California Groups Demand ‘Trust’ Implementation

Across the Golden State protestors this week are asking state officials to fully implement a 2014 law that protects undocumented immigrants reporting crimes or becoming witnesses to wrongdoing. The “Trust Act” was aimed at allowing those immigrants to testify in court or report crime without fear of deportation, but activists say it has not been followed.
The NBC affiliate in San Diego covered protests there and explained that “… the law decreased immigration “holds” in California, which in turn decreased deportations of undocumented immigrants. The law also provided expanded protections for undocumented immigrants. Protesters claim law enforcement officers have violated the state law instead of implementing it.” The immigration holds are actually civil actions, not criminal, so they do not always include safeguards like legal representation.
Watch the NBC 7 San Diego video coverage:


Central American Cases Push Others Aside

One way to respond to the immigration courts crisis highlighted by those unaccompanied minors from Central America would be to overhaul the system and increase capacity. Another would be to push those cases ahead of others in hopes of discouraging other migrants from coming. Guess which one we’re doing? 
The Houston Chronicle has a strong story about “… a startling turnaround for a clogged immigration court system that usually takes about six months between just these first steps [as opposed to 30 days], reflecting the government’s effort to push Central American cases through the pipeline to deter other migrants from coming. The aggressive effort, however, has ramifications for others in the system, which is facing a record backlog of more than 430,000 cases nationwide. Some immigrants’ hearings have been delayed indefinitely, which can impede time-sensitive cases and jeopardize their chances of gaining legal residency. Mexicans, who make up the largest portion of immigration courts’ caseload, saw their disposition times increase by about 13 percent to 533 days, according to a new analysis of court records by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.”
“The Central American cases have completely taken over the docket,” immigration attorney Salvador Colon told the paper, while another noted that “they’re shoving all the Central Americans in front saying, ‘Go home and tell everyone else not to come because you’re going to be deported. The immigration court here looks like a day care because there are so many little kids hopping around.”

Undocumented Residents Get Cal. Drivers License

The Golden State is muddling through its first month of offering drivers licenses to undocumented residents, expecting to process nearly 1.5 million applications over the next several years. The Sacramento TV station KCRA reports on one challenge: … immigrant advocates have urged applicants who previously used someone else’s Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license to check with a lawyer before applying. Advocates say they have seen a handful of cases where immigrants who previously had licenses were told they would need to meet with a DMV investigator to complete their applications.”
The report notes that “… immigration attorney Patricia Corrales said three of her clients who went to DMV offices to apply for the licenses were frightened after they were told they needed to sign an affidavit acknowledging fraud.” She added that seems to work against the idea of the program, which is to get more undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses.

State Chief Justice Defends Admin Record

In the wake of that state auditor’s report questioning some $30 million in judicial branch spending Audit finds $30 million in ‘questionable’ court spending and salaries, California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is going on the defensive. In a relatively rare SoCal TV interview with Los Angeles NBC affiliate Channel 4.
The TV setup notes that “… Cantil-Sakauye has been criticized by a group of lower-court judges for not doing enough to send resources to Superior Courts in the state’s 58 counties. The Alliance of California Judges seized on a recent audit which questioned nearly $30 million in court staff spending. The audit noted the use of 66 state cars by staff, that some court administrators made more than the governor and had offices in three cities instead of one.” She counters by noting cutbacks and need for multiple offices to meet the needs of different sections of the state. See the interview here: CA Chief Justice on State of Courts

In First, 2014 ‘OTM’ Out-Paced Mexican Immigrant Detention

For the first time, the OTM, or “other than Mexican,” immigration out-paced Mexican nationals apprehended at the U.S. Mexico during 2014, a Texas ABC News affiliate is reporting. Citing a Pew Research Center study, KRGV in the Rio Grande valley says that “… [in] 2014, the number of Mexican nationals detained was 229,000, compare to nearly 260,000 OTMs. A surge of Central American children made up a large part of the immigration picture last summer. The numbers are lower than in years past, but the open border raises many questions nationally and locally.”
The OTM designation offers a different path for would-be migrants, including an immigration court review before they can be sent back. The bigger numbers come as the U.S. faced a surge from Central American companies, especially among minor children seeking refuge here. The TV station speculates that “… it is possible immigration courts will be busy with thousands of people filing documents. In the next few weeks, it is possible those same courts will likely handle hundreds, possibly thousands, of cases involving new illegal immigrants.” The story outlines border issues involving social services, property insurance and other impacts. See it here.

