Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘On Judges’ Category

File:Laughing Fool.jpgLike Cher, Article III federal judges answer only to themselves and to God — assuming, that is, they aren’t atheists — otherwise they’re not answering to the Almighty either.

Which leads me to question why given how untouchable they are, some folks, granted mostly lawyers are nonetheless so exercised over Federal Judge Richard Kopf having told the U.S. Supreme Court it should ‘STFU.” One nose-out-of-joint conservative law school professor was so peeved at Judge Kopf he even went for the cheap ad hominem and called him “dummKopf.” I hope Steve Bainbridge doesn’t really think he’s the clever first one to think up that pun when he ranted it was the judge who should STFU.

The 68-year old Judge Kopf is retired but on senior status since December 1, 2011. This means he’s working at-large as a judge but assigned to any inferior federal court while receiving his retirement salary.

Hercules and the umpire.

But besides working as a senior justice, he also has a personal blog called “Hercules and the umpire” where he waxes either eloquent or inappropriate depending on your sociopolitical point of view.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest controversial decision involving a closely-held corporation’s personhood and its attendant religious beliefs concerning Obamacare-mandated contraceptives in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the very opinionated Judge Kopf invoked the acronym, STFU, to argue the nation’s high court is “causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid.” But it was that acronym that got people’s underwear in an uncomfortable bunch.

For the uninitiated, STFU is simply short-hand for shut the F-bomb up. Oh, my, that a judge would deign to use such language? At least it wasn’t in any judicial opinion.

Cebull didn’t blog.

http://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/judge-cebull.jpg?w=181&h=203Maybe if the now retired 70-year old Federal Judge Richard Cebull had blogged instead of emailing on his office computer, he might’ve kept his racist robes and his own senior status another day? Just kidding.

You’ll recall an investigation by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judicial Council revealed Judge Cebull had sent hundreds of “racist, sexist and politically inflammatory” e-mail messages over four years while serving as a federal judge in Montana. Parenthetically, Native American advocacy groups are still petitioning to see all the ex-judge’s racist emails but the 9th Circuit keeps saying ‘No.’ They’re supposedly confidential. Oh well, at least they’re just ‘secret’ and not ‘lost’ like Lois Lerner’s missing IRS emails.

“Dirty old man.”

http://static.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/MjAxMi01Y2Q5Y2I1MGRhMzg5M2Yw.pngIt’s not like Judge Kopf hasn’t been here before. A self-described “dirty old man ever since I was a very young man,” he got people worked up just a few months ago when he posted “On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress.”

In that post, he wrote “I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court: 1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it. 2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury. 3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a9/Hans_Conried_Uncle_Tonoose_Danny_Thomas_Show_1959.JPG/363px-Hans_Conried_Uncle_Tonoose_Danny_Thomas_Show_1959.JPGFilters? What filters?

Let me first inoculate myself against accusations of ageist stereotyping. I’m well past my middle-earlies. That said, perhaps age should at least, be discussed here.

Besides our own anecdotal evidence about crazy uncles ruining holidays “with outlandish behavior and boorish opinions,” studies support what some of us have long suspected, aging brains not only drive forgetfulness but blunt behavior.

In one study, “Aging, Executive Functioning, and Social Control,” researcher William von Hippel found that physiological changes such as aging-related atrophy of the brain’s frontal lobes, which he calls “the seat of executive functions” are associated with “age-related inhibitory losses.” This can lead to unvarnished prejudice, “off-target verbosity” and “socially inappropriate remarks.” For an unscholarly, inelegant take on the same topic, also see “Old People Saying Shit They Should Not.

Any wonder that 75-year old Federal Judge Richard Posner recommends judges after 70 be required to takea test of mental acuity every five years.”

Judge Robert Malcolm Kerr of whom it was said, “He administers a kind of rough and ready justice that irritates many and pleases few.”

But when it comes to the berobed, the combination of age-related inhibitory deficits with hubristic-minded ‘black robe disease’ also called “Judge-Itis” — why that’s downright pyrotechnic. In some quarters, judge-itis has morphed into Judge Judy-fication. For examples, remember King County, Washington’s real-life Judge Judy Eiler or the very recent Brevard County Florida Brawling Judge John Murphy. As historian Barbara Tuchman said, “A greater inducement to folly is an excess of power.”

So if media-celebrated ‘no nonsense’ ‘tough-talkers’ on the bench can gloss over Model Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2’s sub paragraphs on courtroom decorum and demeanor, why can’t judges with personal blogs?

“Everyone was thinking it, I just said it.”

