Tuesday, July 26, 2016

U.S. judges say California's top court is jeopardizing constitutional rights

Two federal judges warned Monday that the California Supreme Court’s practice in certain criminal cases was jeopardizing citizens’ constitutional rights.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Jay S. Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, and Stephen Reinhardt, who was elevated to the court by President Carter, expressed their frustrations in a ruling that will allow a state prisoner to challenge his detention in federal court.

The case dealt with legal deadlines, and the 11-judge appellate panel found itself having to surmise why the California Supreme Court had rejected the habeas corpus filing — the legal means by which inmates can win their freedom.

Bybee complained that communication between the two courts “has devolved into a series of hints that the California Supreme Court obliquely telegraphs and that we struggle to decipher.”

Yet  the 9th Circuit’s difficulties “pale in comparison to the costs that the California Supreme Court’s imprecision imposes on its own citizens and state government, because they have no more clue what the California Supreme Court means than we do,” Bybee said.

Overwhelmed by thousands of challenges from inmates each year, the state Supreme Court decides most of them with one-paragraph summary rulings that frustrate federal judges who later are asked to review them.

In Monday’s case, the 9th Circuit was examining the California high court’s rejection of a challenge by Freddy Curiel, who was sentenced to life without parole for murder. If the state court had found the rejection was due to a missed legal deadline, the federal judges would have to dismiss the inmate’s challenge.

The 2010 order said in its entirety: “The petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied. (See In re Swain (1949) 34 Cal.2d 300, 304; People v. Duvall (1995) 9 Cal.4th 464, 474.).”

Ninth Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia, who wrote Monday’s majority opinion, said the appellate court had determined that the state justices did not find Curiel’s challenge untimely because neither of the two cases they cited had to do with deadlines.

Reinhardt said in his concurrence that he understood the California high court was overwhelmed with work and strained financially and could not write full-blown rulings on every case. But he implored the court to provide more elucidation and suggested specific reforms.

“Perhaps what was not so long ago the most innovative court in the nation will once again be able to provide national leadership when it considers the problem of the untold numbers of habeas petitions raising substantial claims of federal constitutional violations,” he wrote.

“Without a new approach,” he said, “even clearly erroneous constitutional decisions of state courts will remain uncorrected and leave defendants without the check on constitutional error that until recently the federal courts provided.”

Monday’s complaints about the California Supreme Court’s practice of denying habeas challenges — known as “postcard” denials — have been raised many times throughout the years by 9th Circuit judges.
But Reinhardt and Bybee noted that the issue was now more important than ever, because recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court require federal courts to defer to state judges except in extremely limited circumstances.

“Until we can tell what the California Supreme Court has decided,” Bybee wrote, “we won’t know how to afford California the deference to which it is entitled.”...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

California State Bar is failing in its duty to oversee lawyers' ethics

The California State Bar's dismal history shows why it should be broken up
Michael Hiltzik
LA Times
June 17, 2016

Let’s put this in terms that even an attorney with peerless loophole-seeking skills would consider straightforward: the California State Bar is a mess.

In recent years, the organization has been the target of withering state audits documenting misspent fees by the millions, overpaid executives, and inept management of its all-important duty of licensing lawyers and managing professional discipline. 

Its reputation is at a low ebb among state legislators, who last month placed on hold the organization’s yearly authorization to collect annual fees because the measure didn’t go far enough to achieve reform.

The Bar’s dual role as licenser and ethics enforcer as well as trade organization pushing policy changes,  critics say, leaves it hopelessly mired in a conflict of interest.

“You don’t delegate regulatory power to a special interest group,” says Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law and a frequent critic of the Bar. “To let them be the decision-makers is obscene.”

These issues seem to crop up every few years, but seldom with as much urgency as now. That’s because a 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has put professional licensing bodies on notice that they could be guilty of antitrust violations if a majority of their members are participants in the business they regulate.

