Trump administration cites success in migrant-family reunification effort, but what of ‘deleted families’?

Photo Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post as reported on 7/28/18.

Photo Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post as reported on 7/28/18.

By Thursday, July 26, when a court-ordered deadline loomed for the Trump administration to reunite hundreds of migrant families, government officials reported compliance.

The Washington Post reported on 7/26, “At the expiration of a 30-day court deadline to reunite migrant families separated during its ‘zero tolerance’ border crackdown, the Trump administration said Thursday it has delivered 1,412 children to parents in immigration custody and was on track to return all of those it determined were eligible for reunification.”

“President Trump ordered an end to family separations June 20 amid public outcry and spreading criticism within his own political party, as searing accounts emerged of traumatized children and anguished parents. Within days, Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, a Republican appointee, ordered the government to return children to their parents and imposed deadlines,” the Post reported.

However, some families, termed “deleted family units,” could not be reunited by the deadline. There was no classification for more than 2,600 children who had been separated from their families and placed in government shelters. According to a The Washington Post report on 7/28, when Customs and Border Protection “sent that information to the refugee office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which was told to facilitate the reunifications, the office’s database did not have a column for families with that designation.”

“After his 30-day deadline to reunite the ‘deleted’ families passed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw lambasted the government for its lack of preparation and coordination,” reported The Washington Post.

The article continues, “‘There were three agencies, and each was like its own stovepipe. Each had its own boss, and they did not communicate,’ Sabraw said Friday at a court hearing in San Diego. ‘What was lost in the process was the family. The parents didn’t know where the children were, and the children didn’t know where the parents were. And the government didn’t know either.’”

California gun owners argue computer crashes hinder assault weapon registration

Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press as reported by Los Angeles Times on 7/11/18.

Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press as reported by Los Angeles Times on 7/11/18.

Gun owners are arguing in court that they can’t comply with California’s assault weapon registration due to computer problems.

Gun owner groups filed a lawsuit against California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra that “alleges that the system for registering so-called bullet-button assault weapons was unavailable for most of the week before the July 1 deadline,” the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

“Owners who were unable to register by the deadline now potentially face prosecution through no fault of their own, according to the lawsuit filed in Shasta County on behalf of three gun owners by The Calguns Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition and Firearms Policy Foundation,” the AP reported.

The lawsuit alleges the state Department of Justice’s registration system “was largely inaccessible, and inoperable on a wide variety of ordinary web browsers across the state,” Los Angeles Times reported.

In ruling, California visual artists lose rights to royalties

Artist Laddie John Dill was a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking royalties under state law. Photo credit: Stephanie Diani for The New York Times as reported by The New York Times, 7/11/18.

Artist Laddie John Dill was a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking royalties under state law. Photo credit: Stephanie Diani for The New York Times as reported by The New York Times, 7/11/18.

Visual artists in California will not receive royalties from resale of their work, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The New York Times reported on the decision, which strikes a blow to the rights of visual artists, including young painters just becoming established.

“A federal appeals court has ruled that visual artists will no longer be entitled to royalties from resales of their work in California — a decision that may discourage other states from considering royalty laws,” The New York Times reported on July 11. “The ruling, issued on Friday [July 6], addressed a 1977 law, the California Resale Royalties Act, the only of its kind implemented in the United States. The law benefited visual artists, who, unlike composers, filmmakers or writers, do not receive a share of any future sales under copyright law.”

The court determined that state law conflicts with a federal copyright law’s first-sale doctrine “that claims once a copyright owner sells work a first time, they lose control over future sales,” the article noted.

Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talc case

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Johnson & Johnson, in one of the largest punitive damage awards in history, must pay $4.69 billion to plaintiffs exposed to talcum-based products which they claimed caused them to develop cancer.

“Johnson & Johnson was ordered Thursday to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer,” The New York Times reported on July 12. “A jury in a Missouri circuit court awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.”

Six of the women who sued the company have died, according to The New York Times. Johnson & Johnson, which has successfully appealed a number of similar cases, vowed to file an appeal.

‘Zero tolerance’ policy on border swells federal caseloads

Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. Photo Credit: Nehrams2020 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. Photo Credit: Nehrams2020 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A Trump administration policy to criminally prosecute illegal border crossings has created a renewed backlog in the federal justice system in the Southwest.

“Failures to bring new arrestees to court in a timely manner has been an issue off and on for years in San Diego and Imperial counties, and federal defense attorneys say that it has only magnified in the past couple months as the Trump administration has vowed to criminally prosecute all illegal border crossings under a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy,”reported Kristina Davis of The Los Angeles Times.

“Since mid-April, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy, public defenders in San Diego have filed 138 habeas corpus petitions, a civil remedy that in Latin translates to ‘produce the body.’ That’s compared to 13 filed during the same time frame last year, according to court records,” Davis reported.

As a result, more people arrested at the border spend longer periods of time in Border Patrol facilities rather than getting booked into the federal prison system, particularly the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, according to the report.

California courts react to #MeToo Movement with rule changes

Photo Credit: Rob Kall from Bucks County, PA, USA (#womensmarch2018 Philly Philadelphia #MeToo) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Credit: Rob Kall from Bucks County, PA, USA (#womensmarch2018 Philly Philadelphia #MeToo) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The #MeToo Movement swept California courts this spring, as the judiciary adopted rule changes requiring the disclosure of financial agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination.

On May 24, the California courts website reported, “The Judicial Council at its business meeting today revised the rules of court to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement must be disclosed if requested, including agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination. In April, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye convened a workgroup to study and recommend changes to the rules of court to ensure that all levels of the state court system respond to these types of public records requests.”

The revised rule allows redaction of names of complainants and witnesses, however.

The Recorder at law.com reports, “The Judicial Council approved the amendments to Rule of Court 10.500 with little discussion and none of the previous criticism from some judges that the mandate was too broad.”

The rule change went into effect June 1.

“The chief justice’s call for changes was in response to records requested by The Recorder and other media outlets that showed the judiciary paid $600,000 since 2011 to investigate and settle harassment claims against court employees and judges. Judiciary branch lawyers declined to name the judges involved or the allegations, citing broad protections for investigations of and claims concerning judges in Rule 10.500.”

Supreme Court agrees to hear civil forfeiture challenge

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite as reported by Forbes, 2/1/18.

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite as reported by Forbes, 2/1/18.

Billions of dollars in government revenue and one of the most contentious constitutional questions of the present day are at stake in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case over civil forfeiture.

“For the first time in over 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the opportunity to review the constitutionality of civil forfeiture laws, which allow the government to confiscate cash, cars, and even homes,” Forbes reported.

Civil forfeiture laws allowed local and state jurisdictions to reap millions of dollars: “from 2001 to 2014, the Justice Department and the Treasury Department’s forfeiture funds took in almost $29 billion,” Forbes reported.

The court has granted a cert petition from Tyson Timbs, “who was forced to forfeit his $40,000 Land Rover in civil court to the State of Indiana, after he pled guilty to selling less than $200 worth of drugs,” the Forbes article reported.

Timbs prevailed in lower courts, but last fall the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against him. “The Excessive Fines Clause does not bar the State from forfeiting Defendant’s vehicle,” the court ruled, “because the United States Supreme Court has not held that the Clause applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to weigh in.

Records: Booted Tulare County, CA judge focus of $120,000 sex harassment case

The sexual harassment case against a Tulare County judge who was ousted from the bench is documented in a five-page settlement document released as a result of newly revised rules of disclosure in California’s judiciary.

The Recorder at law.com reported on June 12, “California’s judiciary paid a Tulare County Superior Court clerk $120,000 in 2016 to settle claims that a judge — now removed from the bench — harassed her over several months in 2013.”

The Recorder noted, “The payment was made to Priscilla Campos Tovar, a Tulare court clerk who alleged that Judge Valeriano Saucedo attempted to pressure the married woman into a romantic relationship by sending her frequent text messages and numerous gifts, including a family trip to Disneyland, cash and a car. Saucedo argued he was only trying to act as a mentor to Tovar. The Commission on Judicial Performance ordered Saucedo removed from the bench in December 2015, calling his conduct ‘so completely at odds with the core qualities and role of a judge that no amount of mitigation can redeem the seriousness of the wrongdoing.’”

On May 24, the California Judicial Council revised the rules of court “to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement must be disclosed if requested, including agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination,” the state’s judicial website reported.

The Recorder reported, “The Tulare court settlement is one of three involving judges around the state dating back to 2010. Lawyers for the Judicial Council acknowledged in March that the judiciary had paid $296,000 to settle three complaints against judges, although it declined to identify the judges or say whether they remained on the bench.”

Alameda County court provides links — with redactions — to settlements

Justice Marsha Slough, Associate Justice of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, led the workgroup tasked with amending the rules of court to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers are publicly disclosable. Photo credit: California Courts website

Justice Marsha Slough, Associate Justice of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, led the workgroup tasked with amending the rules of court to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers are publicly disclosable. Photo credit: California Courts website

The Alameda County Superior Court in California agreed to pay an employee $175,000 in a 2017 settlement. In another instance, in 2016, the court settled for $26,600 to resolve a charge of harassment.

These and other public records are available at a page on the Alameda County Superior Court website. This is the product of a rule change in the California judiciary on May 24, when the California Judicial Council revised the rules of court “to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement must be disclosed if requested, including agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination,” the state’s judicial website reported.

The Recorder at law.com reported on June 8, “Two weeks after California’s judiciary leaders ordered more transparency in disclosing taxpayer-funded settlements of judicial wrongdoing, most courts have offered the same response: We don’t have anything to report.”

Two appellate courts — the Second and the Sixth — and more than half of the trial courts told the publication that they had no responsive records to release.

“One court, however, took a different tack,” the Recorder reported. “Alameda County Superior Court unveiled a page on its website Friday that contains links to what court officials said are all ‘documents reflecting the resolution of claims or litigation — from Jan. 1, 2010, to the present, involving the court, its employees, and/or its judicial officers.’”

The Recorder acknowledged that the blacked-out portions of the documents often left questions. “The redactions and limited information in the documents makes it unclear if the court ever paid an employee to settle claims of sexual harassment or other misconduct by a judicial officer,” the publication reported.

Judge seeks funding information in opioid-manufacturer lawsuits

Photo Credit: By richiec from Chicago, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Credit: By richiec from Chicago, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

A U.S. District judge wants information about the funders behind hundreds of lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

The judge overseeing more than 600 lawsuits targeting opioid makers is demanding local governments’ lawyers turn over information about any litigation-funding agreements and provide assurance that lenders won’t gain control over legal strategy or settlements,” Bloomberg reported.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland issued the order on May 7, “saying he wants to ensure the agreements don’t create conflicts of interest by affecting plaintiffs lawyers’ judgments in pursuing cases against opioid makers, such as Purdue Pharma LLP and Johnson & Johnson, and distributors such as McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc.”

Bloomberg explained, “He wants to know details of any lending arrangements, and he requested sworn statements from the lawyers and lenders that there won’t be any conflicts of interest and that the lenders won’t have control over strategy, advocacy or settlement decisions.”

On April 11, Reuters reported that Polster was pushing for a settlement and pursuing an aggressive schedule “that would have the first trial take place in March 2019.”

Reuters noted, “The lawsuits accuse the drugmakers of deceptively marketing opioids and allege that drug distributors ignored red flags indicating the painkillers were being diverted for improper uses. In 2016, 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”