Monday, December 31, 2012

Federal judge denied Michael Roddy's Motion to Dismiss lawsuit by Michael Coulter

See also recent shenanigans on Michael Roddy's watch.

See decision in Coulter v. Roddy

Michael Roddy seems to be compiling a record of repeated efforts to deny justice.

From the Coulter v. Roddy ruling:

"...According to Plaintiff, in May of 2009, Murrell obtained a “request for dismissal” of the state court action executed by Plaintiff on an outdated form, knowing the form would not be accepted by the superior court clerk’s office.

"Plaintiff alleges Roddy, the Executive Officer of the clerk’s office, enacted and enforced “policies, regulations and customary practices” which caused the clerk’s office employees to “improperly and illegally deny filing” the request for dismissal.

"Murrell’s and Roddy’s actions allegedly prevented Plaintiff from proceeding with the state court action, in violation of his due process rights. In addition, during the six-month period between when Plaintiff signed the request for dismissal form in May of 2009 and when the state court finally dismissed the action in November of 2009, the Estate of Daniel T. Shelley was depleted, leaving nothing to satisfy his claims...

"Roddy’s only argument is that Plaintiff fails to sufficiently allege a conspiracy between Roddy and Murrell. Roddy cites Simmons v. Sacramento County Superior Court, 318 F.3d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 2003), for the proposition that conclusory allegations that the lawyer was conspiring with state officers to deprive him of due process are insufficient to support a § 1983 claim.

"However, in Simmons, the Ninth Circuit held that such conclusory allegations were insufficient to support a § 1983 claim against a private attorney who was not acting under color of state law. Id. Here, Roddy does not dispute that as Executive Officer of the clerk’s office, he was acting under color of state law with respect to the allegedly unlawful conduct.

"Thus, the only issue is whether Plaintiff sufficiently alleged Roddy’s conduct violated Plaintiff’s rights under the Constitution or federal law. Construing the FAC in light most favorable to Plaintiff, as the Court must, the § 1983 claim against Roddy does not depend on a conspiracy theory.

"Indeed, Plaintiff only alleges the clerk’s office confirmed for Murrell that the outdated form would not be accepted. (FAC ¶ 5.) Plaintiff alleges Roddy, by enacting and enforcing certain policies and practices, caused the deprivation of Plaintiff’s due process rights."

signed by Judge Irma Gonzalez

Friday, December 28, 2012

California State Auditor blasts Superior Court Executive Michael Roddy for kowtowing to judges who ignore the law

Michael Roddy has been complaining about budget cuts, but he's been falling down on the job when it comes to procedures for making sure that violent criminals make appropriate payments.

San Diego Superior Court judges blasted by state auditor for waiving domestic violence payments
Matt Potter
San Diego Reader
October 1, 2012

The California State Auditor has issued a blast at the San Diego Superior Court, saying that judges here have been waiving legally required payments due from those convicted of crimes of domestic violence.

According to the state auditor's report, issued September 6, San Diego courts have the worse collection record of four counties the office sampled over a four-year period. The other counties were Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Sacramento.

The money paid by the domestic violence probationers is earmarked to fund a network of local shelters for domestic violence victims.

"Because of the relatively low rate of collections of payments in the four counties, fewer resources are available for local shelters to provide services to victims of domestic violence."

"Some counties had higher collection rates than others—collections in Los Angeles County averaged 57 percent of the amounts owed while collections in San Diego County were only 12 percent," the audit found.

The state auditor identified one San Diego court problem in particular: its judges, who according to the audit have been arbitrarily reducing some probationers’ payments.

"Although state law specifies that assessed domestic violence payments may be reduced or waived if the court finds that the defendant has an inability to pay, judges in one of the counties reduced or waived the payment for other reasons, such as the probationer’s successful completion of batterer intervention programs."

“This practice results in fewer resources being available for domestic violence programs."

"In San Diego County, of the probationers in the 16 misdemeanor cases that we reviewed at San Diego Court’s central division, eight had completed batterer intervention programs. For each of those eight cases, the court reduced domestic violence payments, and the reductions ranged from 25 percent to 43 percent.

"San Diego Court should ensure that procedures are in place so that courts do not reduce or waive domestic violence payments for reasons other than a probationer’s inability to pay."

In their response to the audit's findings, San Diego court officials generally agreed with most of its findings and said they would implement the auditor's recommended reforms.

But San Diego Superior Court executive director Michael Roddy said in a letter dated August 17 that he didn’t have the authority to overrule judges when they reduced the domestic violence payments.

"Judges are independently elected officials and have the discretion to impose a sentence that they deem to be appropriate for the offense," wrote Roddy.

"Court administration is not in a position to establish procedures to ensure that domestic violence payments are not reduced or waived for reasons other than inability to pay.

"The court has established Sentencing Guidelines, which include a recommended fine amount and also include information about each fine and fee and whether they can legally be reduced for reasons other than inability to pay.”

That drew this response from the auditors:

"We recognize that the San Diego Court administration is not in a position to establish procedures unilaterally that affect sentencing practices.

“However, as discussed at our exit conference, we would expect the court administration to discuss our report findings with the court’s judicial officers and work together to establish procedures so that the San Diego Court can ensure that domestic violence payments are not reduced or waived for reasons other than inability to pay.”

Oct. 2, 2012 @ 1:32 p.m.

"Judges are independently elected officials and have the discretion to impose a sentence that they deem to be appropriate for the offense," wrote Roddy.

That is an outright, whopper lie. Roddy better go back to court executive school and get a clue.

Judges must follow the laws passed by the state legislature, they are not kings and courtrooms are not their fiefdoms. They cannot impose, or not impose, legally mandated laws-including fines. The Auditor should file for a writ of mandamus with the DCA and force the idiot judges to comply with the law.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Judges don’t reveal relationships; fairness questioned

Judges don’t reveal relationships; fairness questioned
By Jeff Chirico
Oct 29, 2012

A CBS Atlanta News investigation revealed some Georgia judges fail to disclose relationships they have with attorneys in open court. It raises questions about how fairly the judges dispense justice.

In August, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane awarded custody of Usher's two sons to the Atlanta-based singer and actor. The decision stunned Usher's ex-wife, Tameka Raymond, according to her attorney, Lisa West.

Since the decision was rendered, West said she learned Usher's celebrity attorney, John Mayoue, may have helped Lane get reelected in 2008. According to campaign finance reports, Mayoue's law firm donated $1,000 to Lane's campaign and hosted a fundraising reception that raked in thousands of dollars. According to West, Mayoue also sat on Lane's reelection committee.

"I would classify the relationship as a special relationship," said West.

West said she believes Lane should have disclosed that relationship in open court so she has asked for a new trial and for Lane to recuse herself.

Georgia law allows for attorneys to contribute to judicial campaigns but judges have a heavy legal burden to avoid even the appearance of being biased.

Lane isn't the only judge accused of not revealing special relationships with attorneys. Lane's colleague, Judge Gail Tusan, also failed to tell Ed Dort that his ex-wife's attorney, Robert Boyd, sat on her reelection committee.

"The final judgment and divorce decree basically financially buried me," Dort said.

According to records, Boyd donated to Tusan's campaign days before Dort's wife filed for divorce.

"There's no question she was influenced by the attorneys," Dort said.

Joanna Shepherd Bailey, a professor for Emory University School of Law, said money does influence judicial outcomes.

Shepherd Bailey conducted an extensive study of more than 21,000 State Supreme Court cases and found a strong correlation between judicial campaign contributions and judges' decisions.

"A $1,000 contribution will increase the likelihood of a judge voting in a particular way by, depending on the case, between 1 percent and 7 percent increase in likelihood," Shepherd Bailey said.

Some are calling on judges to be more transparent in open court about contributions they receive and relationships they have with attorneys arguing before them.

"There's no harm in laying all your cards on the table," said Charles Hall, representative of the Justice At Stake Campaign, a group fighting against money's influence on courts.

Hall recommends judges be up front about connections they have with parties involved in a case. If there's any question whether a judge can be fair, then he or she should step aside, Hall said.

Tusan, the judge who presided over Dort's divorce, denied that she is influenced by contributions to her campaign or attorney's efforts to help her get elected.

Tusan said she is in full compliance with state law and discloses all campaign contributions as required by state law.

But after Dort launched an online petition calling for Tusan to step aside, she recused herself.

If there's any question that attorneys know contributions can influence judges, Ken Sullivan of Forsyth County said he has proof.

His divorce attorney, Margaret Washburn, sent him an email in 2010 discussing strategies for their case.

The email suggested, "We find who [the judge's] campaign manager or treasurer was, hopefully an attorney, and add him/her to the team ASAP."

Sullivan said he believes Washburn was suggesting that he contribute to the judge's campaign.

"I don't think padding the judge's campaign manager should have any bearing on the outcome of your case," Sullivan said.

Campaign finance records reveal Washburn, who is also a municipal court judge, has contributed more than $15,000 to judicial campaigns in the last six years.

Washburn emphatically denied she recommends clients make campaign contributions to curry favor with judges.

She claimed the email was intended to help Sullivan find a new attorney.

Friday, December 21, 2012

San Diego Superior Court Judge-to-be Gary Kreep thinks City Beat is the voice of "powers that be"

Poor Gary Kreep. He's being picked-on by City Beat, one of the few progressive papers in San Diego.

