Judge Rules For Texas Landowners In BLM ‘Landgrab’ Case

Photo credit, Courthouse News Service report, 6/30/16

Photo credit, Courthouse News Service report, 6/30/16

The Courthouse News Service is reporting that a federal judge this week ruled “… that Texas landowners can sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for its alleged seizure of 90,000 acres of private property along the Red River boundary with Oklahoma. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor granted in part and denied in part the BLM’s motion for partial dismissal.

The report backgrounded that “… eight private landowners, Clay County Sheriff Kenneth Lemons Jr. and three counties sued the BLM in November. They claim it is “well established” that Texas begins at the southern bank of the Red River and that federal ownership is limited to the bottom half of the sandy riverbed outside of the state. They say the BLM asserts that the boundary extends past that, sometimes by more than a mile.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened on the plaintiffs’ behalf within days, calling the action an illegal “land grab” by federal officials. The CN also noted that “… in a 40-page opinion Wednesday, O’Connor declined to dismiss the plaintiffs’ request for declaratory judgment, mandamus and an injunction ‘regarding the method for locating the boundary between their property and federal territory’ because they have constitutional standing.”

CNS – Texans Contesting U.S. Land Seizure Get Leg Up With Lawsuit

Native Americans Seeking Family Law Representation

We’ve noted before that one of the logical places to provide civil attorneys is family law, especially decisions involving child custody. It turns out that Native American tribes feel the same way and the Eureka Times Standard newspaper is reporting that “… a coalition of Native American tribes from across California are calling on the state’s top law enforcement office to begin investigating what it says are be systematic shortfalls and violations of tribal civil rights relating to the Indian Child Welfare Act.”

“Many of the tribes don’t have the ability to send their lawyers hundreds or thousands of miles to represent them in these courts, so you get really disjointed, disconnected kinds of representation,” said Yurok Tribal Court Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, one of seven co-chairs on the task force. “… We need some answers. The law is not being followed.”

The story backgrounds:”… passed by Congress in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was created in an effort to keep tribal children with tribal families and communities. The act was passed in response to the large number of tribal children — 25 to 35 percent — being removed from their homes and being placed in foster homes, adoptive homes, or other institutions like board schools, according to the report. At the time the law passed, Native American children were eight times more likely to be placed in foster care than non-Native children, with over 90 percent of the Native American foster youth being placed in non-tribal homes, according to the report. While some progress has been made, Andreas and Abinanti said these statistics have not changed significantly since 1978.”

The regulations apply to state child custody proceedings and set regulations on how these state agencies work with federally recognized tribes in cases.

Read the story here: Report states tribal child custody laws neglected on statewide level

Iowa Supreme Court Issues Order On Civil Courts Access

GavelThe Iowa Supreme Court has established a special commission to tackle the problem of too many people lacking civil court representation. The move follows an order saying that “… inability to afford the cost of legal representation and other barriers to access justice unfairly impact the lives of too many Iowans,”

The Des Moines Register backgrounds that “… this cost often forces people to proceed without the assistance of a lawyer and represent themselves in court,” a fact that the court also wrote “unfairly impacts the lives of too many Iowans.” Brett Torsdahl, executive director of the Iowa State Bar Association Public Service Project, said financial costs, language barriers and specific cases can make getting an attorney difficult and causes many citizens to try to tackle their cases by themselves.
Read the latest effort to contain civil justice rationing here:


‘Birthday Song’ Finally Gains Freedom

California Magazine / Just In

California Magazine / Just In

You can finally relax. “Happy Birthday to You” has finally re-entered the common grounds after years of being held by a corporate owner. The California Sunday Magazine is among those reporting on the good news, noting that “… Judge George H. King of the federal district court in Los Angeles initially ruled last September that the copyright was not valid, the company battled on, perhaps because with no rival as the most widely recognized and frequently sung song in the English language, the tune has steadily generated some $2 million a year for the publishing company. Settlement was finally reached earlier this year, and Judge King made it official today.”

The years-long saga of the song cost millions of dollars in time and effort and certainly makes for an interesting tale and is the subject of a documentary. Read the ins and outs here: ‘Happy Birthday’ Suit Resolved: The Most-Sung Song Is Free for All

VICE News Outlines Another Immigration Narrative

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

While a recent U.S. Supreme Court made mainstream headlines for dealing President Obama a setback on his attempts to aid undocumented residents, a different narrative has been growing among more alternative media outlets. In particular, VICE has produced some powerful reporting on how the Obama Administration is going after asylum seekers from Central America. A recent pice noted that:

[A] legal coalition, known as the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, reported 40 cases of women and children arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since the series of immigration raids began in May. The majority of those arrests took place in workplaces, homes, and schools, and the CARA project alleges that federal immigration officials engaged in “aggressive and inappropriate conduct.”

