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.]


Anonymous said...

Not So Role-Model Part I

Judge Cline trying to help school children learn that there are two sides to every story is important. However, he should practice what he preaches when school children aren't around. On point is Case #37-2011-00150239, in which he made decisions that took away the rights of one of the beneficiaries, a current pro-per, Jennifer Grant, in favor of a trustee, Rusty Grant,(not related to Jennifer) who's also a real estate attorney and alledged pro-tem judge.

When the whole case is put in context, little doubt exists that Rusty is biased toward one of the other heirs, Bradd Schwichtenberg, despite her mandate to act neutrally (Probate Code 16003).
Three petitions and a large volume of exhibits form the bulk of the case. The first petition was filed by Rusty on May 17, 201l and appears cleverly contrived to force a life estate residence left Jennifer into abatement. All petitions seem to revolve around Bradd's stated goal of getting this residence sold ( Response to Rusty's Internal Affairs petition paragraph 4 page 4, Remove Trustee petition exhibit N).

The Remove Trustee Petition was filed by Jennifer who is seeking to remove Rusty from all three trusts though the reasons are different for A than for B and C,. However, exhibits 23-25, filed by Jennifer on April 16th, 2012 for an April 19th motion hearing reveal a more personal motivation for getting the residence sold There is clearly a conflict of interest and likely violation of Business and Professions Code 3-310 as Rusty Grant, her own attorney, Constance Larsen, and the realtor, who is designated to sell the residence, should Jennifer give it up, are long standing fellow members and officers of a social organization in Escondido .

Jennifer filed two motions for the hearing on April 19, 2012. In her
2nd Motion filed Feb. 2nd, accompanied by exhibits, Jennifer links the subpeonas, subjects of the motions, to the third petition. Its main prayer is Bradd's request for a forensic accounting with the obvious goal of hoping to force the life estate into abatement should he prove successful since he is accusing his mother of misspending Trust B and C assets and wants A to repay them. Constance Larsen tries to claim in objections to motion that the purpose of the forensic accounting is to determine what is in the trust in order to distribute it. However, if one reads the three petitions and Jennifer's motion responses to Bradd and Constance, it is clear that all parties know what is currently in the trust and where. Besides, with three outstanding petitions, distribution of the trust does not seem likely appropriate in the near future.

Rusty filed a response to Bradd's petition, objected to by Jennifer, that she was willing to aid him in his objective thereby further establishing her bias. Since the need for the forensic accounting is alleged by Bradd, it should be his responsibility and Rusty should only be involved if his allegations prove correct which is questionable as Jennifer offers an explanation of why they are not in her objections to the petition. (Interestingly, motion exhibits 6,7 show both Constance and Rusty attempting to inhibit Jennifer from obtaining documents which would prove her position and exhibit 20 shows Constance's statements in exhibit 6 are dishonest).

If Bradd's motion declaration is read carefully he states the subpeoned documents will be sent to him. Not missing a beat, Bradd's attorney, Richard MacGurn, is taking advantage of the situation so all seven trust beneficiaries will have to share in the expense instead of becoming solely his client's.

Meanwhile, Judge Cline appears to have no qualms about burdening 5 beneficiaries, who aren't even involved in the litigation, as well as Jennifer, forcing them to spend their inheritance on what promises to be a costly enterprise given the number of institutions subpeoned.

Anonymous said...

Not So Role Model Part II

Judge Cline's motion ruling calls Jennifer's contentions, outside the first Motion for a Protective Order, “irrelevant and unproven” though he fails to discuss any subsequent document or exhibit other than stating he read the Consent to Serve. Little wonder he considers it “irrelevant “as the title clearly defines it belongs with the Remove Trustee petition, not the motion. Instead of giving her a chance to prove her “unproven” allegations during trial on the petitions, he grants Bradd the main prayer of his by ruling his requested forensic accounting go forward, depriving Jennifer of her right to have her objections to this petition heard at trial,

Ruling on one petition before trial would seem unjust enough. However, in an examination of the other two petitions, it is found that both Rusty and Jennifer claim they are trustee of the B and C trusts despite Rusty only appearing on the scene six weeks prior to Jennifer and Bradd's mother's date of death. Since the forensic accounting is over issues related to whether the deceased misspent B and C, who the legal trustee is bears great importance. If it were to be proved that Jennifer is trustee of B and C, and Rusty merely trustee of A, then accusations of misspending of B and C should be taken up with Jennifer, not Rusty. Therefore, Judge Cline's ruling underhandedly declared Rusty Trustee of B and C, once again denying Jennifer her right to trial. Rusty is now also gifted with free rein to spend B and C money as well.

The court registry shows that Rusty has been quick to seize her victory as she is now using the title “successor trustee” when prior to the ruling she had merely been known as “petitioner”.

