Tuesday, July 26, 2016

U.S. judges say California's top court is jeopardizing constitutional rights

Two federal judges warned Monday that the California Supreme Court’s practice in certain criminal cases was jeopardizing citizens’ constitutional rights.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Jay S. Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, and Stephen Reinhardt, who was elevated to the court by President Carter, expressed their frustrations in a ruling that will allow a state prisoner to challenge his detention in federal court.

The case dealt with legal deadlines, and the 11-judge appellate panel found itself having to surmise why the California Supreme Court had rejected the habeas corpus filing — the legal means by which inmates can win their freedom.

Bybee complained that communication between the two courts “has devolved into a series of hints that the California Supreme Court obliquely telegraphs and that we struggle to decipher.”

Yet  the 9th Circuit’s difficulties “pale in comparison to the costs that the California Supreme Court’s imprecision imposes on its own citizens and state government, because they have no more clue what the California Supreme Court means than we do,” Bybee said.

Overwhelmed by thousands of challenges from inmates each year, the state Supreme Court decides most of them with one-paragraph summary rulings that frustrate federal judges who later are asked to review them.

In Monday’s case, the 9th Circuit was examining the California high court’s rejection of a challenge by Freddy Curiel, who was sentenced to life without parole for murder. If the state court had found the rejection was due to a missed legal deadline, the federal judges would have to dismiss the inmate’s challenge.

The 2010 order said in its entirety: “The petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied. (See In re Swain (1949) 34 Cal.2d 300, 304; People v. Duvall (1995) 9 Cal.4th 464, 474.).”

Ninth Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia, who wrote Monday’s majority opinion, said the appellate court had determined that the state justices did not find Curiel’s challenge untimely because neither of the two cases they cited had to do with deadlines.

Reinhardt said in his concurrence that he understood the California high court was overwhelmed with work and strained financially and could not write full-blown rulings on every case. But he implored the court to provide more elucidation and suggested specific reforms.

“Perhaps what was not so long ago the most innovative court in the nation will once again be able to provide national leadership when it considers the problem of the untold numbers of habeas petitions raising substantial claims of federal constitutional violations,” he wrote.

“Without a new approach,” he said, “even clearly erroneous constitutional decisions of state courts will remain uncorrected and leave defendants without the check on constitutional error that until recently the federal courts provided.”

Monday’s complaints about the California Supreme Court’s practice of denying habeas challenges — known as “postcard” denials — have been raised many times throughout the years by 9th Circuit judges.
But Reinhardt and Bybee noted that the issue was now more important than ever, because recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court require federal courts to defer to state judges except in extremely limited circumstances.

“Until we can tell what the California Supreme Court has decided,” Bybee wrote, “we won’t know how to afford California the deference to which it is entitled.”...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

California State Bar is failing in its duty to oversee lawyers' ethics

The California State Bar's dismal history shows why it should be broken up
Michael Hiltzik
LA Times
June 17, 2016

Let’s put this in terms that even an attorney with peerless loophole-seeking skills would consider straightforward: the California State Bar is a mess.

In recent years, the organization has been the target of withering state audits documenting misspent fees by the millions, overpaid executives, and inept management of its all-important duty of licensing lawyers and managing professional discipline. 

Its reputation is at a low ebb among state legislators, who last month placed on hold the organization’s yearly authorization to collect annual fees because the measure didn’t go far enough to achieve reform.

The Bar’s dual role as licenser and ethics enforcer as well as trade organization pushing policy changes,  critics say, leaves it hopelessly mired in a conflict of interest.

“You don’t delegate regulatory power to a special interest group,” says Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law and a frequent critic of the Bar. “To let them be the decision-makers is obscene.”

These issues seem to crop up every few years, but seldom with as much urgency as now. That’s because a 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has put professional licensing bodies on notice that they could be guilty of antitrust violations if a majority of their members are participants in the business they regulate.

The California State Bar is governed by a 19-member board of trustees, 13 of whom are lawyers. You do the math.

The Court decision isn’t the only driver of potential change. “People can suffer irreparable harm from attorneys,” says Fellmeth, a lawyer. They can be deprived of their liberty by inadequate representation in criminal court or immigration cases..

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rapist, a privileged Stanford athlete, sentenced to only six months in jail after a judge expressed concern for his future

Stanford Woman Shares The Powerful Letter She Read To The Man Who Assaulted Her

Lilli Petersen
Refinery 29
June 4, 2016

After her rapist was sentenced to only six months in jail for her horrifying assault, his accuser is speaking out.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, shared a full copy of the letter she read at the sexual assault trial of Brock Turner with BuzzFeed News. In March, Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault. A former Stanford University student and prospective 2016 Olympic swimmer, Turner faced 14 years in jail on the convictions, according to The Guardian. However, Judge Aaron Persky decided to sentence him to six months plus probation, saying that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over
an island looking for boats to save;
they just stand there shining. Although
I can’t save every boat, I hope that by
speaking today, you absorbed a small
amount of light, a small knowing that
you can’t be silenced, a small
satisfaction that justice was served, a
small assurance that we are getting
somewhere, and a big, big knowing
that you are important,
unquestionably, you are untouchable,
you are beautiful, you are to be
valued, respected, undeniably, every
minute of every day, you are powerful
and nobody can take that away from

More links:



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ethics committee lawyer's law firm managed offshore companies that may have been used to pay bribes

Five key figures implicated in the 'Panama Papers' scandal
By Matt Pearce
LA Times
April 4, 2016

 ...One of FIFA’s ethics committee members, the Uruguayan attorney Pedro Damiani, is facing an internal investigation by the world soccer association after revelations from the Panama Papers. Damiani's law firm manages offshore companies, including several that may have been used to pay bribes in the corruption scandal that has led to the arrests of top FIFA officials, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. A spokesman for Damiani told the newspaper he could not respond in detail due to the ongoing investigation...