Not to say that 60-somethings and older have cornered inhibitory deficits. Take San Diego California’s Judge DeAnn Salcido, a member of Generation X who was reprimanded for using her courtroom to create audition tapes for a Judge Judy-style television show.

http://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/e15ef-filter.jpg?w=327&h=227Unabashed, she said, “I have a big mouth. I don’t know when to be quiet. I’m telling you everything I know. That’s just the way it’s going to be. I don’t know how to change that. It’s a defect in my personality.” Methinks she needs a blog, too.

And then over the weekend, I finally had enough. I’d been following an anonymous Millenial and once-upon-a-time wanna-be lawyer turned author/blogger. I once thought his blog was refreshingly funny even with all the profligate F-bombs. But then his profane posts kept crossing the line from witty real-world impertinence to nasty hyperbolic meanness. And after reading his last post describing what he’d be willing to do if someone paid off all his student debt, I finally said “No mas” and unfollowed.

No filters.

So when it comes to blurting out whatever pops in your head regardless of the consequences, I’m now inclined to think age is irrelevant. As a society, thanks to social media, online anonymity and no-longer-taught etiquette, we have no filters.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/The_Wounded_Angel_-_Hugo_Simberg.jpg/298px-The_Wounded_Angel_-_Hugo_Simberg.jpgWhich gets me back to Judge Kopf. In his latest post, “Please stop,” the blogging judge says he’s reconsidering his blog after all the fallout from his STFU post. In his post, he reprints a communication received from a Nebraska lawyer who he says has his “highest respect.” In his missive, the lawyer appeals idealistically to Judge Kopf’s ‘better angels of our nature’ and asks him to stop blogging — lest it bring discredit on the public’s understanding of the judicial system.

But from my quick unscientific review of the comments to this post, it seems most readers favor his continued blogging. So as Judge Kopf contemplates what he’s going to do, not to worry. It’s not like public confidence in the Supreme Court isn’t already at a historic low or that judicial irreverence means the public will think as Dickens’ Mr. Bumble did that “the law is an ass.” I think he should keep blogging.

_________________________________________________________________

Photo Credits: Laughing Fool, source http://www.wellesley.edu/DavisMuseum/collections/provenance_research.htm at Wikipedia Commons, public domain;American magazine ad for the film Hercules (1959), HerculesMagazine.jpg, Wikimedia Commons, public domain;Hans Conried as Uncle Tonoose, Wikimedia Commons, public domain;Robert Malcolm Kerr, Vanity Fair, 1900-11-22m Wikimedia Commons,Public Domain; The Wounded Angel,Hugo Simberg, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.


Read Full Post »

I love juxtapositions. It’s an odd personality trait. Or maybe, it’s the heat. Or it’s niggling sleep deprivation now that I’m up earlier than usual — before 4:30 AM to walk our dogs before the summer sun scorches paws and dehydrates lolling tongues. It clears 90°F before 8 AM.

Take, for instance, my frequent lumping together of ‘Old Skool’ rhythm and blues with otherwise unrelated substantive topics. Regular readers know, for example, I especially like Old Skool’ Riffing on Godfather of Soul James Brown.

So when news hit that Brevard County Florida Judge John C. Murphy was back but handling civil cases after less than 30 days of paid vacation leave for reportedly scuffling outside his courtroom with Assistant Public Defender Andrew Weinstock, you’ll understand why “Get Up Offa That Thing” started playing in my head. However, I’ll admit that this particular jurist doesn’t strike me as someone who’d channel Soul Brother No. 1‘s happy “I’m back! I’m back!” refrain.

Brawl in Brevard.

You remember the “Stop pissing me off . . . if you want to fight, let’s go out back”  ‘Brawl in Brevard.’ That’s when after ripping the public defender a new one in his court, Judge Murphy irascibly took matters out to the hallway for a more serious heart-to-heart with the surprisingly unintimidated Andrew Weinstock.

I prognosticated then, “I don’t expect much to happen to Judge Murphy.” So he’s back already. Also see “Judge who hit public defender returns to bench, less than a month later.”

People 7442Sure the Judicial Qualifications Commission reportedly opened an investigation. But seeing how the wagons have already circled around Judge Murphy, I still predict, if anything, the gentlest of admonitions. Besides, according to news reports, no criminal charges were filed in the incident.

 

Boy with his hands on his face uidOpen Letter Contrition — but not for all.

In an open letter released “To the Residents of Brevard County,” Judge Murphy has moved to put the embarrassing episode behind him. “I am happy and relieved to be back at work serving the people of Brevard County and I thank [Chief Justice] Judge Harris for his support and the confidence he has shown to me,” he wrote.