Jennifer apparently made one final attempt to get her petition rights back. In her Case Management Statement for the May 18th courtroom appearance, Jennifer points out to Judge Cline that he has just ruled on the petitions at a Protective Order motion hearing and asks what what he will do about this. The answer obviously is that he plans to do nothing to restore her rights as he subsequently signed the order and never addressed the issue. He also ignored her request for bifurcation which would have seemed appropriate given the numerous code sections Jennifer alleges that Rusty has violated. In context of the whole case's documents and exhibits (or at least the descriptions of the confidential ones), Jennifer appears to be justified,

In view of this case, Judge Cline operates his courtroom doublefaced, one side smiling at the school children and the other winking at justice, dispensing it to those within his professional sphere no matter the ethics of its members.

Anonymous said...

I just read about this case on the San Diego Education Blogspot. There are more details there.

The case sounds very interesting and those attorneys sure sound like something else from this list of exhibits I'm copying here:
an e-mail from Rusty stating “Can you believe this woman ( apparently Jennifer)? I say let the beneficiaries duke it out in court. Of course I am sitting here with my glass of wine, so maybe my tolerance level is low” (Motion for a Protective Order Exhibit 17 and also Remove Trustee Petition Jennifer's Response to Objections Exhibit R ),

trust property damage (Remove Trustee Petition, Jennifers Response to Objections Exhibit S (2pgs),

Constance making claims Jennifer did not notify her of her alleged right to B and C trusteeship until after the Rusty's petition was filed in May 2011 though a countering exhibit shows Jennifer had e-mailed both of them with this fact back in April (Remove Trustee Petition Exhibits R and S),

Constance and Rusty trying to prevent Jennifer from obtaining statements which would help clear her mother of the misspending accusations (Motion for a Protective Order exhibits 6 and 7),

an image of the county tax accessor's website showing Rusty was negligent on paying property taxes on time (Remove Trustee Response of Jennifer to Rusty's Objections Exhibit R )

It seems a trustee shouldn't be wanting beneficiaries to "duke it out in court". It also seems they tried to suppress evidence. Isn't that illegal?

Anonymous said...

@ above post: If not illegal, certainly unethical.

In the Nor So Role Model story the exhibits in the Remove Trustee Petition #s are mixed up. However all the exhibits described are in there. You just have to go through them.

Brad also says in a response to Rusty that he wants the house sold as well as in the exhibit the first poster mentioned.

What I want to know is why Rusty and Brad just want to sell the home if they believe the mother misspent money? There are many other solutions like Jennifer buying out Brad or trading around assets within the trusts if what he says is true. Why does he want to take the home away from his sister? How mean spirited can one be? Especailly when she took care of her mother. I didn't read anything about him doing anything for her.

The fact Rusty didn't come up with a solution of payback if Mrs S. really did something wrong with the trusts and just try and abate the house shows her prejudice against Jennifer and toward Bradd right there. My own brother bought me out. We just went through the trust and traded assets. There's many solutions besides abating it. It appears Rusty just wants to help the realtor make money selling it and/or is siding with Bradd. They should remove her and get someone who wants to help the family find peace.

Anonymous said...

I just posted, but I noticed a couple things. First I forgot this Bradd has two 'd's when I started writing and didn't get it corrected until the last paragraph. I should have gone back and corrected it in the others. I wouldn't want my name misspelled by someone.

I don't understand how Constance and Rusty made so many mistakes in Rusty's Internal Affairs document.

The trust amendment where Rusty can't tell if it is the same money to Betty as before or a different bequest says right at the beginning of the section that it is amending the original provision. I don't get how they could not see this!

Also if you look at the exhibits for the motion hearing there is a very interesting letter from Mrs. S. She writes that Paul's note and property are the same. It isn't rocket science in the first place to figure that out and should have been obvious. Why does Rusty question it? Does she and/or Bradd want to take his house away too?

One more reason Rusty shouldn't be trustee if she can't even figure out what's so obvious in estate documents! And when Constance was writing the document why didn't she catch them and explain them to her client?

Anonymous said...

