‘Birthday Song’ Finally Gains Freedom

California Magazine / Just In

California Magazine / Just In

You can finally relax. “Happy Birthday to You” has finally re-entered the common grounds after years of being held by a corporate owner. The California Sunday Magazine is among those reporting on the good news, noting that “… Judge George H. King of the federal district court in Los Angeles initially ruled last September that the copyright was not valid, the company battled on, perhaps because with no rival as the most widely recognized and frequently sung song in the English language, the tune has steadily generated some $2 million a year for the publishing company. Settlement was finally reached earlier this year, and Judge King made it official today.”

The years-long saga of the song cost millions of dollars in time and effort and certainly makes for an interesting tale and is the subject of a documentary. Read the ins and outs here: ‘Happy Birthday’ Suit Resolved: The Most-Sung Song Is Free for All

Welcome To Juror Appreciation Week

A new study has found that about 30 percent of Los Angeles residents called for jury duty don’t bother showing up at all, and only about 20 percent of folks in the city participate actually participate in jury service. This as we celebrate “Juror Appreciation Week” in the Golden State.
A former city attorney, writing in the San Gabriel Valley newspaper makes a case for appreciation, noting that “… we can do better than that. According to the study, the statewide average of ‘no-show’ jurors is 20 percent… it only goes to show that Los Angeles has a way to go to be on par with jury service across the rest of the state.”
You can read the case for jury duty here.

L.A. Moves To Disassemble Part Of ‘School-To-Prison Pipeline’

As the nation watches racially heated events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold, the city of Los Angeles is going about disassembling what critics have called its “schools-to-prison” pipeline, ending policies that turned school issues into police issues. But the move is also a consequence of reduced juvenile court capacity, according to an official quoted in a New York Times article.
According to the NYT: “Michael Nash, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, who was involved in creating the new policies, said that the juvenile justice system was overtaxed, and that the changes would ensure that the courts were dealing only with youngsters who ‘really pose the greatest risk to the community.'”
The NYT also reported that “… students 14 years old and under received more than 45 percent of the district’s 1,360 citations in 2013, according to the [Labor/Community] Strategy Center [a civil rights group] African-American students, who account for about 10 percent of the total population, received 39 percent of “disturbing the peace” citations, typically given for fights.” At one time, police in the program were issuing arrest citations for showing up late to school, a practice terminated in 2012.

Dems Endorse For LASC Judgeships


Image from www.lacdp.org

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has named its endorsement for the 2014 L.A. Superior Court judicial elections while declining to endorse anyone in four of the ten races. The endorsements are included on the party’s website along with other state and local picks.

Endorsement included:  

Office 22 – Pamala F. Matsumoto
Office 48 – No Consensus
Office 54 – Debra L. Losnick
Office 61 – Jacqueline H. Lewis
Office 76 – Helen Kim
Office 87 – Andrew M. Stein
Office 97 – No Consensus
Office 107 – Emma Castro
Office 113 – No Consensus
Office 138 – No Endorsement

See more at: http://www.lacdp.org/endorsements/#sthash.cu7DLRPn.dpuf

Obama Picks Prosecutor For Fed Bench

High-profile U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. has been nominated for a federal judgeship in the L.A.-based Central District of California. He currently is head of a division that works on criminal, civil and tax cases. His nomination by President Obama follows a recommendation by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and faces confirmation by the senate.
Most recently, Birotte’s office led the investigations the brought indictments against California state Senator Ron Calderon on public corruption charges. The story is being reported by public radio station KPCC here
Follow the reporter, Sharon McNary: @KPCCsharon on Twitter

Civil Dept. Supervisor Seeks Asst. Presiding Post

The supervisor of the L.A. Superior Court civil department is a candidate for assistant presiding judge, becoming the first judge to declare for the fall election. After two years, that position would typically lead to an unopposed advancement to presiding judge. The candidacy is being reported in The Metropolitan News-Enterprise.
The MetNews website also published part of Daniel J. Buckley’s letter to other judges: “As the Supervising Judge of Civil during the consolidation of the past year, I have worked closely with…[Presiding Judge] Dave Wesley and [Assistant Presiding Judge] Carolyn Kuhl and have spent the great majority of my time in planning and implementing the changes we have undergone. There is still much to do as our court moves forward.”
According to the report, Buckley was appointed to the court in 2002 by then-Gov. Gray Davis and, at the time of his appointment, was managing partner in the law firm then known as Breidenbach, Buckley, Huchting & Hamblet, where he represented defendants in tort and environmental litigation. Read the MetNews coverage here.


