Report: Immigration Wait For Non-Detained Average 900 Days

Hearst News is reporting that “… non-detained immigrants now face an average 900-day wait for their cases to be resolved in the country’s immigration courts, according to an official in the Executive Office for Immigration Review.” That is even higher than the previous average time of 520 days, which was based on data gathered by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse [TRAC] at Syracuse University and included some cases where people were detained in federal custody.

“Detained cases, they try to move more quickly,” TRAC Research Center director Susan Long told Hearst. “Secondly, most of those don’t have attorneys, and therefore they get deported. Removal decisions move much more quickly than any one that has an application for relief.

The story also noted that “… nationally, as of Sept. 30, 2013, EOIR had 350,330 pending cases. That’s up 56 percent from the 223,707 cases pending on Sept. 30, 2009. Between 2009 and the start of the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year, the number of new cases received in immigration courts actually was in decline, EOIR’s statistics show.”


Key Take-aways from San Fran Perrin Asbestos Summit

Perrin Conferences hosted its latest Asbestos Summit in San Francisco, last week. The well attended conference was littered with defense and plaintiff attorneys, each using key cases to point fingers at the other for evidence of well… concealing evidence. Amid the fanfare, rumors and speculation, we found a few key take-aways worth noting:

  • The “Garlock” case we’ve blogged about previously continues to be closely watched. The case suggests that victims may become “perjury pawns” if it turns out that indeed, plaintiff’s lawyers are having their clients say one thing in court, and another during trust settlements. 
  • Plaintiff’s attorneys are pointing to a recent case involving BASF and Cahill that demonstrates a defendant who allegedly concealed relevant evidence. According to the Wall Street Journal, a former chemist employed with BASF “testified about the company’s mid-1980’s collection of data, analyses and reports about the contamination, a collection of material which had disappeared.” The documents were later discovered in a Cahill storage facility.  

Asbestos Victims Might Reopen Cases In Wake Of BASF Appeal Finding

Hollywood may have its next true-to-life legal story and asbestos victims with long-settled lawsuits against BASF Catalysts may have new claims in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling. Judges found that the the company “… and its attorneys must face claims that they fraudulently concealed evidence that the company’s talc products contained asbestos, forcing many asbestos victims to dismiss or settle their tort claims,” according to The Courthouse News and other sources.
Judge Julio Fuentes, writing a three-judge panel in the 3rd Circuit, said that “… we conclude that the [lower] District Court erred when it dismissed the fraud and fraudulent concealment claims. The amended class action complaint properly alleges the elements of fraud and fraudulent concealment – namely that BASF and Cahill lied about and destroyed the asbestos evidence to plaintiffs’ detriment. Neither the New Jersey litigation privilege nor pleading requirements stand in the way of these claims.”
The Courthouse News added that, “… however, the court found it premature to make a ruling on any particular legal defense that defendants might make if plaintiffs seek to reopen state cases.”
The report offered, by way of background and plot twist: “The scheme collapsed in a recent lawsuit when a former research chemist for Engelhard testified that he had discovered asbestos in the company’s talc many years ago, and had been instructed to turn over all of his talc-related records. This testimony triggered discovery of potentially concealed documents, of which many were found kept secretly in a Cahill storage facility.”
Read the report here: Courthouse News Service

In Ferguson, Reform Begins With Courts

Confronting racial issues in Ferguson, Missouri – where the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer sparked demonstrations – apparently begins with the courts system. Reports the Guardian newspaper “… some residents have described the courts regime as ‘taxation without representation’ and complained of a cycle of punishment in which they were fined for not making it to court appearances set during working hours that they tried unsuccessfully to reschedule.”
Actually, the newspaper reports that the offence of “failure to appear” is to be abolished under the new rules, along with a $50 ‘warrant recall’ fine and $15 in other fees imposed on people who can not make court dates. The city council says it wants to stop using the fines as a “source of general revenue” for the city, but critics say a plan to cap such fees to “15 percent of the city budget” would actually allow for increasing the payments. 

The report also noted that “… many people in the city, which has a two-thirds black population and a police force that is 94% white, complain that the law enforcement system disproportionately targets black residents. Figures published in 2013 by Missouri’s attorney general showed that seven black drivers were stopped by police in the city for every white driver.”

Read the story here:  Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more

Asbestos Litigation Summit Tackles Issues of Trust

CCM Publisher Sara Corcoran Warner lights up the Huffington Post again with her latest blog. 

The insular and well-heeled world of American asbestos litigation is gathering atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill this week for what amounts to an annual current-events snapshot, and this year things may get a bit testy in the industry triangle of plaintiff attorneys, defense firms and insurance companies. Read More.

