the $105 million the governor added to the judicial budget is not nearly enough” then adds that “the chief justice says it will actually take $266 million to keep the courts running as they are and more than double that to fully serve the public.”

The interview is interesting, in part, because it refines the likely points as the state budget annual deadline moves into the two-month range. See video and text of the story here

Family Law Movie Still Making Fans

 
It has been out for a while now, but the family law documentary “Divorce Corp.” continues to gain fans, with its official trailer moving past 1 million views on YouTube and continued theater-venue screenings. The next one in the L.A. area, for example, is May 8 at 7 p.m. and hosted by “The Divorce Transition Professionals” at the Westlake Village Twin Theater.
Photo: www.divorcecorp.com

Photo: www.divorcecorp.com

 
The film takes a hard look at the family court in general through how it handles divorces, especially how children can become pawns in the proceedings. It is issue-specific, but shows some serious problems with L.A. family courts – the film makes the case that the system has become little more than a huge fee factory for lawyers and the courts.
 
Is it fair? Dan Schawbel at Huffington Post has a good interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky that largely answers that. Says Dr. Drew: “This is a system that doesn’t really serve anyone’s best interest except the system itself.”

 

Check out the trailer, the companion book and find local screenings here: www.divorcecorp.com.

Obama Picks Prosecutor For Fed Bench

 
High-profile U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. has been nominated for a federal judgeship in the L.A.-based Central District of California. He currently is head of a division that works on criminal, civil and tax cases. His nomination by President Obama follows a recommendation by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and faces confirmation by the senate.
 
Most recently, Birotte’s office led the investigations the brought indictments against California state Senator Ron Calderon on public corruption charges. The story is being reported by public radio station KPCC here
 
Follow the reporter, Sharon McNary: @KPCCsharon on Twitter

Court Interpreters Are Another Budget Issue

 
Who gets court-funded interpreters and how many are available are among issues being raised by a series of “working group” meetings focused on the pending state budget court-funding debate. While many judges say they may have enough to deal with Spanish-speaking cases, they note that more than 200 languages are spoken in California, according to a report by public radio station KPCC.
 
Another issue is which kinds of cases even get court-funded interpreters, notes the station, noting that “… while counties provide them for criminal cases, they generally don’t for things like child custody hearings and divorce proceedings. “We provide an interpreter for someone who ran a red light, but not someone who’s losing their children,” said one source.
 
The working group has already met in San Francisco. Next month, they’ll hold their final hearing in Sacramento before submitting the first draft of a language access improvement plan in June, reports Rina Palta, the station’s crime and safety reporter. Read and listen to the report here.


Follow the reporter on Twitter: @KPCCRina911 

 

City Watch Hits Flat-Fee Juvenile Defense Issue

 
The City Watch website is posting a story about the flat-fee juvenile defense system. At issue is how attorneys representing indigent youth are paid. The story by Gary Cohn is making the rounds as activists try to apply heat to officials who control the system.
 
Cohn writes that “… the problem is particularly serious in Los Angeles County, one of the world’s largest juvenile justice systems, where a controversial low-bid, flat fee compensation system for attorneys representing certain indigent youth raises systemic due process concerns. Under that system, contract attorneys — such as the one who represented Antonio, are paid an astonishingly low fee of $300 to $350 per case, regardless of whether the case involves shoplifting or murder. This is in a city where private lawyers are costly. Criminal defense attorney fees in Los Angeles can easily exceed $500 an hour.”
 
He also reports that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 11 voted unanimously to study the issue of panel attorneys’ compensation and other issues involving the county’s juvenile defense system. A series of recommendations is expected to be presented to the board this spring. 
 
Read the report, which also appears on publicCEO.com, here.