Archives for January 2016

Obama’s ‘Clean Plants’ Order Headed For Fast Supreme Court Decision

Litigation over President Obama’s climate-change order, “Clean Plants,” is headed for an emergency decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The plan requires a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and is being opposed by 25 states, mostly Republican-led with Texas and West Virginia leading the way. But California and and about a dozen other states, mostly Democratic, are supporting the move by the EPA.

David G. Savage, writing in the Los Angeles Times, explains that the GOP-led side of the lawsuit is seeking an emergency decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to halt implementation of the new rule pending their legal battle. A District of Columbia court recently refused to do so, leading to the emergency appeal to the higher court.

Savage said that Chief Justice Roberts has asked for a response by Feb. 4 from the president’s lawyers and will likely refer the matter to the full court. While there’s no deadline, he added, the justices usually act in a few weeks on such emergency orders.

Gas-Fire Victim’s Mom Will Address Lubbock On Safety Proposal Progress

The city council agenda in Lubbock, Texas says that Becky Teel “… with the Brennen Teel Foundation will appear before the City Council to discuss Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) and the purpose of the foundation,” but that’s not exactly right. People with knowledge of her planned comments say she’ll actually be there “as a mom” and not representing the foundation. Either way, she’s likely wondering why recommendations for a higher standard of flexible natural gas pipe have not made their way to the council yet.

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner has written in her Huffington Post blog that Lubbock, perhaps best known as the home of Buddy Holly even if some Mac Davis country music fans might disagree, has emerged as the cutting edge in a controversy over a type of flexible pipe that brings natural gas into millions of American homes. Called CSST, for corrogated stainless steel tubing, some forms of the pipe have been implicated in hundreds and perhaps thousands of lightening-strike home fires. Officials say just such a fire killed Becky Teel’s son, Breennen, in 2012.

Lubbock made headlines when it temporarily banned CSST altogether in the wake of the fires. Then a special city safety committee reportedly recommended moving to the safest of several versions of the tumbling, but the city has not taken up the issue. In her reporting, Ms. Warner has noted that the case could have national implications because one community going to the higher requirements might cause others to do likewise. She also notes that the entire debate is being forced not by government regulators or consumer groups but by research and results of civil litigation.

Sara Warner’s HuffPo piece is here: Buddy Holly’s Hometown Unlikely Pioneer With Lightning and ‘CSST’ Fuel Gas Solution.

Seeking Safety, Young Migrants Find Abuse At Hands Of U.S. Placement

Photo Credit:  AP report, 1/25/16

Photo Credit: AP report, 1/25/16

The Associated Press is releasing a Los Angeles-based investigative report that pretty much indicts the entire U.S. government effort to deal with those unaccompanied kids seeking a sanctuary in the United States. The tale of epic fail begins “… as tens of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America crossed the border in search of safe harbor, overwhelmed U.S. officials weakened child protection policies, placing some young migrants in homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved, or forced to work for little or no pay, an Associated Press investigation has found.”

Responding to public pressure, the U.S. simply cut some corners. The AP notes that “… first, the government stopped fingerprinting most adults seeking to claim the children. In April 2014, the agency stopped requiring original copies of birth certificates to prove most sponsors’ identities. The next month, it decided not to complete forms that request sponsors’ personal and identifying information before sending many of the children to sponsors’ homes. Then, it eliminated FBI criminal history checks for many sponsors.”

The AP found dozens of children who were placed in abusive situations and reports that “Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who chairs the Senate’s bipartisan Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said he will hold a hearing on the agency’s child placement program Thursday because he is concerned that the failures are systemic.”

Read the AP story here:

Minnesota Newspaper Takes Aim At Immigration Court Backlog

Photo Credit:  From Star Tribune report, 1/23/16

Photo Credit: From Star Tribune report, 1/23/16

Focusing on a native of Liberia who finally got an Immigration Court date last year, but had that date set for November of 2019, the Star-Ledger in Minnesota takes aim at the years-long backlog in those Justice Department courts. Thomas Harris’ wife wept when she opened the letter from Minnesota’s immigration court late last year. The wait, the man from Liberia said, is “…s like a punishment that’s always there.”

The report also notes that the backlog punishes those with strong cases to stay in the country while benefitting those with weaker cases: “… wait times for court hearings have stretched as the local Bloomington Immigration Court has hit a new high of more than 3,500 pending cases. A surge in Central American arrivals in the past two years worsened chronic backlogs: The government deemed these cases a priority amid a new focus on deporting recent border crossers and placed them at the front of the line. For immigrants without a strong case to stay, the backlog provides lengthy reprieves, something smugglers have highlighted to attract customers. For those with legitimate asylum and other cases, it keeps them hanging, unable to set down roots in the United States, reunite with family members or travel outside the country.”

The paper also takes a rare look at the political landscape: “A perennial issue, the backlogs got worse in the early years of the Obama administration amid an enforcement push that resulted in record numbers of deportation cases. More recently, the administration created a new priority docket for Central American minors and families, who are arriving in unprecedented numbers, in part to counter a perception that newcomers would be allowed to stay indefinitely. In Minnesota, Judge Susan Castro took on that docket, and other cases were pushed back to a ‘parking date’ in November 2019.”

See the story here: Immigration Court backlog puts lives on endless hold

Civil Gideon Gains Another Voice In Connecticut

Photo Credit: From Connecticut Law Tribune report, 1/15/16

Photo Credit: From Connecticut Law Tribune report, 1/15/16

Writing in the Connecticut Law Tribune, the president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation is adding his voice to the calls for a “civil Gideon” program for the poor. James T. Shearin first reviews the massive funding cuts to state and federal programs aimed at helping the disadvantaged then notes that “… there is also an important discussion underway about the viability of adopting Civil Gideon legislation, an effort to provide state-funded counsel to clients who meet the federal poverty level. Chief Justice Chase Rogers commented in her address to the CBA in June 2015. The civil Gideon movement, named after the case that guaranteed legal representation in criminal cases, is already being tested in San Francisco and other cities.

In that address, Justice Rogers said: “I believe strongly that it is time for Connecticut to accelerate serious and comprehensive discussions regarding representation for people who cannot afford certain types of cases. I say this in full recognition of the financial limitations that exist in contemplating ‘Civil Gideon,’ but also in the hope that a dialogue—with the bar as an active participant—will lead to further enhancement of access to justice.”

Shearin writes that “… urging consideration for Civil Gideon, she [Rogers] joins CBA President William Clendenen, who in 2014 wrote a two-part article titled “A Civil Right to Counsel—The Time Has Come for Connecticut to Provide Access to Justice for Connecticut’s Economically Disadvantaged.” Clendenen noted that the 2012 World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranked the United States near the bottom of the list in providing access to justice in comparison to similarly developed countries. While probably years away from passage, Civil Gideon legislation is the best, long-term solution to addressing the critical need of ensuring that the rule of law is available to all.”
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