I just read the posts at the other blog in which this case appears. It is already mentioned above--;

All three lawyers are far from role models.
Richard MacGurn who was so active with the Boys and Girls Club nearby seems to have lost his humanism and charity by representing a powerful federal government employee and using legal technicalities to take away a caregiver's gift and the property from his cleint's sister where she took care of her mother. The caregiver was a family friend who apparently also did caregiving.
Rusty Grant is an eviction lawyer. She didnt pay the April property taxes until June, after filing her petition in May, and she neglected the property. My opinion is that she was doing this to get Jennifer in trouble with the Property Tax Accessor and the HOA. In my opinion this was calculated and purposeful.
I also don't buy that Constance Larsen is unable to understand terms in a trust that even a lay person can clearly figure out like the clear beginning of the paragraph about Betty's gift that says it is amending he prior amendment, even directly referring to which one it is. As far as I know, Constance Larsen is not blind or illiterate. My opinion is that she also is being calculated and purposeful in what she is doing. Instead of role model lawyers, I'd call them viper lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Constance Larsen and Rusty Grant can not figure out alot of things,

Look at the Internal Affairs petition that Larsen wrote and Grant signed.
They can't figure out Betty is the deceased's sister. They have had from August to May to figure this out--9 months! Even Bradd has to point that out. How can someone be a trustee and not even bother to find out who the beneficiaries are?
They can't figure out that the part about the estate being divided equally has the heading RESIDUE in the Sixth Amendment. How can Constance Larsen be a trust specialist and not know Residue doesn't mean the whole trust, only what remains after specific bequests?
In the supplement to the Internal Affairs petition they sdmit
They say that Trust A is responsible for the legal fees and then turn right around in the supplement and say many of the issues are over Trust B, If the issue is over B, why would you charge A for that? That is, unless you want to make sure the house gets sold, Like the other blogger pointed out, they don't even give a chance for other solutions if Trust A really does run out of money,

Anonymous said...

Perhaps taking this case to south San Diego where these attorneys will have less fraternal ties between the attrrneys and the judge will give this pro-se
and others a chance at justice,

What many see as a set-back for the county may end up being for the best as far justice is concerned,

L.T. Escondido

Anonymous said...

Bradd should be ashamed of himself! Minda McConnell is a friend of mine. She was always visiting and doing things with that family like bringing gifts for ALL of them, sharing meals, showing photos from the Phillipines, bringing flowers. That was after the father died and before the mother got sick.When she owned a flower shop and couldn't get away herself, she would even send her daughters to deliver the flowers. She continued sending them from other shops after her's closed. I offered to be a witness for Jennifer at the trial. The only reason I am not putting my name here is so those other attorneys won't contact me until I'm in the court.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Minda's friend above needs to worry. Jennifer will present correspondence from Bradd where he said she was like a member of the family himself. Is he prejudice because she's Philipina or just greedy?
I would love to see the look on his lawyer's face when he sees the e-mails he wrote his feelings towards Mary and trying to boss Jennifer around before Mary died. She was never a trustee because Mary was never incompetent and Rusty became it when Mary died. One of Mary's friends urged her last week to run the e-mails by a domestic violence expert. She called the National Domestic Violence Hotline who told her they were proof of emotional abuse.. She also got a second opinion from a local domestic violence counselor. I would hope she gets an expert to testify to this at trial.
The Domestic Violence Hotline also told her that she was being abused by the trustee (Rusty) and her lawyer (Constance). Their behavior was not ethical or legal. They told her to call legal aid on Monday (today) They also told her to immediately report them to their Bar. She told them she tried. But the bar said she had to have the case heard in court first. Then refile. If you can't report bad lawyers to the bar, who can you report them to? Its like bad cops. They can get away with anything cause the system won't do anything to stop them.

B. Gravers Encinitas said...

I discovered this blog after reading Jennifer's open letter to Mr. Kaminjarin, president of the North County Bar. The letter appears as a comment to Mr. Kaminjarin's plea for support protesting the Vista closure published in the North County Times.

The local bar should be accountable for the actions of its members. If the State Bar has passed the buck, Mr Kaminjarin's own reaction will be telling.
The facts described here and at the other links posted in Jennifer's letter reflect poorly on the justice system in general, but particuarly in North County. The lack of accountability is concerning.

Anonymous said...

Where is Turko when you need him?
A sure one for The Files.

Anonymous said...

Check to see if there is a state fiduciary organization and file a complaint against Rusty Grant.

Anonymous said...

And file a complaint with the state bar against Constance Larsen.

Anonymous said...

On Linked In Rusty Grant states she is a fuduciary (sic). If she can't spell, why would anyone believe she could do the job in the first place?

Eric Szvoboda said...

Filing a written complaint is usually the first step because then it is on official record.

Anonymous said...

The North County FBI has been taking reports about how the probate court, private fiduciaries and their attorneys have been acting in collusion to milk the money from estates. The beneficiaries never even see what inheritance they were suppose to receive. If enough persons who have been affected follow through and make a report, the federal prosecutor may bring RICO charges against them. If this has happened to you, call 760-929-0811or 858-320-1800. These are the phone numbers for the FBI. Tell them you would like to make a report regarding RICO violations by the Probate court and/or private fiduciaries and their attorneys.

Lets clean up one more area of San Diego corruption!