Denver Case Foreshadows Immigration Showdowns

A new twist in civil immigration is emerging in Denver, as an immigrant is taking sanctuary in a church basement while protestors make his case an example of people trapped in the on-again, off-again immigration policy crated by President Obama’s executive actions and the resulting Republican opposition.
The Denver Post reports that Arturo Hernandez Garcia, who is in the United States without legal permission, has been living under sanctuary protection in the First Unitarian Society of Denver church. Jennifer Piper, who is with the Denver office of American Friends Service Committee, said he plans to remain in sanctuary until he can secure some relief. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, an immigration court refused to reopen Garcia’s case. His next steps are to apply for a legal stay to stop deportation and to apply for status under Obama’s orders.
About 40 of his supporters rallied outside the immigration court building in downtown Denver to protest the latest legal action in his case.On the same day, the House passed a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that contains amendments that would gut President Obama’s immigration reform measures. One amendment also would end the 3-year-old program that gives law-abiding immigrants brought to the country as children the right to work and to be free from the threat of deportation.
You can expect that immigrants, especially those with families including United States citizens, are going to repeat the Denver example. So stay tuned and check out the Post story here: Immigration vote sends chilling message to those facing deportation

High Court Backs Homeowners In Mortgage-Recession Row

The U.S. Supreme Court came down on the side of homeowners Tuesday, ruling in favor of mortgage-takers trying to back out of their deals as they accuse banks of failing to follow federal “truth in lending laws.” Reuters explains that “… on a 9-0 vote, the court handed a win to an Eagan, Minnesota couple, Larry and Cheryle Jesinoski, over the $611,000 loan they obtained in 2007 from Countrywide Home Loans Inc, now part of Bank of America Corp.”
More broadly, the ruling underscores that federal law “… allows consumers to rescind a mortgage for up to three years after it was made if the lender does not notify them of various details about the loan including finance charges and interest rates.”
The move could have significant implications for mortgage industry process and for homeowners who feel they were not notified of specific mortgage terms. Read the story here: UPDATE 1-U.S. Supreme Court rules for homeowners over mortgage dispute

Gov. Adds Cash For Courts


Gov. Jerry Brown – Photo:

It seems Gov. Jerry Brown is increasing California judicial branch funding this year, not only moving closer to pre-recession levels but also singling our specific areas – like employee benefits – to illustrate where the money should go. The Mercury-News explains that “… the governor’s 2015-16 budget bumps the state court system’s budget from last year’s $3.29 billion to $3.47 billion, with most of that increase headed to the 58 trial courts around California hit hardest by past cutbacks. Courts in counties across the state, including Bay Area systems in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, have been forced to reduce public hours, lay off employees and shutter remote courthouses as a result of prior cuts that at one point exceeded $1 billion over several years. Under the governor’s budget, the judiciary’s budget would inch closer to the $3.7 billion allocated in 2007-08. In fact, with the use of trial court reserve money required under previous budgets, the governor’s staff pegs spending on the judicial branch at about $3.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Read the story here.

Courts Monitor’s Top 5 Civil Justice Issues For 2015

The staff and publisher offer a rundown of five top civil justice issues to watch. See it at The Huffington Post.

Court Admin. Salaries Under Fire With Audit

California’s court management blew $30 million over four years on what a state audit is calling “questionable” expenses and salaries. The audit is sure to become an issue as the state heads into budget season with court leadership seeking to replace some $1 billion of recent-years cuts.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Photo: California Courts)

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Photo: California Courts)

The audit was ordered by the state Legislature as part of the back-and-forth with court supporters who seek more funding. Some lawmakers have argued that the court administrators are not taking care of the purse strings. The debate has at least brought a re-branding: the Judicial Council, the policymaking arm of the courts, was previously called the Administrative Office of the Courts, or the AOC.
The Los Angeles Times reflected the tone of how the report is being received, reporting that “… auditors found the administrative office paid eight of its nine office directors more than $179,000 a year, which is higher than the salary for the governor and his top administration staff” and that a manager “… hired three months ago to run the San Francisco-based 800-employee agency, is the top earner, witan annual salary of $227,000. The governor earns $177,000 a year, less than the justices he appoints to serve on the California Supreme Court and less than is earned by some county court administrators.”