Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Murrieta keeping tabs on Leslie Devaney and Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz

Murrieta to scrutinize legal expenses

October 31, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

MURRIETA - When the Murrieta City Council hired a San Diego firm to take over city attorney duties, it asked the firm to dig deep to help make any needed reforms in city policies or procedures.

In the first month of work, the firm used up almost 24 percent of its annual budget under the contract, spending $82,000.

City Finance Director Teri Ferro said she received the first invoice in September.

Tonight, the City Council will meet in closed session with Leslie Devaney and Prescilla Dugard from Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz to get a breakdown of how the money was spent and to determine if there are services that the firm could delegate to city staff.

The council will also ask whether the firm is meeting with resistance from city staff members.

"I'm not surprised about the amount of money," said Mayor Doug McAllister, who asked for the cost breakdown.

"We have had a lot of tightening on procedures and policies, and frankly that takes time. And in the legal world time is money," McAllister said.

Devaney said the firm is doing everything it has been tasked by department heads to do, including independently reviewing issues and dealing with ordinances and resolutions.

"They had a lot of things they wanted us to review," she said via phone Monday.

At the mayor's request, Devaney said, the firm is keeping track of who is requesting what from it.

The city severed ties with longtime city attorney John Harper and hired the new firm in May.

Council members said they wanted to bring in a firm with more expertise and experience with cities...

Devaney is the firm's lead attorney and ran for San Diego chief attorney in 2004. She specializes in real estate, land-use and environmental law.

Dugard specializes in redevelopment law, zoning issues and developer agreements and negotiations.

Before Harper left, the city's annual budget for legal expenses was $200,000 to pay for Harper and an outside firm to handle court cases.

Harper charged $130 an hour for his work.

The city expects to pay $340,000 for the new firm, although city officials say that amount might go up.

The firm's contract calls for $15,000 a month and an additional $200 an hour for services not considered basic.

...Temecula budgets $760,000 a year for its legal services and has a city budget next year of $65.7 million. Murrieta's budget for the 2007-08 year is $42.8 million...

"The way the contract is written up, we have to pay a $15,000 retainer fee but we have obviously exceeded that," Ferro, the finance director, said.

...McAllister wants a breakdown of costs to determine if services can be handled differently and if there is resistance from city staff that is requiring attorneys to work longer hours...

Interim City Manager Ron Bradley said higher expenditures are not unusual when a different law firm begins work.

"We knew it would be above the average cost for the first several months," he said.

The lawyers have to familiarize themselves with issues, Bradley said.

He said all city employees who have to submit reports to the City Council are free to contact the law firm...

At the previous meeting, Councilman Rick Gibbs said the legal costs were a little more than he expected, and he wanted to see a breakdown...

Staff writer Tammy McCoy contributed to this report.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

New Yorkers shake their heads at continuing corruption in San Diego

Evan McLaughlin writes in Voice of San Diego Internet newspaper that Arthur Levitt agrees with those of us who think that powerful people were completely let off the hook during "investigations" of San Diego's pension mess.

Our own district attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, indicted employees, but not a single official. This is even worse than Enron. The most powerful people at Enron were brought to justice. But San Diego's D.A. protects Republican officials with an unwavering determination, while indicting Democrats for taking two hours off of work.

Evan McLaughlin reports:
Arthur Levitt, former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and leader of the Kroll consultants that investigated City Hall, told an audience in New York yesterday that the SEC should've stepped up its enforcement in San Diego.

Levitt told the New York Private Equity Conference he is frustrated the SEC never charged individual officials who were at the center of San Diego's troubles.

"Here was one of the nation’s most beautiful, wealthiest cities with a strong regional economy, and it was on the brink of bankruptcy thanks to a group of political leaders more interested in looking out for themselves in the short term than the fiscal health of their city in the long term.

"And let me add that while the SEC took action against the faceless entity of the city, I am disappointed that they failed to bring a single action -- or hold accountable -- those individuals responsible for the San Diego pension crisis. Individuals were behind this debacle -- and individuals must be held responsible."
Wednesday, October 31 07

Warren Jeffs' lawyers should let him plead guilty and get a good deal on his sentence

AOL news posted this story:

Polygamist Leader Said He Was 'Immoral'
SALT LAKE CITY (Oct. 31) - Sitting in jail awaiting trial, the leader of a polygamous sect renounced his role as a prophet and said he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter decades ago, newly unsealed documents show.

Warren Jeffs' attorneys included those statements in documents they filed in July as they sought to keep jail recordings out of his September trial in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old to her 19-year-old cousin.

Fifth District Judge James Shumate agreed that the recordings could bias jurors against Jeffs and ordered the documents sealed. He unsealed them Tuesday.

