Supreme Court Backs Colorado, Nixes Neighboring State’s Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court this week handed pro-marijuana states a 6-2 victory against litigation from neighboring non-marijuana states. Nebraska and Oklahoma argued that Colorado’s law violates the federal Controlled Substances Act, which treats marijuana as a dangerous drug and forbids its sale or use. They urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue as an “original” matter and declare that Colorado’s law was preempted by the federal drug laws.

The Los Angeles Times explains that “… usually, the high court hears appeals from lower-court rulings. But on rare occasions, the justices are called upon to decide disputes between states. Typically, however, these ‘original’ suits involve disagreements over boundaries or the use of river water that flows from one state to another.

The Times also noted that “… the suit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma also implicitly challenged the Obama administration for its refusal to intervene more directly in Colorado.
Since California’s voters in 1996 authorized medical use of marijuana, 22 other states have adopted similar measures. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska went further and allowed for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use.”

“The state of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” the states argued. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”

Read the Times report here:
Supreme Court rejects challenge to Colorado marijuana law from other states

Fallout Continues Over Judge’s Comments That 3-Year-Olds Can Represent Themselves

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Political fallout continues over that immigration judge who recently made headlines for testifying that 3- and 4-year-old migrant children could be taught immigration law and could competently represent themselves in court. The backlash includes a powerful Los Angeles Times editorial that warms readers not to “be fooled” as the government tries to dilute the comments.
The Times notes the actual comment: “You can do a fair hearing,” said Judge Jack H. Weil. “[Children] get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.” He was testifying in a deposition for a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other legal organizations to challenge the government’s failure to appoint counsel for children facing deportation.

The L.A. Times notes that “… Weil’s bosses promptly disavowed his comments, and he claimed his words had been taken out of context. But don’t be fooled. Weil is an assistant chief immigration judge responsible for training other judges on cases involving children. He is not just knowledgeable about how young people are treated in immigration court, he facilitates the process. His deposition unmasks the government’s deplorable position: Deportation hearings in which children must defend themselves are not right, but they will continue.”

It’s worth noting that Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Southern California and the attorney who questioned Weil in the now-infamous deposition, told The Washington Post that he initially thought the judge had misspoken, “because what he said was so outrageous. As I asked further questions, he obviously meant what he said.”

Read the Times opinion, including just how much more likely non-represented kids are to be sent back, here: The injustice of deporting children without representation

California Teacher’s Union First Post-Scalia Winner

Demonstrators supporting Rebecca Friedrichs, a plaintiff in the case, outside the Supreme Court in January. Photo Credit New York Times report, 3/29/16

Demonstrators supporting Rebecca Friedrichs, a plaintiff in the case, outside the Supreme Court in January. Photo Credit New York Times report, 3/29/16

When a case involving California public schoolteachers – and by implication any union’s ability to collect fees from workers who choose not to join and do not want to pay for collective bargaining agreements – was first argued before the U.S. Supreme Court back in January, it seemed headed for another 5-4 vote that would greatly diminish the power of collective bargaining organizations.

But now, in what the New York Times calls “… the starkest illustration yet of how the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month has blocked the power of the court’s four remaining conservatives to move the law to the right…” it has been upheld on a 4-to-4 vote.

The times reports that “… a ruling in [the union-opposed teachers] favor would have affected millions of government workers and weakened public-sector unions, which stood to lose fees both from workers who objected to the positions the unions take and from those who simply chose not to join while benefiting from the unions’ efforts on their behalf.”

Read the NYT take the landmark case here: Victory for Unions as Supreme Court, Scalia Gone, Ties 4-4

CBS Details Route To ‘Debtor Prison’ In U.S.

Starting with the story of a Georgia teenager who spent five days in jail for an illegal left-hand turn, the CBS News “Market Watch” program is outlining how the civil-case to jail-case route actually happens. It turns out that the 19-year-old driver could not pay $838 quickly enough. Eventually, a lawsuit over the case was reportedly settled for $70,000, but CBS says the practice remains common nationally.

Of course, the poster child for the practice, and what it can trigger, is Ferguson, MO, where the city’s finance director famously offered advice to the police chief in a March 2010 letter, warning that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year,” the city faced a budget shortfall, said Norquist. He added that a state lawmaker had told him police officers would get little notices along with their paychecks, warning: “If we don’t get more tickets, there won’t be pay increases.”

Read about the new American debtor’s prison here: How you could go to debtors’ prison in the U.S.

Congresswoman: Give Those Border Kids An Attorney

A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, in June. (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, in June. (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and 54 of her House colleagues have introduced a bill that would provide government-appointed attorneys to help them navigate the immigration asylum process. The Los Angeles Times, in a detailed report, says that “… Eleven California Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Lofgren is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.”

The newspaper explains that “… because being present in the U.S. illegally is a civil offense, there is no right to an attorney during immigration or asylum proceedings. That means many children stand alone before an immigration judge when they ask to stay in this country.” When unaccompanied children started arriving at the border in large numbers a couple of years ago, it is worth noting, they often did not sneak into the country but sought asylum at the border. We have called them “Border kids.”

Now the San Jose Democrat and 54 of her House colleagues have put forth a bill to argue that, at a minimum, children and people with certain disabilities should have government-appointed attorneys to help them navigate the asylum process. Eleven California Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Lofgren is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The U.S. Senate’s lone former immigration lawyer, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), has co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It remains unclear if any Republicans will support the bill.