Iceland PM to step down after Panama disclosures
Channel News Asia
06 Apr 2016

Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson will step down, the deputy head of his party said on Tuesday, after leaked files showed the premier's wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on Iceland's collapsed banks...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Carla Keehn is challenging Keri Greer Katz in 2016 election for Superior Court Judge

In 2016 federal prosecutor Carla Keehn is challenging Judge Keri Katz for a seat on the San Diego Superior Court. I've been following Keehn's career since her very interesting campaign in 2014 against Judge Lisa Schall.

This year Keehn is running against Keri Katz, who seems to be a better judge than Lisa Schall. I have no evidence that Keri Katz is anything other than a fine judge. There are websites that strongly criticize some family law judges, but Katz' name doesn't pop up on them.

I believe that Judge Keri Katz knew nothing about the deals that her father, former presiding judge of San Diego Superior Court, made with attorney Patrick Frega and Judges Dennis Adams and James Malkus in the 1990s (see more information below). Keri's father probably told her that he himself had paid for the cars and free legal representation provided by Patrick Frega.

I don't think that Keri Katz deserves to be punished for her father's wrongdoing.

But neither do I think that her family should be rewarded for her father's actions in the 1990s, and it seems that they have indeed been rewarded.

Three of Michael Greer's pals went to prison, but his daughter and son-in-law became judges:

KATZ, KERI GREER   Judge Dept. F3         Family Court
KATZ, AARON H.      Judge
 Dept. J8         Juvenile Court

Is this just garden variety nepotism? 

Or is it something more? The legal establishment in San Diego seems to be mighty appreciative of the Greer family.


Keri Greer Katz is the daughter of former presiding Judge Michael Greer of San Diego Superior Court who was convicted of participating in a bribery scheme that sent two other judges to prison.

In 1997 Michael Greer provided insider testimony on fraud and racketeering charges against his pals attorney Patrick Frega and former Superior Court Judges G. Dennis Adams and James Malkus. Michael Greer did a public service by testifying against Adams, Malkus and Frega, and he was rewarded by receiving no prison sentence.

Michael Greer's daughter and son-in-law are currently judges in San Diego.

I noticed that in the indictment of Greer and his associates (filed on April 9, 1996), Greer's daughter Keri Greer is mentioned five times in the "Overt Acts" section. The most interesting mention is in paragraph 1 on page 6, which states that Patrick Frega represented Keri Greer for free in Greer v. Kildare, et al.

On Feb. 7, 1997 the LA Times reported, "...In pleading guilty, Greer admitted helping Frega win cases by providing inside information, devising legal strategies and steering the cases to "friendly" judges.

"Before his resignation in 1993 amid an investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Performance, Greer was one of the preeminent judges on the local bench and one of the few to enjoy a statewide reputation...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Man freed after 28 years; witness claimed his face appeared in a dream

Moses-EL was convicted after the victim identified him, saying his face came to her in a dream. So prosecutors ignored the convicted rapist she had originally named.  

Prosecutors in Denver, Colorado are still considering trying Moses-EL again for the rape.

Man Held Decades in Colorado for Rape He Denies WalksFree
Dec 22 2015
by The Associated Press

A Denver man who spent more than a quarter-century in prison for an attack he denies committing walked free Tuesday, locking arms with his wife as his tearful children applauded and his grandkids embraced a man they had never met. 

Clarence Moses-EL, 60, had just posted a $50,000 bond that a judge required for his freedom after she overturned his 1988 conviction on rape and assault charges and found that he would likely be acquitted if his case went to trial again. Moses-EL was convicted after the victim identified him, saying his face came to her in a dream. 

When police initially asked her who assaulted her, she named another man, who later confessed to having sex with her at the same time that night. 

Man's Rape Conviction Overturned After 28 Years 

Outside the jail Tuesday, Moses-EL wore a black suit and tie as he stood beside his wife, Stephanie Burke, moments after hugging three of his 12 grandchildren for the first time. 

Surrounded by his tearful children, he took a deep breath of the crisp late afternoon air.
"This is the moment of my life, right here," Moses-EL told reporters. "I'm at a loss for words. I just want to get home to my family."

Moses-EL has long maintained his innocence, and his case inspired legislation requiring preservation of DNA evidence in major felony cases for a defendant's lifetime after police threw out body swabs and the victim's clothing. Supporters posted bond for his release after Moses-EL was transferred from the prison where he was housed for decades..

His spirituality kept him from losing hope during 28 years of his 48-year sentence, he said.
"And my innocence," he said. "That's what really kept me going." 

But still looming was the prospect of a new trial. Prosecutors have not decided whether to try Moses-EL again, saying they are considering the age of the case and the availability of witnesses. A tentative trial date was set for May, if prosecutors decide to pursue new charges. 

The case involved a woman who was attacked after she returned home from a night of drinking. When police initially asked who assaulted her, she named the man who later confessed to having sex with her. 

More than a day after the assault, while in the hospital, the woman identified Moses-EL as her attacker, saying his face appeared to her in a dream. 

Moses-EL's efforts to appeal his conviction were unsuccessful and the legal and political system repeatedly failed him in his decades-long attempt to win his freedom. 

He won a legal bid for DNA testing on the evidence to clear his name, but Denver police threw it away, saying they didn't see any notice from prosecutors to hold on to it. 

In 2008, the governor, a former Denver prosecutor, objected to legislation that would have given him a new trial and that received widespread support from lawmakers. 