The Department of Homeland Security has said that immigration enforcement actions would target Central American migrants who had exhausted their legal options to remain in the United States, but the CARA project’s report suggests that in at least 21 of these cases, immigrants have valid asylum claims that have not yet been heard in an immigration court. Moreover, several of those arrested by ICE did not have an outstanding deportation order, according to the group.

You can see the VICE story here: Immigration Raids in the US Are Targeting People with Valid Asylum Claims, According to a New Report | VICE | Canada

“Equally Divided Court” (Sorta) Leaves Obama’s Deportation Executive Order In Limbo

Questions will persist on whether President Obama superceded his authority by creating by executive order the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program designed to defer deportation for millions of immigrants.

Today, the Huffington Post reports the Supremes affirmed a lower court ruling that blocked the program stating simply, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” While immigration advocates may lament the loss, the order itself rings hollow given the Administration’s renewed call last month to seek out and deport Border Kids escaping gang and drug cartel violence from Central America.

Irrespective of where one stands on the immigration reform debate, the fact is that the question of executive power was left unanswered because now even the judicial branch has been brought to a standstill.

California ACLU Sues Over Drivers License Suspension

Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against a Northern California superior court over its practice of suspending the driving licenses of people too poor to pay what advocates consider exorbitant fees for relatively minor offenses. The San Diego Union-Tribune explains that “… the complaint filed in Solano County Superior Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and others claims the court’s actions violate both the state’s vehicle code and due process protections… the legal action comes as lawmakers across the country are recognizing the impact of escalating fines and fees on impoverished people who either go into debt trying to pay off the ticket, or face suspension of critical driving privileges needed to work.”

The report notes that “… last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced an amnesty program for certain drivers, calling the traffic court system a ‘hellhole of desperation’ for the poor.” The process of shifting relatively minor offenses, the sort that do not rise to criminal charges that would require legal representation, into jail-worthy offenses has come under fire nationwide. Car-related offenses are one of the biggest issues.

Read the story here: ACLU sues Northern California court over license suspensions

Reform Afoot In D.C.?

Sara Warner, Publisher, National Courts Monitor

Sara Warner, Publisher, National Courts Monitor

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner shares her thoughts on the mayor of Washington, D.C. in the Huffington Post, along with her interview with Mayor Bowser.

Excerpt: “When I came into office, I committed to creating pathways to the middle class,” explained Mayor Bowser. “Those pathways come in different forms – to a stronger education system, to more good paying jobs for District residents, to the kind of services and programs that ensure every Washingtonian gets a fair shot.”

Read more.

L.A. Times Takes Issues With Denying Immigrants Phone Access

Protestors at the Metropolitan Detention Center during one of several May Day marches in Los Angeles, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Protestors at the Metropolitan Detention Center during one of several May Day marches in Los Angeles, California. (David McNew/Getty Image

The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, is heralding a decision to increase phone access to people facing immigration hearings. Among other issues, the LAT notes that part of the problem is that the government contracts detention of those people to private firms, which have their own policies. The newspaper also notes that lack of phone access equates to lack of legal representation, which is a key factor in deciding who gets to stay and who has to go.

The editorial notes that “… a legal settlement this week should help remove one obstacle facing detainees: their lack of access to telephones. In a case filed in a San Francisco federal court, detainees represented by the ACLU and other civil rights groups argued that the conditions of their detention in four California facilities interfered with their right to find counsel, to gather evidence on their own behalf and to receive a fair hearing when they make their cases in court. How were those rights being impeded? Through policies that severely limited their use of telephones.”

In another point, the Times says that “… part of the problem is the immigration detention system itself, which relies primarily on contracts between the federal government and the county jails or private companies that house detainees as well as other prisoners. Those facilities have their own rules about inmate access to telephones that also apply to immigration detainees even though the latter have not been charged with or found guilty of crimes.”

Read the editorial here: Why should immigration detainees be denied access to telephones?

Central California Justice Among The Nation’s Most Rationed Court

Eastern California is home to some of the nation’s most fertile agricultural regions, but it’s also growing a reputation as the nation’s slowest federal court district. Bakersfieldnow, the online home of ABC’s Eyewitness News in the area, explains in a new report that “… the problem area is the Eastern District of the 9th Circuit Court that serves much of the eastern half of the state, from Bakersfield to the Oregon border.

The story is illustrated with the story of Wesley Morris, a gun-store owner involved in a lawsuit against the state. The plaintiffs, affiliated with the Calguns Foundation, are “… bringing a first amendment challenge to an old state law that regulates handgun advertising.”
Morris’ group filed their case in 2014. It’s not scheduled for trial until 2017. And the news report says that “… a three year wait for a civil case is not uncommon in the Valley. It’s the average, according to federal data obtained by Eyewitness News via public record request. Nationwide, the average civil case takes 26.8 months to finish. In the Eastern District of our circuit court, the average is 37.8 months.”

Read about the rationing here: