Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vista Superior Court Judge Cline leaves problems behind in the probate department

Judge Richard G. Cline

Perhaps this lawsuit is the reason attorney Rusty Grant recently decided to retire from her legal practice.

See case documents HERE.

Jennifer Grant
January 19, 2013

In July 2011 a petition was filed to remove attorney Rusty Grant (no relation to Jennifer Grant) as trustee from the Schwichtenberg Family Revocable Trust. Reasons included expenditures against trust terms, incuding penalties for Rusty's failure to pay property taxes on time, failure to follow trust terms, illegitimate takeover of two subsections of the trust which had become irrevocable prior to the amendment which made Rusty trustee of the other subsection, and severe discrimination against the trustor's daughter Jennifer who had served as her mom's personal assistant and subsequently cared for her during her long battle with breast cancer.

Rusty Grant and Constance Larsen (Rusty’s own attorney, friend and officemate) had served as co-vice-presidents of the North County Bar with the current president back in 2006. Judge Cline made the majority of the decisions while the case was in Vista (when Vista court still had a probate division), including one in violation of federal and state constitutional law. Judge Cline had long standing bar ties with Richard MacGurn, the attorney of Jennifer's disgruntled brother.. Additionally, Rusty was a pro-tem judge in Vista.

In September 2012, with the closure of Vista's probate division, the case was moved to San Diego's Central division where it was inherited by Judge Jeffery Bostwick. Judge Bostwick is an ethical and professional judge. However, most likely due to the huge number of Vista cases dumped on him and the slow wheels of the justice system, he failed to grasp the urgency of the matter before him. He left Rusty Grant and Constance Larsen to continue their reign of fiduciary abuse, mispenditure of trust funds and violations of law unchecked, despite Jennifer filing a motion to suspend the trustee until the court could hear the case. Judge Bostwick denied the motion because it was “not urgent”.

How exactly, if Jennifer prevails, is all the misspent money supposed to get reimbursed?

In the meantime, there is no money available to pay the ongoing expenses of the trust property, so it will likely be lost if there is no intervention before the case can go to trial. Since Constance Larsen has illegally denied Jennifer the right to be in the property, it sits neglected and further deteriorating.

When Jennifer sought help from the California state fiduciary abuse organization, she was told that they could not touch attorneys though it sounded like Constance Larsen and Rusty Grant had committed crimes. Was there any other category of fiduciary out of their jurisdiction? The answer was “no”. So basically, they were saying if you are an attorney in California, you can break the law with no repercussions.

Both attorneys were also reported to the State Bar. How much their own North County Bar connections may have weighed in is unknown. However the complaint was closed. Jennifer received a letter which basically stated that, while her complaint might have merit, that the Bar could not get involved because there was a civil case in court.

The county DA was contacted but said a police report must first be filed. Since Constance Larsen forbids Jennifer to be in the property left her, there is a pending issue with the police as to who has jurisdiction to take the report.

In the latest incident, Constance Larsen tried to create a circumstance of double jeopardy by filing an accounting petition which contained issues already under contest in the case's other three petitions.

See pleading: Objections to Accounting Petition

Judge Cline allowed Rusty to conduct the forensic accounting ahead of trial on the contested petition where the question of who should conduct the accounting was at issue. Constance Larsen was blatantly trying to press her luck twice to get rid of the Remove Trustee petition and get fees for herself and further ones for Rusty.

This was an attempt to violate Jennifer's constitutional right to due process (US constitutional 14th amendment and California Constitution Section I Article I) as it had been in the circumstance with Cline.

Fortunately Judge Bostwick listened to Jennifer's due process argument on the Accounting Petiton and thwarted Larsen by consolidating it with the three other pending petitions putting it on the same civil justice snail track. However, if one takes a look at the objections he asked Jennifer to file, one can get a small taste of what is being allowed to continue by the State Bar as well as an overburdened, inefficient justice system here in San Diego. To top it off, as can be seen from Jennifer's objections, and looking at the exhibits, Constance Larsen and Rusty Grant have made false statements, committing perjury, when they signed their petitons. The question remains, are attorneys above the law? If not, then how can they be held accountable and by whom?

(Case # 37-2011-00150239-PR-TR-NC)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Court executive salaries released by the AOC

This story was published 3 years ago. The salaries are most likely higher at present, and hopefully so are the ethical standards in places like Placer County.

Survey says: Pay for state's court executives released
By Greg Moran
DEC. 3, 2009

As the head of the San Diego Superior Court, Executive Officer Michael Roddy runs the second-largest court system in the state, with 154 judges and judicial officers and 1,709 full time employees.

For his efforts, Roddy is paid $223,953, with another $41,000 in benefits per year.

Though San Diego’s court trails only Los Angeles in size, Roddy’s salary is not the second highest for court executives in the state.

He might consider the job in Contra Costa County, far smaller than San Diego with 38 judges and 428 employees. The chief executive there makes $229,338 per year, and another $37,000 in benefits. That's the highest paid court executive salary job in the state, surpassing even Los Angeles County, with 441 judges and 5,540 employees. (The CEO there makes $220,980 per year but gets the most in benefits -- $75,388, pushing the total compensation ahead of Contra Costa).

Or Santa Clara County, with 79 judges, 889 employees, and a chief executive who earns $225,528 per year.

In tiny Inyo County, with two judges and 21 employees, the chief executive there is paid $139,869 —more than half of what Roddy makes in San Diego overseeing a system dozens of times larger in terms of judges and employees.

These wide disparities in pay and benefits among the state’s 58 court chief executives are laid out for the first time in recently-completed survey by the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

Unlike state court judges, whose salaries are the same regardless of where they serve, the pay and benefits of the court systems top executives are set on a county-by-county basis. Each county has its own policy for setting and modifying salaries of court executives.

That patchwork system is a vestige of the time when individual counties funded the courts. That all changed 12 years ago when the state took over trial court funding.

Individual Superior Courts, however, remain the employers for all court workers. Court executive officers are employees of their individual courts, reporting to the presiding judge for each court system.

All of that has led to a spectrum of pay and benefit policies, and some controversy.

The survey done by the AOC was sparked by revelations that the salary of the former chief executive in Placer County increased 11 times in seven years, rising from $162,000 in 2002 to $304,0000 in 2008. A special audit conducted by the AOC said that for many of the increases there were no records showing who approved it.

This month the Judicial Council, the policy making arm for the state courts, is expected to review the survey and propose policies and guidelines for setting pay for court executives.

The council can’t set individual policy and benefits for the state’s court systems, said Peter Allen, senior communications manager for the AOC. But it will be presented with a model personnel policy each court could use when setting CEO pay, he said. It will be interesting to see how widely that model is accepted in the current contentious environment between some trial court judges and the Judicial Council/AOC...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Kevin Keenan says ACLU used to focus on civil rights, now it focuses on "relationships"

See all posts on San Diego ACLU from this blog.

Kevin Keenan says ACLU used to focus on civil rights, now it focuses on "relationships".

Unfortunately, the "relationships" that ACLU lawyers focus on are too often with lawyers, such as school attorneys, who are defending violations of civil rights.

San Diego ACLU attorney David Loy has gone out of his way to support violations of the First Amendment such as Judge Judith Hayes' December 11, 2010 injunction. Mr. Loy gave me legal advice without being my lawyer. He told me to erase all mention of Stutz Artiano Shinoff and Holtz from my website. Also, see this update on that case.

from: ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties
date: Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 2:48 PM
subject: New year, new ACLU

"We've changed from the local civil-rights powerhouse that you know to a more community-connected, relationship-based, comprehensive advocacy organization. I don't have a good name for what that is...It may just be the new ACLU." – Kevin Keenan, Executive Director.

As you may have read in the San Diego Union Tribune last week, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year. To put it simply, "We've come a long way, baby."

Thanks to a long legacy of members, volunteers, board members, and staff in San Diego, we have had a solid foundation on which to build. Thanks to your most recent support, we have been able to triple in size over the past six years. We are now a staff of twenty-one, including teams of legal, policy, and organizing experts who work proactively on the issues most affecting our community today.

With this growth, we are adapting to our new proactive, community orientation and keeping up with changes in the area. We've promoted our organizing director Norma Chavez-Peterson to the new position of Associate Director in charge of supervising our array of justice-making programs and tools.

Norma's ability to build strong relationships with the community to affect positive change reflects a new emphasis in the way we work. It was exemplified most recently in a campaign to enlist local volunteers to mobilize thousands of Latino voters in Escondido – a city fraught with civil liberties abuses.

Our relationships with you, the community, and lawmakers, combined with our organizing, litigation, and advocacy capacity, will help us move closer to our vision of an equitable and just society.

Please share your thoughts and ideas on the new ACLU with us. You can respond to this email, "like" us and post on our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter.

Thank you again for making us more effective through your consistent support. Happy New Year!

Kevin Keenan
Executive Director
ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties

Comments on ACLU Facebook page:

James Thinkstoomuch
decent article, but the local ACLU has seriously dropped the ball on local police accountability issues - especially with respect to their illegal and criminal acts during the suppression of Occupy San Diego. December 31, 2012 at 3:14pm ·

Maura Larkins
Unfortunately, the "relationships" that San Diego ACLU lawyers focus on are too often with lawyers who are defending violations of civil rights, such as school attorneys. San Diego ACLU attorney David Loy has gone out of his way to support violations of the First Amendment such as Judge Judith Hayes' December 11, 2010 injunction. The Court of Appeal disagreed with David Loy that I should remove all mention of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz from my website.