Jeffs, 51, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. He is to be sentenced Nov. 20 and could get up to life in prison.

Jeffs also faces criminal charges in Arizona and in Utah's federal court.

In telephone calls Jan. 24, Jeffs told family that he "had been immoral with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20, according to the documents. He goes on to renounce his role as the church prophet and says the Lord had "revealed to him that he was a wicked man."

It is not clear who Jeffs is speaking about, and Jeffs does not elaborate on the conduct. Some listeners responded by telling Jeffs he is the prophet and was being tested, according to the documents.

The court filings also recount a videotaped Jan. 25 visit to the Washington County jail by a brother, Nephi Jeffs.

Warren Jeffs said he had been fasting for three days and had been awake through the night. He began to dictate a religious message to followers but fell silent in mid-sentence and didn't speak again for 13 minutes.

Again, he renounced his position as head of the church. His brother tried to encourage him and said he should see a doctor.

Jeffs was taken to a hospital three days later and was given medication for depression. Court documents say he lost 30 pounds, was dehydrated and suffering from sleep deprivation.

In February, when his health had improved, he abandoned his statements about not being a prophet and said he had "experienced a great spiritual test," according to the documents.

Among FLDS members, who cover their bodies from neck to ankle, even small physical gestures would be considered inappropriate, said Ken Driggs, a Georgia lawyer and polygamy expert. As for Jeffs' "immoral" conduct, "I wouldn't read too much into it," Driggs said.

"What that community may regard as immoral conduct is not necessarily what the outside world would consider immoral conduct. He could be talking about thoughts, or some affectionate or physical conduct," Driggs said.

A half-brother, Ward Jeffs, said he doesn't believe Warren Jeffs was married or had children at age 20. Warren Jeffs was a teacher at a private FLDS school in Salt Lake City in 1976.

Ward Jeffs, who has left the FLDS church, said he had no knowledge of allegations of inappropriate behavior with a sister. The half-brothers are no longer close.

Defense attorney Wally Bugden said the judge released the documents without his knowledge.

"I had no idea," Bugden told The Salt Lake Tribune. "There are significant due process issues for Mr. Jeffs as it relates to future cases in Arizona and there are significant privacy issues that we believe are protected."

In his order, Shumate did not explain his reasoning for unsealing the documents, and Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for the state courts system, said she did not know why the judge made the decision when he did. A court hearing was planned for Nov. 6 on a request by news media and a private investigator to release them as well as others.

Jeffs has led the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002, taking over from his father. Faithful members hold polygamy as a central tenet of their religion.

The mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, renounced polygamy more than a century ago, excommunicates members who engage in the practice, and disavows any connection to the FLDS church.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects dateline to Salt Lake City, instead of St. George.)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Economist says low pay and elections are harming our judiciary

Judges behaving badly
Jun 28th 2007
From The Economist

Low pay and partisan elections are threatening judicial integrity

A $54m lawsuit over a pair of pinstriped trousers that went missing from a Washington, DC, cleaners was thrown out by a judge this week. It had attracted worldwide ridicule. The fact that the case was brought, not by a random loony, but by a former judge has added to the sense that something is wrong not just with America's litigation laws, but with the kind of men and women Americans choose to sit in judgment over them.

A whole series of judicial misdemeanours, ranging from the titillating to the outrageous, has emerged over the past year. Take the Florida state judge, John Sloop, who was ousted after complaints about his “rude and abusive” behaviour. This included an order to strip-search and jail 11 defendants for arriving late in traffic court after being misdirected. Or the Californian judge, José Velasquez, sacked in April for a plethora of misconduct, including extending the sentences of defendants who dared question his rulings.

Then there was the Albany city judge, William Carter, in New York, censored for his “utterly inexcusable” conduct after jumping down from the bench during a trial, shedding his robes and apparently challenging a defendant to a fist-fight. Another time, he suggested that the police “thump the shit out” of an allegedly disrespectful defendant. Mr Carter wasn't carrying a gun; many judges now do. In Florida, Charles Greene, chief criminal judge in Broward County, had to step down after describing a trial for attempted murder involving minority defendants and witnesses as “NHI” (No Humans Involved). Then there are the sexual peccadilloes. In Colorado, a (male) judge resigned after admitting having sex with a (female) prosecutor in his chambers. In California, a former judge was jailed for 27 months for downloading child pornography. And in Oklahoma Donald Thompson, a judge for more than 20 years, was jailed for four years for indecent exposure and using a “penis pump” to masturbate during trials.

More serious are the cases of corruption. On June 5th Gerald Garson, a former judge in Brooklyn, New York, was jailed for taking bribes to rig divorce cases. Another judge was convicted of accepting money to refer clients to a particular lawyer. Rumours of buying and selling of judgeships in the district abound. At one time, one in ten Brooklyn judges were said to be under investigation for sleaze.

