Sunday, November 20, 2011

Did the executive director and the vice-president of the California State Bar divert funds to a sham charity?

Orange County Investigative News Agency "Voice of OC" Asked to Produce all Documents Submitted to the Internal Revenue Service Within the Past Three Years
by lesliebrodie Pro

Orange County's Nonprofit Investigative News Agency "Voice of OC" has been served with a demand to produce all records it had submitted to the Internal Revenue Service within the past three years, The Leslie Brodie Report has learned.

The request followed shortly on the heels of a letter informing State Bar Executive Director Joe Dunn about the existence of convenient circumstances surrounding sham charity CaliforniaALL and his publication -- "Voice of OC."

More specifically, and according to a source, the fact that some individuals and entities involved in the creation of sham charity CaliforniaALL and the subsequent unlawful transfer of $780,000 from the Cal Bar Foundation to CaliforniaALL were also involved in assisting Mr. Dunn with the creation of "Voice of OC", has caused the source to entertain the thought that "Voice of OC" may have been a recipient, at least in part, of the $780,000 misappropriated from the State Bar of California.

CaliforniaALL, a 501(c)(3) charitable entity, was the brainchild of Ruthe Ashley (a Diversity Officer at CalPERS and Vice-President of the State Bar of California) and Peter Arth Jr., Chief of Staff to CPUC President Michael Peevey.

In its brief existence from 2008 to 2010, CaliforniaALL collected close to $2 million from utility companies (AT&T, PG&E, Verizon, Sempra), including a sub-rosa contribution of $769,247.00 from the State Bar of California Foundation (DBA California Bar Foundation.)

CaliforniaALL was abruptly dissolved in June of 2010...

A strip mine apparently isn't a mine

Sukut Construction v. Rimrock CA LLC (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 30, 2011)
Thoughts on recent Ninth Circuit and California appellate cases from Professor Shaun Martin at the University of San Diego School of Law.
California Appellate Report
Shaun Martin
October 20, 2011

A strip mine apparently isn't a mine.

This according to an opinion that -- perhaps deliberately -- nowhere uses the term "strip mine." Preferring instead to call the property here a quarry. Because holding that a strip mine isn't a mine would seem even more counterintuitive. (The terms are essentially synonyms, though often suggest what types of rock/minerals are sought from the mine. Quarries often yield building rocks/gravel and dimension stones, whereas strip mines often yield coal, copper, etc.)

Notwithstanding how we use these terms, I might think that the Court of Appeal's decision made sense if the quarry/strip mine at issue here was just dredging out sand or landfill or the like. But when you're deliberately taking out certain types of rocks -- i.e., granite, pebbles, etc. -- it seems to me that it's a mine. Even without an opinion of the Attorney General that, as here, suggests that a quarry is indeed a mine. Something that's entitled to deference.

It's admittedly an issue that involves contextual statutory interpretation. But if it looks like a mine, gets rocks like a mine, sounds like a mine, and uses explosives like a mine, then it's probably a mine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

San Diego D.A. finally charges attorney Patricia Gregory for stealing from clients

Lawyer charged with fraud after Watchdog report
Prosecutors allege she took more than $100,000 from 3 clients
By Jeff McDonald
September 29, 2011

Carlsbad attorney Patricia Gregory was charged Thursday with 11 felonies for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from clients and practicing law without a license.

The charges came less than two weeks after The Watchdog included Gregory as the leading example in a report about lawyers whose cases at the State Bar Court did not result in them being prosecuted criminally.

According to the six-page complaint, Gregory stole more than $100,000 from three clients in 2007 and 2008. She also wrongly practiced law or advertised legal services earlier this year, the complaint says.

Gregory was charged with five counts of fraud, five counts of grand theft and one count of unauthorized practice of law. She faces up to four years in state prison on each count, and a $10,000 fine. She was ordered to appear in court Oct. 18.

Gregory was recommended for disbarment in March after the State Bar Court concluded she improperly withdrew more than $112,000 from a client trust fund. Her license is invalid during an appeal of the recommendation.

She told The Watchdog that there are inaccuracies in the criminal complaint, that she was entitled to every dollar she withdrew as legal fees, and that the alleged victims received more legal services than they paid for.

