Federal Judge Ready To Close 3 Immigration Detention Centers

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

A federal judge is poised to order immigration authorities to close three family detention centers housing some 1,700 people awaiting decisions on their stay-or-go arguments. Dolly Gee, a U.S. District judge in Southern California, ruled that federal authorities have violated key provisions of an 18-year-old court settlement that placed restrictions on detention of migrant children.
The Los Angeles Times notes that “…  The ruling, released late Friday, is another blow to President Obama’s immigration policies and leaves questions about what the U.S. will do with the large number of children and parents who crossed the border from Latin America last year.”
Judge Gee blasted the government and the conditions at both the detention centers (two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania) as she gave the government until Aug. 3 to explain why an order she plans to issue should not be implemented within 90 days. Read the LAT report here:

San Francisco Leads On Civil Gideon Moment

We’ve noted the push for a “Civil Gideon” for non-criminal offenses that carry life-changing results – like eviction, family custody and immigration status – so it’s worth noting that San Francisco still leads the movement among U.S. cities. The city’s bar association has a website that notes “… San Francisco is the nation’s first “Right to Civil Counsel City” that recognizes everyone should have access to legal services in cases involving basic human needs, including housing, child custody, sustenance, safety, and health.”
You can check out the progress here: Right to Civil Counsel Program

California Civil Case Against Bill Cosby Clears Big Test

The ongoing civil courts education known as the Bill Cosby case will apparently continue. The Washington Post is among those reporting that “… the California Supreme Court has turned down Bill Cosby’s challenge to a sexual assault lawsuit against him, meaning the suit can go forward and Cosby could be questioned under oath for the first time in years — by super-aggressive, feminist lawyer Gloria Allred.”
While “super-aggressive” might be in the eye of the beholder, it is clear that the case will continue to illustrate issues like civil-vs.-criminal trials and limitations on prosecution. The WaPo also has commentary from Allread: “We believe we have a right to take his deposition in this civil lawsuit. We are going to tomorrow provide him with dates in August when we are available to do that… we are willing to even go to Massachusetts where allegedly he resides and take it.”

Fraud Case Brings Jail Time For SoCal Attorney

Saying that Newport Beach attorney Gino Paul Pietro “had a bad week,’ the Courthouse News is reporting that the lawyer is being sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for two fraud schemes in Southern California – and that “It could have been worse…”
At issue is an attorney named Gino Paul Pietro, for Pietro, 54, who faced two fraud charges. One was for a tax scheme and another for representing solutions that were apparently untrue. The CN says U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego called Pietro a “disgrace to the entire legal profession,” and also ordered him to pay $18,000 in restitution. Meanwhile, his client in an Orange County tax case, Donald Goff, was sentenced to 78 months in prison.
Bad week indeed. Read the details here: Courthouse News Service

Public Interest Attorney Notes Amicus Role For Immigration

Writing for the “Above The Law” website, attorney Sam Wright makes a case for increasing the role that amicus briefs might play for immigration court policies. Sam Wright, described as “a dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding-heart public interest lawyer,” focuses on the specific case of Cristoval Silva-Trevino, the subject of a Texas-based case with national implications.

A federal circuit court recently issued the latest guidelines in a years-long struggle over the case, but Wright makes the point that amicus briefs played an important role. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center offered its opinion, along with another organization that the Center considers a hate-associated group.

See how it plays out, read here.

Trangender Issues Loom As New Court-Case Frontier

The Sacramento Bee newspaper has a detailed report about why transgender issues will become the next battle now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that same-sex couples have a right to marry. From school policy to federal funding, including civil court actions, the impacts will be many.
The Bee reports that “… LGBT leaders, following their successful effort to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, say expanding transgender rights is the next boundary in the culture wars. Last month, a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations formed to fight the ballot proposal to nullify the bathroom law, calling it a ‘recipe for harassment.'”