L.A. Looks To Bypass Courts For Low-Level Crimes

Worried that charging people with “lower level” crimes like public urination is more trouble than it’s worth in a crowded court system, Los Angeles officials are planning to bypass judges and create an alternative justice system for dozens of infractions. the L.A. Register newspaper reports that the Administrative Code Enforcement, or ACE, program would be rolled out first with Los Angeles Animal Services and Police Department and “.. won’t replace the city’s current system of being able to charge people with a misdemeanor or infraction in criminal court. But the program will give police the option of issuing an administrative ticket for low-level offenses, LAPD told a committee earlier this week.”

Some examples given were tampering with garbage, public urination and defecation, and throwing trash into the L.A. River. The Register says that “… citations would range from $250 for the first violation to $1,000 for a third offense.. The city expects to net $468,000 in the first year, according to an analysis prepared in June by the City Attorney’s Office.”

The system as explained does not allow those cited access to actual courts, but only an administrative review. Read the story here: More tickets? ACE is a new way to punish minor crimes

Immigration ‘Rocket Docket’ Raises Ire In S.F.

Local officials in San Francisco are raising issues with the Department of Justice “rocket docket” for unaccompanied Central American minors who were caught or surrendered to authorities at the U.S. border. The San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper is reporting that courts are now “… cramming through as many as 50 cases daily.”
“This new docket is dramatically accelerating the pace for the cases of newly arrived, traumatized children and families from Central America,” Robin Goldfaden of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Bay Area wrote in an email to the Bay Guardian. “For many, a wrong decision can mean being sent back to unspeakable harm – brutal beatings, rapes, even death. … But nonprofit legal services providers, already stretched beyond capacity, simply do not have the number of attorneys and other staff required to meet the ever-rising level of need.” 
At the Sept. 2 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, one county official proposed a budgetary supplemental to allocate $1.2 million for legal representation for unaccompanied youth being processed in immigration court in the Bay Area. “Under international law, many of these kids would actually qualify as refugees,” said the official. “And many of them have cases that would allow them to be protected by immigration law in the US…”

S.F. Steping Up In Border-Child Crisis

Citing its tradition of being a “Sanctuary City” for immigration, documented or not, San Francisco has become the first California city to provide funding for attorneys representing immigrants facing deportation. The money will go through the nonprofit Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights. It’s an important move, in part, because government funding including most federal programs cannot pay for representing immigrants in deportation situations.
Terry Collins of the Associated Press reported that “.. since January, nearly 200 children in San Francisco who entered the country unaccompanied by an adult now have adult sponsors and cases pending in immigration court, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department reported… advocates believe there are hundreds more children who have sought refuge in the city without a sponsor, officials added.”
The AP report also noted that “… the U.S. Justice Department has ordered immigration courts to make cases involving unaccompanied minors entering the country a priority. California has the largest backlog of immigration court cases, followed by Texas and New York, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. While San Francisco is the first Golden State city to offer attorney-focused assistance, the city of New York has a similar program and the state of California is spending several million dollars on the issue.

 Read more here: San Francisco to help fund immigration attorneys

Courts Funding Gets Buzzy

Call it official: the once obscure civil courts funding issue surrounding immigration enforcement has gone mainstream. We know this because the click-fest known as BuzzFeed has actually developed one of their video-centric reports: “Top 10 Reasons Why Immigration Courts Need More Funding.”

The reasons are solid, like “… with a backlog of more than 360,000 cases, the average wait for a case to be resolved in immigration court is 578 days.” They also note the lack of legal representation for minors, budget cuts and common sense.

It’s posted in the “community” section with a disclaimer that it was produced by a BuzzFeed non-staffer, but it certainly has the BF DNA. Take a look here.

SoCal Civil Court Backlogs With Child Immigration Cases

Southern California Public Radio has an important new piece on how Los Angeles courts are handling the immigration crisis of unaccompanied Central American children. Reporter Dorian Merina quotes one judge noting that “… other federal judges hear about 500-600 cases a year” while typical immigration judges in L.A. hear three times as many, or up to 1,600 on average.
The judge explains that the situation “.. has led to an historic backlog of cases in the immigration court system nationwide” and that there are about 375,000 pending cases as of June this year, the highest it’s ever been, according to government enforcement.
The report also addresses the issue of legal representation, saying that “… of the 7,729 juvenile cases currently in the L.A. courts, just under half, or 3,516, face proceedings without a lawyer, according to TRAC data. (Unlike criminal cases, immigration courts are considered administrative hearings and attorneys are encouraged, but not guaranteed.)”
It’s a troubling report from the nation’s largest immigration court: LA’s immigration courts overwhelmed by child migrant cases