Former Majority Leader Makes Interesting Judicial Candidate

If you’re starting to read tea leaves for the upcoming Superior Court judicial elections, don’t forget to note that
Charles Calderon (photo from www.charlescalderon.com)

Charles Calderon (photo from www.charlescalderon.com)

Charles Calderon, the former majority leader of both the state House and Senate, is running. He naturally has lined up a solid list of political endorsements and will run a higher profile campaign than we’re perhaps accustomed to in picking judges.
But perhaps more interesting is his public support from a board member of the Alliance of California judges, an independent judicial group that has been very critical of how the state courts are run. In a story by John Hrabe at calnewsroom.com, Judge Susan Lopez Giss had good things to say.
The judge, who reportedly worked with Calderon in the city attorney’s office, said that ” [his] judgeship would afford the citizens of Los Angeles County with the wealth of his experience as an attorney and a legislator.” We will see if he brings any of that Alliance heat to the public square.
Check out the story here.

‘City In Decline’ Report Skips Court Woes

Another example of how off-the-radar our civil courts crisis can be: The once-anticipated Los Angeles 2020 Commission report of “A City In Crisis” does not include those long lines at the courthouse or the slow dismantling of our juvenile and community courthouse system. Indeed, after reading the Los Angeles Times review of our city’s crisis, you realize that our “paper of record” has taken a harder look at the crackdown on jaywalking than on the civil courts.
Granted, that may be because you have to connect the dots. Superior Courts funding is a “state issue,” until it becomes a police issue, a landlord-renter issue, a business development issue, an economic recruitment issue – in other words, until it disrupts the stuff that forces headlines. Reviews of the 20-page report, actually billed as “part one,” have been harsh, with the L.A. Weekly calling it “a mess” and noting that the group complains that the city leadership “… suffers from a crisis in leadership and direction” before saying “… it’s clear that this report is suffering from a crisis in leadership and direction, as it bogs down in the same old thinking. Whether this condition also applies to the city’s leaders is impossible to know, as the report does not analyze, address or acknowledge anything that any particular city leader has done about any of these issues.”
The “independent commission,” chaired by former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, is comprised of 13 men and women and was set up after voters turned down a recent city tax increase. An L.A. Times opinion piece ran down the crisis list: “The city, according to the report, is afflicted with weak job growth; high poverty; bad traffic; underperforming schools; weak, inactive government; red tape that stifles economic development; crumbling infrastructure; unfunded pensions; budget gimmicks and a disaffected electorate… Los Angeles is sinking into a future in which it no longer can provide the public services to which our people’s taxes entitle them and where the promises made to public employees about a decent and secure retirement simply cannot be kept.”
It’s lively reading, but perhaps frustrating to anyone hoping that rationed justice can receive the same attention as the live-altering use of budget gimmicks.

Coastal Lawsuit Backup Shows 1,837-Case, 20-year Backlog

What happens when the Superior Courts civil dockets get really, really backed up? In effect, the rule of law is suspended; there’s a great example of that with the California Coastal Commission, which can’t actually levy fines but uses lawsuits to enforce regulations. But, in a must-read story, the San Jose Mercury News says the state agency now faces “… 1,837 backlogged cases, some dating back 20 years.”
The newspaper says that the cases “… range from wealthy Malibu residents putting up illegal “no parking” signs to block families from public beaches to a company suspected of illegally mining sand on Monterey County beaches to property owners dumping debris on the shoreline in rural Del Norte County.” And there’s a bill in Sacramento that would allow the commission to levy its own fines, like the Fish & Wildlife or air quality agencies. 
So you can take your pick: The new law would finally give the commission “some teeth” or it could bypass the civil justice system in favor of another fine-producing state board. But as other issues face the slowness of Superior Courts, you can bet this illustrates a trend away from having “your day in court.” Read the story here.

Gov’s Appointment of South Asian Woman Makes Superior Court History

It’s making the rounds that Gov. Jerry Brown’s July 12 appointment of a South Pasadena resident to the L.A. Superior Court made a bit of history. Rupa S. Goswami, 46, is the first South Asian American woman ever named to the California judiciary, according to multiple sources.
The new judge has worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California since 2001. She fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Gary E. Daigh. While Superior Court judges are elected, most begin service via a governor’s appointment and few face serious political challenges after they are appointed.
There’s a good profile on the historic move at the India West news website: Read more here!