Study: Miami Immigration Court Is Most Lenient In Nation

The clearinghouse that tracks immigration court backlog says that some places are better than others for immigrations hoping remain in the United States. The Miami Herald reports that’s “… because judges at the Miami immigration court are deemed among the most lenient toward immigrants in the country… the report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University says that the Miami immigration court is in the top five immigration courts in the country whose judges are more likely to allow immigrants to stay in the country despite deportation orders sought by government trial attorneys representing the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the TRAC study, the Phoenix immigration court ranks No. 1 with “the highest proportion of individuals who were allowed to stay.” In second place was the New York immigration court, followed by Denver in third, San Antonio in fourth and then Miami in fifth, according to the study.

See the TRAC research here.

Read the newspaper’s story here: How lenient are Miami immigration judges? A study ranks the court

CA Court Interpreter Funding Boost Key to Access to Justice

In states like California where roughly 44 percent of residents speak a language other than English, court interpreters are a key component to reasonably equitable justice. Just last week, we noted the backlog of California immigration cases had trumped 500,000 making court interpreters a sought after commodity.

The LA Times Reports (8/9/16): Aldo Waykam, a Mayan language interpreter, meets recently with Vinicio Nicolas, 15, outside the federal immigration court in Anaheim before Vinicio's asylum hearing. Vinicio speaks Kanjobal, the language used in his village in the highlands of Guatemala. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The LA Times Reports (8/9/16): Aldo Waykam, a Mayan language interpreter, meets recently with Vinicio Nicolas, 15, outside the federal immigration court in Anaheim before Vinicio’s asylum hearing. Vinicio speaks Kanjobal, the language used in his village in the highlands of Guatemala. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Earlier this month, the LA Times reported extensively on the challenge of Border Kids whose native language is Mayan.  Many of these kids are coming in from countries such as Guatemala to escape gang violence epidemic with the drug cartels.

They report, “Spoken by almost 80,000 people in mostly rural municipalities in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Kanjobal is common in places like Santa Eulalia… but rare everywhere else.”

As with other court funding issues; however, funding has been short. The shortages have real consequences, according to the Times Report, “The shortage of interpreters is leading to a host of issues. Often, judges delay immigration hearings until one is found. At times, asylum seekers are deported even if they have a strong case because a qualified interpreter cannot be found in time. And unlike in immigration court, interpreters aren’t provided for free during asylum hearings.”

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law the California budget which includes nearly a 10 percent increase in funds for court interpreters, Slator.com reports, bringing the total over $103 million. This is a major development considering the Justice Index placed California in 30th place out of 52 for language access in its 2016 report.

The money isn’t going into a vacuum either, it appears. The reporter notes, “The numbers are huge. A 2015 report by the Judicial Council of California showed that court interpreters in the state provided a total of 254,000 service days from 2012–13.”

As other states struggle with the Border Kids crisis, court interpreter funding will likely become an ever present issue demanding more attention.

California budget raid jeopardizes Modesto courthouse construction funding

A decision by California lawmakers to raid $1.4 billion from the judicial system during the budget crisis is having a direct impact on a $267 million courthouse construction project in Modesto, according to the ModBee. With 23 courthouse construction projects in the works across the state, the budget raid could have implications well beyond the city borders.

As budgets have become constrained, courthouses have closed, forcing existing courthouses to renovate to accommodate the influx of new cases. Brandi Christensen, facilities support service manager for Stanislaus County Superior Court told the Bee, “We don’t have an inch to move. Our courtrooms are packed every day.”

In addition to lack of space, many courthouses have fallen into deep disrepair from age. In the case of the Modesto courthouse, the Bee reports, “The most modern part of the current courthouse — which houses the courtrooms — was built in 1960. The other half of the courthouse was built in 1871 and remodeled in 1939. The courthouse has no holding cells for inmates, who are kept in jury rooms before their court appearances.”

The Judicial Council of California’s Court Facilities Advisory Committee met on June 28th in San Francisco to go over courthouse construction funding, and found it is coming up short. Very short. The Council directed the staff to develop funding recommendations, in concert with  the Department of Finance, in advance of their next meeting August 4th.

We’ll continue to follow the story, and you can get caught up with full details at the full Modesto Bee article here.

California Still Dealing With Epic Failure On Case Management System

California Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking another $12.5 million to help several courts update case management software, a situation that dates back to an epic failure to upgrade the entire state. That project was terminated in 2012 amid what The Courthouse News in L.A. called “damning criticism from legislators, trial judges, court employees and union leaders as a costly and technologically unwieldy boondoggle.” But several counties actually started using the failing system, and they want to now upgrade with new vendors.

The tech debacle was front-and-center as massive budget cuts brought some of the more severe justice rationing to the Golden State. Read the latest at CN here:
CNS – Budget Revise Gives Calif. Courts $12.4 Million More

Proposed California Bill May Be Life Line for Court Budget Cuts

As court funding continues its downward slide, one bit of good news for California courts is a potential policy reversal on rainy day funds. With the Great Recession, lawmakers were seeking every possible penny to pinch. As such, they limited the judicial system’s ability to squirrel away money in their rainy day fund when they came in under budget. The fund was limited to just one percent of their unspent dollars.

Courthouse News reports the policy has a good chance of changing during the new budget. They report, “The new bill now moving through the Assembly, AB 2458, would overturn that 2013 law and return to the previous status quo, allowing trial courts to keep a rainy-day fund for expenses over and above the day-to-day operation of the court, such as technology projects and emergencies.”

Court budgets have been slashed across the country, but California has seen a significant number of courthouses actually close.

The bill’s sponsor, Assembly Member Jay Olbernolte, is notably a Republican who says he’s seen first hand the effect courthouse closing can have on a community. Per the interview with Courthouse News:

“My first official act as mayor was to take a phone call from the presiding judge of the San Bernardino County court informing me that the courthouse in Big Bear Lake was to be closed. Barstow, Needles and Twin Peaks were also being closed,” he said in an interview. “Through the ensuing years I saw firsthand the impact that a lack of access to justice could have. That’s given me a deeper appreciation for what our courts do,” he said.

Read the full story at Courthouse News.