“To distrust the judiciary,” said Honoré de Balzac, “marks the beginning of the end of society.” In Britain, judges are one of the most respected groups. But in America they tend to be held in low esteem, particularly at state level. For this many people blame low pay and the fact that judges are elected. In 39 states, some or all judges are elected for fixed terms. Federal judges, usually held in much higher esteem, are appointed on merit for life—as in Britain.

Most states allow judicial candidates to raise campaign funds. Huge sums are often involved, leading to inevitable suspicions that, once on the bench, judges will pass judgments that favour their benefactors. In 2004 the two candidates in one Illinois district (with a population of just 1.3m) raised a staggering $9.4m between them. Some of the states with the highest levels of campaign spending—Texas, Louisiana and Alabama—are also those whose judges are most criticised.

In the past, judicial candidates were banned from discussing controversial legal or political issues on the campaign trail. But in 2002 the Supreme Court ruled such bans to be unconstitutional, leading candidates to advertise freely their views on abortion and suchlike. Personal attacks have also become more common. Indeed, Sandra Day O'Connor, a former Supreme Court justice, fears that judicial elections have turned into “political prize-fights, where partisans and special interests seek to install judges who will answer to them instead of the law and the constitution.”

The meagre salaries of judges, whether at state or federal level, do not help raise standards either. Federal judges have not had a real pay rise for 17 years; a district court judge earns $165,000 a year, about the same as a first-year associate in a top law firm. John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, earns just $212,000—half the salary of England's top judge and one-fifth of the average income of a partner in the majority of America's 100 top-grossing law firms. Around 40 judges have left the federal bench over the past five years.

In his annual report to Congress in January, Mr Roberts said that the issue of judges' pay had reached “the level of a constitutional crisis”. It was threatening the judiciary's strength and independence. In February, Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, promised legislation to fix it within the current session. The judges are still waiting. Meanwhile, state judges in New York are preparing to sue the state for their first pay rise since 1999. The battle is joined.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

If it's true, Ann Smith, then it's not slander

"Labor" attorney Ann Smith pretended she was representing me when she was apparently trying to get information from me and/or misinform me regarding Chula Vista Elementary School District. It was a malicious trick, intended to oppress me and protect other clients. Since Ms. Smith seems to be in deep denial, however, she admits no wrongdoing.

Her partner, Tom Tosdal, stood outside the Chula Vista Educators office like a security guard when I was scheduled to come to the office. I wasn't sure it was him until I finally found a frontal photo on his website. He looks very different in profile.

Others have had experiences similar to mine:

Union Lawyer Files Slander Claim Against City Attorney
Woman Represents 6K Member Municipal Employees Association
from NBCSandiego.com and Associated Press
June 17, 2005

SAN DIEGO -- A lawyer representing the largest union of San Diego city workers has filed slander claims against City Attorney Michael Aguirre and another lawyer in his office.

In the claims, Ann M. Smith says Aguirre and Deputy City Attorney Don McGrath called her "Ann Malpractice Smith," acting with "malice, oppression and fraud."

Smith, an attorney for the 6,000-member Municipal Employees Association, contends the statement impugned her reputation and harmed her business. She is seeking damages from Aguirre, McGrath and the city but does not specify an amount.

Filing a claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed against a government body or government officials.

"The statements these people have made are obviously and provably false and untrue," said Thomas Tosdal, Smith's attorney and law partner. "She has represented MEA for over two decades and has done an excellent job."

Aguirre admitted making the statements and said he stands by them.

In March, a top trial lawyer who was fired by Aguirre brought a $1 million claim against the city of San Diego.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our legal leaders have overturned Brown v. Board of Education

Yesterday the Supreme Court overturned the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision. The court now says race can't be used to decide where kids go to school, except in very limited circumstances.

This is shocking, in that it shows so little respect for precedent. Now that Sandra Day O'Conner is gone, moderation seems to have gone out the window. What will happen now? It seems likely that schools will become very segregated very quickly.

But maybe it's not all bad. Just think, students of America: now you don't have to travel as far for a bad education!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why didn't Bonnie Dumanis ever find wrongdoing by Mayor Dick Murphy?

Voice of San Diego
April 8, 2005
Andrew Donohue wrote:

"As Distict Attorney Bonnie Dumanis embarks on her investigation of conflicts in city of San Diego politics, she might not need to look any further than her own office. Dumanis entered into a criminal investigation of City Hall and its pension board two weeks ago; what wasn't disclosed were her own personal ties to the man that ran City Hall at the time the possible misdeeds she's investigating occurred. John Kern, who until last week was Mayor Dick Murphy's chief of staff, ran Dumanis' judge campaigns as a political consultant in 1994 and 1998."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Duke University works to repair harm it did to innocent lacrosse players

(CNN) -- Duke University has reached an undisclosed settlement with three former lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape, the school announced Monday.

