At USC, Law Students Provide Immigration Legal Advice

Legal assistance for asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border has been an issue, whether that means trained volunteers or lawyers. How about a legal clinic staffed by law students looking for experience? The University of Southern California student newspaper reports that “… in January, the year-round USC clinic — the only one of its kind among Southern California law schools — will mark its 15th year of offering representation to asylum clients… since 2001, the clinic has taken on more than 170 clients. Approximately 120 of them, one-third of whom identify as LGBT, have received either asylum, withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture.”
While the Immigration Clinic clients receive life-saving legal representation, its students receive valuable experience.

‘Border Kids’ Immigration Influx Is Once Again On The Rise

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 Texas newspaper reports that the number of unaccompanied children being apprehended at the southern United States border – I’ve dubbed them “border kids” – is once again on the increase. Reporter Dylan Baddor at the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune writes that in the Border Patrol’s Big Bend sector of Texas, “the number of unaccompanied children apprehended trying to enter the country during that period averaged 24 between 2010 and 2014. This year agents tallied 319.”
Statewide, says the report, 7,390 unaccompanied children were caught crossing in those two months, and 85 percent increase over the same period last year. The newspaper quotes Marc Rosenblum, a deputy director at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington D.C., saying that“… we’re clearly seeing a significant uptick.”
The Border Kids crisis became a national focus last year and prompted the Obama Administration to fast-track the cases, sometimes moving them to the “front of the line” in a backed-up immigration court system. Current estimates are that more than 450,000 cases are backlogged in the courts, which are actual civil procedures held as part of the U.S. Justice Department.
See the Daily Tribune story here:

California Columnist: Lawsuit Likely If Parent-Trigger School Index Nixed

Since its passage in 2010, California’s “parent trigger” charter school movement has been the subject of litigation, perhaps most notably in the landmark “Palm Lane Elementary School” case in Anaheim. The “trigger” laws allow parents to demand reform at failing schools, including converting the school to a charter school. The California move triggered a handful of other states to take up similar provisions.
Now, says Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, Golden State lawmakers are considering dropping one part of that parent trigger legislation, the so-called Academic Performance Index, or “API.” The standardized testing program was passed before the parent trigger, but was eventually linked to the controversial charter school efforts. Walters says removing the API will likely mean yet another lawsuit.


He writes that “… Gloria Romero, the former Democratic state senator who wrote the parent trigger law, says that if the API disappears, the Legislature should be duty-bound to provide a new performance measure for parents. However, the staff recommendation before the state school board is to eliminate the API and “identify the obsolete and outdated references to the API that need to be removed” as part of its repeal, implying that the parent trigger law should also die.”
If the API is repealed without a replacement measure for parent trigger, Romero tells Walters, a lawsuit would be the next step, which would not be unusual. He notes that “… school reform and civil rights groups have often sued, usually successfully, in their battles with the establishment over accountability and other flashpoint issues.”

Silver Trial Headed For Closing Arguments Monday

The federal criminal trial of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to enter the closing arguments stage on Monday, with his defense team opting to call no witnesses. They did grab headlines with a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case – which is actually a routine step in such trials. While a criminal trial, the Silver case is being closely watched by the civil trial bar, in part because lots of the case rests on his referral arrangement with an asbestos litigation firm.
That firm has said that Silver was “of counsel” for many years but performed no legal work while receiving more than $3 million in referral fees. The government contends that the then-Speaker steered government contracts to a clinic that helped with the referrals.
See a good Wall Street Journal recap here:

U.S. Family Detention Centers: Still There, Still Debated

As events in Paris rivet the U.S. media on the massive immigration crisis in Europe, it’s worth noting that we still have
Photo from LA Times Report, 10/23/15, "Immigrant family detention centers are prison-like, critics say, despite order to improve"

Photo from LA Times Report, 10/23/15, “Immigrant family detention centers are prison-like, critics say, despite order to improve”

