In L.A., Student Tickets Give Way To Counseling, Other Intervention

According to a 11/3/15 LA Times Report, "L.A. Unified sees success in counseling rather than arresting truants and kids who fight."

According to a 11/3/15 LA Times Report, “L.A. Unified sees success in counseling rather than arresting truants and kids who fight.”

The Los Angeles Times is following up on measures taken last year to reform an out-of-control truancy system. The shift actually began under pressure from civil rights groups and was approved back in 2012 when the LAT reported that: “Under the old policy, a student who received a truancy ticket had to appear in court with a parent. A judge would issue a fine and order the student to be on time for the next 60 days or face more legal trouble. Both the parent and student had to return two months later for a follow-up, causing the student to miss school time and the parent to lose wages.”

The update offered this background that the shift involves: “… 405 sworn L.A. Unified police officers who, along with more than 125 safety officers, make up the nation’s largest independent school police force. Across the nation, campus officers are facing criticism that they’re pushing children into a “school-to-prison pipeline” with citations, arrests and excessive force for issues that could be resolved by other means. National studies show that one arrest doubles a student’s odds of dropping out.”

The student truancy policies were also seen as a path to criminal records. While the initial “tickets” were treated as civil cases, failing to comply with the results, like paying fines or doing community work, led to criminal arrests.

Read the excellent Times coverage here.

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.

Immigration Courts Face Obama Actions

President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will impact the civil courts system, but it’s hard to know how soon that will happen – or how much the impact will be. Southern California public radio station KPCC is reporting it as “promising news” for immigration judges “… who have long sought more resources for their busy courtrooms, says Bruce Einhorn, a former immigration judge who served in the LA courts for more than 15 years.”:

As reported in SCPR, “A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.”

As reported in SCPR, “A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.”

The KPCC reports says  that a typical judge in Los Angeles has about 2,500 cases on their docket, which means an average case takes more than two years to reach a decision, but that could change with Obama’s action. Einhorn, said it will take time to see the effects on the ground. One group that will likely not find relief are the thousands of child migrant cases that are working their way through the courts. As Take Two has been covering on the program, more than 7,000 children are being heard in Los Angeles alone. Since they arrived in the country within the past five years, they probably will not qualify under the new rules from Obama.

Read and listen to the report here: Obama’s actions could affect thousands at LA’s immigration courts.

L.A. Looks To Bypass Courts For Low-Level Crimes

Worried that charging people with “lower level” crimes like public urination is more trouble than it’s worth in a crowded court system, Los Angeles officials are planning to bypass judges and create an alternative justice system for dozens of infractions. the L.A. Register newspaper reports that the Administrative Code Enforcement, or ACE, program would be rolled out first with Los Angeles Animal Services and Police Department and “.. won’t replace the city’s current system of being able to charge people with a misdemeanor or infraction in criminal court. But the program will give police the option of issuing an administrative ticket for low-level offenses, LAPD told a committee earlier this week.”

Some examples given were tampering with garbage, public urination and defecation, and throwing trash into the L.A. River. The Register says that “… citations would range from $250 for the first violation to $1,000 for a third offense.. The city expects to net $468,000 in the first year, according to an analysis prepared in June by the City Attorney’s Office.”

The system as explained does not allow those cited access to actual courts, but only an administrative review. Read the story here: More tickets? ACE is a new way to punish minor crimes

AP Story On Immigration Crisis Gets Traction

A Los Angeles-based story by Amy Taxin of the Associated Press continues to be used by those making the case for legal representation for the unaccompanied children awaiting processing to determine if they can stay in the U.S. 
Her story opens in Los Angeles with a dramatic courthouse scene: [The judge} … grabbed four thick books and dropped each one on his desk with a thud, warning the families in his Los Angeles courtroom about the thousands of pages of immigration laws and interpretations that could affect their cases, and urging them to get a lawyer. “This is even smaller print,” he said of the 1,200-page book containing regulations during the hearing last month. “I am not trying to scare you, but I’m trying to ensure your children get a full and fair hearing.”
To read the AP report via the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, click here.

Still Undecided? LAT Endorsements

Still undecided on today’s judicial election vote? For what it’s worth, here are the Los Angeles Times endorsements:
Office 22: Pamala Matsumoto
Office 48: Charles M. Calderon
Office 54: Debra L. Losnick
Office 61: Jacqueline Lewis
Office 76: Alison Matsumoto Estrada
Office 87: Andrew M. Stein
Office 97: Songhai “Sunny” Armstead
Office 107: Emma Castro
Office 113: Stacy Wiese
Office 117: James B. Pierce
Office 138: Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong
Office 157: Andrew Cooper
You can see more of the Times recommendations here: June 3 primary election: The Times recommends

Real Budget Debate Begins Today

Months of polite positioning ended today with the latest draft of Gov. Brown’s budget, with Republicans perhaps surprisingly welcoming of his spending plan while Democrats worried about lack of funds for things like social programs, education and courts. While most of the headline coverage focused on the state’s “rainy day fund” and debt payments, deeper coverage outlined the coming battle including a cautious outlook on judicial branch money.
CA State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) supports increased funds for courts.

CA State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) supports increased funds for courts.

Comments of note: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), says The Los Angeles Times, “… signaled the majority party will want to spend more on programs that were cut in the past.” The paper quoted the senator including courts in his consideration: “It is time to consider thoughtful and careful reinvestment in areas such as the courts, education, healthcare, mental health, early childhood education and infrastructure that will have an immediate, positive impact on the entire state.” 
The Times also noted that California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said the governor’s budget was “encouraging because it identifies additional funding and recognizes the need for fiscal stability with a creative proposal for a two-year budgeting formula for the trial courts.” She added the very cautious: “I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature before the adoption of the Budget Act to ensure that all Californians have access to justice.”
Here’s a good reaction story from the Times:

‘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.