Civil Courts Deciding New Orleans Charter-School Segregation Issue

Civil lawsuits are as much a part of America’s charter school landscape as blackboards and parental ire, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is one of the latest battlegrounds. At issue is the Greater Grace Charter Academy a bit west of New Orleans that is 93 percent black enrollment, but where the population is only 62 percent black, according to the Associated Press.

In a report posted on the NOLA news website, the AP says that “… Louisiana’s education board approved the school’s charter and U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman allowed the opening last August. He noted the school has a non-discriminatory enrollment policy. He said blocking the opening would punish students who chose to enroll there. Opponents argue that approving a nearly one-race school ‘is contrary to the goals of desegregation.'”

Arguments are expected to be heard this month. Read the AP report here:
Charter school segregation lawsuit goes to U.S. appeals court

Newspaper Deep-Dives  Into Asylum-Seeker Jailings

 
A guard escorts an immigrant detainee through the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, where around 2,000 detainees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement await hearings on their immigration status. John Moore/Getty Images

A guard escorts an immigrant detainee through the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, where around 2,000 detainees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement await hearings on their immigration status.
John Moore/Getty Images

The Colorado-based High Country News has published a deep-dive into how some asylum seekers looking for refuge in the United States are ending up being held in jail for longer times than might be necessary, and hinting that there might be financial incentives to do so. Shadowing once such seeker, the HCN says that “…he, like many of the other asylum-seekers held in the detention center, had passed a ‘credible fear’ interview and had no criminal record. Back in Ghana, [he]  had always imagined America as a country of freedom; a country where basic human rights were protected. Why keep us locked up? he thought. If you don’t want ustell us to go back.”
 
The HCN backgrounds that “… under government policies, asylum seekers who pass their “credible fear” interview should be released from detention if their “identity is sufficiently established, the person poses neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, and no additional factors weigh against release.”
 
But the HCN report details an array of incentives, including financial motives both public and private, for keeping people in jail longer. For example, the paper says, “… in 2012, 80 percent of asylum seekers who passed their credible fear interview were granted parole. By 2015, the number had dropped to 47 percent. The sharp drop coincided with an influx of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, many of them asylum-seekers. On June 20, 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced a plan to significantly expand detention capacity to detain and quickly deport Central Americans, in an attempt to ‘send a message’ to those seeking asylum or attempting to cross the border illegally.
 

ADVWG applauds investigation into asbestos bankruptcy trusts

The Asbestos Double-Victims Workgroup (ADVWG) is calling on additional state officials and federal authorities to join 13 states investigating whether several large national asbestos bankruptcy trusts are mismanaging funds, including if they failed to reimburse Medicaid and other medical providers as required in federal secondary payer laws.
 
In March, attorneys general from the states of AlabamaArkansasKansasLouisianaMichiganMontanaNebraskaNevadaSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaUtahWest Virginia, and Wisconsin joined forces in issuing a Civil Investigation Demand (CID) to four of the nation’s largest bankruptcy trusts. The trusts did not comply with the CID which led to the Utah-based lawsuit asking the court to require compliance.
 
Those trusts are formed under a law allowing companies with asbestos liability to emerge from a bankruptcy process solvent while creating trusts to pay currents and estimated victims. The AGs are concerned that negligent management of the trusts is cutting the amounts available to help victims, a disproportionate number of whom are veterans, and may not be repaying health care costs. Those victims may be unaware of possible claw-back actions coming down the pike.
 
The multi-state investigation comes on the heels of the “Garlock” case in North Carolina when a federal judge disclosed that evidence had been suppressed in all 15 cases where he had allowed specific discovery. Both the CID and the Utah lawsuit make clear links to the Garlock case and represent the first law enforcement action on the judge’s findings.
 
Sara Warner, Courts Monitor publisher, is a founding member and spokesperson for the ADVWG.
 

Traffic ‘Amnesty’ Ending. Will It Be A Return To ‘The F-Barrel’?

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

A California amnesty program created after an outcry over municipal traffic fines and fees is going away. The amnesty scheme was put into place in 2015 after a general outcry that included a national HBO report on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” program. That report made use of a a KCRA 3 (Sacramento) investigative story about the ballooning cost of court fees. It also introduced Oliver’s campaign to stop the “f-barrel,” although the cable host did not abbreviate his hopes.

David Manoucheri of KCRA is reporting that the amnesty program “… provides relief for drivers whose licenses were suspended because they failed to appear in court or had outstanding court debts, the DMV said in a news release. The fines would be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on the driver’s income.” Before, the station report, “… basic fines such as a $35 stop sign violation could balloon to over $300.”

Such fees and fines are not considered “criminal” by the courts, so violators do not hold the right to legal counsel. But they can still land people in jail for non-payment. Manoucheri notes that it’s been good for the municipal collections: “Since the program went into effect, 205,686 delinquent accounts have been reduced, 192,452 driver licenses have been reinstated and $35,530,680 in fines has been collected. That money would never have been collected by officials if the program wasn’t in place.”

Oliver connected the dots to illustrate that such municipal fees have been linked to the unrest in Ferguson,. Mo. and other problems. And his report remains one of the more anger-inducing indictments of municipal policy. You can see that vial YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UjpmT5noto

And the find KCRA report here: http://www.kcra.com/article/californias-traffic-ticket-amnesty-program-is-about-to-end/9198864

Sacramento Paper Blasts Trump Immigration Policy

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation targets immigration fugitives in Los Angeles in February. Photo Credit:  Michael Johnson U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / The Sacramento Bee Report, 3/25/17

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation targets immigration fugitives in Los Angeles in February. Photo Credit: Michael Johnson U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / The Sacramento Bee Report, 3/25/17

In a scathing editorial signed by the “editorial board,” The Sacramento Bee has very much taken issue with President Trump’s recent moves on immigration policy, especially use of federal agencies to put pressure on local law enforcement. The paper also outlined what’s at stake for the Golden State: “About 10 percent of California’s workers are undocumented, and 12.3 percent of public school children have a parent who is here illegally. It’s no wonder, then, that many California leaders are resisting Trump as best they can.
No Californian should have any interest in preventing the deportation of undocumented immigrants with felony convictions. But due process must be observed. There is the matter of the 4th Amendment, and the threat of costly lawsuits, as became apparent a few years ago.”
The editorial outlines the lawsuit: “In 2014, the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security ended the Secure Communities program. The Homeland Security secretary at the time, Jeh Johnson, said the program discouraged victims and witnesses from coming forward. Courts also found that aspects of it violated the Constitution.”
And it listed some penalties: “Los Angeles County, for example, paid a $255,000 settlement in a suit by a man who, as a result of the program, was held in jail for 89 days beyond his release date, and Sonoma County paid $8,000 in an unlawful detainer suit.”
Read the Bee opinion here:
Pandering is no substitute for immigration overhaul

Former Immigration Judge Calls For L.A. To Provide Lawyers

Some of about 100 people demonstrate outside a federal immigration court in Los Angeles on Monday, March 6, 2017. (Michael Balsamo / AP)

Some of about 100 people demonstrate outside a federal immigration court in Los Angeles on Monday, March 6, 2017. (Michael Balsamo / AP)

A former immigration court judge is calling on Los Angeles to move quickly and provide attorneys for undocumented residents facing deportation. Bruce J. Einhorn, who was an immigration judge for 17 years, says in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that he “… watched sons trying to grasp complicated legal concepts not written in their native language and mothers desperately advocating for daughters who were in detention. I saw families torn apart by a system they were unable to understand.”

The former judge makes both legal and financial points in arguing his case and notes that Trump administration policies are likely to increase court volume and backlog. Already, he explains, San Francisco hearings might take two years before there’s room on a court docket. He also argues that the L.A. program might be modeled on the New York City project.

Judge Einhorn writes that “… New York City’s program, which began in 2013, has been tremendously successful. After securing representation for its first 1,000 clients, the program reported that it completed more than a third of the city’s deportation cases in the first or second hearing, and that immigrants were nearly 10 times more likely to win their cases. The program has since been expanded to New York State.”