“You cannot ‘steal’ something in which you have an interest,” Gregory said by email.

Former client Denise Doll, one of the three victims identified in the complaint, said she was pleased to learn of the charges but said it should never have taken so long to file a criminal case.

“This woman has damaged me greatly,” Doll said. “It’s been over two years.”

Luwain Ng is another of the alleged victims. According to a civil suit she and Doll filed, Gregory stole the proceeds of the family home that was sold when Ng and her husband divorced.

“I plan on attending every single hearing,” Ng said. “I want my money back. I’ve been waiting since 2008. I want justice served.”

Ng said she would rather have seen Gregory arrested and jailed instead of being issued a court date. She said she is afraid her former lawyer will flee prosecution.

“What then?” Ng asked.

According to Gregory’s website, she used to work for the District Attorney’s Office in child support enforcement. The office declined to discuss its prosecution strategy but said Gregory was treated like any other defendant.

“Attorneys are treated no differently than any other defendant,” said Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “In terms of her case, we can’t comment because it is open.”

Gregory’s was one of four cases in a report by The Watchdog earlier this month about lawyers whose misdeeds are adjudicated by the State Bar Court but not prosecuted criminally. The District Attorney’s Office said many factors come into play, including different standards of proof in bar court and criminal court.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Police Won't File Charges Against Texas Judge Caught on Video Beating Daughter

This undated image provided by the Aransas County, Texas Court-at-Law webpage shows Aransas County Judge William Adams.

Police Won't File Charges Against Texas Judge Caught on Video Beating Daughter
November 03, 2011
Associated Press AP

A Texas family law judge whose daughter secretly videotaped him savagely beating her seven years ago won't face criminal charges because too much time has elapsed, police said Thursday.

Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams likely would have been charged with causing injury to a child or other assault-related offenses for the 2004 beating of his then-16-year-old daughter, but the five-year statutes of limitations expired, Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe said.

"We believe that there was a criminal offense involved and that there was substantial evidence to indicate that and under normal circumstances ... a charge could have been made," Jayroe said. He said the district attorney determined he couldn't bring charges, and that police would discuss the case with federal prosecutors even though he doesn't believe federal charges would apply.

Hillary Adams, now 23, posted the 8-minute clip on YouTube last week that shows her father viciously lashing her with a belt and trying to force her to bend over her bed to be beaten despite her wails and pleas to stop. The clip had received more than 2.4 million hits as of Thursday, and police began investigating Wednesday after hearing from concerned citizens.

GRAPHIC WARNING: Click here to see the video

William Adams, 51, issued a three-page statement Thursday saying his daughter posted the clip to get back at him for telling her he would be reducing the amount of financial support he gives her and taking away her Mercedes. The statement did not include an apology for the beating, but he told Corpus Christi television station KZTV on Wednesday that the video "looks worse than it is," that he had already apologized to his daughter and that he was just disciplining his child for stealing.

Hillary Adams says her parents were angry because she had downloaded pirated content online, and that she turned on the camera because she sensed something was going to happen.

William Adams, who presides over child abuse cases, is still being investigated by the state's judicial conduct commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which on Thursday requested that he be removed from its cases until the investigation concludes.

Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the agency, declined to elaborate on the exact nature of the investigation. But he said that in general, the agency would only investigate a case in which a suspected abuse victim has already reached adulthood if there are still children in the home who could be at risk. Adams was granted joint custody of his 10-year-old daughter in his 2007 divorce.

There are no allegations of alleged abuse by Adams against his younger daughter, who primarily resides with her mother, Hallie Adams. Crimmins declined to say whether his agency is investigating the parental fitness of Hallie Adams, who lashed Hillary once during the 2004 beating.

Crimmins said his agency ordinarily wouldn't disclose that it is investigating someone, but that it did in this case because the investigation is the reason it requested that William Adams be taken off its cases.

Jayroe said that police did not interview the younger daughter, but asked both Hallie and Hillary Adams about it and there was no indication of abuse of the younger daughter.

In his statement Thursday, Adams said he would "respond" to all investigations. As Aransas County's top judge, he has dealt with at least 349 family law cases in the past year alone, nearly 50 of which involved state caseworkers seeking determine whether parents were fit to raise their children.