Mr. Kreep says that City Beat is trying to court the favor of the movers and shakers of San Diego by writing about him. (See the last two paragraphs of the story below.) No, Mr. Kreep. City Beat is writing about you because your becoming a judge in San Diego is an affront to the constitutions of California and the United States. The June 2012 election was one of those rare occasions when progressives voted for a Republican, Garland Peed, for Superior Court judge, because you don't respect the institutions on which our country is based.

I believe Mr. Kreep should not accept the position as judge, since his judicial integrity is hopelessly compromised after he sent out deceptive mailers to fool South Bay citizens into voting for him. In South Bay, progressives did vote for Gary Kreep because he sent out a mailer linking himself to Obama.

Gary Kreep's family-law record
Birther judge-elect opposed parental rights for communists and lesbians as a lawyer, and faced allegations of spousal abuse
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Dec 19, 2012

“You give muckrakers a bad name…. Now, you’re even using the legendary ‘when’s the last time that you beat your wife’ ploy.”

—Judge-Elect Gary Kreep, Nov. 30, 2012

The signs were staked in the ground across the street from Gary Kreep’s law office in Escondido. One read “Divorce Lawyers Lie,” the other “You’re in Good Hands With Kreep—Not.”

It was 1991, and Kreep—who’ll be sworn in as a Superior Court judge in January— was being stalked by a client who’d gone off the deep end. The signs were just the beginning of a Cape Fear-style threat to Kreep and his staff; the man allegedly idled outside Kreep’s office and sent postcards featuring images of skeletons and bloody bodies. The client defended his actions in court, saying his goal was “to protest Kreep’s unscrupulous, careless and impious actions towards me and to warn the community about an archetype of ill repute.” Kreep successfully obtained a restraining order, and the court record indicates that was the end of it.

Among attorneys who practice family law, unhinged clients are considered part of the cost of doing business. Yet, as Kreep hopes to be assigned to domestic court next year, the controversial attorney’s record in family law certainly deserves scrutiny.

After running a stealth campaign, Kreep won the June 6 primary election by less than half a percentage point. His election has raised grave concerns in the legal community and the press due to his history as a polarizing political force. A lifelong Republican, Kreep pursued a career as a self-styled constitutional-law attorney. Over three decades, he’s represented myriad conservative interests, such as the anti-abortion and Minutemen movements, and, as a Republican activist, headed up numerous political action committees. These days, he’s best known as one of the primary “Birther” attorneys suing over the supposed illegitimacy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

(Read CityBeat's previous in-depth reporting on Kreep here.)

Soon, he’ll leave all that behind to become a judge in the Superior Court of California, serving San Diego County. He’s told multiple media outlets that he won’t let his right-wing and Christian fundamentalist leanings (such as his ardent opposition to LGBT marriage equality) impact his rulings. However, Kreep’s record in family court—as a private attorney, as the executive director of a far-right nonprofit and as a party in his own domestic matters—raises questions about whether families will be in good hands.

One of Kreep’s earliest family-related cases is stored on microfilm at the Vista courthouse. The records from 1983 and 1984 detail his representation of two foster parents who needed to obtain a restraining order against their troubled, adult adopted son, specifically to keep him away from their younger adopted child. Kreep had been hired to file the injunction, and he quoted the parents a fee of between $250 and $500. As the case became more complicated, involving Carlsbad police and a private investigator, Kreep racked up fees in excess of $1,500. When the couple couldn’t pay, Kreep took them to court.

Related content Birther attorney in the lead for judge seat Who’s behind Gary Kreep robocall? Gary Kreep needs your help to throw Obama off the ballot

The judge took the rare move of ruling that Kreep must write the case off as pro-bono.

“The lawyers of California have been told by the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal [sic] that they must contribute their time and talent to those less fortunate than themselves,” Judge Ross Tharp wrote in his ruling. “Such is the case at hand. Defendants, being borderline indigents, simply could not, and cannot, afford to pay $90 per hour for plaintiff’s professional services, no matter how exemplary or successful they may have been.”

Kreep declined to comment on this case, or any other case for that matter, citing attorney-client privilege, even though, at the time some of the cases were happening, he was eager to publicize them.

Through the U.S. Justice Foundation (USJF), often described as the right-wing’s answer to the American Civil Liberties Union, Kreep has inserted himself into several family-law cases. A 1987 profile in the Los Angeles Times referenced USJF’s assistance to a San Francisco man who was attempting to gain custody of his daughter. The argument was that the mother was an unfit guardian, since she’d been a leader in the Revolutionary Communist Party, a Maoist radical group. Kreep sent out a newsletter with the headline “USJF Wins First Round of Battle to Save 12-Year-Old From Communism,” the Times reported.

More than 20 years later, USJF signed on to Miller vs. Jenkins, a landmark custody dispute that cut to the core of LGBT parental rights.

The case involved a lesbian couple in a civil union who had a child together. The biological mother became an ex-gay, born-again Christian and sought to dissolve the relationship. Although a Vermont court awarded the other parent visitation rights, the biological mother—for whom the USJF served as cocounsel—left for Virginia, which doesn’t recognize LGBT unions, to invalidate the visitation rights. A federal law explicitly prohibits this kind of interstate judge-shopping; however, Kreep’s organization sought to publicize the case as a front in a larger culture war.

“We anticipate that this litigation, which centers around the issue of child custody and visitation rights resulting from a domestic partnership, will soon wind up before the United States Supreme Court as state courts are involved in more of these cases,” Kreep said in a press release. “The United States Justice Foundation believes that the time is now to engage in this battle to preserve the sanctity of traditional marriage and the best interests of children.”

The case didn’t reach the Supreme Court. When it was resolved in the other mother’s favor, the biological mother fled to Nicaragua with the child. A Mennonite pastor was convicted of kidnapping for helping the mother leave the country.

Ask Kreep about his own domestic life, and he’ll talk about how he cared for his terminally ill wife for two-and-a-half years. After she passed away, Kreep cared for his terminally ill mother-inlaw for another eight months.

He remarried in 2004, but after three years, they separated. Kreep filed for dissolution in September 2007, citing irreconcilable differences. A legal battle ensued over splitting property, including real estate, timeshares, insurance policies, IRS returns, Corvettes, art work, coin and sports-card collections and a cache of firearms. The protracted case grew bitter as Kreep accused his wife of a gambling addiction and she countered with multiple allegations of abuse.

“Since my marriage to my husband it has become very clear that he has a very strong need to control me emotionally, physically and financially,” Kreep’s ex-wife, a psychologist, wrote in a declaration on file at the East County court house. “The reason I left my husband is because he was verbally and physically and emotionally abusive. He is a recovering alcoholic and unfortunately has to lay blame on me for things he cannot accept in himself. He accuses me of addictive behaviors I don’t have, throws bottles at me, punches holes in walls, and belittles me.” Confronted with these allegations, Kreep points out they were not made at the beginning of the case, but two years into the dispute.

“I have never touched either of my wives in anger,” Kreep writes in an email to CityBeat. “The charges of ‘verbally and physically and emotionally abusive’ are completely false. As far as being ‘a recovering alcoholic,’ I have only been ‘blasted’ once in the past 30+ years. I do not feel that it is appropriate to comment on my ex-wife’s addictions. I never threw a bottle at her, never punched walls during our marriage, and I should point out that my ex-wife was 6’ tall in stocking feet, and not exactly petite.” [Maura Larkins comment: Apparently Mr. Kreep thinks that it's a fair fight for a man to assault a tall woman. A woman on steroids, perhaps, but in general a short man is much stronger than a tall woman. I'll bet Mr. Kreep would choose to fight the woman if he were forced to make a choice as to whether he'd fight a tall woman or a short man.]

CityBeat unsuccessfully attempted to reach his ex-wife directly or through her attorney of record.

Although Kreep has made a career of smearing politicians, he believes it’s unfair to bring up these issues about him.

“You REALLY must hate me, or you’re REALLY being paid a lot to go after me by the downtown crowd,” he writes. “I hope that your bootlicking is getting you the crumbs from the table of the ‘powers that be’ that you are seeking, as your journalistic integrity, and accuracy, certainly is lacking.”

Kreep will be sworn into office on Jan. 7, after which Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta will assign him to a department.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Media Rights will continue to defend Internet underdogs

Geek vs. Troll
Separating from UCAN, New Media Rights will continue to defend Internet underdogs
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Dec 05, 2012

There are some Internet questions that aren’t easy to answer online.

Let’s say you’re a citizen journalist who wakes up one morning to an alert from Google that, due to purported copyright infringement, it has removed one of your blog posts about a student in Scotland who’d been posing online as a Syrian lesbian to score a book deal. You know the copyright claim is crap, but what then?

“Yes, I’ll use the F-word: Frightening,” says gay-rights blogger Michael Petrelis, whose blog, The Petrelis Files, received such a “takedown notice” in August 2011. “To get that email from Google, I just knew, to keep my stress level down I was going to need expertise to challenge Google. Just saying that—‘challenging Google’—gives me tingles in a way. I’m a person with AIDS, struggling with disability in San Francisco, who now has to navigate Google’s rules.”

During the last decade-and-a-half, major online communities—most notably Google’s and You- Tube—have instituted a largely automatic, frustratingly bureaucratic system of censor-first self-regulation when it comes to alleged copyright infringement. It’s easily, and often, abused and tends to favor aggressive “trolls,” who use the system as a weapon. These trolls are sometimes corporate legal teams; other times, they’re just independent bullies seeking to block critical content from release.