The California State Bar is governed by a 19-member board of trustees, 13 of whom are lawyers. You do the math.

The Court decision isn’t the only driver of potential change. “People can suffer irreparable harm from attorneys,” says Fellmeth, a lawyer. They can be deprived of their liberty by inadequate representation in criminal court or immigration cases..

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rapist, a privileged Stanford athlete, sentenced to only six months in jail after a judge expressed concern for his future

Stanford Woman Shares The Powerful Letter She Read To The Man Who Assaulted Her

Lilli Petersen
Refinery 29
June 4, 2016

After her rapist was sentenced to only six months in jail for her horrifying assault, his accuser is speaking out.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, shared a full copy of the letter she read at the sexual assault trial of Brock Turner with BuzzFeed News. In March, Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault. A former Stanford University student and prospective 2016 Olympic swimmer, Turner faced 14 years in jail on the convictions, according to The Guardian. However, Judge Aaron Persky decided to sentence him to six months plus probation, saying that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over
an island looking for boats to save;
they just stand there shining. Although
I can’t save every boat, I hope that by
speaking today, you absorbed a small
amount of light, a small knowing that
you can’t be silenced, a small
satisfaction that justice was served, a
small assurance that we are getting
somewhere, and a big, big knowing
that you are important,
unquestionably, you are untouchable,
you are beautiful, you are to be
valued, respected, undeniably, every
minute of every day, you are powerful
and nobody can take that away from

More links:



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ethics committee lawyer's law firm managed offshore companies that may have been used to pay bribes

Five key figures implicated in the 'Panama Papers' scandal
By Matt Pearce
LA Times
April 4, 2016

 ...One of FIFA’s ethics committee members, the Uruguayan attorney Pedro Damiani, is facing an internal investigation by the world soccer association after revelations from the Panama Papers. Damiani's law firm manages offshore companies, including several that may have been used to pay bribes in the corruption scandal that has led to the arrests of top FIFA officials, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. A spokesman for Damiani told the newspaper he could not respond in detail due to the ongoing investigation...

Iceland PM to step down after Panama disclosures
Channel News Asia
06 Apr 2016

Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson will step down, the deputy head of his party said on Tuesday, after leaked files showed the premier's wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on Iceland's collapsed banks...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Carla Keehn is challenging Keri Greer Katz in 2016 election for Superior Court Judge

In 2016 federal prosecutor Carla Keehn is challenging Judge Keri Katz for a seat on the San Diego Superior Court. I've been following Keehn's career since her very interesting campaign in 2014 against Judge Lisa Schall.

This year Keehn is running against Keri Katz, who seems to be a better judge than Lisa Schall. I have no evidence that Keri Katz is anything other than a fine judge. There are websites that strongly criticize some family law judges, but Katz' name doesn't pop up on them.

I believe that Judge Keri Katz knew nothing about the deals that her father, former presiding judge of San Diego Superior Court, made with attorney Patrick Frega and Judges Dennis Adams and James Malkus in the 1990s (see more information below). Keri's father probably told her that he himself had paid for the cars and free legal representation provided by Patrick Frega.

I don't think that Keri Katz deserves to be punished for her father's wrongdoing.

But neither do I think that her family should be rewarded for her father's actions in the 1990s, and it seems that they have indeed been rewarded.

Three of Michael Greer's pals went to prison, but his daughter and son-in-law became judges:

KATZ, KERI GREER   Judge Dept. F3         Family Court
KATZ, AARON H.      Judge
 Dept. J8         Juvenile Court

Is this just garden variety nepotism? 

Or is it something more? The legal establishment in San Diego seems to be mighty appreciative of the Greer family.


Keri Greer Katz is the daughter of former presiding Judge Michael Greer of San Diego Superior Court who was convicted of participating in a bribery scheme that sent two other judges to prison.

