A History Lesson On Race-Based Immigration

Controversy and court challenges over American birth-right citizenship for babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants? Targeting a particular group for enforcement because of their race? Accepting the labor and economic contribution while creating an immigrant underclass? An NBC news report outlines those moves against Chinese immigrants under the “Chinese Exclusion Act,” that was repealed in 1943 – after being in place for 61 years.
It was that debate over birth right to U.S. citizenship that brought the Supreme Court’s Wong Kim Ark case, which is still the legal standard today, notes NBC.
The Exclusion Act, says the report, “…. was repealed with the signing of the Magnuson Act on… Dec. 17, in 1943. The legal exclusion of Chinese lasted for sixty-one years. The repeal was named for Warren G. Magnuson, a member of Congress from Washington state, where some of the strongest anti-Chinese sentiment was heard. The repeal, however, was still restrictive, opening up Chinese immigration to just 105 visas.”
Read the NBC report and some details on the policy here: The Chinese Exclusion Act Ended Seventy-One Years Ago, Today

S.F And L.A. Sue Uber Car Service

If district attorneys from two big cities think you or I are breaking the law, they send the cops. But if you are a company valued at $40 billion, they send the civil attorneys. The San Francisco Chronicle and other outlets are reporting that “… both San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys filed a consumer protection lawsuit against on-demand ride service Uber on Tuesday, saying it misleads customers about driver background checks and violates state laws about airport rides and calculating fares.”
The newspaper reports that Uber’s rival service Lyft settled similar allegations and agreed to pay up to $500,000 in civil fines.
“Uber refused to comply with straightforward Caifornia laws to protect consumers from harm,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference. “Companies can be innovative without harming consumers.”
Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend had a different take: “Californians and California lawmakers all agree — Uber is an integral, safe, and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State…”

BASF Case Focused On Concealing Evidence

The world’s largest chemical maker and a prominent law firm have lost another court appeal in a class action lawsuit accusing them of concealing and destroying evidence in a batch of asbestos litigation. The federal Third Circuit has declined to “rehear” a September decision that, in effect, re-opened the case. Businessweek reports that the company was “… ordered to face claims it fraudulently hid evidence that its talc products contained asbestos as it sought to scuttle thousands of personal-injury lawsuits.” The company in question was actually acquired by BASF and that business unit mined talc that was used in everything from wallboard to children’s balloons. 
Image as reported in The Wall Street Journal 9/4/14 article, "Appeals Court Breathes New Life Into Fraud Case Involving BASF, Cahill Gordon."

Image as reported in The Wall Street Journal 9/4/14 article, “Appeals Court Breathes New Life Into Fraud Case Involving BASF, Cahill Gordon.”

Writing in The American Lawyer (a subscription site) Susan Beck reports that “… BASF, its asbestos litigation has morphed from being a negligible nuisance into an expensive, embarrassing problem. The company stresses that it inherited this situation from Engelhard, and has gone to great efforts to find out what happened. For Cahill, the litigation is also remarkable. Legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers of New York University School of Law says it’s not unheard-of for a law firm to be sued for fraud, noting that several were sued in the wake of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. ‘What is rare,’ he says, ‘is for a case like this to target such a prominent law firm.’”
Beck also notes that thousands of cases might be re-opened based on the evidence. The Wall Street Journal also offers background for free.

Immigration Courts Face Obama Actions

President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will impact the civil courts system, but it’s hard to know how soon that will happen – or how much the impact will be. Southern California public radio station KPCC is reporting it as “promising news” for immigration judges “… who have long sought more resources for their busy courtrooms, says Bruce Einhorn, a former immigration judge who served in the LA courts for more than 15 years.”:

As reported in SCPR, “A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.”

As reported in SCPR, “A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.”

The KPCC reports says  that a typical judge in Los Angeles has about 2,500 cases on their docket, which means an average case takes more than two years to reach a decision, but that could change with Obama’s action. Einhorn, said it will take time to see the effects on the ground. One group that will likely not find relief are the thousands of child migrant cases that are working their way through the courts. As Take Two has been covering on the program, more than 7,000 children are being heard in Los Angeles alone. Since they arrived in the country within the past five years, they probably will not qualify under the new rules from Obama.