“I think he saw me as an easy target,” Petrelis says of his troll. “He’s certainly intelligent, smarty-pants enough that he knew how to lodge the right kind of complaint with Google.”

After talking to attorneys at Harvard University’s Citizen Media Law Project, Petrelis was referred to a San Diego legal clinic, New Media Rights, whose executive director, Art Neill, personally talked him through the process and helped him file a successful counter-claim.

“For everybody who was exposing him as a fraud, [the faux Syrian] tried to get their sites taken down and their posts taken down using DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act],” Neill says. “I think one of the problems with those kind of small-scale copyright takedowns is, obviously, folks don’t have an attorney on call, and they’re sort of worried because they get nasty letters that say, ‘You’re going to owe $150,000 for infringement,’ and they’re, like, ‘Well, I don’t want to lose my house... so I’m not going to do anything; I’m just going to let the content bully win.’”

New Media Rights (NMR) is one of the few programs in the country that offer one-to-one, free legal assistance to Internet users and creators. Since 2005, NMR had been a program of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN), the well-regarded public-interest watchdog group, but NMR separated this year as political infighting and alleged financial mismanagement brought UCAN to its knees. NMR has found a new nonprofit home at California Western School of Law and a new physical home at the Ansir Innovation Center in Kearny Mesa. Now, with a solid foundation, NMR is prepared to move forward in not only championing the rights of bloggers like Petrelis, but also musicians, filmmakers and programmers.

A two-lawyer operation working on a budget of less than $135,000— hardly a competitive salary for one corporate intellectual-property attorney—NMR now has the administrative resources of the university, as well as a stable of law students eager for legal-clinic experience. That was a big part of the sell for Cal Western.

Neill says the idea for NMR began while he was at law school in 2004. A musician on the side, he was looking for ways to blend his interests. Meanwhile, social media was beginning to show its potential. “Certainly, this generation of students coming into law school have a great deal of personal experience with this,” Associate Dean for Academic Affairs William Aceves says. “I think for students to be able to learn more about how the law regulates their communication, their email usage, their Internet usage, their Facebook and Twitter accounts, I think that’s particularly interesting to them, and also gives them a chance to actually enhance their skills set with substantive law by working on real cases with real clients.”

“I realized that all of that stuff implicates the law,” he says. “I realized that there’s millions of folks that are just going to need to have more awareness of the laws they’re interacting with when they share content, when they’re out there speaking on the web.”

After graduation, Neill found a receptive outlet at UCAN and its then-director, Michael Shames, who’d begun to field calls from local businesses and artists on web matters.

“The musicians, the artists, they’re all wandering through this sort of Internet wilderness that has developed,” Shames says. “The rules, the laws are not clear, and they’re not clearly enforced. So, creating New Media Rights was the means by which we could sort of try to bring order and provide some degree of sheriffing to what otherwise was a Wild West frontier, and, to this day, still is.”

Shaun Spalding and Art Neill are the dynamic duo at New Media Rights.

Scrolling through his database, Neill counts hundreds of individuals who’ve been helped, including the high-profile case of Canadian-American pop-culture critic Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, whose music-video-style commentary on video-game characters, “Too Many Dicks,” was inexplicably removed from YouTube in early 2011. But Neill says that roughly 30 percent of NMR’s interactions are with locals, whether it’s helping freelance artproject manager Susan Myrland recapture a personal website that had been taken over by spammers or representing a San Diego app developer when his word game for Android devices was removed from the online store after Hasbro filed a complaint.

In that case, Neill went head-to head with the corporation’s legal team, explaining in detail how the game didn’t infringe on Scrabble. Hasbro backed down, but some of the damage was already done.

“A few weeks after they had withdrawn their DMCA notice, they actually launched Scrabble on the Android platform,” says David Almilli, CEO of Second Breakfast Studios. “I’m not sure if it was a tactic to disrupt my ecosystem to make their app look like a better player on the Android market, but I had a good number of users using Wordsmith, and it actually dropped significantly during that month of down time.”

Much of NMR’s work is geared toward preventive lawyering—that is, educating media creators to prepare in advance so they don’t need an attorney later. This is particularly important when an artist or writer intends to publish something they foresee could invite pushback.

Trolls “are going to find that one thing and that’s what’s going to give you a lot of problems,” says NMR’s other staff attorney, Shaun Spalding. “General resources can’t help with that. I’m pretty happy I’m able to use how much I know about board games, movies, video games for an actual purpose of helping someone else, and not just for doing well in trivia contests.”

NMR regularly receives grants for outreach through the California Consumer Protection Foundation and was recently awarded an $18,200 grant from city of San Diego’s Small Business Enhancement Program to work with 30 local businesses and host a series of workshops. The organization is also prolific in producing instructional web videos, including its 120-part “LAGD” (Legal Assistance for Game Developers) series, which features interviews with popular game designers, such as Edmund McMillen of Super Meat Boy (a central figure in the 2012 documentary Indie Game). NMR is crowd-funding now for “Season 2” of LAGD.

Then there’s NMR’s policy work. Neill and Spalding are gearing up for a battle over the implementation of a small-claims-court system for copyright infringement cases. At the end of November, Neill provided testimony at a U.S. Copyright Office hearing on the concept, which he says may not be a bad thing, but, done haphazardly, could be catastrophic.

“There’s a lot folks at the table saying, ‘Hey, we want to be able to sue Internet users, and we want to be able to sue people for copyright infringement,’ but there’s not a lot of people saying, ‘Well, wait, what are the consequences of that?’” Neill says. “Should these folks have the right to defend themselves? Shouldn’t they have representation? Aren’t there going to be a lot of dolphins caught in the tuna net, getting screwed in this process? [We’re there] to make sure there’s due process, that the process is fair, and this isn’t just some new way where large media companies or copyright holders can simply steamroll the little guy.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

News of the World's Former Top Lawyer Arrested

News of the World's Former Top Lawyer Arrested
August 30, 2012
Wall Street Journal

LONDON—British police on Thursday arrested the former top lawyer at News Corp.'s News of the World tabloid on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, a person with knowledge of the matter said, marking one of the most high-profile arrests in a continuing police probe into wrongdoing at the shuttered tabloid.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed Thursday that officers investigating illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World had arrested a 60-year-old man and brought him in for questioning at a South London police station, but the force declined to identify the suspect.

A person with knowledge of the situation, however, identified the person as Tom Crone, the lawyer who served as the News of the World's in-house counsel for more than 25 years until News Corp. closed the weekly tabloid at the apex of the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011.

A call to Mr. Crone went unanswered mid-day Thursday.

The 60-year-old lawyer became one of the phone-hacking saga's most visible figures last year when he and former News of the World editor Colin Myler broke ranks with their former employer to dispute an element of News Corp. executive James Murdoch's testimony to a parliamentary committee.

Messrs. Crone and Myler said they had informed Mr. Murdoch in 2008 of a controversial email whose contents suggested the practice of hacking mobile-phone voicemails went beyond what the company had initially admitted. But Mr. Murdoch said he hadn't been informed of the email's contents at the time and learned the scope of the wrongdoing at the paper only in late 2010, a position he reiterated upon further questioning.

A spokeswoman for News International, the U.K. newspaper unit of News Corp., declined to comment on Thursday's arrest. She didn't say whether the company is paying Mr. Crone's legal bills. News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Crone was a veteran lawyer on Fleet Street. He often vetted the News of the World's raciest stories ahead of publication and went to court to defend the paper against high-profile libel claims brought by celebrities.

The longtime News of the World lawyer was one of three people the U.K. Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee censured in a May report for misleading Parliament during hearings on the phone-hacking matter.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

U.S. Attorney: Members Felt Filner 'Embarrassed Himself' at Temple Forum

It's okay to lie, but not okay to call someone a liar? I think Laura Duffy should also have apologized to Filner for Carl DeMaio's making a false statement about Filner's pension.

U.S. Attorney: Members Felt Filner 'Embarrassed Himself' at Temple Forum
October 18, 2012
Voice of San Diego

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, the federal government's top law enforcement official in San Diego, was not very happy with U.S. Rep. Bob Filner Sunday.

Filner appeared with his rival for the mayor's office Carl DeMaio at Temple Emanu-El Sunday in a forum designed to let a number of candidates speak and take questions from the audience. Duffy, as a member of the temple, helped organize the event. She was not working in her capacity as head of the Justice Department's presence in San Diego.

The candidates had been told not to treat it as a debate. Filner, Duffy told me, "had issues."

"I know the event that was intended and it went far afield from what he was invited to do and I was sorry to see that happen," she told me.

Wherever Filner took it, DeMaio helped him get there. DeMaio challenged Filner to say he would not take a city pension if elected mayor. DeMaio said it would be a $120,000 pension and cited a Voice of San Diego report, which actually shows the majority of that pension would not come from the city.

DeMaio didn't mention that part.

It set Filner off.

"I wanted this to be a civil debate, but he's a liar. He knows he's a liar," Filner said from the podium at the temple. DeMaio's team posted a video of the exchange here.

Duffy sent an email apologizing to DeMaio's campaign, which the campaign then passed on to reporters. It was underneath an email with story ideas and links to that YouTube video and others.