"This past year has been hard for many people who care about Duke -- for students, faculty, staff, alumni, families and friends -- and for the three students and their families most of all," the Duke board of trustees said in a written statement.

The three students posted a statement on Duke's Web site saying, "We hope that today's resolution will begin to bring the Duke family back together again, and we look forward to working with the university to develop and implement initiatives that will prevent similar injustices and ensure that the lessons of last year are never forgotten."

David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were accused of sexually assaulting an escort-service dancer at a party in March 2006.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper reviewed the case and exonerated the three men in April 2007, saying the charges never should have been brought against them.

District attorney disbarred for unethical behavior

The prosecutor who brought those charges, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, was disbarred Saturday by a disciplinary panel that said he violated the majority of at least 19 ethics offenses in prosecuting the case.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bonnie Dumanis and Mike Nifong: More alike than she wants to admit

I read San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' opinion piece in the San Diego Union Tribune today.

After scanning four columns of print that read like a high school civics lesson, I realized that Bonnie had sidestepped the glaring truth and the most important lesson of the Nifong case: it is wrong to prosecute someone in order to get reelected.

Why didn't you address the real problem, Bonnie? Mike Nifong couldn't resist the temptation to go after three rich white privileged young men in order to get votes from his working-class district.

You don't need to answer that question, Bonnie. I know the answer. It's a very sensitive issue for you, since you've done exactly the same thing that Mike Nifong did. You prosecuted a young man, Jason Moore, who took two hours off work, simply because it would please your rich white constituency. Moore was targeted because he used those two hours to spy on a Cheryl Cox yacht party. Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda has revealed that your unit has also investigated him. It appears that you have allowed Cheryl Cox's supporters to dictate the list of targets that your "public integrity" unit investigates.

Perhaps someone ought to investigate your "public integrity" unit. The first thing they would find is Patrick O'Toole, a former US attorney who might very well run against you if you were to allow him to outflank you on your right. It looks like you gave him freedom to investigate anyone he wants, no matter how politically motivated the investigation is. You want to keep him happy so he doesn't run against you, don't you?

In your favor it must be said that you have decided to sacrifice just one young man to your political ambitions. You obviously know what you've done, Bonnie, or you wouldn't have so carefully avoided talking about the true reason for Mike Nifong's moral collapse: political ambition.

Voice of San Diego published a piece about the problem of politically-motivated prosecutions, such as the Dale Akiki case that cost District Attorney Ed Miller his job. Here a comment by Billy Bob Henry on that article:

"Ed Miller of course lost his job over the Aikiki scam, and he should have been disbarred. Nifong-if he was in CA-would not be disbarred. No prosecutor, that I can recall, no matter how unlawful an act they have committed, has ever been disbarred."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The People Don't Understand Leslie Devaney

Leslie Devaney, who ran against Mike Aguirre for San Diego City Attorney in 2004, says:

"Until the public understands the role of the city attorney, I'm not ready to run for the position again."*

Translation: As long as people think the City Attorney is supposed to represent ALL the people, and not merely protect the people in office, she won't be a part of it.

* from Voice of San Diego, "Aguirre's Foes Search for Champion," by EVAN McLAUGHLIN Monday, June 11, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Scooter Libby and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some people are willing to go to jail for committing civil disobedience. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of those people.

Then there are the Scooter Libby's of the world. These are people who commit far more serious crimes than participating in a protest march. They expose the identity of a CIA agent, then commit felony perjury about it when questioned before a grand jury.

If you truly believe in your cause, Scooter, why aren't you willing to pay the price for your illegal actions in defense of what you believe? And why don't you tell your supporters to stop harassing the judge in your case?

I'm getting the feeling that the cause Scooter Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney's #2) believes in is this: George Bush loyalists should control the entire government, including the justice system. Oh, dear. That's not civil disobedience. That's an effort to overturn the constitution while bypassing the 200-year-old process for doing so.

The Associated Press reported this story today:

Libby Judge Harassed After Sentencing
"A federal judge showed no sign that he would delay I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison term in the CIA leak case Thursday — even as he reported getting threatening letters and phone calls after sentencing the former White House aide.

""I received a number of angry, harassing, mean-spirited phone calls and letters," U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said. "Some of those were wishing bad things on me and my family."

"Walton made the remarks as he opened a hearing into whether to delay Libby's 2 1/2-year sentence while the former White House aide appeals. Walton heard arguments on the request and was scheduled to continue them Thursday afternoon.
After a monthlong trial, jurors found in March that Libby lied to investigators about how he learned that Valerie Plame, the wife of an outspoken war critic, worked for the CIA, and whom he told..."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Who wants James L. Camblos for a next-door neighbor?