Not to worry, I guess, if the Judicial Qualifications Commission happens to make a probable cause determination and the whole thing’s sent for adjudication to supportive Chief Justice Harris and the Florida Supreme Court.

In his letter, Judge Murphy expressed “regret” for his actions. And he “committed to continuing personal improvement” and to “win back” public trust and confidence. He offered “my personal apology” to each of his 18th Judicial Circuit colleagues and to “judges everywhere.” Curiously, he made no mention of Weinstock, the object of his ire, nor did he apologize to him. But at least he left out the standard non-apology apology.

Yet as the New York Times reported a few days ago, voters can expect more judicial contrition in Florida. See “Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs – In Broward County, Fla., Spate of Judges in D.U.I. Arrests.” Yeah, I know — let he who is without sin hide behind the nearest rock pile.

Dominick/Flickr

And to reassure the county electorate that he hopes will again reelect him, Judge Murphy also added, “I seek to ensure that this sort of unacceptable behavior will never happen again.” The words “seek to ensure” reminded me of that scene from “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” It was where Dan George as Lone Watie described his visit with the other Chiefs of the Five Civilized Tribes to the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary nonsensically tells them “Endeavor to persevere.” I imagine the judge will likewise “endeavor to persevere” not to spar, biff, or poke public defenders on premises.

1158073_paper_emotions_-_hateNot the last angry man.

To assist those aspirations, while on his taxpayer-paid leave, Judge Murphy took part in a favorite bureaucratic fix — anger management. The courts may not have them but I have my doubts about anger management programs and whether they even work.

Of anger management classes, the Health Journal at the Wall Street Journal said, “It’s not clear if the programs work, as few studies have analyzed their effectiveness. There are no licensing requirements for anger-management trainers — anyone can open a business. And since participants don’t usually sign up voluntarily, trainers say it’s possible to complete a program without changing one’s behavior.” Also see NPR’s “The Anger Management Industry – Calming Courses on the Rise, But Do They Work?”

Now really, is there such a thing as curing a propensity to be an angry jerk? Or can counseling graft a nice personality on an overbearing putz? Or can it fix what one blogger hilariously calls HUAD – Head Up Ass Disorder?

Take, for example, that serial biting soccer footballer Luis Suarez who after two previous biting incidents during a game was recommended anger management treatment. Suarez’s now up to three bites with the latest administered on an Italian Player at the current World Cup. He’s been fined and banned for 4 months. Still the psychologists keep recommending anger management instead of bicuspid restraints.

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/5f/e6/84/5fe684ecb7261693a426fe41022db7c1.jpg

Fortunately, even if anger management doesn’t work, there’s always Dr. Seuss. How about carrying around “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” in your pocket?

Truthfully, when it comes down to it, some people just don’t have the requisite people skills, civility and infinite patience to handle life stresses.

I’m all for reinvention — but as Clint said, “A Man’s Got to Know his Limitations.” If you can’t handle on-the-job anger, find another line of work.

Which to conclude, of course, reminds me of another ‘Old Skool’ golden oldie ditty.

It’s from my East Los Angeles Barrio days: “Are you angry?” So when all else fails — there’s always a song.

 


Photo Credits: James Brown Live Hamburg 1973 by Heinrich Klaffs Heinrich Klaffs – at Wikipedia Commons, originally posted to Flickr as James Brown Live 1702730029; Pin by Debbi Kassin on Anger Management & Conflict Resolution Dr. Seuss, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

Read Full Post »

Last October, I reblogged a post by Indiana lawyer Paul Ogden who was then facing a one-year suspension for a private email criticizing a judge.

File:1849 - Karikatur Die unartigen Kinder.jpg

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Ogden’s troubles, however, were bigger than just the possibility that as a politically active lawyer with an unblemished 27-year legal career, he might suffer potentially career-destroying sanctions. No, Ogden’s case was really about another attempt by attorney disciplinary authorities to further muzzle attorney free speech.

It was about how much more an ethical rule can be broadened to spank lawyers for their opinions about judges under Ethical Rule 8.2, which says, in part, “A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge.”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/88/Two_monks_working_in_the_blacksmith_shop_at_Mission_Santa_Barbara%2C_ca.1900_%28CHS-4070%29.jpg/319px-Two_monks_working_in_the_blacksmith_shop_at_Mission_Santa_Barbara%2C_ca.1900_%28CHS-4070%29.jpg

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

And it was also about a lawyer disciplinary commission with the unbridled temerity to hammer and tong a lawyer with the nerve to persistently criticize it.

The Court decides.