Campaign Manager Ryan Clumpner claims forwarding the email to reporters was inadvertent. It showed Duffy was not pleased with Filner in the apology she sent DeMaio's team.

"Our apologies that Filner had to be admonished about his uncivil 'debate-style' remarks," Duffy wrote in the email to a DeMaio aide, Tommy Knepper. "If it is any consultation (sic), I heard more than one temple member express their view that he embarrassed himself and that they thought Carl appeared far more mature and capable of addressing the challenges San Diego faces."

If Filner was guilty of making “’debate-style’ remarks,” it’s hard to see how DeMaio didn’t also bend the rules (though he kept a cooler head)...

Judicial temperament? Facebook posts, lawsuit raise judgment issues in election for San Diego judge

Kudos to reporter Miriam Raftery for this important article. By shedding light on Jim Miller's actions, this information helped the Lincoln Club's decision to switch its endorsement to Robert Amador, Stirling reveals.

By Miriam Raftery
East County Magazine
May 30, 2012
San Diego

Accusations are flying in the contentious race for San Diego Superior Court seat 25. Candidate Jim Miller has been removed as a Judge Pro Tem by the Superior Court—and now he’s crying foul.

Miller claims he’s a victim of dirty politics. He’s accused one of his opponents, Robert Amador, of involvement in his ouster, a claim denied by Amador, who previously sued Miller over ballot statement claims.

Miller maintains he knows of no legitimate reason for the court to remove him from its list of approved Judges Pro Tem.

Posts on Miller’s Facebook page, however reveal some intemperate remarks made about cases he heard while serving as a Judge Pro Tem--as well as barbed criticisms of local attorneys, judges, and parties in cases he handled as a lawyer.

Some of the remarks appear to violate California’s judicial canon of ethics, which prohibit judges from discussing pending cases including cases which could be appealed. The rules also require judges to maintain impartiality, avoid the appearance of bias, and refrain from political activities.

Use of social media by judges and attorneys is among the hottest ethics issues today in the legal profession, according to Wendy Patrick, a legal ethics expert.

At a panel on legal ethics presented by Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego in April 2011 (Miller's alma mater), Justice Richard Huffman of the Fourth District Appeals Court told attendees that "it is unethical to publicly discuss any pending case, whether it is yours or not. Social media is becoming a problem for judges who should ask themselves - `what does this look like?'" He reminded those present that "a judge must disclose any fact where a reasonable person may believe a judge cannot be impartial."

While serving as Judge Pro Tem, Miller discussed facts of a case in mid-hearing. The dispute involved two sisters suing each other over an attack.

“One was in post pardum [cq] depression and living with her own husband and family at the home of the other sister’s ex husband who is/was not paying child support,” Miller wrote, among other personal details of the case divulged. He likened the scenario to the Jerry Springer or Judge Judy televisions hows.

After winning a custody case in which he represented the father, he referred to the mother in these derogatory terms: “This mom was a piece of…”

He called one local lawyer “a shining example of a greedy unprepared attorney…”

He also blasted law enforcement. “If this CHPer was a “good guy” he wouldn’t have to lie his butt off to get a conviction,” Miller said of an officer who testified in cell phone ticket case that Miller handled for a friend.

He went on to complain that “The commissioner will not hear anymore cases from me as she seems more concerned with her own version of the law than what it says and what the facts are."

Miller even criticized judges, a taboo in the legal profession.

“I bet you didn’t know that the CA Supreme Court a few days ago wiped out a century of law that protects those injured in accidents and handed billions to the insurance industry,” he wrote, calling the decision a "low point” and a “horrible decision.”

He railed against a PETA lawsuit against Sea World, noting “I hope the judge who gets this case tosses it out as fast as procedure allows.”

Miller criticized Governor Jerry Brown for a bill he signed, noting, “I don’t know the constitutional rational for granting it.” He slammed President Barack Obama for not deporting illegal immigrants. He also expressed political views on the war and on Pakistan.

In addition, Miller took pot-shots at his opponents as “retread government lawyers.”

To say that Miller and Amador have run a less than amicable race would be a severe understatement. Amador filed a lawsuit against Miller over claims made in his ballot statement; Miller in turn has accused Amador of committing perjury.

Miller, Schaefer, Foothills Bar Assocation's Mark Raftery, and Amador

Amador contacted ECM yesterday to state that during an interview with the UT San Diego editorial board at which all three candidates were present (Amador, Miller, and George Schaefer), Miller was asked if he had been delisted as a Judge Pro Tem.

“That was shocking to Mr. Schaefer and I,” Amador told ECM.

ECM contacted both the court and Miller for comment.

“I can confirm that he is no longer on the Pro Tem list,” said Karen Dalton, public affairs officer at the San Diego Superior Court. Dalton said she was unable to disclose why Miller was no longer on the list, nor what reasons would warrant removal of a Pro Tem judge from the list.

Miller advised ECM that he been on the list from 2008 until late April. “I believe someone is playing gamesmanship with me in an election year,” he said.

Asked if he has been the subject of any complaints or disciplinary action as a Judge Pro Tem, Miller replied, “No.” He further defended his record:“I have never had a decision that I made as Pro Tem overturned on a de novo appeal.”

Then he blasted his opponent. “I am not happy with Mr. Amador’s gamesmanship or the reach of the D.A.’’s office onto our bench.”

Amador has spent 29 years as a prosecutor in the San Diego District Attorney’s office. He disputed Miller’s assertion. “No one from the D.A.’s office had anything to do with the Superior Court,” he said, adding that his first inkling of Miller’s delisting came at the UT San Diego editorial board meeting. “As with ost things with Mr. Miller, when things don’t go his way, his response is to attack and blame rather than to accept responsibility.

In a judicial candidate forum last week hosted by Foothills Bar Association, Miller first raised allegations of political bias by suggesting that a “lacking qualifications” rating of his candidacy by the San Diego Bar Association reflected a bias toward “government lawyers.”

Both Amador Schaefer, have backgrounds as prosecutors with district attorneys’ offices. Amador is a career prosecutor; Schaefer has worked both as a prosecutor and public defender. Both received “well qualified” ratings. Miller, by contrast, is an El Cajon attorney in private practice who has run a campaign centered around a need for judges with backgrounds in family and civil law.

Amador filed a lawsuit seeking to force Miller to remove key information from his ballot statement. “Mr. Miller has tried to imply that he has a significant amount of judicial experience when he does not,” said Amador. “We did discovery and found that he has only been a Judge Pro Tem a total of 23 times…he hasn’t been an arbitrator for three years..”

Miller’s ballot statement lists him as an attorney and arbitrator. Amador sought to have the term arbitrator removed. Amador also asked to have Miller’s experience as a Judge Pro Tem removed, but the Judge ruled that Miller had a right to include both in his ballot statement.

“Mr. Amador committed perjury in his lawsuit against me,” Miller charged.

Amador denies that, adding, “The judge found he [Miller] made false and misleading statements .” Indeed, the Judge ruled that Miller’s claim of 440,000 votes in 2010 was “misleading” because he apparently combined votes in the Primary and General elections. In addition, Miller closed his statement by referring “a judge from San Diego, for San Diego,” which the court required be changed to a “judicial candidate.”...

Mr. Miller contacted us after this story ran to clarify that he did not intend to suggest Mr. Amador committed perjury, but rather to state that “If Mr.Ottilie was to be believed in his version of the conversation than Mr. Amador committed perjury,” a reference to Miller’s attorney, Bob Ottillie.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lincoln Club reverses its endorsement of unqualified candidate for superior court

I posted about this bizarre election HERE.

Someone apparently convinced the Lincoln Club that they were already far enough to the right without endorsing a crackpot.

Lincoln Club Reverses Miller Endorsement, Switches Support To Amador
October 11, 2012
By Ryann Grochowski

A prominent pro-business political club reversed its endorsement of attorney, Jim Miller Jr., for a seat on the Superior Court bench after it discovered Miller had not been forthright about his credentials.

The board of the San Diego Lincoln Club voted instead to support the other candidate in the race, veteran prosecutor Robert Amador.

The group’s Wednesday night decision is the latest twist in the only judicial election on the ballot next month. Campaigns for judge are usually low-key races, but the race for seat 25 has attracted endorsements from local tea parties, been the subject of a lawsuit and sparked debate on illegal immigration.

The issue of qualifications has been front and center: the San Diego County Bar Association rated Miller “lacking qualifications” and Amador “well-qualified.”

The Lincoln Club revoked its endorsement of Miller, an attorney in private practice in El Cajon, after it discovered Miller had misled the club about being removed from the county’s list of pro-tem, or fill-in, judges.

In a statement, the club said, “Mr. Miller failed to mention the adverse action on the club’s questionnaire and later misrepresented the facts when asked to comment on the allegations in private. Such conduct does not meet the high ethical standards that Lincoln Club members believe are required for judicial officers.”

Miller was quoted in an I-Newsource/KBPS story last month, saying he was removed from the pro-tem list in the spring, but that the court did not provide him with a reason for the dismissal.

Miller, who has been endorsed by the San Diego County Republican Party and local tea parties, e-mailed a comment.

“I am attempting to discuss the matter directly with the club,” he said. “I hold the Lincoln Club in high respect but think, without hesitation, they are working off of incorrect information. No one should consider this issue over for now.”

Miller’s campaign for judge highlights his “outsider” status and is critical of the large number of former prosecutors on the bench. He ran for Superior Court in 2010 on essentially the same platform and only narrowly lost.

