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Lawsuit Asserts Immigration Hearings by Videoconference is Unconstitutional

Federal District Court in Manhattan, where a new lawsuit was filed stating challenging the constitutionality of immigrants appearing before judges by videoconference. Photo credit:Hiroko Masuike, as reported in The New York Times, 2/12/18.

Federal District Court in Manhattan, where a new lawsuit was filed stating challenging the constitutionality of immigrants appearing before judges by videoconference. Photo credit: Hiroko Masuike, as reported in The New York Times, 2/12/18.

According to a report by the New York Times, a lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the Federal District Court in Manhattan, asserting that “detained immigrants could not fully communicate with their lawyers and participate in proceedings when their only interaction with immigration court was through video.”

In response to the overcrowding in immigration courts, last year, federal authorities in New York started keeping immigrants in detention centers for their legal proceedings, utilizing videoconferencing technology to appear before judges.

According to the NYT report, the lawsuit claims that “the policy infringes upon immigrants’ constitutional rights in a deliberate attempt to speed up and increase deportations.”

“As a result, the lawsuit said, immigrants who might otherwise be granted the ability to stay in the United States instead could be deported. The suit cited several instances when videoconferencing had harmful effects on immigrants and their hearings,” reports the NYT.

Anonymous Alfalfa

by Sara Corcoran, Courts Monitor Publisher
(Originally published in CityWatch LA on 2/14/19)

 You can use the attached image with the caption: Senator John Kerry steps down as Alfalfa president (Photo originally published in CityWatch LA)


Senator John Kerry steps down as Alfalfa president (Photo originally published in CityWatch LA)

Every 3rd week in January, the “.02%” take over Washington DC to host their annual dinner at the Capital Hilton. Established in 1913, the Alfalfa Club cultivates its membership of elite powerbrokers from all over the United States. 

With a membership of 200– including Fortune 500 executives, politicians, and Presidents.— members invite guests to attend the DC dinner. This is a seldom refused invitation. However, breaking with long-standing tradition, the ever-insecure Trump declined the invite for 2018 and 2019. 

So, if you weren’t one of the lucky few invited to attend the passing of the gavel from former Senator John Kerry to newly elected Alfalfa President, Senator Mitt Romney, you can still be a spectator from the basement of the Hay Adams Hotel. If there is an optimal time to catch a glimpse of the accomplished and well-heeled crowd, it’s the weekend of January 25th. 

Read more here.

Amid forest fire claims, PG&E files for bankruptcy

The Camp Fire in California as seen from the Landsat 8 satellite on November 8, 2018.

The Camp Fire in California as seen from the Landsat 8 satellite on November 8, 2018.

Pacific Gas and Electric Corp has filed for bankruptcy, a legal proceeding that could deny forest fire victims compensation.

“California’s largest utility, facing up to $30 billion in potential liability for recent California wildfires, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection,” CBS News reports.

“Filing for bankruptcy essentially ensures the company can continue to operate and its customers will get power, but doesn’t assure any of the fire victims will get compensation — or that ratepayers won’t get hit with part of the bill, CBS San Francisco and CBS Los Angeles say,” the report notes.

“The filing enables PG&E to freeze its debts and continue operations while developing a financial reorganization plan,” CBS News reports.

PG&E aims to secure $5.5 billion in loans during the bankruptcy.

Health care law in limbo during government shutdown

 The appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be delayed to the government shutdown. Photo Credit: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo as reported by Roll Call, 1/11/19.

The appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be delayed to the government shutdown. Photo Credit: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo as reported by Roll Call, 1/11/19.

In December, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but under appeal, the status of the health care law remains in limbo during a partial government shutdown.

“The partial government shutdown halted a major challenge to the 2010 health care law among other civil litigation on Friday, as Justice Department lawyers sought the same in a challenge from three Senate Democrats to the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general,” reports Rollcall.com.

“The federal court system will start feeling the crunch of the shutdown on Jan. 18 when the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts estimates it will run out of the court fee balances and other non-appropriated funds that so far allowed for regular operations,” notes an article by Roll Call.

“Courts have been asked to delay or defer non-mission critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case related travel, and certain contracts to stretch funds to that date. Criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted.”

California federal judge blocks Trump birth control coverage rules in 13 states

Photo credit: AP File Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, as reported by AP on 1/13/19.

Photo credit: AP File Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, as reported by AP on 1/13/19.