Moses-EL's break came when L.C. Jackson, whom the victim had initially identified as her rapist, wrote to Moses-EL in 2013 saying he had sex with the woman that night. Jackson has not been charged in this case but is imprisoned for two other rapes in 1992. 

His attorney, Eric Klein, said it would be foolish for prosecutors not to dismiss the case against an innocent man…

Monday, November 23, 2015

Convict in 3 sex crimes freed by DNA tied to fugitive rapist

 Convict in 3 sex crimes freed by DNA tied to fugitive rapist

November 23, 2015 
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man imprisoned 16 years for rape and sex assault convictions was exonerated Monday and ordered freed after DNA evidence linked the crimes to a serial rapist on the FBI's most wanted list.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan granted a petition supported by prosecutors to release Luis Vargas, who was serving a sentence of 55 years to life in prison for three sexual assaults.

Vargas broke down, placing his hand to his forehead and covering his eyes as the judge ordered the case dismissed during the brief hearing packed with family and law school students who had worked to free him...

Lawyers and students for the innocence project at California Western School of Law took up the case after Vargas got in touch in 2012 and said he thought he was wrongly convicted of crimes that were the work of the so-called Teardrop Rapist.

The notorious predator known for a tattoo of a teardrop under his eye has been linked by DNA to 11 crimes and is suspected of 35 in total across the Los Angeles area, the innocence project said. Vargas has a similar tattoo.

Vargas had insisted on his innocence all along, telling the court at his 1999 sentencing that he was concerned the individual who "really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there, might really be killing someone out there."

In cases dating back to 1996, the Teardrop Rapist approached girls or women in the early morning walking to school or work, pulled a weapon such as a gun or knife, forced them to a secluded area and sexually assaulted them, officials have said.

Police in 2012 released several sketches of the suspect they described as a light-skinned Hispanic man between 40 and 55 years old.

His most striking characteristic is the tattoo some victims have reported seeing on his face, though there are conflicting reports about which eye it is under or whether there is more than one tear.

Vargas was convicted of kidnapping, forcibly raping and sodomizing one woman and attempting to rape two others between February and June 1998.

DNA testing methods were not as sensitive at the time of the trial and the convictions hinged on positive identifications by the three victims.

Prosecutors said the three assaults were so similar, they were "signature crimes" that could only be committed by the same person. The women all corroborated each other by pointing to Vargas, who had a previous rape conviction.

The judge noted that their initial identifications, however, were tentative and inconsistent in describing their assailant.

"This was a shaky witness identification case," said attorney Alex Simpson, of the California Innocence Project. "This happens all the time. It is the No. 1 factor in wrongful convictions across the country."
Jurors disregarded Vargas' alibi witnesses, including the manager of a bagel shop, who said he was working there the mornings of the attacks.
With improved technology, his lawyers were able in show that genetic evidence from the forcible rape was linked to the Teardrop Rapist and not Vargas.
Prosecutors conceded it was a case of mistaken identity and that new evidence pointed "unerringly to innocence," Deputy District Attorney Nicole Flood said in a letter to the judge.
Vargas' daughter, who was 10 when he was taken away, said it was hard growing up without a father and she often cried herself to sleep, but she never quit believing in him...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced To 28 Years For Selling Black Teens To Prison

Pa. Judge Sentenced To 28 Years In Massive Juvenile Justice Bribery Scandal
Eyder Peralta
Aug. 11, 2011

A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state's juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers.

The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers. The case came to be known as "kids-for-cash."

The AP adds:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. His attorneys had asked for a "reasonable" sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he's already been punished enough.

"The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the 'Kids for Cash' judge," their sentencing memo said.
The Times Leader, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., reports that the court house in Scranton was overflowing this morning. More than a dozen people who said they had been affected by the judge's decision stood outside, awaiting the sentencing.

Jeff Pollins was in that crowd. His stepson was convicted by Ciavarella.

"These kids are still affected by it. It's like post traumatic stress disorder," Pollins told the Times Leader. "Our life is ruined.

It's never going to be the same... I'd like to see that happen to him," he said.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

CHP officers, attorney among 9 arrested in man's death in 2006

CHP officers, attorney among 9 arrested in man's death in 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A long and largely forgotten death investigation in California's Central Valley has led to a vast and unexpected set of arrests that included three current and former Highway Patrol officers and a prominent defense attorney. 

They were among nine people arrested in the 2012 disappearance and killing of Korey Kauffman, stemming from the belief that he was stealing the attorney's antiques, law enforcement officials said at a news conference Friday in Modesto, California.
Those arrested either played a part in the killing of the 26-year-old Kauffman or helped cover it up and misled investigators, the officials said. 
Kauffman was reported missing in April 2012. His body was found by hunters in August 2013 in rural Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park.
Modesto attorney Frank Carson orchestrated the killing and enlisted the help of two brothers who own a liquor store in Turlock, investigators with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said.
Carson believed Kauffman and others were stealing valuable antiques from storage containers on his property, and he wanted to stop the thefts by sending a message, investigators said...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Federal Judge in San Diego Slams Defense Lawyer for Discovery Breaches

Judge Slams Defense Lawyer for Discovery Breaches
The Recorder

A San Diego magistrate judge said a LeClairRyan partner gave false assurances that sought-after documents didn't exist...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Parents of Aurora shooting victim ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees to ammo dealer

 Aug 03, 2015

Parents of Aurora shooting victim ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees to ammo dealer

