The state of Virginia’s DMV is the latest agency under fire for tying drivers’ licenses to paying court costs and fines. The Washington Post reports that “… after a class-action lawsuit claimed Virginia suspends the driver’s licenses of those too poor to pay fines and court costs in an ‘unconstitutional scheme,’ the state replied Monday, saying the suit raised no legitimate complaint.”
Also from the WaPo: “Though Plaintiffs’ case could appear sympathetic from a policy perspective, it fails when viewed from a legal one,” said the state’s memorandum in support of a motion to dismiss.
The class action, filed in July in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, documents that more than 940,000 people in Virginia currently have their licenses suspended for nonpayment. Such suspensions have become a civil rights issue across the country because they are seen to criminalize civil courts action.
Read the WaPo piece here: ‘DMV is not responsible’: Va. denies claim it unfairly suspends driver’s licenses
As the U.S. Congress votes this week to override a presidential veto for the first time in President Obama’s tenure, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) says the country is exporting its foreign policy to trail lawyers and warned that U.S. personnel might find themselves dragged into lawsuits abroad over American drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or even its support for Israel.
At issue is a law that would allow victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia over any potential role in those attacks. The president and others say such a law would invite similar action against the United States. Sen. Corker is one of several members who argue the bill is so broad that it could expose the United States to retaliation in foreign courts.
The Washington Post says that the move is a “… a sign that Saudi Arabia’s fortunes are waning on Capitol Hill. The Saudi government has denied it had any ties to the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and has lobbied fiercely against the bill. But victims’ families have pushed for the legislation so they can press their case in courts, and lawmakers who support the measure argue Saudi Arabia should not be concerned if it did nothing wrong.”
Also from the Post: “This is not a time when U.S.-Saudi relations have much popular support on either side,” said F. Gregory Gause, head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. Just as the Saudis think the administration has tilted too closely to Iran, he said, many U.S. politicians blame Saudi Arabia for the globe spread of Sunni extremism. “I think that’s really simplistic.”
Read the WaPo report here:
Congress overrides Obama’s veto of 9/11 bill
One of the more thoughtful deep-dives into the immigration reform issue is making the rounds via The New York Times. Written by Eduardo Porter, it is one of the few to note that U.S. immigration policy and enforcement may not drive a person’s decision to come to the United States. He also notes the huge population differences brought about by the current trends:
“What the U.S. government is doing in terms of border enforcement, mass deportations and other restrictive policies just isn’t relevant to the decision to stay home,” noted the Mexican Migration Field Research and Training Program of the University of California, San Diego, which has interviewed thousands of immigrants and potential immigrants in communities across Mexico.”
“Immigrants, their children and grandchildren have accounted for 55 percent of the country’s population growth since 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. Then, the country was 84 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent Asian. Today it is 62 percent white, 18 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian. Unauthorized immigrants, brought close to zero after the legalization wave of the 1980s, are back at an estimated 11 million.”
Read the story here:
Immigration Reform: Disparate Ideas, Disparate Futures
The New York Times coverage of this week’s United Nations discussion about refugees, which includes a “summit” hosted by President Obama, including spotlighting that ” … the U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.”
That may be because the U.S. has more than a half-million pending Immigration Court cases backed up for years and has detained some refugee families for more than a year. The detention camps have been found illegal by a federal court, and some moms have resorted to hunger strikes. Some 45 countries are expected to agree to new, non-binding goals for the international refugee crisis this week.
In the U.S., immigration regulation is enforced at immigration courts as s “civil matter,” meaning those under detention do not have the same rights as criminal defendants, which would include the right to representation by a lawyer.
Read about the hunger strikes here:
Moms go on a hunger strike to get themselves and their kids out of immigration detention
A Boston Globe report has detailed that many detained immigrants show up in immigration court in shackles – even without any criminal record. The Globe reports that “… when detained immigrants have their day in immigration courtrooms in Boston and in many other courts around the nation, they almost always spend it in chains. Some of the immigrants have criminal records, but some do not, and the controversial practice has ignited protests from Connecticut to California. Critics say detainees in the civil immigration system are treated more harshly than people accused of violent crimes in state and federal courts. But others say shackling preserves public safety in the courts, where security is limited.”
We would background that immigration courts are not actually U.S. federal courts, but are actually run by the U.S. Justice Department. Those facing the courts do not have a right to an attorney, as they would if criminal charges were being considered, because the cases are considered “civil” actions.
Read the Globe report here: In Boston immigration court, chains are a familiar sound – The Boston Globe
The NBC affiliate in California’s San Francisco area is reporting that the state bar of California is, for the first time in almost 20 years, asking the state Supreme Court for authority to collect attorneys’ dues. The report backgrounds that “… the announcement comes after a bill aimed at reforming the bar failed to pass through the state’s most recent legislative session… the bill, SB-846, sought to divide the bar into two agencies, since it currently serves as both a trade group for lawyers and a regulatory body that is supposed to discipline attorneys.”
The potential legislation comes amid concerns that the California bar should be run by people who do not practice law. The NBC report noted that “… the California State Bar has come under harsh criticism in recent months over mismanagement and misspending. Last week, the Investigative Unit revealed that a recent state audit shows the agency is overpaying its employees, all while the bar’s fund to repay victims of corrupt lawyers is millions of dollars short.”
The NBC affiliate, perhaps one of the most aggressive local news in the nation, said that the Investigative Unit revealed how the bar was accused of failing to keep watch over some of the state’s worst attorneys. According to a separate state audit released in June 2015, in trying to clear its backlog of consumer complaints against attorneys, the bar allowed some lawyers to continue practicing, even though they should have been disciplined or disbarred.
Source: Bill to Reform California State Bar Fails to Pass Through Legislature | NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Bill-to-reform-California-State-Bar-fails-to-pass-through-state-legislature-392199531.html#ixzz4K9qbxtjM
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The clearinghouse that tracks immigration court backlog says that some places are better than others for immigrations hoping remain in the United States. The Miami Herald reports that’s “… because judges at the Miami immigration court are deemed among the most lenient toward immigrants in the country… the report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University says that the Miami immigration court is in the top five immigration courts in the country whose judges are more likely to allow immigrants to stay in the country despite deportation orders sought by government trial attorneys representing the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the TRAC study, the Phoenix immigration court ranks No. 1 with “the highest proportion of individuals who were allowed to stay.” In second place was the New York immigration court, followed by Denver in third, San Antonio in fourth and then Miami in fifth, according to the study.
See the TRAC research here.
Read the newspaper’s story here: How lenient are Miami immigration judges? A study ranks the court