Uber Car-Under Fire From Coast To Coast

The Uber car-hailing app is under legal pressure from coast to coast, and managed to be featured in both the New York and Los Angeles Times this week. The more serious story is out of San Francisco, the home of Uber, where an administrative judge recommended that the ride-sharing giant be fined $7.3 million and be suspended from operating in California.
The LAT reports that, “… in her decision, chief administrative law judge Karen V. Clopton of the California Public Utilities Commission contended that Uber has not complied with state laws designed to ensure that drivers are doling out rides fairly to all passengers, regardless of where they live or who they are. She said Uber’s months-long refusal to provide such data is in violation of the 2013 law that legalized ride-hailing firms.”
The paper reported that Uber said it would appeal.
In New York, a City Council vote is expected as early as next week, says the NYT, “… on a proposal that would place a cap on Uber’s growth, pending a study of traffic patterns, the sides have become entangled in a protracted struggle, on camera and off, over the future of mobility in the city.” Uber says that would “break” it in NYC. And it’s not just in the United States. The European governments or taxi companies. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed in recent months in countries across the continent, where some analysts say the company is in danger of being shut down or becoming so entangled in legislation as to be neutered.
Read up on the latest here.

AP Tells Of ‘Border Kids’ Trapped In Immigration Court Hell

1-year-old Joshua Tinoco faces deportation. Photo from Associated Press report, 7/4/15.

1-year-old Joshua Tinoco faces deportation. Photo from Associated Press report, 7/4/15.

The Associated Press reports on 1-year-old Joshua Tinoco, who pauses while playing at his relative’s home in Los Angeles. Writing from Los Angeles, Amy Taxin tells the story of a 1-year-old facing deportation even as his mother is allowed to stay.

Taxin writes that “… at a brief hearing, a government lawyer tells the teenage mother that her son is an immigration enforcement priority for the United States and should be sent back to his native Honduras even though she is being allowed to stay and seek a green card.”

The story goes behind the numbers to outline human conditions. It also reminds us of some staggering numbers: More than 57,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arrived on the border in the last fiscal year, and since then another 18,000, government statistics show. Immigration courts have fast-tracked the cases in a bid to stem a growing backlog.

It’s an AP story, and they have legs. Let’s hope this one gets around.

California, Texas Lead In Immigration Court Delays

It may the one of the few places where Texas does not mind being second to California: immigration case backlog. A Houston Chronicle newspaper report notes that  “… the stack of cases at Texas’ overburdened immigration courts grew by nearly 60 percent since October 2013, bringing the state’s pending cases to a record high of nearly 77,000, making it the largest backlog in the country after California.”
The delays are truly staggering, especially for younger people. The Chronicle says “… nationwide it now takes an average of 604 days to process an immigration case, according to an analysis of federal data through April by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In Houston, where the pending case load grew by 13 percent from late 2013 to nearly 32,000 so far this year, the highest in the state, the delay is 636 days.”
That’s to be “processed.” Some cases are taking five years to resolve. The HC explained that “… the long overburdened and underfunded immigration court system has been further overwhelmed by the influx of more than 67,000 unaccompanied Central American children who streamed across the Southwest border in 2014. In response, the Obama administration prioritized their cases and those of other migrants who arrived here last year to deter more from coming.” That means folks waiting years for a day in court might have to wait years longer.
(Immigration courts are not criminal courts, but rather an administrative function of the Justice Department and are considered civil cases.) Read more here. 

2013 Budget Cuts Still Forcing Adjustments For Court Facilities

The Desert Dispatch newspaper reports that the supervising judge for San Bernardino County will implement a reorganizational plan that will expand services at the Barstow Courthouse in order to enable the Victorville Courthouse to take on more criminal cases. The report offers a reminder that “… budget cuts in 2013 shuttered courthouses in Barstow, Big Bear, Needles and Chino. A last-minute reprieve thanks to $1.2 million from state courts reserves allowed one courtroom to stay open in Barstow. The lone courtroom allowed traffic, landlord-tenant, small claims and domestic violence cases to continue to be heard three days a week.”
Reporter Mike Lamb writes about one impact of the change “… a state judiciary report that was released in August showed San Bernardino County kept more of its felony cases on the docket after 12 months than any other county in California during fiscal year 2012-13. The report showed that county courtrooms are dealing with massive caseloads.” Adjusting the civil caseload might help with that backlog.