Daily Kos 
The Phillips family on NBC News.
A federal judge has ordered the Phillip's family to pay up.
The parents of Jessica Ghawi, a 24-year-old woman gunned down by James Holmes in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre, tried to sue the online ammunition retailer who sold James Holmes the ammunition used in the attack. The case was dismissed before trial:
Thomas added that the case was dismissed before a trial could take place thanks to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, a federal law passed by Congress and signed by George W. Bush in 2005. “What PLCAA does is it provides very broad, blanket immunity from civil lawsuits for both gun manufacturers and gun dealers,” she said. “This is one example of a situation where somebody has tried to address liability, to go after bad actions of a dealer or manufacturer and PLCAA kept them from being able to do so.”
Adding insult to extreme injury, a federal judge has issued an order that will likely bankrupt them:
The family of 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, a victim in the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, is faced with more than $200,000 in legal costs after a federal judge ordered them to pay attorney’s fees for four ammunition dealers the family attempted to sue. “They have taken our daughter, and now they want to take our worldly goods,” Lonnie Phillips told MSNBC’s Tamron Hall in a televised interview earlier this week. “I think that’s a little much.”
In the ruling, the judge wrote "those who ignore a fire should be responsible for cost of suppressing it before it becomes a conflagration." See more about the case, why the family dropped an appeal (hint, they can't afford it) and why they may have had a case, despite the PLCAA. Video at NBCBayArea.com.
Meanwhile, jurors took a step forward in a possible death sentence for James Holmes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Newsflash!? CA State Bar doesn't protect the public from bad attorneys

A report says the California State Bar doesn't protect the public from unethical attorneys. Wow.  Someone deserves a gold star for figuring that out.

Problems with ethics in the justice system are common knowledge.  As the old joke points out, 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

But perhaps some good will come of this little brouhaha.  I do appreciate it that a disgruntled ex-employee of the State Bar has told the truth.  If it weren't for disgruntled ex-employees, we'd know practically nothing about any organization.

But there seems to be absolutely NO ONE INSIDE THE SYSTEM interested in actually changing the system.  I suspect this "whistle-blower" is just playing politics, and doesn't really want change in the system.  He just wants power.

CA State Auditor says State Bar has failed to protect the public from bad attorneys.

 On June 18th, California State Auditor Elaine Howle issued the report to the Legislature and Governor Brown entitled, “State Bar of California It Has Not Consistently Protected the Public Through Its Attorney Discipline Process and Lacks Accountability

Ms. Howle’s cover letter to Governor Brown and the Legislature states,

“This report concludes that the State Bar has not consistently fulfilled its mission to protect the public from errant attorneys and lacks accountability related to its expenditures. The State Bar has struggled historically to promptly resolve all the complaints it receives, potentially delaying the timely discipline of attorneys who engage in misconduct. A primary measurement of the effectiveness of the State Bar’s discipline system is the number of complaints it fails to resolve within six months of receipt, which it refers to as its backlog. In 2010 the backlog reached 5,174 cases, prompting the State Bar to take steps to quickly reduce it.

Although the State Bar succeeded in decreasing the backlog by 66 percent within a year, it may have compromised the severity of the discipline imposed on attorneys in favor of speedier types of resolutions….Thus, to reduce its backlog, the State Bar allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred— to continue practicing law, placing the public at risk.

Moreover, instead of focusing its resources on improving its discipline system—such as engaging in workforce planning to ensure it had sufficient staffing—it instead spent $76.6 million to purchase and renovate a building in Los Angeles in 2012.”

KEY FINDINGS of the Bureau of State Auditor (BSA) audit:

“During our audit of the State Bar’s discipline system and its finances, we noted the following:

To reduce its 2010 excessive complaint backlog of over 5,000 cases to just over 1,700 cases in 2011, the State Bar frequently settled cases and may have been too lenient and allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred—to continue practicing law.

The years the State Bar focused its efforts on decreasing its backlog, the State Bar settled over 1,500 cases—more than in any of the other four years in our audit period.

The level of discipline the State Bar recommended as part of some of these settlements was inadequate—of the 27 cases the California Supreme Court returned to it for further examination, the State Bar increased the level of discipline it recommended in 21 cases, including five disbarments.

The information the State Bar submits to the Legislature in its Annual Discipline Report is problematic—the State Bar continues to report fewer cases than the law permits despite the similar concern we raised in our 2009 audit.


The State Bar should adhere to its quality control processes to ensure that the discipline it imposes on attorneys is consistent, regardless of the size of the case‑processing backlog, and it should take steps to prevent its management or staff from circumventing those processes.

The BSA report may be read in its entirety HERE  Nowhere in the report is any directive of what the State Bar needs to do to mitigate the damage to the public from its prior unethical conduct.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The State Bar of California 'is just further descending into a banana republic,' law professor says

It would be a happy situation if the worst problem in the California State Bar were the fact that a few  parties and ink pens were paid-for with lawyers' dues. (I know that my dues as a teacher pay for plenty of parties and pens.) The real problem is that the Bar has turned the justice system into a lucrative club for cronies. The legal establishment makes justice available to those who can afford to pay for access. Most people are not protected by the laws that supposedly govern us.

I don't believe that fired bar executive Joe Dunn was particularly concerned about the backlog of complaints about lawyers--until he found himself about to be fired.

But what does the backlog matter when the complaints get handled so poorly anyway? Dishonesty in court cases is tolerated; the only thing that the Bar seems to act on is missing client funds. The Bar's priorities are twisted. Justice is priceless. If we don't have a just society, then a few bucks clawed-back from a bad lawyer aren't going to do us much good.

I'd like to see Mr. Craig Holden focus on justice for Californians rather than lawyers' dues.  Lawyers have obligations to the people of the state, but they seem to care only about how much money comes their way.

How about engaging in a bit of genuine oversight, Mr. Craig Holden?  Try to focus on the big picture.

Accusations fly as State Bar of California leader Joe Dunn fights ouster
LA Times
The agency that regulates California's lawyers is once again beset with conflict, riddled by accusations involving expense accounts and ethics.

