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

Florida Newspaper Endorsed ‘Civil Gideon’

Scales of justice (freeimages.com)

Scales of justice (freeimages.com)

Citing research from the Florida Bar Association, The Orlando Sentinel newspaper has taken a strong stand on “Civil Gideon,” the idea that some civil cases demand the same right to an attorney as criminal cases.
In an editorial, the paper cites economic benefits from a study commissioned by The Florida Bar Foundation: “… the study concluded that every dollar spent on civil legal aid for lower-income Floridians yields more than $7 in benefits. As Bar Foundation President Matthew Brenner said, ‘Equal justice under law is not only a basic underpinning of our democracy; it’s also good economic policy.'”
Adds the paper: In short, it’s a better deal for taxpayers to invest at the front end to help fellow Floridians solve problems in civil court, instead of paying more to deal with the consequences to the state’s economy of unsolved problems at the back end. This same logic would apply — and should appeal — to other potential legal aid contributors, including the business community and nonprofits. Here’s how the math works.”
The mainstream endorsement is a milestone for the Civil Gideon movement. Read it here:
Invest in access to civil justice: Where We Stand

SF-Based Immigration Courts Getting Testy

Official seal of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which operates the U.S. immigration courts.

Official seal of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which operates the U.S. immigration courts.

The federal immigration courts, already over-booked with a half-million pending cases and the focus of President Trump’s crackdown strategies, are getting a bit testy out San Francisco way. A reporter with the East Bay Express, a small but scrappy newspaper, wrote about being asked to leave a proceeding.

The story paints an alarming picture of federal agents lacking transparency. While not a direct part of the story, it also illustrates that the “judges” actually work for the Justice Department and are not regular federal judges.

Read the report here:

I Was Kicked Out of Federal Immigration Court — Because I’m a Journalist | East Bay Express

Police Skepticism Hitting L.A. In The Legal Fee Pocketbook

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times 1/10/17 report

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times report 1/10/17

The Los Angeles city attorney is blaming distrust of police as a significant reason the city will have to borrow $70 million or dip into reserve funds. Those are the options laid out in a new city report. 

The Los Angeles Times reports that “… the city paid out $110 million in legal cases last fiscal year, according to budget staff. In January 2016, the city agreed to pay out $24 million to settle lawsuits from two men who alleged that dishonest LAPD detectives led their wrongful murder convictions and caused them to spend decades behind bars… city lawyers concerned about the police misconduct allegations recommended the settlements, saying in confidential memos to the City Council that taking the cases to trial could be even costlier.”

In an interview with the Times on Monday, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer “… cited several reasons for the increased payouts. He said juries are more skeptical about law enforcement when it comes to police liability, and cited a “significant” amount of deferred maintenance of city infrastructure.”
With payouts projected to total at least $135 million this fiscal year, budget officials said Monday that the city needs to immediately borrow up to $70 million to avoid dipping into its emergency reserve fund.

Read the story here: L.A. needs to borrow millions to cover legal payouts, city report says

Trump’s Election Boosting Efforts For ‘Civil Gideon’ Style Reform

Photo Credit: LA Times video clip 1/3/2017

Photo Credit: LA Times video clip 1/3/2017

One impact of the pending Trump administration is already being felt as some states and cities are preparing funds to fight deportation. While it’s only one part of the issue, the funding is a boost to the movement for a “civil Gideon” policy that would provide a right to an attorney in some civil cases – like the right to an attorney for criminal cases. The Gideon case was the policy-setting decision for that criminal-case right.

Immigration advocates have long argued that some deportation cases should be among those requiring representation, especially when children are involved. Funding has always been part of the discussion, but some governments are finding cash in the wake of President-Elect Trump’s victory. For example, the Los Angeles Times reports that  LA city and county leaders have “… unveiled a $10-million fund to provide legal assistance for residents facing deportation, the region’s boldest move yet as it prepares for an expected crackdown on illegal immigration by Donald Trump. If approved by lawmakers, Los Angeles’ two top government agencies could find themselves in the position of using public funds to challenge policies sought by the White House and Republican Congress.”

Similar efforts are under way in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and the state of New York.

Read more here:
http://www.latimes.com/local/ lanow/la-me-ln-lafund- 20161219-story.html

SoCal Public Radio Report Outlines Immigration Court Issues

Ana Hernández (L )with her 15-year-old daughter Mariela Michell Beltrán-Hernandez outside the immigration court in Los Angeles. Dan Tuffs for KPCC.

Ana Hernández (L )with her 15-year-old daughter Mariela Michell Beltrán-Hernandez outside the immigration court in Los Angeles. Dan Tuffs for KPCC.

A new Southern California Public Radio report documents an “uptick” in those families seeking refuge in the United States from Central American nations, and the ongoing Immigration Courts crisis that goes along with it. The SCPR report begins with an example: “Michell Hernández’s case entered the immigration court in August as the system faced an unprecedented backlog, surpassing half a million ongoing cases nationwide. According to government data from Syracuse University’s TRAC, immigration courts fielded 516,031 cases, as of September 2016. Those numbers include both adult and juvenile cases.
One in five of those cases are in California – the biggest share of any state. And half of those, or nearly 50,000, are in Los Angeles.”
The report has other stats: “There are 250 judges in 58 courts across the nation, according to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the courts. Thirty judges currently serve in L.A. In response to the rising caseload, the agency has added more judges and staff, including swearing in an additional judge in Los Angeles this month. That followed three new judges  joining the L.A. courts in June. Still, judges typically handle dozens of cases a day.”
The uptick comes as the report backgrounds: “In 2015, the number of child migrants dropped across the Southwest border, but recent figures from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that those numbers have ticked back up. Through October 2016, for example, nearly 60,000 children have crossed the border alone in the past 12 months and over 77,000 families have been apprehended.”
Read the excellent reporting here:

Wondering About Election Laws? State Courts Site Has You Covered

Let’s just say, for some odd reason, you suddenly wanted to ponder state court election laws. Especially in certain politically indecisive states that might choose the leader of the free world. Well, the National Center for State Courts has you covered with a well-curated list of resources. The site notes that: “… after the close presidential election of 2000, many Americans have become increasingly aware of the courts’ role in the election process, whether it is due to disputes over civil rights, campaign finance laws and regulations, or ballot access issues. While the federal government plays a predominant role in the election process, this module is meant to provide information on the legal and governmental context of courts’ roles in elections.”
Some of the info is more general, and there’s lots to consider about politics, money and judicial trends. Other parts, if you scroll a bit, are more nuts-and-bolts.
Find the information here: Election Law Resource Guide