In 1997 Michael Greer provided insider testimony on fraud and racketeering charges against his pals attorney Patrick Frega and former Superior Court Judges G. Dennis Adams and James Malkus. Michael Greer did a public service by testifying against Adams, Malkus and Frega, and he was rewarded by receiving no prison sentence.

Michael Greer's daughter and son-in-law are currently judges in San Diego.

I noticed that in the indictment of Greer and his associates (filed on April 9, 1996), Greer's daughter Keri Greer is mentioned five times in the "Overt Acts" section. The most interesting mention is in paragraph 1 on page 6, which states that Patrick Frega represented Keri Greer for free in Greer v. Kildare, et al.

On Feb. 7, 1997 the LA Times reported, "...In pleading guilty, Greer admitted helping Frega win cases by providing inside information, devising legal strategies and steering the cases to "friendly" judges.

"Before his resignation in 1993 amid an investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Performance, Greer was one of the preeminent judges on the local bench and one of the few to enjoy a statewide reputation...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Man freed after 28 years; witness claimed his face appeared in a dream

Moses-EL was convicted after the victim identified him, saying his face came to her in a dream. So prosecutors ignored the convicted rapist she had originally named.  

Prosecutors in Denver, Colorado are still considering trying Moses-EL again for the rape.

Man Held Decades in Colorado for Rape He Denies WalksFree
Dec 22 2015
by The Associated Press

A Denver man who spent more than a quarter-century in prison for an attack he denies committing walked free Tuesday, locking arms with his wife as his tearful children applauded and his grandkids embraced a man they had never met. 

Clarence Moses-EL, 60, had just posted a $50,000 bond that a judge required for his freedom after she overturned his 1988 conviction on rape and assault charges and found that he would likely be acquitted if his case went to trial again. Moses-EL was convicted after the victim identified him, saying his face came to her in a dream. 

When police initially asked her who assaulted her, she named another man, who later confessed to having sex with her at the same time that night. 

Man's Rape Conviction Overturned After 28 Years 

Outside the jail Tuesday, Moses-EL wore a black suit and tie as he stood beside his wife, Stephanie Burke, moments after hugging three of his 12 grandchildren for the first time. 

Surrounded by his tearful children, he took a deep breath of the crisp late afternoon air.
"This is the moment of my life, right here," Moses-EL told reporters. "I'm at a loss for words. I just want to get home to my family."

Moses-EL has long maintained his innocence, and his case inspired legislation requiring preservation of DNA evidence in major felony cases for a defendant's lifetime after police threw out body swabs and the victim's clothing. Supporters posted bond for his release after Moses-EL was transferred from the prison where he was housed for decades..

His spirituality kept him from losing hope during 28 years of his 48-year sentence, he said.
"And my innocence," he said. "That's what really kept me going." 

But still looming was the prospect of a new trial. Prosecutors have not decided whether to try Moses-EL again, saying they are considering the age of the case and the availability of witnesses. A tentative trial date was set for May, if prosecutors decide to pursue new charges. 

The case involved a woman who was attacked after she returned home from a night of drinking. When police initially asked who assaulted her, she named the man who later confessed to having sex with her. 

More than a day after the assault, while in the hospital, the woman identified Moses-EL as her attacker, saying his face appeared to her in a dream. 

Moses-EL's efforts to appeal his conviction were unsuccessful and the legal and political system repeatedly failed him in his decades-long attempt to win his freedom. 

He won a legal bid for DNA testing on the evidence to clear his name, but Denver police threw it away, saying they didn't see any notice from prosecutors to hold on to it. 

In 2008, the governor, a former Denver prosecutor, objected to legislation that would have given him a new trial and that received widespread support from lawmakers. 

Moses-EL's break came when L.C. Jackson, whom the victim had initially identified as her rapist, wrote to Moses-EL in 2013 saying he had sex with the woman that night. Jackson has not been charged in this case but is imprisoned for two other rapes in 1992. 

His attorney, Eric Klein, said it would be foolish for prosecutors not to dismiss the case against an innocent man…