Archives for February 2017

Appeals Court To Decide Latest California Parent-Trigger Case

Students work on laptops in a Palm Lane Elementary School. (File photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A California Court of Appeals is expected to decide in about 90 days if parents of an Orange County school can use the state’s “parent trigger” law to convert their traditional public school to a charter school. California became the first state to have a parent-trigger law in 2010 and civil lawsuits have been part of the process, although this is thought to be the first use of the law in Orange County.

Parent trigger laws allow parents of low-performing schools to change the administration, typically by becoming a charter school. They have to gather signatures from at least half of the school’s parents. The school district is more or less making procedural arguments that there were not enough valid signatures and there were no academic evaluations available to measure the school’s academic performance, according to published reports.

The Orange County Register newspaper reported that “… Daniel Bress, of Kirkland & Ellis, representing pro-bono Cecilia Ochoa and other Palm Lane parents, asked the judges to uphold Orange County Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks’ 2015 ruling that the district’s rejection of the parents’ petition was ‘procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.'”
“These are low-income parents who wanted to do something about a chronically failing school,” Bress told the paper.

San Francisco Newspaper Profiles Immigration Courts in Near-Chaos

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle Second from right: Mike Lee, from South Korea, and others wait in line to go inside the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service building located at 630 Sansome Street on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif. Lee, a molecular biology student at UC Berkeley, said he was going in for a naturalization interview.

It may be a “sanctuary city,” but the federal immigration courts in San Francisco are not immune from the backlog and lack of legal representation found in the rest of the country. The San Francisco Chronicle has a profile of the situation online, noting that “… since [President] Trump took office Jan. 20… U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which runs the detention facilities, has increasingly refused to release immigrants on bond after their arrest. Nieblas, the former lawyers’ association president, said the same agency is also refusing to settle once-routine cases and forcing immigrants to litigate them in court.”

The report notes that “… in most court cases, they’re on their own. Unlike criminal defendants, immigrants have no constitutional right to legal representation, and a recent study found that 37 percent were represented by lawyers, mostly from nonprofit organizations charging no fees. For immigrants in detention, only 14 percent had lawyers.

Some studies indicate that people are five times more likely to win the right to say in the U.S. if they have a lawyer. Unlike criminal defendants, who are legally entitled to representation, immigration cases are considered “civil” and no such right exists.

The Chron notes that the legal-representation issue “… is percolating in San Francisco, where Mayor Ed Lee has approved $1.5 million in city funding for immigration lawyers at nonprofit agencies but opposes Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s request for $7 million to hire 10 staff attorneys to represent detained migrants.”

Read the story here: Immigration courts clogged with 2-year backlog

Trump Immigration Crackdown Hits Backlogged Courts

Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AP

BuzzFeed is deep-diving into the problems of a backlogged immigration courts system as President Trump gears up his enforcement and deportation plans. The report notes that “… judges and lawyers interviewed by BuzzFeed News described hearings scheduled four, five, or even six years out. Already facing a crushing caseload, immigration judges are bracing for more strain as the Trump administration pushes ahead with an aggressive ramp-up of immigration enforcement with no public commitment so far to aid backlogged courts.”

And as background the websites notes that “… immigration courts, despite their name, are actually an arm of the US Department of Justice… [the][ lawyers from the US Department of Homeland Security prosecute cases. Rulings can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is also part of the Justice Department, and then to a federal appeals court.”

The report also notes that more than a half-million cases are pending immigration court attention.

Read the report here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/backlogged-immigration-courts-pose-problems-for-trumps-plans?utm_term=.qeqnQJxo3#.wxBYOm5nr

Florida Newspaper Endorsed ‘Civil Gideon’

Scales of justice (freeimages.com)

Citing research from the Florida Bar Association, The Orlando Sentinel newspaper has taken a strong stand on “Civil Gideon,” the idea that some civil cases demand the same right to an attorney as criminal cases.

In an editorial, the paper cites economic benefits from a study commissioned by The Florida Bar Foundation: “… the study concluded that every dollar spent on civil legal aid for lower-income Floridians yields more than $7 in benefits. As Bar Foundation President Matthew Brenner said, ‘Equal justice under law is not only a basic underpinning of our democracy; it’s also good economic policy.’

Adds the paper: In short, it’s a better deal for taxpayers to invest at the front end to help fellow Floridians solve problems in civil court, instead of paying more to deal with the consequences to the state’s economy of unsolved problems at the back end. This same logic would apply — and should appeal — to other potential legal aid contributors, including the business community and nonprofits. Here’s how the math works.”
The mainstream endorsement is a milestone for the Civil Gideon movement. Read it here:
Invest in access to civil justice: Where We Stand

SF-Based Immigration Courts Getting Testy

Official seal of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which operates the U.S. immigration courts.

The federal immigration courts, already over-booked with a half-million pending cases and the focus of President Trump’s crackdown strategies, are getting a bit testy out San Francisco way. A reporter with the East Bay Express, a small but scrappy newspaper, wrote about being asked to leave a proceeding.

The story paints an alarming picture of federal agents lacking transparency. While not a direct part of the story, it also illustrates that the “judges” actually work for the Justice Department and are not regular federal judges.

Read the report here:

I Was Kicked Out of Federal Immigration Court — Because I’m a Journalist | East Bay Express