The turmoil became public last month when the board of the State Bar of California fired its executive director, Joe Dunn, a former state senator from Orange County.

Dunn did not go quietly.

He hired high-profile Los Angeles lawyer Mark J. Geragos and filed a lawsuit charging the bar with "egregious improprieties."

Dunn's critics fired back by revealing that a confidential report commissioned by the board found Dunn had spent $5,600 for a party at a Los Angeles restaurant and that a former bar president had filed an expense account report for $1,000 at Tiffany & Co.
The acrimony threatens to further diminish the reputation of the bar, an arm of the California Supreme Court that oversees nearly 250,000 lawyers and is charged with rooting out corrupt attorneys and upholding high moral standards.
Some lawyers and lawmakers have long criticized the bar as bloated, political and lenient on errant lawyers. Upheaval in the 1990s almost led to the organization's demise, and there have been various efforts to make it less a trade organization and more a regulatory agency.
"The bar is just further descending into a banana republic," said Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane, who tried unsuccessfully decades ago to overhaul the association. "It is totally dysfunctional and should be unraveled."
Funded largely by mandatory lawyers' dues, the bar is a public corporation that regulates, disciplines and licenses attorneys, subject to the approval of the state high court. Becoming a bar leader is considered a steppingstone to a judgeship and a way to enhance a resume or attract clients.

Dunn, a former trial lawyer hired four years ago, was earning $259,000 a year when he lost his job, overseeing 500 employees and an organization with a $138.6-milllion budget.

Shortly before Dunn was fired, he filed an anonymous "whistle-blower" complaint alleging, among other things, that a bar official was manipulating records to hide a huge backlog in untended complaints against lawyers. Dunn later identified himself as the whistle-blower and said he was fired in retaliation for the complaint.
The bar suggested in a prepared statement that Dunn knew he was going to be fired before filing the complaint, a charge Geragos called "totally untrue." The statement said Dunn was being investigated because of a complaint by a high-level executive — the same bar official Dunn had accused of misconduct.

The highly public fight is expected to cost the bar hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and could lead to efforts to restructure the organization. The Legislature must pass bills each year authorizing the bar to collect dues, and two governors have vetoed such bills, calling the bar wasteful, partisan and racked by "chronic disharmony."
"I think there are going to have to be major changes," said Arthur L. Margolis, who defends lawyers before the bar and advises other attorneys on legal ethics, "to protect whatever credibility" the bar has left.
Dunn's lawsuit alleged "ethical breaches, prosecutorial lapses and fiscal improprieties" within the bar.
He accused the bar of paying a private law firm $300,000 — with three law partners each billing $800 an hour — to investigate him even though a former judge had offered to do it for free. The purported hourly fee galled many lawyers, who must pay bar dues. Most earn far less than $800 an hour. The bar has refused to confirm the amount spent on the investigation.

The target of Dunn's wrath was Craig Holden, a partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, one of L.A.'s largest law firms, who became bar president in September in an uncontested election. Dunn, who reported to the bar's board, accused Holden of orchestrating his ouster, possibly because Holden wanted the job himself.
Holden, whose bar position is volunteer, said he laughed at that charge. The bar said Dunn's lawsuit was "baseless."
After Dunn filed his lawsuit, details of the outside law firm's confidential investigation into Dunn became public. People with access to the report shared its contents with The Times and two legal newspapers.
The investigation, ordered by the bar's trustees, found that Dunn had submitted an expense report for $5,600 for an event in July at 10e, a Los Angeles restaurant owned by Geragos. Geragos said the expense was for a going-away event for former bar President Luis Rodriguez, a Los Angeles deputy public defender whose one-year term ended in September...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why is Darren Chaker stalking Maura Larkins--even though the conditions of his release from federal prison forbid it?

Related story: Completely false allegations made in an effort to banish woman from California school (Article about a situation similar to the story below; the accusers were the ones who ended up in jail when two parents at an Irvine, California elementary school tried to destroy the reputation of a parent volunteer)  See also The Letter that got Maura Larkins fired regarding Castle Park Elementary School in Chula Vista.

Why is Darren Chaker so interested in Maura Larkins?

by Maura Larkins
Jan. 24, 2015

In San Diego, Darren Chaker, who is currently on supervised release from federal prison for bankruptcy fraud, is stalking me (teacher/blogger Maura Larkins).  As his rap sheet makes clear, Chaker doesn't let honesty interfere with his efforts to achieve his goals.

Why is this man so interested in me?

Darren Chaker has been sending letters about me to people on my street. Some of us are a little bit nervous, since Mr. Chaker has a troubling law enforcement record.

It seems clear that Darren Chaker got interested in me because I reminded him
of Wendy Mateo, the grandmother of his child.  A few years ago Chaker sued Mateo for calling
him a "deadbeat dad".   His suit was thrown out as a "SLAPP" by San Diego
Superior Court.

In July 2011, Chaker was appealing his loss to the Court of Appeal.

At the same time, I was appealing a ruling by Judge Judith Hayes, who ordered
me never to speak or write the names of Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm or
any of its attorneys.

My case was clearly very similar to the Mateo case.

Mr. Cahker sat down next to me at the Court of Appeal in July 2011 on the day
that attorney Shaun Martin presented winning arguments in my case.

I spoke to Chaker for a while, then I moved to the front row of the gallery.

My friend remained seated near Chaker.  She reported to me that Mr. Chaker
became very disturbed as he listened to the oral arguments and the comments
of the judges.  I suspect that Mr. Chaker was upset because it seemed likely
that the judges were going to come down on the side of free speech.

If that is what he believed, he was right.

