Lawyers Stepping Up to Volunteer Time For Border Kids: “They Have a Right to Due Process”

It turns out that American’s lawyers are stepping up for those Border Kids who are not guaranteed representation at immigration court. The Wall Street Journal reports that across the country hundreds of lawyers who are experts in other fields are taking crash courses in immigration and representing the children, who are mostly unaccompanied minors from Central America.
The WSJ reports that “… since late July, when a wave of Central American minors surged at the border, lawyers who regularly bill hundreds of dollars an hour have been packing training sessions to learn immigration law and take on the children’s cases. Legal-aid organizations call it an unprecedented response by this group of attorneys… the effort leaves the firms open to criticism from conservative activists who say the minors should be returned to their home countries. But the attorneys say the children, who aren’t entitled to a public defender, have a right to due process.”
The story quotes Simona Agnolucci, a San Francisco lawyer specializing in complex litigation who is representing tech giant Google Inc. in several cases, who also volunteers at an immigration court each Thursday. She screens immigrants without legal representation to assess whether they have a viable asylum claim for a pro bono attorney to take. “I am fortunate to have clients in favor of this work,” said the Keker & Van Nest lawyer. Google said it had nothing to add to her comments.
The story also notes that more than half the children with lawyers stay in the U.S. and nine of ten without a lawyer are deported. Read the report and details about federal and state moves here: New Mission for Lawyers: Free Aid to Young Immigrants

Feds Find $9 Million For Border Kids Lawyers

Following the leadership of immigration-friendly cities like New York and San Francisco, and on the heels of California stepping up with $3 million in legal aid for unaccompanied minors, the federal government announced that it will spend $9 million for “border kid” representation starting immediately.
The Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that the Department of Health and Human Services will provide the money to two refugee organizations that help the unaccompanied children from Central America. They are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Advocates for increased representation for the border kids argue that most of those with legal aid get to remain in the country while most of those facing Justice Department courts on their own are deported.

Amid Gridlock, California Comes To Border Kids Representation Rescue

The U.S. Congress inactive due to gridlock and campaign season. President Obama inactive, while cynically delaying action until after November’s midterm voting. The Justice Department relatively inactive over the very immigration court system it manages as the U.S. attorney general resigns. But the state of California is stepping up, setting aside $3 million for immediate legal assistance to the tens of thousands of Central American children showing up to see refuge in the United States.
Gov. Brown signed the law over the weekend and it includes assistance to keep some students in school who “defied” authority. In a Los Angeles Times story, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who backed the measure, said that “… the $3 million to help the immigrant children, said, will provide due process in the United States that will rescue some of them from the “virtual death sentence” they would face if deported to unsafe home countries.” Later, she added in a statement that “… with the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reaffirmed California’s commitment to doing its part to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at [the] border involving Central American youth.”
Read the Times story, which also covers other legislation signed ahead of Tuesday’s end-of-month deadline, here: Gov. Brown signs bills aiding immigrant children, troubled students

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.


Fighting Over Those Three Little Words

In the non-campaign yawn-fest that is the usual Los Angeles Superior Court judicial election, the most vital strategy doesn’t involve talking points or focus groups. Instead, the big deal is how candidates are identified on the ballot. It seems “prosecutor” is a coveted title. 

Or even a “Deputy City Prosecutor.” The MetNews is reporting that B. Otis Felder, who is running for the judgeship being vacated by Michael Nash, is arguing that he can use that delegation because he was a full-time prosecutor in the “Volunteer Attorney Training Program” run by the L.A. City Attorney’s office. Responding to critics, he said that volunteer work is prosecutor enough. Critics say there may be a formal complaint to change the designation.

Another interesting candidate is Pamala F. Matsumoto, who is self-identified as an “Administrative Law Judge,” and is one of the former Superior Court referees dismissed during the 2012 budget cuts.

Here’s the MetNews report.

Here’s the new Los Angeles Times election coverage page, which offers a broad election story and mentions the Superior Court election only once, and then to dismiss it.