A Virginia woman and her ex-husband will spend 27 months in prison for allowing her son’s16-year-old friends to drink beer at a sleepover. Elisa Kelly’s reason for providing the beer was that she didn’t want the kids to drive to get alcohol. About half of the kids at the sleepover drank no alcohol at all.

Ryan Kenty, Elisa’s son, was so distraught about his mother’s situation, for which he felt guilty, that he dropped out of high school. Ryan’s younger brother, now 16, will not have his mother around for quite a while. It seems unlikely that anyone’s life has been improved by the government’s actions in this case.

Still, Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney James L. Camblos III isn’t feeling the family’s pain. It would appear that he didn’t become a public servant in order to make life better for other people, but to make life better for himself. This seems like another case where the justice system is being abused by someone with a pathological need to inflict pain. Camblos knows that a good way to get people to vote is by identifying an evil, and working everyone into a frenzy over it. Certainly underage drinking is a problem, but it’s also a reality, and Mr. Camblos’ actions are not likely to stop 16-year-olds from drinking. Camblos will just make it more likely that they’ll drive somewhere to get their alcohol.

Daniela Deane of the Washington Post writes:

“"No one left the party," said Kelly, 42, who collected car keys that night almost five years ago to prevent anyone from leaving. "No one was hurt. No one drove anywhere. I really don't think I deserve to go to jail for this long."

“Kelly said she's "scared" to go to the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, where each of her sons will be able to visit her only once a month for 15 minutes at a time, and worried about how her sons will fare without her. "I'm going to miss the end of Brandon's high school," she said of her 16-year-old son, choking back tears.

“After the incident, Ryan dropped out of high school, where he was an athlete and a member of the school's basketball team, saying he couldn't take the constant attention. He shelved plans to attend college and now works full time at UPS. The brothers will live nearby with their father, Marc Kenty, until their mother is released.”

Wilson orders Wilson freed in bizarre Georgia case

The New York Times reports a ruling in the Georgia case where a 17-year-old boy has served over two years of a ten year sentence for allowing a 15-year-old girl to have oral sex with him.

Judge Thomas Wilson ordered the young man, whose name is also Wilson, freed.

Brenda Goodman wrote, "In granting Mr. Wilson’s habeas corpus petition, Judge Wilson wrote that it would be a “grave miscarriage of justice” for Mr. Wilson to be kept in prison for the remaining eight years of his sentence.

“'If this Court, or any court, cannot recognize the injustice of what has occurred here, then our court system has lost sight of the goal our judicial system has always strived to accomplish: Justice being served in a fair and equal manner,' he wrote in the order granting release."

But politicians in Georgia refused to accept the judge's ruling. Thurbert E. Baker, the Georgia attorney general, filed a Notice of Appeal, and the local district attorney is keeping the young man in prison.

Since both people involved in the sex act were minors, some might think it odd that the courts did not give them both the same sentence. Others might think that this case is entirely about race, since the boy was black and the girl was white. I suppose we've seen some progress in the past fifty years. I prefer the injustice of today to the injustice meted out in the south fifty years ago, but sometimes I think human beings are awfully slow to change their ways. Our justice system has a long way to go.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Does law school make some people crazy?

Found on Susan Ohanian's Outrages

"Research suggests that law school has a corrosive effect on the well-being, values, and motivation of students, say Kennon M. Sheldon, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and Lawrence S. Krieger, a law professor at Florida State University. "Indeed, the emotional distress of law students appears to significantly exceed that of medical students and at times approach that of psychiatric populations," they write."

The above was written by the staff of Chronicle of Higher Education regarding an article in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin entitled The maddening effects of law school.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

George Bush Now Has a Monica Problem

"In Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department, Democrats and liberals who were denied civil service jobs were said to have a "Monica Problem." After yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Justice Department has a Monica Problem of its own."

Above quote is from "Monica's Own Monica Problem" by Dana Milbank, published in The Washington Post on May 24, 2007.

Here are some outtakes from Millbank's article:

"The source of the metastasizing Monica Problem (not to be confused with the previous president's Monica Problem) is Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson's law school who was the Justice Department's enforcer of partisan purity until she resigned and investigations began."

"Republicans must have known they had a problem on their hands, for they moved with dispatch to create diversions. Rep. Chris Cannon (Utah) opted to read into the record a lengthy editorial comparing Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) to Tony Soprano. Rep. Dan Lundgren (Calif.) delivered a 250-word speech praising his own glorious service as his state's attorney general."