On August 5, 2011 the California Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled that Judge
Hayes' injunction permanently forbidding me from mentioning the name of Stutz
law firm, either orally or in writing, was "exceedingly unconstitutional."

As I walked out of the Court of Appeal after oral arguments, I was approached by
Darren Chaker.

From the FBI website:
Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Dec. 17, 2013
HOUSTON—Darren David Chaker, 41, of Beverly Hills, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of bankruptcy fraud, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Chaker was found guilty April 4, 2013, following a five-day bench trial before U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas.

Today, Judge Atlas sentenced Chaker to a term of 15 months in prison, to be immediately followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay a $2,000 fine. As part of the sentencing, Judge Atlas included special conditions that he not stalk or harass anyone and obtain mental health counseling and anger management...

A sampling of Darren Chaker cases: 
Wendy Mateo
Chaker v. Crogan
Zaya v. Chaker
Mr. Chaker advised me to take down my website in exchange for the law firm's
agreement to not to make me pay attorney's fees.

I told Mr. Chaker that I would rather go to jail. He said, "I'm just advising you to do
this because they are so nasty."

Then Mr. Chaker went over to two members of the Plaintiff's law firm, and walked
out of the courtroom chatting with them! I do not believe that they had asked him
to approach me.  I believe he hatched the plan all by himself.

I reported the Court of Appeal incident with Mr. Chaker on my blog, thus apparently earning the ire of a man who is widely known for dishonest, malicious and aggressive behavior.

Mr. Chaker seems to have became even more enraged when he lost the appeal in the Mateo case.

He makes bizarre accusations about all sorts of people.  He refuses to acknowledge that Chula Vista
Elementary School District desperately tried to get me to go back to work after I
had been viciously harassed by Robin Donlan and other teachers at Castle Park Elementary.

I refused to go back to work without an investigation into the harassment I
suffered.  The district refused to produce a report on the "investigation" it claimed
to have initiated.

I was fired for "insubordination" because I refused to go back to work.  Here are
the charges against me.

Darren Chaker fails to mention that Robin Donlan and other teachers who
harassed me were transferred out of Castle Park Elementary when the district
realized that it had made a mistake by paying huge amounts of taxpayer money to
defend teachers who had behaved unlawfully.

Castle Park Elementary was out of control, with a $20,000 PTA embezzlement by Kim Simmons,
a parent who was a close associate of Robin Donlan.  The school was almost ungovernable as 11 principals in 11 years struggled to create a professional working climate.

Complaint board on Darren Chaker 

Blog posts on child molestation

Monday, January 12, 2015

Judge to Make Niro Firm Pay Millions in Sanctions Over False Declarations

Judge to Make Niro Firm Pay Millions in Sanctions Over False Declarations
Scott Graham
January 9, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — An Illinois federal judge has sanctioned Raymond Niro Sr. and his law firm in a wireless patent case, finding that Niro and three of his colleagues knew about a client's false declarations to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before filing a lawsuit on his behalf.
U.S. District Judge William Hart on Friday held Niro, Haller & Niro jointly and severally liable for what's likely to be several million dollars in attorney fees assessed against Intellect Wireless and inventor Daniel Henderon. The ruling ends a year of hotly contested wrangling over what Niro did and didn't know, delivering a black eye to one of the country's most prominent patent lawyers.

"The false presentation of Henderson's activity and knowledge justifies making Niro jointly and severally liable with IW for attorney fees and costs," Hart wrote in his order.

Niro did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday evening. Niro, partners Paul Vickrey and David Mahalek and former partner Paul Gibbons have filed declarations saying they knew nothing about an email Henderson sent to his patent prosecutor in 2007 raising loud alarms about false declarations filed with the PTO. Henderson had warned that false declarations filed on his behalf presented a "potentially lethal blow" to his patent portfolio, and asked that his litigation counsel at the Niro firm be consulted about it.

HTC Corp. and its attorneys at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton say it was "inconceivable" that Niro and his colleagues didn't hear about Henderson's concerns long before suing HTC in 2009.
Hart sided with HTC on Friday, concluding from the Niro firm's unwillingness to produce certain documents in discovery that the lawyers knew Henderson had lied about his invention at least by 2009, "if not before."

"Therefore, Niro is liable for all reasonable attorney fees and expenses incurred by HTC," Hart wrote.
HTC has asked for $4.7 million, plus additional fees for briefing the fee motion...

Read more: http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202714649438/Judge-to-Make-Niro-Firm-Pay-Millions-in-Sanctions-Over-False-Declarations#ixzz3OcTpq0GP

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thug Kills White Prosecutor and Wife in Texas

 Dec 09, 2014
Thug Kills White Prosecutor and Wife in Texas
Daily Kos member

 This is the tale of a fiend, a true murdering devil.  Not only did he ruthlessly kill Michael "Mike" McClelland, 63, the  the Prosecutor of Kaufmann County and his wife Cynthia, 65, but also the assistant prosecutor, Mark Hasse.  Hasse was ruthlessly gunned in the street in January, 2013, while walking home. The McClellands were callously shot down like dogs in their home in March of the same year.

All three, were viciously butchered  by a large, ugly brute who calls himself Eric Williams.  It goes without saying he was a felon who had a prior record of burglary and theft.  Yet somehow he had amassed a veritable arsenal of weapons as prosecutors during the penalty phase of his trial revealed:
On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors assembled the arsenal of weapons found in Williams’ storage unit in the courtroom. The guns were displayed on three wooden racks in the middle of the courtroom, 42 handguns in the middle and 22 long guns flanking each side. In front of the racks were boxes of ammunition — thousands of rounds were recovered — and a crossbow. Bullets were loose in bags, as well as still packaged in boxes.
By the way, this is the face of the killer of these three upstanding citizens, a true animal (if I may say so) with no sense of morality and little if any respect for human life:

Yeah, he's a white guy.