Read the well-researched L.A. Times story here: ‘We have a moral obligation': Lawmakers want the U.S. to provide attorneys for immigrant children

Asbestos Bankruptcy Settlement, Conflicts & Racketeering Clouds Loom

In the latest HuffPo piece by Courts Monitor Publisher, Sara Warner, she writes about Garlock’s asbestos bankruptcy settlement which has multiple implications for the $10 billion per year asbestos-lawsuit industry:  

“In the insular world of civil litigation, watershed events usually arrive on an installment plan, trickling in at the pace of… well, at the pace of civil litigation. Yet, sometimes disruption arrives quickly, like last week’s landmark settlement agreement between a North Carolina gasket maker called Garlock Sealing Technologies and asbestos victims’ attorneys. 

While the ink has yet to dry and the court has not considered, let alone approved, of the deal, the nation’s asbestos litigation community quickly noted that the announced settlement not only addresses the precedent-setting bankruptcy case but seems to include multiple civil racketeering allegations against high-profile plaintiff’s firms.”

Read more on the Huffington Post… 

Rights Group Notes Immigration Courts Backed Up 3 Years

The Human Rights First advocacy group is noting its new study indicating that the U.S. Immigration Courts are backed up for about three years now, and it’s only getting worst. The Courthouse News in Los Angeles reports that the group “… says the problem is most pronounced in Texas and California where 89,000 and 81,000 immigration cases are pending, respectively.”

Also noted in the CN story: The group says: “The number of cases pending before the court will soon exceed 500,000, far too many for a court staffed with only 254 immigration judges – a fraction of the number needed to timely address removal cases.” Congress took a small step towards fixing the problem in December when it approved funding for 55 new immigration judges as part of a spending bill for fiscal year 2016, Human Rights First said.

But experts say lawmakers have been overly focused on the front door of illegal immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the threat of terrorists entering the country so that, from 2001 to 2010, the number of Border Patrol agents at the border more than doubled to exceed 20,000.

Read the CN story here:
CNS – Report Outlines Backlog in Immigration Courts

Head-Trauma Cases Eyed As ‘Tidal Wave’ Headed To Courts

 
Bloomberg Legal has an in-depth analysis of head-trauma cases likely to head into U.S. courts, and one expert says it will be a “tidal wave,” but not just the NFL and pro athletes will be involved. Instead, pointing to a recently settled California case and other indicators, the observers from academia and the front lines say youth sports will become a bigger deal.
 
The report notes that “… repetitive head trauma often begins in youth sports, and the impact on young brains may be the key to future sports concussion litigation, the lawyers say. Developments in chronic brain injury diagnosis may also raise the odds of suits by youth and adult amateur players against equipment manufacturers, schools and non-profit sports leagues.” 
 
The California case cited in the report “…  involves claims by the parents of a quadriplegic youth football player that Pop Warner league coaches trained their son to tackle with his helmet, increasing the likelihood of severe injury (Dixon v. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., Cal. Super. Ct., No. BC526842, filed, 11/5/13).” The case was recently resolved in a confidential settlement for an undisclosed amount.
 
 
 

Lawsuits, Legislation On Tap As California Charter Schools Keep Attracting Students

About one-fifth of students in the San Diego Unified School District have turned to charters such as College Preparatory Middle School, above. The district expects that figure to climb. (Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

About one-fifth of students in the San Diego Unified School District have turned to charters such as College Preparatory Middle School, above. The district expects that figure to climb. (Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Los Angeles Times has a detailed report from the front lines of the Golden State’s public charter schools battles, noting that “… twenty-five years after the California Charter School Act allowed public money to fund charter schools, which can be privately run and are often not unionized, advocates across the county and the state are waging legal and legislative fights. These disputes have led to tense relationships in districts that are scrambling to recoup the thousands of students who have sought alternatives.

Some numbers in the report: In the 2008-09 academic year, 38,680 students attended 73 charter schools in San Diego County. This year, 69,685 students are enrolled in 124 charters. But with growth comes questions.

San Diego County has emerged as a sort of Ground Zero for the California schools debate, although Los Angeles has its share of lawsuits as well.

Read the well-researched report here: Inside the fight against California’s charter schools

Colorado Has Longest Immigration Court Delay: 933 days, 9K cases pending

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Demonstrating for immigrant rights in Arizona. Photo credit, Colorado Public Radio report, 3/3/16

Colorado Public Radio is reporting that the Mile High State “… now has the longest delays in the nation for immigrants trying to have their cases heard before an immigration judge. The average waiting period is 933 days, and there are 9,420 cases pending.”

The network asks Denver immigration attorney Jennifer Casey to explain the situation while noting that it “… could get worse given the immigration-crackdown rhetoric in this political campaign season.”
Her initial comment: “If you look at the immigration courts over the last three years in Colorado, what we’ve seen is a reduction by about 50 percent of the immigration judges here locally. So we went from six judges in 2013 and we’re now down to three judges in 2016.”

The attorney also offers some background: “So, 50 percent reduction in immigration judges, 20 percent increase in cases and then the third factor is that the immigration courts nationally have prioritized certain cases above other cases. So we’ve got a priority docket and those are individuals who have entered the U.S. recently, specifically since May of 2014, who are either unaccompanied children or families with children. Mostly we’re talking about women and children but not exclusively.”
Of course, she also notes that the long delays benefit those with weaker cases to remain in the United States while hurting those with the better cases, because they cannot get a court date to win legal status.

– See more at: Why Denver’s Immigration Court Has The Longest Hearing Delays In The US