Amid Gridlock, California Comes To Border Kids Representation Rescue

The U.S. Congress inactive due to gridlock and campaign season. President Obama inactive, while cynically delaying action until after November’s midterm voting. The Justice Department relatively inactive over the very immigration court system it manages as the U.S. attorney general resigns. But the state of California is stepping up, setting aside $3 million for immediate legal assistance to the tens of thousands of Central American children showing up to see refuge in the United States.
Gov. Brown signed the law over the weekend and it includes assistance to keep some students in school who “defied” authority. In a Los Angeles Times story, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who backed the measure, said that “… the $3 million to help the immigrant children, said, will provide due process in the United States that will rescue some of them from the “virtual death sentence” they would face if deported to unsafe home countries.” Later, she added in a statement that “… with the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reaffirmed California’s commitment to doing its part to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at [the] border involving Central American youth.”
Read the Times story, which also covers other legislation signed ahead of Tuesday’s end-of-month deadline, here: Gov. Brown signs bills aiding immigrant children, troubled students

A.G. Holder Exiting Amid ‘Unfinished’ Work With Immigration Courts

While praising his actions to bring the first Justice Department action against states over immigration laws, a leading immigration activist says U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – or his replacement – has work to do on the nation’s immigration courts. The civil immigration system is operated by Holder’s Justice Department, and the judges are Justice Department employees.
The ongoing immigration court crisis, with its 400,000-case backlog and fast-tracking of suddenly high-profile Central American children seeking entry to the United States, is not gaining widespread coverage as news organizations ponder the Holder legacy. But Marielena Hincapié, director of the National Immigration Law Center, noted the issue after first praising the A.G. for “helping to establish immigration as an important area of civil rights.”
She told The Washington Post that “… we really saw an attorney general and a department of justice that was willing to lead on these issues and to take risky moves.” But, the Post added, “… yet she added that Holder (or his successor) still has some important unfinished business with regard to the country’s immigration courts, which are overseen by the Justice Department and are overwhelmed with cases.”

‘Jerk Bill’ Takes Aim At Attorney Bad Behavior

A business-backed bill that takes aim at certain attorney behavior, typically tactics that show disrespect or are designed to delay the courts, has been signed into law by Gov. Brown, the Sacramento Business Journal is reporting. Backers of the bill argued that, along with giving judges a tool to regulate attorneys, the new law will conserve court resources.
The BizJ quotes the president of the Civil Justice Association of California, or CJAC, saying that “…prior to this bill, courts had tools to sanction lawyers who brought frivolous lawsuits but not sanctions if they behaved badly,” said . “Now, if the filing is legit, but the lawyer is behaving like a jerk, the court can smack them with the other side’s legal fees.”
Read the report here:

State Supreme Court To Decide Who Can Sue California

The California Supreme Court has agreed to consider if the 105-year-old California law that allows taxpayers to sue state and local over their policies applies to all residents or just to property owners, according to the San Francisco Chronicle website SFGate.
Explains the report: “The state’s high court has never defined the criteria for a taxpayer suit. That issue arose in San Rafael, where Cherrity Wheatherford, a renter and a U.S. citizen, tried to sue over a police practice of impounding cars for 30 days when their drivers lacked licenses. She claimed they were unfairly punishing undocumented immigrants. In May, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco dismissed Wheatherford’s suit because she owns no property in the city or county. Taxpayer suits, the court said, are limited to those who pay property taxes in the jurisdiction, which leaves out residents who pay only income, gas or sales taxes.”

Award-Winning Courthouse Closes After Just 4 Years

Just four years after its opened amid much fanfare, one of California’s most scenic courthouses has become another victim of the state’s justice rationing, slated to close Nov. 3. A Plumas County News report quotes Plumas Superior Court Executive Officer Deborah Norrie saying that “… the trial courts have lost a billion dollars (in funding) in the last few years. The Plumas court has taken its fair share of hits.”
Known for its award winning design, Portola Courthouse is facing closure.

Known for its award winning design, Portola Courthouse is facing closure.

Plumas County, a Sierra Nevada community located near the Nevada border in northwestern California, has now lost three of its four court facilities, the newspaper noted, with the Greenville court closing in 2012 and Chester’s court closing last year. All cases in Plumas County will now be processed and heard at the Quincy courthouse, but with reduced court hours. The paper reported that, beginning Nov. 3, the court will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phones will be answered from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Portola courthouse won design awards and looks more like a ski area entrance than a traditional court building. It is owned by the state judicial system and it remains unclear what, if anything, will be done with the 6,500 square foot building. Local judges say they hope it reopens as a courthouse when funding is restored.

Immigration Court Rationing Retains Attention

The “Border Kid” refugee/immigration crisis continues to gain attention, with media coverage moving away from the sheer numbers (nearly 400,000 cases pending, for example) into the human interest stories. A good case in point is a Daily Beast online report from the New York immigration court. New York City, like San Francisco, is providing some legal representation assistance for the kids, which assists an array of non-profit and religious groups offering some assistance. But the DB points out that New York is second only to Texas in how many cases it must accept in the new “rocket docket” policy for the children.
The DB also notes that “… the U.S. government is not legally required to provide a lawyer for people going through immigration proceedings—even for young kids. So New York-based advocacy groups like the Safe Passage Project, The Door, the Legal Aid Society, Catholic Charities and the American Immigration Lawyers Association have sprung into action, rallying volunteers, interpreters and pro bono attorneys in a joint effort to help guide the Border Kids through the complex and confusing world of immigration court.”
The volume is staggering, with lawyers being given weeks to prepare cases they feel should take months. Read the report from the courthouse here: The Border Kid Crisis Hits the Courts

Court Budget Group Punts On Alternative Allocation

Despite a looming $22.7 million revenue shortfall, the state’s Trial Court Budget Advisory Committee, or TCBAC, will decline to offer an “alternative recommendation” on how funds are allocated to California courts, according to The Courthouse News Service. The CN report adds that “… deftly bypassed the option to revisit the original four allocation options. Instead, members narrowed their focus to the two pro-rata 2014-15 base allocation scenarios. Adoption of the second scenario means a 2 percent increase for San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Tehama, and Tulare counties over the first scenario.”

The news service also noted that “… the meeting was only the second afforded public access after Gov. Brown axed a provision initiated by the state Legislature earlier this year to open up all of the council’s advisory committee and subcommittee meetings.”

Read more here: Courthouse News Service

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