Archives for March 2016

Supreme Court Backs Colorado, Nixes Neighboring State’s Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court this week handed pro-marijuana states a 6-2 victory against litigation from neighboring non-marijuana states. Nebraska and Oklahoma argued that Colorado’s law violates the federal Controlled Substances Act, which treats marijuana as a dangerous drug and forbids its sale or use. They urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue as an “original” matter and declare that Colorado’s law was preempted by the federal drug laws.

The Los Angeles Times explains that “… usually, the high court hears appeals from lower-court rulings. But on rare occasions, the justices are called upon to decide disputes between states. Typically, however, these ‘original’ suits involve disagreements over boundaries or the use of river water that flows from one state to another.

The Times also noted that “… the suit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma also implicitly challenged the Obama administration for its refusal to intervene more directly in Colorado.
Since California’s voters in 1996 authorized medical use of marijuana, 22 other states have adopted similar measures. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska went further and allowed for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use.”

“The state of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” the states argued. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”

Read the Times report here:
Supreme Court rejects challenge to Colorado marijuana law from other states

Fallout Continues Over Judge’s Comments That 3-Year-Olds Can Represent Themselves

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Political fallout continues over that immigration judge who recently made headlines for testifying that 3- and 4-year-old migrant children could be taught immigration law and could competently represent themselves in court. The backlash includes a powerful Los Angeles Times editorial that warms readers not to “be fooled” as the government tries to dilute the comments.

The Times notes the actual comment: “You can do a fair hearing,” said Judge Jack H. Weil. “[Children] get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.” He was testifying in a deposition for a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other legal organizations to challenge the government’s failure to appoint counsel for children facing deportation.

The L.A. Times notes that “… Weil’s bosses promptly disavowed his comments, and he claimed his words had been taken out of context. But don’t be fooled. Weil is an assistant chief immigration judge responsible for training other judges on cases involving children. He is not just knowledgeable about how young people are treated in immigration court, he facilitates the process. His deposition unmasks the government’s deplorable position: Deportation hearings in which children must defend themselves are not right, but they will continue.”

It’s worth noting that Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Southern California and the attorney who questioned Weil in the now-infamous deposition, told The Washington Post that he initially thought the judge had misspoken, “because what he said was so outrageous. As I asked further questions, he obviously meant what he said.”

Read the Times opinion, including just how much more likely non-represented kids are to be sent back, here: The injustice of deporting children without representation

California Teacher’s Union First Post-Scalia Winner

Demonstrators supporting Rebecca Friedrichs, a plaintiff in the case, outside the Supreme Court in January. Photo Credit New York Times report, 3/29/16

Demonstrators supporting Rebecca Friedrichs, a plaintiff in the case, outside the Supreme Court in January. Photo Credit New York Times report, 3/29/16

When a case involving California public schoolteachers – and by implication any union’s ability to collect fees from workers who choose not to join and do not want to pay for collective bargaining agreements – was first argued before the U.S. Supreme Court back in January, it seemed headed for another 5-4 vote that would greatly diminish the power of collective bargaining organizations.

But now, in what the New York Times calls “… the starkest illustration yet of how the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month has blocked the power of the court’s four remaining conservatives to move the law to the right…” it has been upheld on a 4-to-4 vote.

The times reports that “… a ruling in [the union-opposed teachers] favor would have affected millions of government workers and weakened public-sector unions, which stood to lose fees both from workers who objected to the positions the unions take and from those who simply chose not to join while benefiting from the unions’ efforts on their behalf.”

Read the NYT take the landmark case here: Victory for Unions as Supreme Court, Scalia Gone, Ties 4-4

CBS Details Route To ‘Debtor Prison’ In U.S.

Starting with the story of a Georgia teenager who spent five days in jail for an illegal left-hand turn, the CBS News “Market Watch” program is outlining how the civil-case to jail-case route actually happens. It turns out that the 19-year-old driver could not pay $838 quickly enough. Eventually, a lawsuit over the case was reportedly settled for $70,000, but CBS says the practice remains common nationally.

Of course, the poster child for the practice, and what it can trigger, is Ferguson, MO, where the city’s finance director famously offered advice to the police chief in a March 2010 letter, warning that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year,” the city faced a budget shortfall, said Norquist. He added that a state lawmaker had told him police officers would get little notices along with their paychecks, warning: “If we don’t get more tickets, there won’t be pay increases.”

Read about the new American debtor’s prison here: How you could go to debtors’ prison in the U.S.

Congresswoman: Give Those Border Kids An Attorney

A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, in June. (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, in June. (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and 54 of her House colleagues have introduced a bill that would provide government-appointed attorneys to help them navigate the immigration asylum process. The Los Angeles Times, in a detailed report, says that “… Eleven California Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Lofgren is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.”

The newspaper explains that “… because being present in the U.S. illegally is a civil offense, there is no right to an attorney during immigration or asylum proceedings. That means many children stand alone before an immigration judge when they ask to stay in this country.” When unaccompanied children started arriving at the border in large numbers a couple of years ago, it is worth noting, they often did not sneak into the country but sought asylum at the border. We have called them “Border kids.”

Now the San Jose Democrat and 54 of her House colleagues have put forth a bill to argue that, at a minimum, children and people with certain disabilities should have government-appointed attorneys to help them navigate the asylum process. Eleven California Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Lofgren is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The U.S. Senate’s lone former immigration lawyer, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), has co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It remains unclear if any Republicans will support the bill.

Read the well-researched L.A. Times story here: ‘We have a moral obligation’: Lawmakers want the U.S. to provide attorneys for immigrant children