Still, he got a trial.  He wasn't shot by the police when they went to arrest him.  Sure he didn't steal "cigars" (allegedly) or sell loose cigarettes in public.  Williams wasn't caught carrying a toy air rifle around Walmart (John Crawford) or playing with a BB gun in a park (Tamir Rice) or dressing up like his favorite Anime character (Darrien Hunt).  He only stole county equipment and hoarded enough guns to arm a small militia.

Unlike the young men and boys listed above, no one had to gin up evidence of his wicked character, or post facto justifications for why he should be killed by officers of the state.   I'll bet I'm the first person to label him a "thug" or a "brute" or an "animal."  That's because the use of those terms have been reserved for young African American males of late.  These terms, such as thug, are acceptable code words for a certain racial slur that starts with the letter N.  They are used to reinforce racial stereotypes among whites regarding African Americans - that they are criminals, a brutish, dangerous, amoral, drug infested  people who represent a threat to civil society.

So while Eric Williams is one sick, evil SOB, he does have the color of his skin going for him.  You won't hear of any Fox News host or right wing radio jocks calling him a thug. They probably won't mention him at all, and if they do, there won't be any discussion of white on white crime.  They sure as hell won't touch the subject of his gun collection, which is every white American's God given right under the second amendment.

White people with strong political agenda can walk around the street and in stores carrying their semiautomatic "long guns" and nothing happens to them. A drunken, angry white man stand outs in the street pointing a loaded rifle at passersby, and law enforcement treats him with respect and spend as much time as they need to "de-escalate the situation."  Black boys play in an empty park with a fake gun, or carry a fake samurai sword and get shot shortly after police arrive on the scene.
And let's not forget the masses of white men who took their guns to Cliven Bundy's Ranch in Nevada to protect the rights of a common criminal. They threatened and intimidated local law enforcement, Federal officials and the people of Clark County, but not one of Bundy's numerous supporters who endangered the lives of everyone withing the range of their high powered rifles was arrested or charged with a crime, much less fired upon by law enforcement - with the possible exception for Jerad and Amanda Miller who were kicked out of the Bundy compound and then went on a shooting spree in Las Vegas, killing two police officers and an armed civilian at a local Walmart before killing themselves...

Monday, December 8, 2014

The bizarre choices of San Diego ACLU legal director David Loy

UPDATE Dec. 8, 2014 10:39 am:

 Wow!  It took less that 10 minutes for Leagle.com to fix the defaced Stutz v. Larkins decision after I complained. ACLU legal director David Loy didn't want the First Amendment to be enforced in this case, perhaps because of loyalty to someone he worked with.  But I doubt that he was involved in defacing the decision.  Here's the comment I sent to Leagle.com:

Who defaced this decision?  This page was perfectly legible for several years after the 2011 decision.   On December 8, 2014, I find that a large amount of the decision has been overwritten, making it indecipherable.  Was this page hacked, or does Leagle.com want it to be largely unreadable?

Here is what the Leagle.com page looked like before 10:30 am today:


Today I was reading David Loy's biography on the San Diego ACLU website, and I was struck by the irony of his claims to fame.  Freedom of speech?  Open government and public disclosure?  You've got to be kidding.

David Loy was indeed chosen as a Top Attorney in 2009 and 2010, but I suspect the reason was NOT that he defended free speech, but that he cozied-up to individuals who crafted a couple of agreements with him regarding student speech.

Those agreements generated some nice media attention for Mr. Loy.  But what was he doing behind the scenes?

He was pressuring me to remove the names of public entity attorneys from my website.  He wrote to me telling me that I must remove every mention of public attorneys he had worked with!

The Court of Appeal disagreed with Mr. Loy that I must remove those names.  See story in Voice of San Diego.

If you want to see something truly bizarre, look at the Stutz v. Larkins decision from the Leagle website.  It was largely unreadable for as much as several months in 2014. It was fixed on Dec. 8, 2014. You can see the repaired web page HERE.

I wonder what Mr. Loy thinks of concealing Court of Appeal decisions from the public. 

Here's the decision that somebody doesn't want you to see.  Clearly, David Loy didn't even want this case to be heard, so I'm sure he wasn't happy with the decision.

So how does David Loy get off claiming to be an expert in free speech and a champion of sunshine in government?  He most certainly is NOT a supporter of transparency in public entities, as shown by his efforts to silence public discussion of public attorneys.

Legal Director, David Loy
After graduating law school, Loy clerked for Judge Dolores K. Sloviter of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He worked as a staff attorney with Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City and public defender and civil rights attorney in Spokane, Washington before joining the ACLU in 2006. He previously served on the Southern District Lawyer Representative Committee and the board of California Appellate Defense Counsel. Loy was named one of San Diego’s Top Attorneys 2009 and 2010 by San Diego Daily Transcript. He supervises all legal advocacy at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and has particular expertise in freedom of speech and religion, open government and public disclosure, police misconduct, and constitutional criminal procedure. Loy has a law degree from Northwestern and a B.A. from Brown, and is licensed to practice in California and New York (with inactive licenses in Illinois and Washington).
--from ACLU website 

David Loy is also in the news today courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune due to his objections to a religious organization that is involved in raising money in public schools.

I share Mr. Loy's concern about a charity that public schools in San Marcos are involved with.  I have two criticism's of the charity.

First, I don't like the idea of feeding kids for a limited period of time and then walking away.

I would urge citizens of San Marcos to give to Oxfam rather than this questionable charity.