According to the AP, on Sunday, 1/13/19, Judge Haywood Gilliam of California granted a request for a preliminary injunction by California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C.,  to block Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. According to the report, “The plaintiffs sought to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled today while a lawsuit against them moved forward… But Gilliam limited the scope of the ruling to the plaintiffs, rejecting their request that he block the rules nationwide.”

Calif. Gov. Brown makes final judicial appointments

Gov. Brown of California announces final judicial appointments during his last few weeks in office. Photo credit: https://www.gov.ca.gov

Gov. Brown of California announces final judicial appointments during his last few weeks in office. Photo credit: https://www.gov.ca.gov

Less than a week before leaving office, California Gov. Jerry Brown made his final judicial appointments, filling 12 open trial court seats.

“Like many of the approximately 600 judicial appointments Brown has made over the last eight years, the latest batch of soon-to-be bench officers is ethnically diverse and includes many women (nine) and Democrats (10),” The Recorder at law.com reports.

The appointees include Clifford Blakely Jr. and Karin Schwartz in Alameda County; John Devine in Contra Costa County; Vedica Puri to the San Francisco Superior Court; Nicole Isger in Santa Clara County; Terrye Davis in Solano County; Heather Mardel Jones in Fresno County; and Maria Cavalluzzi, Gail Killefer, Pamela M. Villanueva, David Yaroslavsky and Jennifer H. Cops in  Los Angeles County.

Brown’s full announcement is posted online.

Courts Monitor publisher thinks that the newly emerging cannabis industry can learn a thing or two from the alcohol industry

Sara Corcoran is correspondent, contributing editor, and founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor.

Sara Corcoran is a correspondent, contributing editor, and founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor.

Sara Corcoran, the Courts Monitor publisher, thinks that the newly emerging cannabis industry can learn a thing or two from the alcohol industry. For example, as the repeal of alcohol prohibition turns 85 years old, the feuds between the “beer and wine” crowd and the “distilled spirits” companies could easily be repeated as cannabis regulation takes shape amid conflicted industry sectors. She is published at CityWatch LA, the regionally prominent Los Angeles-based opinion-and-politics website here.
 

Judges volunteer to hear cases in jurisdictions burdened by heavy caseloads

 Royce Lamberth, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, participates in the Judiciary’s intercircuit assignments program and helps the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with a busy docket. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Royce Lamberth, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, participates in the Judiciary’s intercircuit assignments program and helps the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with a busy docket. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Judicial vacancies and other factors have prompted a rise in the number of intercircuit judicial assignments, when judges volunteer in other jurisdictions to ease crushing caseloads.

“The demand for intercircuit assignments increased by 27 percent in 2017 from the previous year, as many courts juggling heavy caseloads looked for relief,” reports the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. “The increase was caused primarily by a large number of judicial vacancies. Other factors contributed, such as natural disasters and extended illnesses that temporarily impacted the availability of judges.”

For example, Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth participates in the Judiciary’s intercircuit assignments program and helps the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with a busy docket.

“Intercircuit assignment requests typically are made by the chief judge of a court experiencing high caseloads. They must be approved by the circuit chief, and as required by statute, authorized by the Chief Justice,” the article explains.

U.S. Dept. of Justice Monitor Criticizes Juvenile Courts in Tennessee

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 10.58.35 AMAccording to a recent AP article published in U.S. News & World Report, “Despite the end to federal oversight of a Tennessee county’s juvenile justice system, a U.S. Department of Justice monitor says ‘blatantly unfair” practices persist.'”

Monitor Sandra Simkins outlined in her report two main areas where the county still doesn’t comply with the agreement reached in 2012: 1) the court exerts “inappropriate influence” over defense appointments; and 2) that children are transferred to adult criminal court without due process.

California official sues maker of Humira, alleging kickbacks

Photo credit: www.abbvie.com

Photo credit: www.abbvie.com

The state of California is suing AbbVie Inc. over its flagship drug, Humira, alleging the pharmaceutical company gave kickbacks to healthcare providers.

Reuters reported in mid-September on the complaint, brought by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

“The regulator alleged that AbbVie engaged in a far-reaching scheme including cash, meals, drinks, gifts, trips, and patient referrals, as well as free and valuable professional goods and services to physicians to induce and reward Humira prescriptions,” Reuters reported.

“The case, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleged that private insurers have paid out $1.2 billion in Humira-related pharmacy claims.”

AbbVie defended its actions, saying it complies with state and federal law and that “it provides a number of support services for patients, once they are prescribed Humira, that both educate and assist patients with their therapy, including nursing support.”