"The only break Republicans got all day came from a neophyte Democrat on the committee, Steve Cohen (Tenn.), who decided to poke fun at the educational pedigree of Goodling, Regent University law school Class of '99 ("top 10.5 percent of class," reported her résumé).
"Are you aware of the fact that in your graduating class, 50 to 60 percent of the students failed the bar the first time?"
"I know it wasn't good," she conceded.
"Republicans erupted in groans and cries of "bigotry." "Regent University students won the American Bar Association's Negotiation Competition February 11," protested Randy Forbes (R-Va.)."

"Asked about her previous experience making personnel decisions, Goodling began her answer by noting that she was student body president in college."

"How many job applicants did she block because of political leanings? "I wouldn't be able to give you a number." Did she ask aspiring civil servants whom they voted for? "I may have." Did she screen applicants for career prosecutor jobs so that Republicans landed in those positions? "I think that I probably did.""

"[Monica] made clear from the start that she hadn't come to take the fall: At the top of her written testimony, bold and underlined, was the sentence "The Deputy Attorney General's Allegations are False."

It seems clear that in Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department, the entire Justice System was being run for the benefit of Republicans, not for Americans in general, who got partisan justice in exchange for the taxes they paid.

It takes a lot to get a Bar Association to act against a dishonest lawyer

The D.C. Bar Association is conducting a disciplinary hearing concerning former federal prosecutor G. Paul Howes, but the Bar Association doesn't deserve credit for starting this investigation. The Justice Department investigated four years, then handed the files over to the Bar Association. They could hardly say no, could they?

Lawyers tend to be very tolerant of unethical behavior by other lawyers. As an example, it may be noted that the California Bar Association said Elizabeth Schulman's behavior was acceptable.

On May 7, 2007, Henri E. Cauvin wrote in the Washington Post that Mr. Howes used taxpayer dollars in two drug-and-murder conspiracy cases, "signing off on tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments to witnesses and, even more significantly, to their friends and families."

The story continues: "Witnesses routinely are paid stipends when they go to court to testify or when they meet with prosecutors to prepare for the proceedings. But the payments must be disclosed to defense attorneys so informed assessments can be made of the witnesses' credibility... In its charging documents, the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel cites questionable payments totaling more than $75,000 from among the nearly $141,000 in voucher payments issued in the cases.

"In one case, a D.C. police officer [Fonda Moore] was charged with conspiring with a drug gang [specifically, Javier Card] to kill its rivals, and in the other, members of the notorious Newton Street Crew were charged with running a criminal enterprise that was engaged in murder and narcotics distribution.

"In each of the cases, Howes kept the defendants' lawyers in the dark about the unauthorized payments. His motivation remains unclear.

"But the fallout was far-reaching. In the years after the abuses came to light, the U.S. attorney's office had to agree to significant reductions in the sentences of several defendants, including some who had been serving life prison terms. At least three defendants were released within months of the reductions."

Howes once worked as a Washington correspondent for ABC News. Howes is now a partner at Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, LLP in San Diego.

Federalist Society Backed Lam's Ouster

Vladimir Kogan of Voice of San Diego was perusing McClatchy's Washington bureau postings today when he came across the following:

A leader of an influential conservative legal group recommended a replacement candidate for the U.S. attorney in San Diego just days after the sitting prosecutor's name was secretly placed on a Justice Department firing list, according to a document released Wednesday.

The recommendation by the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leonard Leo, came before anyone outside of a tight group in the White House and Justice Department knew about a nascent strategy that ultimately led to the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

Kogan writes:
The story points out that there is no way to know whether Leo knew that the Justice Department was planning to oust Lam, or whether his e-mail was unsolicited.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

TB Travelling Lawyer Man

Andrew Speaker, the 31-year-old Atlanta personal injury lawyer who thought his honeymoon was more important than other people's lives, isn't getting a good reception in the court of public opinion.

Newsweek reports that 50% to 70% of individuals who are infected with Andrew Speaker's bacterium are doomed, compared to only 5% who die from contracting regular tuberculosis. Speaker himself is young and healthy and has access to the best care available on the planet. But that is not the case with the hundreds of travellers who shared a limited amount of air with him on two trans-Atlantic flights.

Speaker claims that he is smear-negative, meaning that TB bacteria didn't show up on his sputum test. Sadly, it turns out that 20% of all TB patients contracted their illnesses from smear-negative individuals.

I am left wondering, how many people are as ethically challenged as Andrew Speaker? How many of us would have done the same thing he did? I imagine these lawyers would do the same as Andrew Speaker.

I wouldn't. Would you?

But the CDC is also at fault. They knew when they visited him in Italy that they were dealing with an incautious person. They should have told him they would fly him home. They should have known he wouldn't take financial responsibility for a private airplane trip home. It's their job to protect the health of the public, even if they have to dip into their budget reserves to do it.