Read and listen to the report here: Obama’s actions could affect thousands at LA’s immigration courts.

Bar Exam Failures Raise Concern

The LA Times is reporting that "a group of administrators from nearly 80 law schools, including University of LaVerne College of Law Dean Gilbert Holmes, has asked the National Conference of Bar Examiners to review how the bar exam is scored after a big drop in passage rates this year."

The LA Times is reporting that “a group of administrators from nearly 80 law schools, including University of LaVerne College of Law Dean Gilbert Holmes, has asked the National Conference of Bar Examiners to review how the bar exam is scored after a big drop in passage rates this year.”

Just when we need more lawyers for things like immigration cases, it turns out that fewer people are passing the bar exams. The Los Angeles Times reports that “… for the first time in nearly a decade, most law school graduates who took the summer California bar exam failed, adding to the pressure on law schools already dealing with plummeting enrollments, complaints about student debt and declining job prospects.”
The Golden State reflects a national trend. The LAT says that “… many other states showed similar declines this year. It’s unclear why the recent passage rates are so low, but they fell by at least 5 percentage points in 20 states.”
Law school officials are asking all sorts of questions, including what the failure rate means amid student debt and other pressures. Read the story here: Fewer law school graduates pass bar exam in California.

Asbestos Plaintiff Firms Said To Pocket $2B/Yr.

The National Courts Monitor, our sister website, is reporting on a new estimate that plaintiff’s firms earn a whopping $2 billion per year on asbestos cases. The estimate, by a defense-side attorney, comes in the context of litigation-community debate and raises questions about creation of “Perjury Pawns.”

State Study Calls For Collection Of Unpaid Fines, Fees

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office is calling for new procedures to collect what it says is about $10.2 billion in unpaid fines, fees and “court-ordered debts.” You may recall that Los Angeles County counsel Lloyd Pellman raised this issue years ago, and the state LAO recommendations echo his. The idea is to give incentives, like a 25 percent commission, to courts that collect money. 
The Met-News has its usual good job of reporting here.

Tomorrow’s Immigration News Today: Devil In The Details

Not to equate the United States Justice Department with Lucifer himself, but the old saying that “the devil’s in the details” is holding up with President Obama’s immigration actions. You have to read with a particular eye, but a Washington Post report by  Juliet Eilperin and Jerry Markon notes that “… one of the provisions the Justice Department lawyers included, which they also pushed for during the creation of the 2012 program, was to make clear that federal immigration officials would still have the option of deporting individuals who might otherwise qualify for a deferral.”

Wait, what? With some 400,000 cases pending in the Justice Department’s own immigration courts, they also have the option of deporting people who would “otherwise” qualify for defferral? The WaPo also reports that the “… memo states that the new policy ‘provides for case-by-case determinations about whether an individual alien’s circumstances warrant the expenditure of removal resources, employing a broad standard that leaves ample room for the exercise of individual discretion by enforcement officials.’”

One point of the story is that some people who might qualify for protection under the Obama action will no self-identify to authorities. It’s the kind of uncertainty that has kept some “Dreamers” from stepping forward. From what we’ve seen in the past year, “trust the Justice Department” is going to be a tough sell, and a future headline will be “Few Take Obama Up On Protection Offer.”

You read it here first! And you can see the excellent WaPo work here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To make sure our team has some time to be thankful, the Courts Monitor has suspended posting until Monday, Dec. 1, when we will resume our daily ration of civil justice rationing. Happy Thanksgiving, and watch for our “Year In Civil Courts” series in December. — The Editors.

Another Young Voice For Civil Gideon In Minnesota

Move over New York Times, a student essay from Minnesota is adding another strong voice in support of a “civil Gideon” movement to provide legal assistance in certain civil cases. The Minnesota Lawyer website published the essay by Katelyn Gross, of the Hawley Secondary School, this week.
The work was part of an annual scholarship competition, and Ms. Gross makes points like this: “… when someone breaks into a home and steals an expensive television set, that individual is entitled to attorney representation; by contrast, a poor person whose housing is wrongfully being taken from him is not entitled to counsel, even though the result may be homelessness for an entire family… homelessness is much more disastrous for a family than jail is for that one individual, and yet that family is not entitled to legal counsel.”

She makes a strong case. Read more here.