New protocol dismisses civil rights cases before Education Department

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo Credit:

Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, hundreds of civil rights complaints before her department are being dismissed, based on a new protocol that seeks to unclog the system, the New York Times reports.

“The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has begun dismissing hundreds of civil rights complaints under a new protocol that allows investigators to disregard cases that are part of serial filings or that they consider burdensome to the office,” the New York Times reports.

“The changes worry civil rights groups, which point out that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has already rescinded guidances meant to protect students against sexual assaults on campuses and black and transgender students against bias.”

The department’s Office for Civil Rights responds that it wants to be more efficient and effective than it was under the Obama administration, “which was known for its aggressive enforcement and broad investigations but was also accused of being overzealous and leaving cases languishing for years,” the newspaper reports.

If Supreme Court upholds President Trump’s travel ban, will it rein in district judges who have opposed it?

Photo Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press as reported in Los Angeles Times, 4/25/18

Photo Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press as reported in Los Angeles Times, 4/25/18

A travel ban that limits immigration may secure a key legal victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, based on comments from justices on April 25, a major newspaper predicts.

The L.A. Times reports, “The Supreme Court’s conservative justices sounded ready Wednesday to uphold President Trump’s travel ban, potentially giving the embattled White House a big legal victory after a series of defeats in the lower courts.”

The third version of a travel ban “bars the entry of most immigrants and travelers from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and North Korea as well as officials from Venezuela,” the L.A. Times reports.

“The justices issued a ruling in June that allowed the second version of the travel ban to take partial effect. Then, in December, with only two dissents, they set aside lower-court rulings to allow the administration to put the third version into practice, a strong indicator of where the majority was headed,” the newspaper reports.

This brings up the question about whether this ruling will override the “increasingly common practice of district judges handing down nationwide orders based on a suit brought by a handful of plaintiffs,” such as the district judge’s order in Hawaii that blocked the travel ban nationwide.

Suit spurs $6.4 million ‘revenge porn’ judgment

Elisa D’Amico, a lawyer with the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, as reported in the New York Times, 4/11/18. Photo credit: Jake Naughton for The New York Times.

Elisa D’Amico, a lawyer with the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, as reported in the New York Times, 4/11/18. Photo credit: Jake Naughton for The New York Times.

In a relatively new area of law, a major court verdict has been handed down against a perpetrator of “revenge porn.”

This phenomenon involves the distribution of sexually explicit images or video of someone without their consent. A flurry of legislation across the United States now has culminated in a $6.4 million judgment, considered one of the largest ever.

On April 11, the New York Times reported on the case, which involved a California woman and her boyfriend. They ended their relationship in 2013, but “he began to post sexual photographs and videos of her on pornography websites and to impersonate her in online dating forums, according to court documents,” the New York Times reported. “He threatened to make her life ‘so miserable she would want to kill herself.’ … In 2014, the woman, who was listed as Jane Doe in court documents to protect her identity, sued her former boyfriend, David K. Elam II, in United States District Court in California to get him to stop. Four years passed, until the court awarded her $6.4 million on April 4, in one of the biggest judgments ever in a so-called revenge porn case.”

According to the article, “The California case was one of the first lawsuits filed by the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, an initiative started in 2014 by K&L Gates, a Pittsburgh law firm, to litigate against online harassment and the non-consensual posting of explicit material…”

Many Catholic leaders object to revised sex-abuse statute of limitations laws

Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Photo credit: Mark Mulville as reported in The Buffalo News on 3/20/18.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Photo credit: Mark Mulville as reported in The Buffalo News on 3/20/18.

A push in some jurisdictions for a longer statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases has raised concerns among Catholic leaders.

On March 29, America Magazine, the Jesuit Review, wrote about statutes of limitations laws and unease among Catholic leaders about proposed changes.

“Nearly two decades after revelations of sexual abuse by priests were widely reported, legislators in states around the country are considering changes to laws that would give victims of child sex abuse more time to file criminal and civil complaints,” the magazine reported. “Catholic leaders in those places support many of those changes — but some claim provisions in the proposed laws unfairly target private organizations and that they could open them up to lawsuits over abuse that occurred decades ago.”

In New York, lawmakers recently considered a provision that sought to alter the criminal and civil statutes of limitation for sex abuse cases, including a one-year window to allow civil suits to proceed for abuse that occurred decades ago.

“Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said enacting the one-year window would be ‘toxic’ to the church, The Buffalo News reported on March 20.


An interview with Congressman Ted Lieu

Image of Congressman Ted Lieu as reported in City Watch LA, 4/19/18.

Image of Congressman Ted Lieu as reported in City Watch LA, 4/19/18.

Congressman Ted Lieu offers perspective on the Mueller investigation and multiple scandals that seem to engulf this current presidency in this interview with Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran. In his short 3 years in office, Lieu stands to supersede the legacy of Henry Waxman in CA-33’s congressional seat. Read the full interview with Ted Lieu, originally published in City Watch LA earlier this month:


With separate process, ICE arrests generate more scrutiny

Photograph by John Moore / Getty as reported by The New Yorker, 11/8/17.

Photograph by John Moore / Getty as reported by
The New Yorker,

It’s increasingly likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will end up reviewing the procedures used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for immigration arrests, according to experts who see this area of law growing more contentious.

The process for ICE arrests is “one of the most complicated areas of immigration law,” Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told Public Radio International.

In an April 12 report, PRI noted, “Broadly, the only evidence that an ICE officer needs to arrest a person is their identification and proof that they are not a citizen.”

One reason for the disparity is that ICE procedures often take place in civil courts.

The New Yorker chronicled the case of Sergio Perez, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, who was in the United States as an undocumented immigrant before his arrest by ICE.

“Because immigration-removal proceedings are generally carried out under civil laws, they are exempt from many procedures mandated in criminal cases,” the New Yorker explained. “For example, the warrants that ICE uses to arrest unauthorized immigrants like Perez aren’t reviewed by a judge; they’re just written up by ICE office supervisors. Immigrant detainees don’t have a constitutional right to a lawyer. Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure don’t always apply when ICE agents investigate a target for arrest, because the cases typically don’t involve a criminal prosecution.”

Public Radio International cited an upswing in ICE activity under President Trump as one reason for the growing attention.

“From the day Donald Trump took office through Sept. 30, 2017, ICE arrests increased by 42 percent compared to the same time period the year before, according to an analysis of government data by Pew Research,” PRI reported. “Officers have been more aggressive in their tactics, too. They have shown up in courtrooms, conducted worksite sweeps and confronted people in their homes without warrants. Immigration lawyers say there is an increased need for immigrants’ legal protections to be reconsidered. ‘This is a brewing question that is becoming more intense,’ says University of Las Vegas law professor Michael Kagan.”

The legal status of undocumented immigrants took center stage earlier this year.

In February, National Public Radio reported on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found immigrants, even those with permanent legal status and asylum seekers, do not have the right to bond hearings.

California court backlogs persist in civil, criminal arenas

Photo Credit: Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times as reported on 5/10/14.

Photo Credit: Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times as reported on 5/10/14.

Budget cuts have contributed to delays in the processing of civil cases in California Superior Courts, a television news investigation revealed.

NBC Bay Area reported on the problem five years ago, confirming a situation covered by the state’s other major media.

And earlier this year, the news station revisited the crisis, noting that criminal cases also are caught up in the backlog.

“An NBC Bay Area analysis of state court disposition data shows thousands of felony criminal cases have been delayed for years, and sometimes even decades, in jurisdictions around California,” NBC Bay Area reported in February. “The analysis shows Santa Clara County Superior Court and San Francisco County Superior Court have some of the largest criminal court backlogs and the lowest percentage of felony cases resolved within a year in the state.”

In 2013, NBC Bay Area delved into the situation, noting, “Thousands of Californians, including residents of the Bay Area, must wait up to four times as long as normal to get their day in court. Some residents now wait five years or longer to have their civil complaints heard by a judge or jury. Some residents are dying while waiting for their day in court.”

NBC Bay Area conducted an analysis of state Superior Court data, showing delays in every one of the state’s 58 Superior Court systems.

“In all nine Bay Area county Superior Courts, the Unit found longer delays in processing and scheduling of civil cases on their calendars. … The reason: years and years of budget cuts to the court system, the third branch of government, by the state legislature in Sacramento. According to state court officials, across the state, 175 courtrooms have been closed due to budget cuts.”

In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported on similar backlogs to civil cases.

“Civil cases are facing growing delays in getting to trial, and court closures have forced residents in some counties to drive several hours for an appearance. The effects vary from county to county, with rural regions hit the hardest but no court left unscathed,” the newspaper reported.