Oxfam helps people create better economic conditions.  They teach people how to fish rather than giving them a fish to eat.  They create jobs for parents, and let the parents feed their kids with the money they make.

The San Marcos charity simply serves meals to kids.

Well, actually, I suspect that's not all they do.  Which brings me to my second criticism: the violation of the First Amendment.

Second, I suspect that the charity is serving meals for a limited time because it wants to give religious training to kids.  After they're converted, the charity's goals have been achieved, and the feeding of the kids is no longer a priority.

I can understand that Mr. Loy would be worried about the slippery slopes that surround enterprises like this one, but if he's going to worry about the dangers of everyday activities that threaten the First Amendment, he should worry first about his own efforts to quash free speech.  Why should he hold San Marcos Middle School to such an exacting standard when he is so lax about the First Amendment in other situations?

ACLU says San Marcos school raising funds illegally

San Marcos Middle School may be breaking state law by raising money with a religious group to feed children in East Africa, according to the San Diego and Imperial counties chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The school is partnering with a local nonprofit called Friends and Family Community Connection, with the support of Illinois-based Kids Around the World, to raise $3,500 to provide 14,000 meals for children in Tanzania..

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The officer asked Chris Craig for his gun and Chris' friend advised, "Let him have it."

Overeager prosecutor's  managed to get Derek Bentley hanged for murder.  He has since been pardoned.
Before Doctor Who, Chris Eccleston played a man facing an odd murder rap

Let Him Have It (1991)

Many criminal cases over the years have turned on fine points of evidence, but the 1952 prosecution of Derek Bentley for the murder of Police Constable Sidney Miles may be the only instance in which life or death came down to a question of grammatical ambiguity.

The facts were uncontested: Bentley, who’d participated in a burglary with his friend Christopher Craig, was already in police custody when the fatal shot was fired—by Craig.

During the standoff, however, as the police ordered Craig to surrender his gun, Bentley yelled “Let him have it, Chris!”

Craig subsequently shot one policeman in the shoulder and another, Miles, in the head, killing him instantly. As a juvenile (age 16), Craig couldn’t receive the death penalty, but Bentley, who was 19, could.

 Prosecutors argued that “Let him have it!” meant “Open fire!” and that Bentley, by egging Craig on, was just as responsible for the murder as if he’d pulled the trigger himself.

The defense, on the other hand, maintained that Bentley, whose I.Q. was estimated at 77 (“borderline feeble-minded,” in the parlance of the era), was merely instructing Craig to give the gun to the officer who was requesting it. Convicted of murder, Bentley was hanged to death on January 28, 1953.

Peter Medak’s 1991 drama Let Him Have It, starring Chris Eccleston as Bentley and Paul Reynolds as Craig, openly sympathizes with the now-prevailing view that Bentley was railroaded. (Two years earlier, Elvis Costello had revived interest in the case via the song “Let Him Dangle,” which opens with the lines “Bentley said to Craig / ‘Let him have it, Chris!’ / They still don’t know today just what he meant by this.”) Medak, whose most celebrated films include The Ruling Class (1972) and Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), had previously made another, much more violent true-crime saga, The Krays (1990), which tells the story of England’s most notorious gangsters (immortalized by Monty Python as the Piranha Brothers, Doug and Dinsdale). Let Him Have It, by stark contrast, finds Medak in a despairing mood, depicting a tragedy that begins long before a jury chooses to assign an improbably malevolent interpretation to Bentley’s fateful words. Even Craig, the ostensible criminal mastermind and actual gunman, is essentially just playing at cops and robbers as a means of escape from intolerably dismal living conditions. Bentley was posthumously pardoned by the Crown in 1998, but while Let Him Have It no longer has an urgent mission, it’s an agonizingly sober film, still capable of inspiring righteous outrage on behalf of squandered lives.
Availability: Let Him Have It is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix or your local video store/library, or to rent or purchase from the standard digital services.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ohio Men Wrongly Convicted of Murder After 39 Years Released

Two Ohio men wrongly accused of murder experienced freedom for the first time in nearly four decades on Friday morning, but said they don’t harbor bitterness over their unjust imprisonment.
A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair’s release. 

Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. 

Testimony from a 12-year-old witness helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict all three. Ronnie Bridgeman, now known as Kwame Ajamu, was paroled from prison in 2003. 

The witness, Edward Vernon, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to Cuyahoga County court documents. Vernon wrote in a 2013 affidavit that he never saw the murder take place, but he was told by detectives that if he didn’t testify against Jackson, his parents would be arrested.
Vernon said he confided in a pastor several years after meeting with Bridgeman, and the pastor encouraged him to reach out to the Innocence Project. Vernon wrote that he had “been waiting to tell the truth about this for a long time.”
“A lot of people think I should be mad,” said Jackson, but “in ’75, he was a 12-year-old-kid.” Jackson said “it took a lot of courage” for the witness to recant his statement.
The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. 
Jackson was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978.
“One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.
“The bitterness is over with,” said Wylie Bridgeman during his first moments of freedom on Friday.
Jackson agreed. “I had plans for my life,” but “time is just something that you can't get back so I'm not going to really cry about it,” he said.
While Ohio provides compensation for those who are wrongfully imprisoned, everyone is not guaranteed money. The Ohio Innocence Project has set up a fund for Jackson.
A story published in Scene Magazine in 2011 first raised new questions about the murder and whether Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers actually committed the crime.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in court Tuesday that without an eyewitness there was not much of a case. “The state is conceding the obvious," he said, according to Reuters.
NBC News' Emmanuelle Saliba contributed to this report. Reuters also contributed.
byline photo

Cynthia McFadden

Cynthia McFadden is the senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC News. Before joining NBC... Expand Bio