Read his opinion here: L.A. needs to provide attorneys to immigrants facing deportation

L.A. Schools Join Challenge To Trump ‘Sanctuary’ Threats

David Cortese, president of Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors, discusses litigation to block President Trump’s executive order affecting “sanctuary cities.” (Santa Clara County) Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/15/17

David Cortese, president of Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors, discusses litigation to block President Trump’s executive order affecting “sanctuary cities.” (Santa Clara County) Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/15/17

The Los Angeles Times reports the the LA Board of Education has told its legal staff to participate in a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s power to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities” that follow their own policies for immigrants. The LAT explains that the LA schools will join a lawsuit already filed by Santa Clara County that called President Trump’s executive order “unprecedented” and unconstitutional attempt to expand executive power.”

The report also notes that “… if the Trump administration carried out its threat — and interpreted it broadly — L.A. Unified could be at risk. The nation’s second largest school system received more than $585 million from the federal government last year, a substantial portion of its $7.15-billion general fund revenues.

Read the story here:
L.A. Unified to step out in support of federal funds for sanctuary cities

Trump Policies Play Out In Courtrooms Like This One

The Courthouse News has an excellent report about a San Francisco courtroom it calls a “microcosm” of how the nation’s immigration deportation system is reacting to President Trump’s new policies. The CN explains that the courtroom is “… where immigrants held in detention centers miles away speak to judges through interpreters and flat-screen TVs.” The report details cases from “… about 1,500 immigrants detained in four facilities within 300 miles of San Francisco, where deportation cases are tried and decided by 19 immigration judges at two courthouses.”

The report also backgrounds the effect of having legal representation: “A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania Law Review found detained immigrants with an attorney were four times more likely to be released on bond, 11 times more likely to seek asylum or other relief from deportation, and twice as likely to successfully obtain the relief they sought. According to that same study, 37 percent of immigrants have no legal representation in removal cases, a proportion that shrinks to 14 percent for those held in detention.”

Officials are trying to provide legal representation for immigrants facing deportation, but given the years-long backlog and budgets, it seems an uphill struggle. Immigration courts are considered civil courts, so they do not carry the same “right to an attorney” that criminal courts have.

Read the story here: https://www.courthousenews.com/advocates-push-lawyers-immigrant-detainees/

Unintended Consequences As Virginia Court Excuses Pot, But Ensnares Immigrants

Washington Post article, 3/10/17

Photo Credit: Washington Post article, 3/10/17

The Washington Post has a story illustrating how shifting legal landscapes can impact immigration practices. The paper reports that “… the Arlington General District Court this month imposed the new policy for handling many misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, a change the top prosecutor said would make the court process quicker and less stressful for first-time offenders. But the county’s public defender and immigration advocates are objecting because the shift also means that poor defendants in those cases will no longer get a free lawyer to help them understand — and perhaps fight — the charge.”

Because immigration issues are considered civil, not criminal, defendants do not have assurances of legal representation. Now, because “jail” is not looming they will not get legal representation – if they take the easy way out, just plead guilty, they may find themselves later banned from the country, even if they are here legally.

It’s a great example of how the legal system can confuse the issues:

Get caught with pot, don’t go to jail: Why not everyone is happy

Appeals Court To Decide Latest California Parent-Trigger Case

Students work on laptops in a Palm Lane Elementary School. (File photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Students work on laptops in a Palm Lane Elementary School. (File photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A California Court of Appeals is expected to decide in about 90 days if parents of an Orange County school can use the state’s “parent trigger” law to convert their traditional public school to a charter school. California became the first state to have a parent-trigger law in 2010 and civil lawsuits have been part of the process, although this is thought to be the first use of the law in Orange County.

 

Parent trigger laws allow parents of low-performing schools to change the administration, typically by becoming a charter school. They have to gather signatures from at least half of the school’s parents. The school district is more or less making procedural arguments that there were not enough valid signatures and there were no academic evaluations available to measure the school’s academic performance, according to published reports.

The Orange County Register newspaper reported that “… Daniel Bress, of Kirkland & Ellis, representing pro-bono Cecilia Ochoa and other Palm Lane parents, asked the judges to uphold Orange County Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks’ 2015 ruling that the district’s rejection of the parents’ petition was ‘procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.'”
“These are low-income parents who wanted to do something about a chronically failing school,” Bress told the paper.

Read the story here:
Appeals court to decide if parents can trigger reform of Anaheim’s Palm Lane Elementary