LAW AND JUSTICE uidThis past Monday the Indiana Supreme Court handed down its decision In the Matter of Paul K. Ogden. And while the vocal Hoosier gadfly ended up getting disciplined, it was still a good outcome for Ogden.

The case against him was originally brought in March 2013 because of comments he made in private correspondence about Judge David H. Coleman, a special judge appointed in an unsupervised estate case where Ogden was representing one of the interested parties.

As to the First Count of the Charge, in the words of the Court, Ogden’s “repeated and virulent accusations that Judge Coleman committed malfeasance in the initial stages of the administration of the Estate were not just false; they were impossible because Judge Coleman was not even presiding over the Estate at this time—a fact Respondent could easily have determined. Because Respondent lacked any objectively reasonable basis for (these) statements, we conclude that Respondent made these statements in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity, thus violating Rule 8.2(a)in Count 1, the aggravating facts convince us that a mere reprimand is insufficient discipline in this case.”

As to the remaining Second Count concerning alleged ex-parte communications to Marion County judges to follow recently outlined forfeiture law, the Court ruled the disciplinary commission had not met its burden that Ogden’s letters to the judges were “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

Caucasian businessman pointing finger beside window uidThe Court instead found professional misconduct only with respect to Ogden’s statements about Judge Coleman. And so it ordered a 30-day suspension starting August 5, 2014 and assuming he keeps his nose clean, at its conclusion, the Court approved automatic reinstatement.

Speaking objectively — despite the sanction, I think it’s a win for Ogden. The Court unanimously found misconduct only concerning the First Count. It imposed only a 30-day suspension with automatic reinstatement — instead of the one-year suspension without automatic readmission that the Commission wanted.

File:Freespeech.jpg

Wikimedia Commons/Luis Ricardo/GNU Free Documentation License.

Vulnerable attorneys.

A few days after, at Disbarring the Critics, Ogden also understandably cast the outcome in a positive light. The perils he’d faced had been daunting.

But all the same, Ogden was disappointed “the Court failed to distinguish between public and private communications, thereby leaving attorneys vulnerable to having their private emails and conversations scoured for Rule 8.2 violations for judicial criticism.”

On a more hopeful note in his post, The Indiana Supreme Court Hands Down Decision,” he added: “Attorneys from across the country are wanting an attorney free speech case to go before the United States Supreme Court to curtail states use of disciplinary rules to target attorney speech critical of judges. I think it’s inevitable that’s going to happen as the U.S. Supreme Court seems to have a keen interest in free speech cases and there seems to be no support among conservatives or liberals on the Court for the types of professional sanctions states are imposing on attorneys for judicial criticism.”

Obstreperous meets obdurate.

Ogden also remains convinced the Indiana Disciplinary Commission overcharged and overprosecuted him for no other reason than his unrelenting criticism of its doings. Optimistically, then, he hopes his case will be “a catalyst” for investigating the Commission’s conduct “and for much-needed reform to the attorney disciplinary process.”

While I wish him well, I don’t know whether such optimism is realistic. The forces arrayed against him are formidable. The Commission is an agency and arm of the Indiana Supreme Court.

Case in point, despite his well-founded longstanding complaints about the Commission’s conduct, the Court adopted its agency’s view that Ogden had been “obstreperous.” Obstreperous is a $10 word meaning stubbornly resistant to control as in “unmanageable.”

Laughing Jackass 10952161246Using my own $9.99 word, if Ogden’s unruly then I think the Commission has been obdurate meaning stubbornly resistant to change. But operating apparently without meaningful oversight or transparency, why should it conduct itself any differently?

Read Full Post »

File:RandyOrton-chokehold.jpgHow’s that for an arresting quote? Haven’t heard such talk since my barrio East Los Angeles high school days. But as an instance of failed judicial temperament? Who’d of believed it?

I must need a recollection refresher as it’s been awhile since I last posted on judicial temperament and how justice But having just finished reading Kenosha, Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer Michael Cicchini’s excellent Tried and Convicted: How Police, Prosecutors, and Judges Destroy Our Constitutional Rights and with overnight news that a judge allegedly opened up a can of whoop-ass on a public defender — well, I’m compelled to post today.

The incident caught on courtroom camera, except for the off-camera hallway fracas, took place in Brevard County, Florida. In one corner was Judge John C. Murphy, a Dayton Law School grad admitted to the bar in 1983 and an elected and reelected county judge the past 8 years. And in the other corner and on the receiving end of the judicial ire and supposed fisticuffs was Public Defender Andrew Weinstock. From the raw video, it’s reasonable to surmise some preexisting tension between the two purported combatants.