Some DA’s Will Become Judges Unopposed

At least three deputy district attorneys will run virtually unopposed for Los Angeles Superior Court judicial seats after last Friday’s filing deadline. It was uncertain who among those seeking seats might face competition, reports the MetNews, which added that one candidate clearly created some options.
According to MetNews, Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim eventually returned papers to seek the same judgeship being sought by fellow Deputy District Attorney Alison Matsumoto Estrada. The report noted that Kim’s campaign consultant, Fred Huebscher, “declined to comment for publication on the reason for targeting Estrada, after filing declarations for seven other seats. Kim paid a filing fee of $1,812.29 for each of the eight contests.”
The three district attorneys escaping serious challenges were Ann Park, Serena Murillo, and Chris Frisco, and the MetNews full story is here.

Judicial Election Intimidation On Display in San Diego

Imagine living with a justice system where powerful judges intimidate would-be challengers, threatening careers and clients if anyone dares run against a seated judge. Well, there are those who say (quietly, very quietly of course) that California has just that system, and they point to a San Diego race as the latest example.
It’s unusual for mainstream media outlets to give more than passing coverage to superior court judicial races, but The San Diego Times Union recently broke the story: “A candidate challenging a longtime Superior Court judge in the June primary election says she is being pressured to drop out by a legal organization she belongs to and by some judges.”


The newspaper, perhaps oddly sidestepping the larger story of judicial electoral intimidation, still reports that federal prosecutor Carla Keehn “… is one of five people who have filed to run against judges on the local bench — an unusually high number of challenges to incumbent jurists. Typically judges are re-elected without opposition, as few lawyers will take on a sitting judge for fear of judicial enmity.”


To make matters even more interesting, Keehn is openly gay and some of the pressure comes from a group she belongs to, with the leadership writing here that “… openly challenging a sitting judge can be seen by some as undermining the support and relationship we have worked so hard to build.” Keehn said she understood it to be pressure to drop out, but will not do so. Read the report here.

Pasadena ‘Walk-Up’ Window Cuts Wait Times

Courts across California are reporting long lines for relatively routine issues, like traffic tickets, but at Pasadena a new walk-up window is letting people bypass even entering the courthouse, which means not going through the security lines and reduced wait times.
The Courthouse News is reporting that Supervising Judge Mary Thornton House called the new window a huge success and said it would reduce long waits and lines, adding that the court would like to install more walk-up windows, but structurally the building can only accommodate one.
Judge House also noted in the CN that the recent L.A. County Superior Courtco consolidation plan led the Pasadena courthouse to assume Alhambra traffic cases… “so our traffic matters were doubled, which created very long lines and required people to go through weapons screening simply to pay a ticket.” The report also noted a Yelp user who said it had taken him two hours to pay a $238 traffic ticket. The report also says members of the public still need to visit the clerk’s office to request traffic school, or pay traffic citations that have already been sent to collections. Check out the story here.

Praise abounds as MetNews honors presiding judge

It was a praise fest as The Metropolitan News-Enterprise named L.A. Superior Court Presiding Judge David S.
Photo from the Metnews Report on 1/28/14.

Photo from the Metnews Report on 1/28/14.

Wesley as its 2014 “Man of the Year.” In particular, Assistant Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl, which the MetNews pointed out is the likely successor to Judge Wesley, lauded the presiding judge for his “leadership in a time of crisis.”
The MetNews also honored David Pasternak, a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association along with his wife, Cynthia Pasternak, who is a past president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association.

Along with the praise, Judge Kuhl offered a rare look inside the decision-making that resulted in the recent courts reorganization, including how much was not known about the eventual decisions. You can check it out at the MetNews here.

Judge Backing New Hate-Crime Reporting App

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley is adding a high-profile judicial endorsement to a smartphone app that allows users to easily document and report “hate incidents.” He joins other officials backing the “CombatHate” app, including L.A. Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing.
The app was designed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and allows users to instantly and confidentially report a hate crime or online hate-induced activity to the Center, which can determine appropriate next steps. Judge Wesley has previously collaborated with the Museum of Tolerance to extend the Los Angeles Superior Court’s decades-old Teen Court through the Stopping Hate And Delinquency by Empowering Students (SHADES) program, which helps combat “hate incidents and hate crimes” on Los Angeles County’s school campuses.
Check out the CBS Los Angeles coverage here