County officials confirmed that Adams will not hear cases related to Child Protective Services for at least the next two weeks. And the top administrator in Aransas County cast doubt on whether Adams could credibly return to the bench.

"I would think it would be very difficult," said Aransas County Judge C.H. "Burt" Mills Jr. "Personally I don't see how he can recover from this."...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Supreme Court to take another look at prosecutorial misconduct

Angela J. Davis

Angela J. Davis, who is discussed in the following story, is not the well-known Angela Yvonne Davis who studied at UCSD with Herbert Marcuse.

Supreme Court to take another look at prosecutorial misconduct
By Robert Barnes
Washington Post
October 30, 2011

Prosecutors, says Angela Davis, former head of the D.C. public defenders office, “are the most powerful officials in our criminal justice system.”

Davis, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, explains:

“They decide whether a person’s going to be charged, what to charge them with, whether there’s going to be a plea bargain and what the plea bargain will be. As they make those decisions, they exercise almost boundless discretion.”

That combination of power and discretion, she said, “can and has led to abuse.”

It’s an issue of perpetual interest at the Supreme Court. Next week, the court will hear a case in which a Louisiana death row inmate alleges that prosecutors withheld information that would have cast doubt on the eyewitness account that led to his conviction.

The case from New Orleans concerns prosecutors who worked for former district attorney Harry Connick Sr., who left office in 2003.

If that sounds familiar, it is because Connick and his office were at the center of last term’s big decision about prosecutorial misconduct. In that controversial 5-to-4 decision, the court stripped a $14 million award from John Thompson, who spent 14 years on death row after prosecutors withheld evidence that showed his innocence.

The court has long agreed that individual prosecutors should be protected from civil liability so that they may freely pursue criminals. However, Thompson had convinced a jury that Connick’s office should be held accountable for not properly training staff about the duty prosecutors have to turn over evidence favorable to the defense.

But Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by the court’s other conservatives, said Thompson did not meet the high standard of showing a pattern of “deliberate indifference” on Connick’s part.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on behalf of the court’s liberals, read her dissent from the bench, saying she would have upheld the award against Connick’s office for the “gross, deliberately indifferent and long-continuing violation of (Thompson’s) fair trial right.”

Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said the court’s decision in Connick v. Thompson made it clear that civil remedies are not a viable option for those trying to stop prosecutorial misconduct.

He, Thompson and others were part of a group of “innocence advocates” who last week proposed a national dialogue with prosecutors to try to find other ways to investigate and sanction prosecutors who break the rules.

Santa Clara University law professor Kathleen Ridolfi said the group needs to find a way around “a system where the Supreme Court refuses to hold prosecutors accountable, even for repeated, deliberate misconduct.”

The new case, Smith v. Cain , is not about punishing prosecutors. It is about whether withholding evidence should mean a new trial for Juan Smith, who prosecutors said was involved in a gangland-style shooting that left five dead. Prosecutors have an obligation under a nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court precedent in Brady v. Maryland to turn over any evidence material to a defendant’s guilt or punishment.

The case is expected to be determined by its specific facts rather than the potential for a new examination of Brady. It also seems not coincidental that it involves New Orleans prosecutors.

Smith’s lawyers point out that courts have overturned four death sentences from Orleans Parish because of violations of the Brady rules, and they say eight other non-capital cases have met the same fate.

The American Bar Association has asked the court to use the case to tell prosecutors that they have a greater obligation than simply meeting Brady requirements. The ABA says the court should mandate that prosecutors abide by ABA model rules that call for disclosure of any exculpatory evidence, whether it is determined to be material or not.

The National District Attorneys Association replied that the ABA is nothing but a private association of lawyers that consistently takes the side of criminal defendants. The regulation of prosecutors, it says, “is appropriately left to the individual states.”

Such sensitivity is why Scheck and others at a news conference last week took pains to say they believe only a small slice of prosecutors have committed misconduct. He said he was generally advised, “ ‘Don’t go around the country pillorying prosecutors and giving the impression that what happened in John Thompson’s case is happening across the board in an epidemic.’ ”

He added: “ We’re not saying that.”