Archives for April 2017

CM Publisher Updates AG Probe Into Asbestos Trusts

Sara Warner, Founding Publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor

Posting at The Huffington Post, Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner updates an investigation by 13 state attorneys general into what they are calling potential abuse and mismanagement in four of the nation’s largest asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Billions of dollars are held by dozens of trusts and a key issue is is required re-payments to Medicare and Medicaid programs may have been missed.
See the HuffPo blog here:

Asbestos Trusts Strike Back, Calling AGs Medicaid Fraud Probe ‘Overreach’

Law Prof Offers Insight Into Trump Budget, Immigration Courts

A man has his fingerprints scanned by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while others wait their turn.
Photo Credit: Reuters/Jeff Topping

Lindsay M. Harris, an assistant professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia, has posted a deep-dive analysis into how President Trump’s budgeting might impact immigration courts, but also offering some historic insight along the way. In a post at The Conversation website (link below) that was picked up by the UPI, she notes that “… [Trump’s] budget requests would add to the more than $40 billion that the Department of Homeland Security will receive this year. It would include $4.1 billion to start building a border wall and $2.65 billion to increase the number of immigration detention beds. In comparison, the fiscal 2018 budget requests $80 million to add 75 new immigration judges.”

Harris also backgrounds that “… since 2002, funding for immigration enforcement has more than quadrupled, from US $4.5 billion to $20.1 billion in 2016. During the same time period, resources for immigration courts have increased by much less – 74 percent.”
Read the excellent analysis here:

Asbestos Trust Filings An Issue In California Legislative Push

Photo credit: Northern California Record report, 4/10/17

Tort reform advocates are pushing a new California proposal that would require victims’ attorneys to disclose filings with asbestos bankruptcy “trusts,” or face longer times awaiting trial in the state’s crowded civil court docket. The Norcal Record, a legal-issues newspaper owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reports that the new law is scheduled for a vote in the Judiciary Committee of the California Assembly on April 25.

The Record explains that AB105 “… would require lawyers to reveal that they have filed for awards with asbestos bankruptcy trusts, established to compensate victims of exposure, before receiving ‘preference’ when filing a separate action in a civil court. Absent preference, a civil action in California’s  overburdened courts can take three years for a case to come to trial, legal experts say.”

Nothing under current California law requires a lawyer to reveal to a court that a separate action for compensation has been filed with a trust, resulting in documented cases of lawyers and their clients receiving awards both from the trusts and the courts. The so-called ‘double dipping’ leaves trusts with fewer funds for those with legitimate exposure claims, critics of the practice say.

Asbestos victims’ cases are the nation’s longest running civil tort litigation, lasting more than four decades. The trusts are a special aspect of federal bankruptcy laws that allows companies facing asbestos liability to form special trust funds that operate separately from the civil courts system. Recently, those trusts have come under fire for offering victims a chance to tell one exposure story in the trust system and another in the separate civil courts system.

Some states have passed, and the U.S. Congress is considering, new laws aimed at reconciling how the trust funds interact with the civil courts.

See the Record story here:
Asbestos transparency legislation set for committee vote next week

AG Sessions, Immigration Advocates Agree On Judges

Photo Credit: AP, Politico online report, April 2017

Politico is among the media outlets noting that, “… for all their opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda,” immigration advocates are welcoming at least one part of the agenda: hiring more immigration judges. In a well-reported story, Politico’s Danny Vinik added that U.S. Attorney General Sessions “… announced that DOJ will seek to add 75 immigration judges to the courts over the next year and will implement reforms to speed up the hiring process. These changes address a real problem with the immigration system—a nearly 600,000-case backlog at the immigration courts—and the move was a rare occasion in which advocates applauded the administration, though they were concerned how Sessions would implement the changes.”

Later, Vinik even deep-dives enough to background that “…immigration judges are technically employees of the Department of Justice, a structure that inherently creates a conflict of interest,since their job is to rule on immigration cases that are pushed by DOJ prosecutors, whereas most of the judiciary is independent. Advocates and the immigration judges union have long pushed to remove the immigration courts from the DOJ. And during the Bush administration, a DOJ investigation found that several immigration judges received their jobs due to their political connections, a scandal that serves as a warning today.”

During comments at the U.S.-Mexican border, Sessions also announced a “streamlined” hiring process for those DOJ judges.

Read the story here: http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/04/the-one-area-jeff-sessions-and-immigration-advocates-agree-000411

Obama’s ‘Rocket Docket’ Policy Comes Under Scrutiny

The so-called “rocket docket” policy of the Obama administration is coming under fire for lack of judicial training and for allowing non-judges to determine which cases get priority, according to four attorneys’ groups.

The Courthouse News is reporting that “… the groups — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association — claimed the Department of Justice, which oversees EOIR, refused to turn over records on policies and procedures for expedited immigration dockets, or “rocket dockets,” in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

The CN also noted that the groups “… say the lack of clear policies and guidelines made it harder for unaccompanied minors, one-parent families and their attorneys to navigate the system and avoid deportation.

See the story here: https://www.courthousenews.com/foia-reveals-spotty-procedures-immigration-courts/