The Lincoln Club, a political organization that supports business-friendly candidates, had originally endorsed Miller in March after interviews with both candidates. Though Superior Court races are nonpartisan, it is common for political groups to make endorsements.

Above: Bob Amador, candidate for San Diego Superior Court Judge No. 25 Larry Stirling, a club member and retired Superior Court judge, said revoking an endorsement is unusual but not unprecedented. He could not recall specifics.

“We were presented with additional information after the initial endorsement,” he said.“We checked at great length and we became concerned that the initial endorsement needed to be changed.”

The club received confirmation of Miller’s removal from the Superior Court, but the court would not reveal the reason behind the removal.

The Lincoln Club donated $2,500 to Miller’s campaign on Sept. 27, according to campaign finance filings. Stirling said the club would not ask Miller to return the money.

“We made a contribution in due course, and that was before we were able to confirm the information that caused us to reverse,” Stirling said.

As far as the endorsement, however, Stirling said the Lincoln Club had no choice once they determined Miller had misrepresented facts.

“We could have let it go and just crossed our fingers, but we felt that we had a responsibility to the voting public to tell them what we knew about it and urge them to change their vote,” Stirling said.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Amador was pleased with the club’s decision. Amador is also a Republican, but has the support of people on both sides of the political aisle, as well as much of the legal community’s establishment.

“A judge or judicial candidate’s ethics should be beyond question,” Amador said. “Apparently the Lincoln Club was misled by Mr. Miller, but they followed up and had the courage to change their endorsement. I thank them for the support and endorsement.”

On Oct. 9, Miller wrote a post on his campaign’s Facebook page, thanking the Lincoln Club for their support. The post was removed on Thursday.

Amador, a 29-year veteran of the county district attorney’s office, has raised nearly $115,000 in outside contributions this election, about $53,000 more than Miller. Amador sued Miller in the primary over ballot language. And though immigration is not a subject within the purview of Superior Court judges, it has played a part in Miller’s campaign. Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, primary sponsor of SB 1070, the state’s strict anti-illegal immigration bill, appeared at a fundraiser for Miller in April.

There are more than 110 active Superior Court judges in San Diego County. Some are appointed by the governor and then subject to election by the voters. Others, like Amador and Miller, run for an open seat outright. Judges serve six-year terms.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

San Diego Judges keep car perks

Judges shouldn't have their compensation cut. There is no fat to cut in the courts, but slabs of it are kept out of sight in other agencies. The State Parks and Recreation Department was caught sitting on $54 Million in extra funds while 70 state parks across California struggled to stay open. Since the Parks Department only had a $22 million budget shortfall, that leaves $32 million that could be given to the courts. Furthermore, I think judges' pay should be raised; then we could replace some of the floundering judges with more competent jurists.

Judges keep car perks
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Sep 25, 2012

Through a summer-long media blitz, San Diego County Superior Court officials warned the public about drastic, near-cataclysmic reductions in services on the horizon.

“The cuts envisioned by our budget reduction plan will affect every judge, court employee and ultimately the litigants, court users and citizens in San Diego County,” Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta said in a June statement. “These cuts will significantly reduce or eliminate access to our court system and are devastating to those of us who have worked so hard to convince the Governor and Legislature that such cuts threaten the stability of our third branch of government.”

The California budget crisis has trickled down to the local justice level, with the San Diego County court looking to make up a $33-million shortfall in what had been a $190-million budget. The court was ordered to drain its rainy-day reserves—roughly $22 million—leaving $11 million left to slice in the coming fiscal year, with even bigger cuts predicted in the next cycles.

As fall arrives, the court has begun shutting down outlying courtrooms, shortening hours, laying off some employees and furloughing others.

But the Superior Court did not cut one line item: nearly $1 million per year in transportation allowances set aside for judges and executive managers.

San Diego judges each receive $572 per month ($6,864 annually) in car stipends, while the presiding judge, assistant presiding judge and supervising judges each collect $674 per month ($8,088 annually).

Between the 126 current judges, that’s $903,427 per year in vehicle allowances. Nine administrators collected a combined $59,472 per year, bringing the figure to $962,899. Another $8,281 was reimbursed for out-of-county travel.

The 24-year-old practice is particular to San Diego County as a carryover from when the county government paid for the courts and the benefit was tied to the Board of Supervisors’ compensation package. Now, the state funds the court, and there’s no mandate from Sacramento to provide these vehicle allowances...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another crazy election for San Diego Superior Court judge

I agree with Bonnie Dumanis on this one, “I think what we are seeing now is an assault on the judiciary.”

Judging San Diego’s Judicial Candidates (Video)
By Ryann Grochowski
September 17, 2012

...Vying for a seat on the Superior Court bench is veteran prosecutor Robert Amador who has judges, lawyers, Democrats and Republicans on his side. His opponent is Jim Miller Jr., a private practitioner from El Cajon who touts his diverse legal experience and conservative credentials.

Who to vote for? The county bar association is pressing to be the credible voice. It rated Amador well qualified and Miller not qualified. Some of the most high-profile legal names in the county are urging voters to pay attention to the bar. Miller and the Republican Party, though, say not so fast: there is more to the story.

A crowd gathered early one Monday evening late last month to eat hors d'oeuvres, drink cocktails and write checks for Amador.

There was an urgency among the dozens of lawyers and judges. They said they want to ensure voters don’t make the same mistake they made in June: electing a candidate the county bar association deemed as “lacking qualifications.”

“I’m as guilty as probably a lot of us in this room for taking that race for granted,” county Sheriff William Gore told the crowd. “And we saw what happened. We can’t let that happen again.”

“What happened” was the election of Gary Kreep, a conservative, constitutional lawyer in private practice and member of the “birther” movement. He beat prosecutor Garland Peed by less than 2,000 votes.

That race for county judge became known across the country as the one with the funny name: Kreep versus Peed. National political commentator Rachel Maddow came to tears with laughter as she described it.

But the people at the fundraiser for deputy district attorney Amador weren’t laughing.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told the group: “I think what we are seeing now is an assault on the judiciary.”

In California, Superior Court is the official name for the county-level court that presides over civil, criminal, family, juvenile and probate cases. Superior Court judges can decide life in prison, they can assess millions of dollars in damages and they can decide custody of children.

There are more than 110 active Superior Court judges in San Diego County. Some are appointed by the governor and then subject to election by the voters. Others, like Amador and Miller, run for an open seat outright. Judges serve six-year terms.

Amador, who is 55 and a 29-year deputy district attorney, says he is the best candidate because he has proven himself in tough situations, including the prosecution of a death penalty case. By his count, he has handled more than 100 jury trials and 250 court trials. He admits to a lack of experience in the civil realm, but believes his criminal law expertise carries over to civil cases.

“I think until you’ve actually done a lot of things in the criminal justice system, you’re not really prepared to be a judge,” he said.

Miller, 42, is an attorney in El Cajon specializing in family law, a practice he took over after his father’s unexpected death in 2009. Miller’s legal experience is broad; he emphasizes his work in the five areas of the county court. He touts his “outsider” status with pride. He believes his civil law background is sorely needed in courts overrun with judges who were once prosecutors and other government attorneys.

“They don’t want somebody coming in who’s going to upset their apple cart,” he said.

Miller and his wife have four children. His eldest stepdaughters graduated from his alma mater, Valhalla High School in El Cajon.

...A registered Republican, Amador has some support from the other side -- the county Democratic party, while not endorsing Amador, passed a resolution advising Democrats not to vote for Miller. His list of endorsements includes high-profile members of both parties, as well as independents.

Miller is backed by the county and state Republican Party, the Lincoln Club of San Diego and many local tea party groups, including the Chula Vista Patriots and the Fallbrook Tea Party. Miller said he was happy to see Kreep, a tea party-backed constitutional lawyer who does not believe President Obama is a U.S. citizen, elected to the bench...

Jim Miller Jr.
Age: 42

Education: Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego State University

Bar Rating: Lacking qualifications
Key Endorsements: Republican Party of San Diego, Lincoln Club of San Diego, California Republican Party, councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, several tea party organizations.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stenographers to be cut from some San Diego Superior Court courtrooms

Justice slips further out of reach for lower middle class and poor people.

Stenographers to be cut from some courtrooms
North County Times
September 10, 2012

Important note: Starting Sept. 3, the San Diego Superior Court will close all business offices on Friday afternoons...

San Diego Superior Court officials said that by Nov. 1, budget cuts will force them to stop providing stenographic reporters in courtrooms that handle many civil cases.

And by January or so, court reporters may also disappear from some family law court hearings, where divorce and child custody matters are addressed.

Court officials will cut the jobs of 41 stenographic reporters, commonly called court reporters, who take verbatim notes of hearings. And without the reporters, there will be no record of who said what in court proceedings, which are already adversarial by nature.

Critics of the planned layoffs say not having a verbatim record troubles them, more so if there is no such record in the high-stakes personal cases, such as those dealing with child custody.

Without a verbatim record of the proceedings, litigants are hamstrung if they need to appeal. There will be no clear record to provide to the appellate court to review a judicial ruling. Also, having no record reduces a litigant's ammunition in a complaint about poor performance by an attorney or a judge in the courtroom.

So any party to a civil who wants a record will have to pay to hire a freelance court reporter. Can't afford it? Too bad. There will be no verbatim record of the proceedings.

