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/

California budget raid jeopardizes Modesto courthouse construction funding

A decision by California lawmakers to raid $1.4 billion from the judicial system during the budget crisis is having a direct impact on a $267 million courthouse construction project in Modesto, according to the ModBee. With 23 courthouse construction projects in the works across the state, the budget raid could have implications well beyond the city borders.

As budgets have become constrained, courthouses have closed, forcing existing courthouses to renovate to accommodate the influx of new cases. Brandi Christensen, facilities support service manager for Stanislaus County Superior Court told the Bee, “We don’t have an inch to move. Our courtrooms are packed every day.”

In addition to lack of space, many courthouses have fallen into deep disrepair from age. In the case of the Modesto courthouse, the Bee reports, “The most modern part of the current courthouse — which houses the courtrooms — was built in 1960. The other half of the courthouse was built in 1871 and remodeled in 1939. The courthouse has no holding cells for inmates, who are kept in jury rooms before their court appearances.”

The Judicial Council of California’s Court Facilities Advisory Committee met on June 28th in San Francisco to go over courthouse construction funding, and found it is coming up short. Very short. The Council directed the staff to develop funding recommendations, in concert with  the Department of Finance, in advance of their next meeting August 4th.

We’ll continue to follow the story, and you can get caught up with full details at the full Modesto Bee article here.

Conn. Takes Steps Toward ‘Civil Gideon’ Momentum

GavelFor some time, Connecticut Bar Association President William Clendenen Jr. has focused on the “justice gap” facing low and moderate income residents facing serious legal issues. So it’s no surprise that the state’s bar association, via its regular publication, is endorsing an effort by Democratic state Sen. Martin Looney to create a “Civil Gideon” task force, an important step if the state is ever going to address the issue.

Looney, who is the Senate president, has introduced a bill that would create a wide-ranging group to “… recommend the best ways to address the legal needs of the increasing number of people compelled to represent themselves when facing serious civil legal problems,” explains a piece in the Connecticut Law Tribune.

The CLT backgrounds that: “… [aid groups] are able to accept only a fraction of requests for assistance from eligible applicants. Those with modest incomes who do not qualify for free legal services are finding it increasingly difficult to afford market-rate legal fees. As a consequence, thousands of individuals and families face eviction and foreclosure notices, child custody proceedings, domestic violence hearings and other legal challenges involving basic human rights and interests without the support of legal advocates. Last year, nearly a quarter of all civil cases in Connecticut had one or more self-represented litigants. In family cases, the number rose to 85 percent.”

Eight of ten in family court. Wow! Read more here:

‘Civil Gideon’ Task Force Would Be an Important First Step

First Product Liability Lawsuit May Challenge Marijuana Industry Growth

The LA Times Reports, "The list of ingredients on a LivWell container includes pesticides. The company says they are safe. (AAron Ontiveroz / Denver Post)" in its 10/8/15 "A first for the marijuana industry: A product liability lawsuit" article.

The LA Times Reports, “The list of ingredients on a LivWell container includes pesticides. The company says they are safe. (Aaron Ontiveroz / Denver Post)” in its 10/8/15 “A first for the marijuana industry: A product liability lawsuit” article.

You knew this was just a matter of time. A legal-marijuana user has filed a product liability lawsuit against a cannabis company alleging use of harmful substances in their production process.
 
The Los Angeles Times reports that the attorney representing the 24-year-old medical  marijuana user is seeking “class action” status for the litigation and expects more clients to join the lawsuit.
 

Charter Schools Efforts Play Out In Courts

Dan Walters, the Sacramento Bee columnist who is picked up by other papers statewide, has noted the ongoing school reform battles that usually end up in civil court. In the context of state officials handing off to local jurisdictions, he noted that they “… haven’t succeeded in persuading judges that they can wash their hands of responsibility, most recently in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of high-risk students, alleging that they hadn’t received the attention state and federal law require.”
 
“A state cannot abdicate its supervisory responsibilities by ignoring credible evidence of persistent or significant district noncompliance,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant declared in a recent 45-page decision. “If districts fail to provide services and the state has notice of this failure, the state has a duty … to take reasonable action.”
 
Faced with that, writes Walters, state officials backed down and agreed to monitor what districts are doing for high-risk kids. The writer does not make this point, but the column offers an example of how much civil courts have become policy-setting bodies. Read the story here.

As Government Delays, Civil Lawsuits Set Pot Policies

As California considers a sweeping regulatory changes in how it handles marijuana use, the civil courts continue to define how laws will actually be applied. A good recent example, covered by NBC in San Diego, involves a “… couple whose home was raided by agents with guns drawn” who has filed a lawsuit against San Diego law enforcement, alleging their rights as medical marijuana patients were violated.
 
The report points out that “… the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court is the latest example of the ongoing debate over the rights of medical marijuana patients in California – how their treatment is regulated and how, according to their attorney, these type of cases are perceived by law enforcement.” This particular couple had previously arrested and put on trial for marijuana infractions, but found innocent.

Monitor Publisher Offers High Praise For Plaintiff’s Research

 
In her most recent Huffington Post column, the Courts Monitor publisher offers strong praise for a byproduct of litigation – research. She also notes that lightening is more likely to hit your home than you might think and that the natural gas pipes used in building need a strong reform movement. Check it out here.

 

Civil Court Watchers Turn Attention To Kansas

 
In what is shaping up as an historic political showdown, civil court watchers are looking toward Kansas. That’s where Gov. Sam Brownback is, in effect, saying that if a state court strikes down a 2014 law that removed some judicial powers, he will halt court funding.
 
The New York Times explains that “… the 2014 law took the authority to appoint chief judges for the district courts away from the Supreme Court and gave it to the district courts themselves. It also deprived the state’s highest court of the right to set district court budgets. Critics said the law was an attempt by Mr. Brownback, a Republican, to stack the district courts with judges who may be more favorable to his policies.”
 
It’s getting uglier by the day. Check out the NYT coverage here.

NYC And Municipal Leadership On Civil Justice

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at her State of the City address. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council as reported in the New York Observer)

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at her State of the City address. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council as reported in the New York Observer)

Despite the welcomed statewide “traffic court amnesty” in California, it remains clear that municipal governments are leading the way in providing civil justice leadership. The latest example comes from the Big Apple, where the city council has voted to create an “Office of Civil Justice” to connect poor people facing housing and other issues with attorneys.

 
New York Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has dubbed the proposal “the people’s law firm” and said in a press conference that “… limited access to an attorney means limited access to justice.” Ms. Mark-Viverito said today at a press conference before the Council’s vote on the bill. As the NY Observer reported, “… while plaintiffs in criminal cases are guaranteed lawyers, those in civil cases—which can include deportation, child custody and eviction proceedings—are not.”
 
Read more here.  

Another NBC I-Team Bombshell On Immigration Court Crisis

 
There must have been a memo. Another NBC station is breaking news on the immigration court crisis, with the New York affiliate reporting on a huge loophole for entering the U.S. The station’s in-depth coverage includes that “… according to court sources… [the source] is at least the 14th Amandeep Singh from the Punjab state of India to seek immigration help in Queens Family Court — a place better known for custody and child support cases. Singh tells a judge he was abused by his parents, starved and beaten with sticks. Although this may be completely true, judges say they have no investigative recourse. After one hour in court, Singh, who is undocumented and was smuggled across the border, was well on his way to getting a green card, permanent legal status and the right to work in the U.S.”
 
Read the story here.