Cheryl Cox and George Bush agree: public attorneys should be accountable only to officials, not to the public that pays them

33-year-old lawyer Monica Goodling testified before congress today. Monica is the Justice Department aide who resigned recently when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted that eight US Attorneys were fired due to a plot among his underlings, while he himself was innocent of conducting a purge of Bush appointees who failed to use the justice system to further Bush's agenda.

Monica admits she broke the law by asking political questions of job applicants, but she didn't mean to. As Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine noted, Monica just seemed to want the Justice Department to be one big happy family. "She almost makes it sound like a good thing," said Lithwick, on TO THE POINT on KCRW radio.

Bonnie Dumanis supports the use of uncorroborated jailbird testimony

Why does this Voice of San Diego story not surprise me?

A wrongful conviction is better than no conviction at all, right, Bonnie?

Hushing the Jailbirds
by Will Carless
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that legislation approved Thursday by the California Senate would limit prosecutors' ability to rely on testimony from prison inmates to obtain convictions.

Essentially, the Mercury News reports, the legislation would require prosecutors to corroborate testimony from inmates with an independent source who is not incarcerated. That’s motivated by the worry that inmates could be tempted to lie and help prosecutors in order to get themselves more lenient sentences.

In an e-mail, a spokesman for the San Diego District Attorney’s Office said the local DA "disapproves in principle" of the legislation. Here’s what the spokesman, Steve Walker, wrote:

The California District Attorney's Association (CDAA) has taken a "disapprove in principle" stance on SB609, a position that the San Diego District Attorney's Office agrees with.

Here’s an extract from the story:

Making it more difficult to convict using such testimony was recommended by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which has reviewed the causes of wrongful convictions.

The bill passed 25-10.

Friday, May 18 2007

Cheryl Cox made character an issue, then ducked hard questions about her character

On her campaign-for-mayor website, Cheryl Cox states:

"Cheryl Cox believes that those elected to office should be held to a high standard of personal conduct, that they should represent their constituents rather than themselves, and that they should never forget who they’re working for."

Are you listening, Bonnie Dumanis?

Is Bonnie Dumanis playing politics with our justice system?

Bonnie Dumanis
District Attorney
County of San Diego

Dear Ms. Dumanis:

Since you began prosecuting last month, on behalf of the Cheryl Cox campaign, allegations of perjury regarding a 2-hour-leave from work by a young man employed by the City of Chula Vista, it is long past time that you reconsider your hasty response to my complaint about felony obstruction of justice by Richard Werlin, agent for Cheryl Cox and the Chula Vista Elementary School District. Richard Werlin, of course, was not operating in a vacuum when he came up with the idea to commit crimes and cover them up. As soon as possible I will send you proof that CVESD attorneys Daniel Shinoff and Kelly Angell AKA Kelly Minnehan, and possibly others, were involved in directing Richard Werlin to obstruct justice.

If you look at my original complaint, you will see that it uses the language of California statute, almost WORD FOR WORD. Your response that my complaint did not involve criminal allegations is false on its face.

In addition, I have attached proof of perjury and subornation of perjury by Deborah Garvin, Michael Carlson and Sam Gross in San Diego County and San Diego County Superior Court. These crimes were committed to cover up criminal violations of Labor Code 432.7 and many other laws of the state of California by your very own Cheryl Cox and her fellow Chula Vista Elementary School District board members. Attorney Mark Bresee was CVESD's legal advisor duirng the original violations of law.

Since the crimes I have reported were accompanied by many instances of intimidation of witnesses and other actions that extend the statute of limitations, I believe that even the earliest incidents of obstruction of justice that occurred in 2002 are still prosecutable.

Yours truly,
Maura Larkins

Can a lawyer be an honest person?

Does a lawyer have to break the commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor" in order to do his/her job?

Of course not.

Will anyone hire an honest lawyer? Or does everyone want the meanest, dirtiest lawyer they can find, to help them win at any cost?

Hmmmm. Of course, some people want honest lawyers. But I'll concede that they are probably in the minority.

Should lawyers sell their souls to make money? That's a matter of personal opinion.

I once heard that 80% of Americans believe that money is a sign of God's approval. Does that mean that they think that everyone who got rich must have pleased God? I don't know. I'm one of the 20% who think that plenty of people get rich by, or in spite of, violating the commandments of God and the laws of men.

Some people think that the killer instincts and illegal and dishonest tactics increasingly found in law school graduates in recent decades actually handicap these individuals.

Steven Keeva thinks that lawyers can find happiness in spite of, or because of, having a conscience. Here is a link to one of his articles,
"Profiting from Experience."