Not everyone can afford to bring in a freelance court reporter, particularly those who are acting as their own attorneys in order to save money, critics said.

"The loss of court reporters in civil proceedings is going to put access to justice out of reach for average San Diegans. Shifting the cost of justice to those who can least afford it is an inappropriate solution to the state's budget problem," said David Garcias, the president of the local union representing the reporters at the local courts, in an emailed statement to the North County Times.

Even without court reporters, courtroom clerks will keep a record of rulings by the judge. But exactly what the judge said to attorneys, and exactly what a witness said on the stand, will be lost.

And forget about tape recording the civil proceedings for an official record. State law does not allow it.

Stenographic reporters and the service they provide will be the latest victims of the court's budget cuts, as officials look to reduce spending by $11 million this fiscal year, which started July 1. The courts will save about $6 million by slashing a third of the 120 or so of its court reporter jobs, said Michael Roddy, the executive director of San Diego Superior Court, which runs the county courts...

Eleven court reporters agreed to an early retirement and 30 court reporters will be laid off, Roddy said. Most will be gone by November. Other layoffs will probably take effect in January, he said.

"Court reporters play an invaluable role in providing checks and balances. These cuts put us one step closer to a two-tiered system of justice which offers transparency only to those who can afford it," said union board member Jim Partridge, who is also a stenographic reporter in the local courts, in an emailed statement to the North County Times.

Citing budget cuts, officials earlier this month shut down Vista's probate court and Ramona's small courthouse. They also closed court business offices at noon each Friday, and opened Vista's traffic court an hour later each weekday, at 8:30 a.m.

By next summer, local court officials said they plan to shut down small-claims offices and courtrooms in all branch courts ---- including Vista ---- in anticipation of deeper cuts in the fiscal year starting in July...

However, the courts are required to provide a court reporter for criminal matters.

Roddy said court officials are still working to keep the reporters in family courts as often as possible, citing concerns of local judges...

In about 90 percent of all cases in family court, at least one side does not have an attorney, usually because they can't afford one...

Court reporters use a special machine as they take verbatim notes in shorthand in the courtroom. Many of the reporters are also able to plug into a judge's computer to give the judge a real-time transcript of who said what. Many judges often refer to the live transcription during hearings, sometimes doing so as they make decisions regarding objections raised by lawyers.

In cutting court reporters, San Diego is following the blueprint laid out by Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, which cut court-reporter jobs in recent years.

Overall, officials say they will cut $11 million, or 5.8 percent of the budget. But next year, San Diego courts face a 17 percent revenue cut, with no reserves to help. Officials say courtroom closures and service cuts are required to operate the court system on a $157 million budget next year...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Crazy county judge makes Lubbock a national laughingstock

Gov. Rick Perry shakes hands with County Judge Tom Head. Note Head's Bugs Bunny tie. (Photo:

Missed the video that started this “war”? Here it is.

‘Crazy county judge makes Lubbock a national laughingstock
Rick Dunham
August 2012

That'll be the day...

Where is Buddy Holly when you need him?

Instead of one of the greatest Texas singers of all time, Lubbock is now known nationally (and internationally) for the words of a local Republican politician who declared that President Obama’s re-election might trigger a civil war and a United Nations invasion of Texas.

There were two basic reactions to the words of Lubbock County Judge Tom Head, which became a YouTube sensation after he uttered them on a local Fox TV affiliate: Did he really say those things? (Yep!) And what should we do about it? (Dunno.)

“It’s really up to Judge (Tom) Head to do the right thing and resign and stop embarrassing Lubbock County,” Lubbock County Democratic chair Kenny Ketner told CNN. “I wish we were getting worldwide attention for something better than a crazy county judge. But what are you going to do?”

If you’re the Texas Democratic Party, you definitely know what to do. State Democratic chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued a blistering statement questioning, among other things, the county judge’s “mental competency.”

“Judge Head’s statements on the United Nations invasion raise serious questions about his mental competency to hold elected office,” Hinojosa declared. “[Senate nominee] Ted Cruz is clearly in good company. Republican crazies have now taken over the Lubbock County courthouse.”

Hinojosa said Head’s talk is “not only ridiculous, it’s dangerous. It’s crystal clear that Judge Head should resign.”

In case you haven’t been near a computer, Head became a household name from Dallas to Dubai when he predicted a United Nations invasion of the Lone Star State if Barack Obama wins re-election this fall.

“I’m thinking the worst,” he told Fox34. “Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war, maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations. We’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.”

In response to Head’s warnings, Lubbock lawyer Rod Hobson adorned the outside of his Lubbock office with U.N. flags to express his horror (or sense of humor).

“”Well you can either laugh or you can cry. When I saw the story I thought, once again, Lubbock is going to be the laughingstock of the entire nation,” Hobson told Fox34. “It’s like the light’s on, but no one is home. … I’d just like to think he’s off his meds.”

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats (suffering perhaps from Todd Akin overload) shifted their sights to Texas’ own Republican embarrassment.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions here,” Texas Democratic chair Hinojosa continued. “Does Judge Head expect the United Nations to come in riding a couple of combines? Does Lubbock also need an Air Force? A Navy? Will the revenues from this tax increase be put into a dedicated account to fight the U.N. invasion? Will the money be returned to taxpayers if the U.N. army doesn’t make it into Lubbock County? What will happen if the Sweetwater militia defeats the vicious blue-beanie peace-keepers before they reach Lubbock?”

Head, meanwhile, tried to clarify his views at a Wednesday meeting of his commissioners court.

“My remarks yesterday, worst case scenario in my opinion, and how do you prepare for it,” he said, according to Fox34. “Do I think those are going to happen, probably not.”

...Hinojosa couldn’t resist a low blow aimed at fair-and-balanced Fox News.

“I guess this is what happens when you get all your information from Fox News,” the Democratic chief concluded. “This would be truly funny if it were a skit on SNL. The fact that these were serious utterances by a supposedly responsible elected official make the entire episode horribly sad, but unfortunately, not even slightly unusual in today’s Republican Party.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Deloitte says accountant's suicide unrelated to Standard Chartered

Deloitte says accountant's suicide unrelated to Standard Chartered
Aug 19, 2012

Deloitte LLP said Sunday that the suicide of a New York accountant was unrelated to work for British bank Standard Chartered Plc.

Daniel Pirron, 57, was found dead of a gunshot to the head on August 13 after a passerby noticed the body in a Fairfield, Connecticut parking lot, a Fairfield Police spokeswoman said Sunday. A .38-caliber handgun, found near his body, was registered to Pirron.

Pirron worked as an accountant in the general counsel's office of Deloitte in New York City. In the wake of the death, The Telegraph newspaper in London suggested there was a link between Pirron's death and Deloitte's work for Standard Chartered, which drew the scrutiny of New York's banking regulator.

Standard Chartered on August 14 settled with the New York Department of Financial Services for $340 million after an inquiry into the bank's transactions tied to Iran. That inquiry had questioned work Deloitte had done for the bank. Deloitte has said its work was proper.

In a statement, a Deloitte spokesman on Sunday said, "Dan was a highly respected member of our office of general counsel who made many contributions to our firm. However, Dan was not involved in any way on our work for Standard Chartered Bank. Our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time."

In an interview, Daniel Pirron's older brother, Michael, said Daniel had shown no sign he was considering suicide and that the timing of his brother's death raised questions as to whether it was related to work for Deloitte.

Michael Pirron said he didn't know specifically the cases his brother was handling for Deloitte. Michael Pirron said his brother was the main financial supporter for two daughters who are approximately 22 and 24 years old. "He loved his work," Michael Pirron said.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Birther Gary Kreep pays to hoodwink voters, then denies being elected by uninformed voters

How much more proof do we need that judges should be appointed, not elected? We now have a judge who got elected by deceptive campaign tactics. How can we expect him to uphold the law?

Gary Kreep paid to fool voters, then denied that his win was a result of uninformed electorate

ELECTION: Kreep says right-wing views won't affect rulings as judge
June 23, 2012

Voters in San Diego County appear to have elected a conservative activist lawyer to a judgeship with the San Diego Superior Court.

Gary Kreep, 61 ---- known for taking on right-wing causes ---- said Friday that his views will not color his decisions on the bench.

According to the unofficial tally, Kreep surpassed his opponent, veteran prosecutor Garland Peed, by 1,702 votes in a judicial contest in which more than 406,000 ballots were cast. Kreep garnered 50.21 percent of the votes to Peed's 49.79 percent.

The result caught political observers by surprise, because prosecutors tend to be shoo-in candidates in judicial races....

Kreep says he used old-fashioned methods ---- shoe leather and slate mailers ---- to reach out to voters. He even ended up on a slate mailer urging voters to back Obama...

He credits grass-roots supporters, robo-calls, endorsements and slate mailers in a campaign he said he financed with about $55,000 of his own money.

As for those slate mailers, in an effort to reach out to Democratic voters, it turned out he bought into one with an Obama endorsement. It was especially ironic because, as an attorney, Kreep has worked on a couple of federal civil suits challenging Obama's eligibility to be president based on his birthplace.

Dismissing criticism

The San Diego County Bar Association rated Kreep as "lacking qualifications" to become a judge, a rating Kreep disputed as a decision rooted in politics.

He dismissed criticisms by people who said his apparent win is the result of an uninformed electorate.