 450,000 pending cases in the United States immigration court system and our “family detention” centers have been ruled illegal by a federal judge, who has ordered them closed. The federal government has responded by trying to license them through state agencies. 
The Los Angeles Times reminds us that “… this summer, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles castigated federal officials, finding they had failed to meet conditions for detaining immigrant children established by a 1997 court settlement, Flores vs. Meese. The judge prohibited the administration from holding children at centers not licensed to care for them and from holding families unless they posed a flight risk or a threat to national security…”
Find the rest of that story and related reporting about the situation here:

Florida Bar President Says Legal Representation Is A ‘Crisis’

The recent economic downturn and increased housing evictions are a couple of the reasons that Florida Bar President Ray Abadin says the inability of the majority of Floridians to afford legal representation is at “crisis proportions.” In a Tampa Tribune story, she says that “… not having professional legal representation can have dramatic adverse consequences in any situation. It can be devastating to one person; it can have life implications for families. Not having a lawyer can be a very serious thing.”
The Tribune notes that Abadin sits on the Florida Commission for Access to Civil Justice, “… which recently submitted its first report to the state Supreme Court offering suggestions for addressing the need, including a possible way to fund legal services.” Senior Judge Emerson R. Thompson Jr., the immediate past president of the state Bar Foundation, explains in the Trib’s report that “… the foundation’s main source of funds to pay for legal aid, interest on attorney trust accounts, sank from $22 million to $5 million. At the same time, thousands of Floridians faced foreclosure proceedings, threatened with losing their houses and needing legal representation.

New York Corruption Trial Said To Be Moving Quickly

The New York Times is reporting that the high-profile criminal trial of former state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is running quickly, with prosecutors indicating they might wrap up their case by mid-week. This week the highlight of the case was revelation of a letter that prosecutors contend prove Silver received “kickbacks” via a law firm.
The Times reported that “… in the scheme described in court on Thursday, prosecutors say Mr. Silver received about $700,000 in kickbacks through the Goldberg law firm — secret compensation for Mr. Silver’s having referred it tax business from Glenwood and a second developer. In return, as the government said in the trial’s opening statement, Mr. Silver took official action that benefited the developers, like meeting with Glenwood’s lobbyists and signing off on critical real estate legislation that Glenwood supported.”
(Editor’s Note: This site usually focuses on civil, not criminal, cases. We do update the Silver trial because it focuses on referral payments for civil cases.)

Obama Immigration Case Has Implications For Presidential Race

The Christian Science Monitor, or a we call it around here “the other Monitor,” has an excellent analysis of how President Obama’s executive action case might influence the 2016 presidential race. You may have noted that a federal court sided with a lower court that the president over-reached in his actions that effected about 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented folks in the United States.
The CSM notes the timing: “If the Supreme Court opts to hear the case, it would likely issue a decision next June – just as the 2016 presidential race is heading into the home stretch. And the implications for the Latino vote could be big, not only for the top of the ticket but also in key Senate races in states with large Latino populations, such as Nevada, Florida, Colorado, and Illinois.”

President’s Immigration Action Headed To Supreme Court?

As reported by Reuters on 11/10/15: "U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action event in Washington November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas"

As reported by Reuters on 11/10/15: “U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action event in Washington November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas”

In a move that seems likely to bring the U.S. Supreme Court into the legal fray over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans decided 2-1 to uphold a May injunction against the measure. Reuters notes that the decision “… deals a blow to Obama’s plan, opposed by Republicans and challenged by 26 states. The states, all led by Republican governors, said the federal government exceeded its authority in demanding whole categories of immigrants be protected.”
Millions of immigrants are effected by the court decision but “discretion” in law enforcement is expected pending further legal appeals, most likely to the Supreme Court.

Read more at Reuters.

Court Tells Feds To Lay Off Medical Pot Providers

A federal judge seems to have settled an issue between federal law enforcement and local marijuana operations in states with laws allowing legal pot. At issue was an amendment to a federal spending bill saying that law enforcement cannot use federal funds to go after marijuana operations or users in states that have laws governing such things. As Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham explains, “… when the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law. The DEA, however, didn’t see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against actual states — not against the individuals or businesses that actually carry out marijuana laws”
The judge did not find that argument at all amusing. Read the results here: Federal court tells the DEA to stop harassing medical marijuana providers