Greed and Abuse of Employees Do NOT pay off for Titan Corporation (now L-3 Communications)

(Originally posted 12-19-06)

Yesterday I asked this question, "What happens when Titan Corporation goes to war, and its Insurance Company, AIG, doesn't want to pay for injured translators?"

Today I opened the newspaper and found an answer to my question.

The army has ended L-3 Titan Group's linguist services contract, which was the company's biggest source of revenue--around $600 million in 2006.

L-3 Titan says it will lose about 15 cents a share. Wouldn't stockholders have been better off if Titan had spent more on its employees, for example, paying for medical treatment and rehabilitation when they were blinded or otherwise injured or disabled? Perhaps that would have trimmed earnings by 1 cent per share. My guess is that they'd be ahead 14 cents a share if they'd done that.

The US Department of Labor reports that 216 Titan/L-3 employees have been killed in Iraq, more than any other contractor or coalition force except the United States military. 655 contractor employees have been killed in the war.

Private companies are required to carry insurance for their workers in Iraq, and to report claims to the Labor Department. But apparently the Labor Department does not require the insurance companies to pay the claims, if Mazin Al-Nashi's experience (see prior post) is typical.

What happens when Titan Corporation goes to war, and its Insurance Company, AIG, doesn't want to pay for injured translators?

What does attorney Roger Levy of LAUGHLIN, FALBO, LEVY, & MORESI LLP (San Francisco, California) do when his client (TITAN CORPORTATION) doesn't want to provide medical treatment for seriously wounded contractors?

He tries to prove that being hit in the helmet with a bullet from friendly-fire, and being knocked unconscious immediately after with the butt of a friendly rifle, then being pulled unconsious out of a burning Humvee, and left in a tent without medical treatment, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SUBSEQUENT BLINDNESS AND HEARING LOSS. He claims that neither L-3 Titan Corporation nor AIG has any obligation to continue disability benefits or medical benefits for the wounded man.

This is exactly what is happening in the case of Mazin Al-Nashi of San Diego, who was injured in August 2003 while working as a translator in Iraq.

Mr. Tony Walker, AIG WorldSource's attorney (San Francisco, CA) is also helping these enormous corporations avoid the obligations to employees.

Where, then, do all the billions of dollars that taxpayers gave to TITAN (now known as L-3 Communications Titan Group), and, indirectly, to AIG, end up? Apparently, Levy and Walker think they should end up in the pockets of stockholders and CEOs who have risked nothing for America.

For more information, click on CASUALTY OF WAR link in right column.

The questioning of Mazin Al-Nashi by these lawyers during a hearing on October 23 and 24, 2006 before Administrative Judge Gee was so brutal that Mazin ended up in intensive care shortly afterward. Mazin had no legal representation. Click on the Casualty of War blog in the right-hand links column to learn more.

Originally posted 12/18/06

Some federal judges gave money to Bush after he nominated them

As reported by Salon.com and www.muckraker.org (Oct. 31, 2006), the Center for Investigative Reporting did a four-month investigation that found that six appellate court judges and eighteen district court judges gave more than $44,000 to politicians who were involved in their appointments.

I first posted this story on December 15, 06. The situation seems even clearer since the firing of seven or eight US attorneys for not using the Justice Department to promote George Bush's (or Karl Rove's) political goals.

Law Review Course for Daniel Shinoff?

I'm tracking the actions of San Diego school attorneys. I found an interesting comment about some of them on Shaun Martin's blog. He notes that the California Court of Appeal rightly slapped down their SLAPP suit against citizens in Ramona (San Diego County). Perhaps a law review course at the University of San Diego Law School might be in order for the attorneys at Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz.

Juan Vargas makes our jaws drop

Juan Vargas, California Assembly, 79th District

I rarely agree with the San Diego Union Tribune, but they got it right on Dec. 9, 2006, when they said that Juan Vargas' move from chairman of the California Assembly Insurance Committee to vice president of a big insurance company "stuns even jaded political junkies."

Juan seemed so promising at one time. He got a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and worked in San Diego as an associate attorney with the law firm of Luce, Forward, Hamilton and Scripps.

Apparently, Juan has finally reached the level where he belongs. Do us a favor, Juan, and stay in insurance. Don't ever come back to politics.

Judge fired for jailing 11 people who were sent to the wrong courtroom

It wasn't the first misconduct complaint against Judge John Sloop, but it was the last. The judge revealed his petty, malicious nature when he caused eleven motorists to be jailed for nine hours and strip-searched because they were late to his courtroom. He refused to take into account that the group had been directed to the wrong courtroom.

The Florida Supreme Court decided that the judge lacked judicial temperament and abused his authority.

The eleven motorists might have spent more time in jail, but as soon as Sloop went on an errand, another judge began paperwork to release the citizens.

(from Associated Press article on December 8, 2006)