"That implies that the voters are too stupid to know who they are voting for. That is an elitist, obnoxious view," Kreep said...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Jacques Rivera, Man Who Spent 21 Years In Prison On Wrongful Conviction, Sues Chicago Police

Jacques Rivera, Man Who Spent 21 Years In Prison On Wrongful Conviction, Sues Chicago Police
Huffington Post

Jacques Rivera, 47, was released from prison last fall.

A Chicago man who served 21 years in prison on a murder charge for which he was later exonerated filed suit Thursday against the city of Chicago and its police department.

Attorneys representing Jacques Rivera, 47, claim that Chicago police falsified evidence and manipulated a witness before their client was convicted in 1988 of fatally shooting Felix Valentin, a gang member, and sentenced to serve 80 years in a maximum security prison.

Locke Bowman, an attorney whose firm is representing Rivera, said his client "suffered a grave injustice at the hands of Chicago police" and deserves to be compensated for it, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Last fall, the purported crime's only eyewitness recanted his testimony that identified Rivera as the killer. The charges were dropped and Rivera was, essentially, a free man again. The witness, Orlando Lopez, was 12 years old at the time of the alleged crime.

Bowman further described such behavior leading to wrongful convictions as "a pattern with the Chicago Police Department," NBC Chicago reports.

"The Police Department has never investigated any of these cases or disciplined an officer despite clear, egregious misconduct in many of these cases," Bowman said, according to NBC. "That's simply unacceptable."

Rivera's case was the subject of over a decade of work by the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

When Rivera, a former Latin King, was released from prison last October, he said he planned to work with inner-city youth. But HuffPost Chicago blogger David Protess, president of the Chicago Innocence Project, reports that Rivera has struggled to get on his feet since his release.

Specifically, he's been unable to attain the $199,150 in financial restitution he is seeking under Illinois law because Cook County prosecutors have called on Rivera to further prove his innocence -- even after being exonerated.

The strange loophole is the subject of a bill proposed by state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).

"I'm not really free yet. At 47, I live with my mother to make ends meet and I can't afford a vehicle to get to a job or the events I've been asked to speak at," Rivera told Protess last month. "Prosecutors are doing everything they can to prevent me from living my life."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Melissa Lewis Joins Stutz Artiano's Employment Practice

Here's my question: if my website has damaged Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm's business so much that they felt they had to sue me for defamation, then why does it seem that Stutz is constantly adding more lawyers? How did Stutz calculate that it has suffered significant damage from my website and blogs?


Lewis Joins Stutz Artiano's Employment Practice
June 4, 2012

Melissa A. Lewis has joined the law firm of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz APC as an Associate. Ms. Lewis graduated Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Summa Cum Laude, Valedictorian. She is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, graduating with honors. Ms. Lewis joins the Employment Practice Group at Stutz Artiano, representing employers in all aspects of the employment relationship, including litigation, administrative hearings, advisory, development of policies and procedures, preparation of handbooks, employee and supervisor training and conducting internal investigations.

Discovery suddenly stayed in Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz defamation suit against this blogger

See all posts re Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz v. Maura Larkins

I got a minute order from the San Diego Superior Court in the mail today. The timing is very, very strange. The last hearing in the case was March 9, 2012--two months and three weeks ago. My discussion with Commander Darin Fotheringham in the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office two days ago is the only event that I can connect even remotely to this bolt out of the blue.

June 1, 2012

Commander Darin Fotheringham
Office of the Sheriff of Santa Barbara

Dear Commander Fotheringham:

I was amused that on the very day I contacted you about my subpoena for business records from the Sheriff of Santa Barbara showing that Deputy Michael Carlson and his sister Robin Donlan involved Chula Vista Elementary School District in criminal actions, Judge Judith Hayes suspended all discovery in the case at issue.

My, my. The timing is fascinating. No papers had been filed asking that discovery be stayed. In fact, no papers had been filed in this case for two months.

I bow to your amazing—what shall I call it?—luck, perhaps?


Maura Larkins

Note: I tried to fax the above letter to the fax number Commander Fotheringham gave me on May 30, 2012 for faxing the subpoena to him. My fax machine dialed the number, then the call was picked up. Next I heard a raspberry sound, and soon a man was telling me that if I'd like to make a call, I should hang up and dial again. I guess the guys who work for the Sheriff of Santa Barbara like to have fun. They seem to be really funny guys.

I think that it is highly unlikely that Commander Fotheringham or Sheriff Bill Brown contacted Judge Hayes. Here's the scenario I came up with for what most likely happened:

Commander Fotheringham may have talked to Michael Carlson. Michael Carlson went into cover-up mode (again). Carlson seems to have no remorse at all, not even for causing problems for the Sheriff of Santa Barbara. My guess is he thinks of himself as a victim. He has never indicated any regret for all the problems his actions caused to me, to my school district (including $100,000s in legal fees to defend Carlson's sister and others), and to the children in my school.

I imagine Michael Carlson would have called his attorney, Deborah Garvin, after Commander Fotheringham spoke to him. And perhaps his sister, Robin Donlan, who turned his misdemeanor into a huge mess for Chula Vista Elementary School District.

Deborah Garvin and Robin Donlan would probably each have contacted Dan Shinoff of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, with whom they worked in the earlier case involving Carlson.

And that's where the chain of likely events gets murky for me. What happened next???? I'm simply unable to conjure an explanation for what could have happened.

The minute order I received from Judge Hayes says that discovery is stayed.

But actually it's a lot more complicated. Hayes also finally made a decision about two of the three March 9, 2012 motions. After almost three months of silence, she finally denied my motion to set aside the summary adjudication, even though I was able to provide documentary evidence proving that the decision was deeply flawed.

For the past two months and three weeks she pretended that discovery was open--even gave us a discovery cut-off date--but obviously it was never really open, since the summary adjudication was never set aside. I suspected that I would be shut down the minute I started discovery, so I gave myself a long vacation (including a month in Washington DC) and waited as long as possible to start discovery.

Judge Hayes is still delaying (until August 27, 2012) her decision on Stutz' motion to strike my answer. There is absolutely no case law to support such a decision in a case with a history like this one. San Diego County Office of Education has also refused to allow discovery in this case. It even hired Stutz law firm to make sure Diane Crosier didn't have to take a deposition or produce documents. I recently filed a public records request to at least get the records.

Friday, June 1, 2012

VISTA: Students get a taste of justice

See all posts re Judge Richard Cline.

VISTA: Students get a taste of justice
August 03, 2011
North County Times

Twenty-six middle school students got a taste of justice at the Vista Courthouse Tuesday through a program that introduces them to the legal system.

One student defended herself against charges of theft, and was ultimately led away in handcuffs for drug possession. Another student, her alleged accomplice, sat silent on the advice of his attorneys. The accuser was reprimanded by the judge for name-calling on the witness stand.

The gifted and talented students, whom their instructor, Gregg Primeaux, called "future leaders of the community," were role-playing a trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Richard Cline, a co-founder of the civics curriculum, "On My Honor."

"I learned a lot about how the court works," said Miranda Colvin, 12, the seventh-grader from Aviara Oaks Middle School who played the defendant. "It was really fun because I got to put on handcuffs."

The program began in 1999 with a fourth-grade field trip to the courts, and expanded into a series of regionwide events, including "Youth in Court Day" and, more recently, the week-long summer symposium for gifted students. The programs are sponsored jointly by the San Diego Superior Court, the North County Bar Association, Cal State San Marcos, and local schools.

Cline said he developed the curriculum to supplement dwindling civics education, and counterbalance what he considers the poor depiction of judicial proceedings on television.

"It teaches students factual information about the (legal) process by participating in an active trial," Cline said. "And hopefully it teaches them respect for the law."

During the summer program, gifted students in grades 5-9 prepare a case with attorneys and judges, investigate case studies using technology labs, present legal arguments, debate complex issues, select jury members, explore rights and responsibilities as citizens, and take a tour of the court facilities.

"We wanted to bring a higher critical thinking opportunity for them during the summer, within the courts," Primeaux said, adding that the program aims to both cultivate legal literacy and inspire future legal professionals.

During the mock trial, a student, Emily, faced theft charges for allegedly stealing $200 of charitable donations from a teacher's desk during lunch hour. Fellow students testified that they suspected her of taking the cash, noting that they saw her in the classroom and watched her buy a new iPod.

However, they acknowledged they never saw her steal the money, and school administrators admitted that while they found the new iPod in her backpack, she told them she earned the money through odd jobs.

Throughout the mock trial, Cline offered judicial guidance on examining the evidence, and at one time reproached a witness, Colleen, for calling Emily a "liar and a loser" on the stand.

A dozen student jurors then weighed the testimony and declared Emily not guilty. In a final twist, however, Cline announced that a court search of Emily's backpack turned up a white, powdery substance found to be methamphetamine, and a student actor playing bailiff escorted her out of court in handcuffs...

[Maura Larkins comment: This seemed to be a real exercise in critical thinking--until that "final twist". Shame on the adults for pulling that parlor trick. The students were deprived of the full understanding of how inexact our justice system is.]

California courts agency called dysfunctional

California courts agency called dysfunctional
May 30, 2012
Associated Press

A blistering new report quietly released over the Memorial Day Weekend called for the overhaul of California's Administrative Office of the Courts, which it described as dysfunctional, secretive and top-heavy with overpaid executives.

The report was prepared by a committee of state judges appointed last year by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to investigate claims the administrative arm of the courts had grown too large and costly amid severe budget cuts. The chief justice released the nearly 300-page report late Friday night. The report chided the AOC for claiming in February that it employed "more than 750" when it concluded that the AOC has grown from 430 workers in 2002 to more than 1,100 last year with hundreds earning six figure salaries amid a supposed hiring freeze. AOC managers conceded they got around the hiring freeze by employing temporary and contract workers.

The report also said the AOC appeared guilty of violating its own work rules by allowing some workers to telecommute from long distances, including one attorney who works from Switzerland.

The report criticized the agency for a lack of transparency.

"The AOC's reporting of staffing levels has been misleading, leading to mistrust of the AOC," the report said. "Disingenuously suggesting that AOC staffing levels have been reduced in response to branch-wide budget and staffing cuts has led to further mistrust and cynicism."

The report calls for staffing cuts to fewer than 700 employees and for the agency's headquarter to be moved from San Francisco to Sacramento.

""The organization needs to be right-sized," the report concluded.

The release of the report also comes amid Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to cut $544 million from the third branch's budget.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, the chief justice said the report will be considered next month by the Judicial Council, an appointed body that oversees the AOC. She said the report was a look at the past and didn't consider the AOC's current plans to grapple with deep budget cuts. She also defended the public release of the document, saying she released it as soon as she received it.

One of the agency's chief critics, the Alliance of California Judges, applauded the findings.

"The nearly 300-page report is an A-to-Z indictment of an out of control organization," the group wrote in an email Monday alerting media and others to the report's release. "It is an absolute `must read' for everyone concerned about the functionality and credibility of our judicial branch." The group called for even more staff cuts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Shame Of Lorain, Ohio - Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen Convicted Of Non-Existent Crimes

The Shame Of Lorain, Ohio - Nancy Smith And Joseph Allen Convicted Of Non-Existent Crimes
By Lona Manning
Justice Denied

Margie Grover brought her 4- year-old daughter Nicole to a Lorain, Ohio hospital on May 7, 1993. She claimed that her daughter, who attended the Lorain Head Start had come home and said, “We didn’t go to school today.” Furthermore the anxious mother said that Nicole told her that the bus driver, Nancy Smith, had taken the children to see a man named “Joseph,” who tied her up, taped her eyes, and molested her with a stick. Grover said she found a piece of a branch in the girl’s clothing.

Officers attending at the hospital noted that most of the information was provided by the mother and the attending nurse, not by the little girl herself. The officers reported that Nicole was physically unharmed. The case was assigned to Detective Tom Cantu of Lorain’s Youth and Gang unit. Cantu, a 20+ year veteran of the Lorain PD and an ex-Marine, was named 1992’s Ohio “Policemen of the Year” by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

When Cantu started the investigation, he had an accused person, her unknown accomplice by the name of “Joseph,” an unknown crime scene location, and a definite date. It was clear to Cantu that the incident couldn’t have happened as Nicole (or was it her mother?) described.

Smith’s bus log and the odometer readings confirmed that she had driven her usual route on May 7, and Nicole’s teacher had marked Nicole “present.” Sherry Hagerman, the aide on Smith’s bus that week, confirmed that nothing had happened. At the time of the incident Smith had gone to her second job, driving for the YMCA Meals-onWheels program. Her supervisor confirmed that Smith was a reliable driver and she had shown up for work as usual that day. Cantu spoke to Smith’s co-workers, neighbors, and friends. They scoffed at the idea that Smith was a child molester. She was a single mother with four teenage children and she had three part-time jobs that often kept her working for 12 hours a day.

Cantu interviewed Nicole on May 13, but most of the information came from her mother, who insisted that her daughter was telling her a lot of details at home.

In front of Cantu, however, Nicole hesitated, saying, “I forgot,” “I don’t remember that,” and “Can we go home now?” After repeated questioning she finally agreed that she had seen ““Joseph’s” pee pee.”

Cantu went to the Head Start school on May 25 and questioned 11 children, aged 3 to 5 who were on Smith’s bus route. His police report for that day notes, “The children were questioned if Nancy had ever touched them in a bad way, or in any way which would hurt, or upset them, and each one stated that she has never touched them. The children were asked if they knew anyone named “Joseph,” and they all indicated that they did not. All of the children stated that they liked Nancy and that she was nice.”

Nicole’s mother had been spreading alarm to other Head Start parents who then questioned their children. Had they heard of “Joseph”? Had they been taken to “Joseph’s” house? Cantu said that from the jumbled descriptions of “Joseph,” he couldn’t tell “if the guy was white, black, or a white guy with black spots, or a white guy with black spots” One child said “Joseph” was a white man who painted his head and hands black. Several others said “Joseph” had blue eyes.

Cantu suspected that parents heavily influenced the children’s testimony. “One day they tell you one story, then they go home, and all of a sudden they have the same story.” Cantu recalled, “I took the kids to different houses where they said this thing happened and none of it panned out.

The kids gave descriptions of the interior of the house and different pictures that might have been in the house, [but] any house we went into, nothing matched anything the children stated.” He canvassed the neighborhood and asked if anyone had seen a bright yellow school bus parked there all afternoon. No one had.

Less than two weeks into the investigation the mayor summoned Cantu to his office and when he arrived Grover was already there complaining that no arrest had been made. Cantu got “into a tiff” with her, but he recommended proper police procedure. “I even told the mayor, ‘just because somebody accuses, they say Nancy Smith did it, I have to prove she did it, I can’t arrest her on your say-so.’” Cantu concluded, “There is no proof that a male suspect named “Joseph” exists at the present.” The Head Start semester ended on May 27 with a picnic in the park.

The day afterwards, Grover, who had her identity concealed, appeared on a local newscast with the dramatic claim that a molester was stalking the Head Start kids — and nobody was doing anything about it. She said she wanted, “someone to do something about this case and get the ball rolling.”

She named a suspect, a white man her daughter had pointed out when he was cutting the grass outside his house. (He was soon cleared.)

After the accusations became public, Cantu took Smith for a lie detector test , which showed “she didn’t do that crime any more than me or the guy that gave the test.” Cantu concluded that there was no case against Smith, “There is no proof that a male suspect named “Joseph” exists.... all of the victims in the case have been interviewed with much inconsistency and lack of good evidence.” Shortly after Cantu made his recommendation that the investigation against Smith be concluded, he was promoted to sergeant and transferred out of the Youth/Gang unit.

The Lorain PD then assigned five officers to a special Head Start task force. The questioning of the children began again. One of those police reports states, “Amy was asked, did Joseph make you touch him? Amy stated, ‘No.’”

When Child Protective Services interviewed Nicole in May, she denied that anyone had touched her. After several months and more interviews, she agreed with detective Eladio Andujar that Nancy and “Joseph” had molested her.

Preschooler Johnny Givens got involved in the case at the end of May. His mother had seen the news reports and she remembered that her son had complained of a sore bottom the previous winter. The police report states, “[Johnny] was questioned if Nancy ever did anything to him, or if she had ever touched him, or ever touched his penis... [Johnny] stated that she had never done anything to him, and had never touched him in any way...”

Two weeks after Grover appeared on the local news, 4-year-old Jason Andrews’s mother reported that her son had told her he’d been molested right on the bus by someone named Alan. The police report notes: “He also stated that Alan looked like...Story continued HERE.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Supreme Court says double jeopardy does not protect against murder retrial

Supreme Court says double jeopardy does not protect against murder retrial
By Robert Barnes
May 24, 2012
Washington Post

Arkansas may retry a man for murder even though jurors in his first trial were unanimous that he was not guilty, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Alex Blueford, who is accused of killing his girlfriend’s 1-year-old son, is not protected by the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause, the court ruled in a 6 to 3 decision.

Because the judge dismissed the jury when it was unable to reach agreement on lesser charges, Blueford was not officially cleared of any of the charges, the majority said, and thus may be retried.

“The jury in this case did not convict Blueford of any offense, but it did not acquit him of any either,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote.

The decision brought a sharp dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

“Blueford’s jury had the option to convict him of capital and first-degree murder, but expressly declined to do so,” Sotomayor wrote. “That ought to be the end of the matter.”

The Double Jeopardy Clause is found in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, and commands that no person shall be “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offense.

Blueford was tried for the death of Matthew McFadden Jr., who died in 2007 from head injuries. Arkansas prosecutors said Blueford intentionally caused the boy’s death, while Blueford maintained that he had accidentally knocked the child to the ground.

Blueford was charged with capital murder, although the state waived the death penalty. At trial, the judge instructed jurors that if they had reasonable doubt about whether he was guilty of capital murder, they should next consider the charge of first-degree murder. If they found reasonable doubt about that, they should then consider manslaughter, they were told, and after that, negligent homicide.

The jurors’ final option was to acquit Blueford of all charges.

After a few hours of deliberations, the jury reported that it might not be able to reach a decision. The forewoman told the judge that the jurors were unanimous against capital and first-degree murder, had split 9 to 3 against manslaughter and did not vote on negligent homicide.

The judge sent the jurors back for more deliberations, but half an hour later the forewoman reported no verdict. The court declared a mistrial.

All agree that Blueford can be retried on charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide, but Blueford claimed the murder charges were off the table because a jury had rejected them.

The Supreme Court majority disagreed...