Tale of the tape.

http://i735.photobucket.com/albums/ww355/btothemo86/CanofWhoopAss375.gif

But what’s also clear, at least from the tape, is that the strained relations went beyond a loss of judicial patience with a public defender. No, it’s my opinion the judge was likely ‘pissed off’ by Weinstock’s unwillingness to plea out his client; and to succumb to court pressure; and to waive his client’s right to a speedy trial. “You know I’m the public defender. I have a right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my client,” Weinstock is heard saying in response to Judge Murphy’s “You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now.” 

Sixth Amendment Right to Speedy Trial.

But what about an accused’s right to a speedy trial? Read Chapter 8 in Cicchini’s illuminating book to learn how that works in the real world. Cicchini calls it another one of our “soft” constitutional rights. Consequently, it’s not so speedy and it’s honored more in the breach than observance. And then there are the consequences visited upon both defense lawyer and accused for presuming to insist on their rights.

Given Cicchini’s other recitations in his concise 163-page book about how government agents (police, prosecutors and judges) routinely circumvent our constitutional protections, I think that rather than an angry jurist, it’s the public that ought to be royally pissed. But we’re not. With civics hardly taught in school; with our fount of knowledge reduced to movies and television dramas; and with our tendencies toward holier-than-thou self-righteousness when someone else’s accused of a crime — our blissful ignorance keeps us pacified.

As for the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, as Cicchini tells it, speedy-trial demands are discouraged. And judges will “not-so-subtly punish defense lawyers who make them.”  That said, I don’t think that when Cicchini wrote those words, even he envisioned what’s supposed to have occurred in Brevard County court yesterday.

But then again, my esteemed brethren and sistren of the criminal defense bar are NOT going to be shocked by such tales told in or out-of-school. Indeed, I bet most of them could add their own chapters and real-life examples to Cicchini’s book. They know all too well about what passes for the preservation of individual rights in criminal court. See for a recent example, Arizona criminal defense lawyer Matt Brown’s latest post, “Real Monsters,” about an octogenarian cancer patient and alleged victim caught up in a dilemma worthy of Franz Kafka. Or take this other instance of what passes for impartiality between a judge and his BFF prosecutor just posted by Pro Publica at “Startling Sidebar: Brooklyn Judge Gave Political Advice.”

man sleeping at deskAs for the rest of us still walking around with our eyes closed about the purported sanctity, inviolability and indomitability of our individual constitutional rights — save for the clueless knuckleheads applauding in Judge Murphy’s court — most of us are taken aback by such unseemly conduct and the report of a Judge accused of hitting attorney.” But most won’t read pass the titillating headlines to understand it was because of the lawyer’s defense of his client’s Sixth Amendment right in all criminal prosecutions to a speedy and public trial. And too bad our attention will be fleeting. Soon our self-assurance and complacency returns.

A teachable moment.

Politics Law & Finance 43Still it was no surprise the story made the newswires and even the morning news shows. Or by necessity that I had to parenthetically refer to Cicchini’s timely and topical take-down of “the world of criminal justice” and about the sorry state of our “soft” and “malleable” constitutional rights.

At the risk of invoking the banality of the ‘teachable moment,’ the stuff he writes about needs to be taught in our schools and not so as to, perish the thought, undermine our rose-colored faith in the system. No, it has to be taught to wake us up “about what really happens to ordinary people on a daily basis” when they’re caught in the maws of the criminal justice machine. Forewarned is forearmed. I urge every person reading this post to get a copy of Tried and Convicted.

And as a final add on the Brawl in Brevard, according to the Statement from Chief Justice John Harris, Judge Murphy will be taking a temporary leave of absence and has agreed to seek anger management counseling. Public Defender Weinstock took some time off. After the din dies down, I don’t expect much to happen to Judge Murphy (and hopefully nothing to lawyer Weinstock) although Florida’s ever tireless lords of discipline will almost certainly be poking proboscis into the matter.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Photo Credits: Randy Orton chokehold, by Sean Refer, at Wikipedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; can of whoopass, via photobucket, http://i735.photobucket.com/albums/ww355/btothemo86/CanofWhoopAss375.gif.

 

Read Full Post »

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” – Chief Justice John Roberts

For the moment forget my snark two years ago when I riffed on the US Supreme Court and Obamacare. In that post, I parenthetically mentioned how I often confuse two prominent legal ‘talking heads,’ Jeffrey Toobin and Jonathan Turley — a couple of guys I keep inexplicably mixing up about as much as I do Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

But unlike my categorical preference for Bardem over Morgan, on any given day I might prefer one legal beagle over the other. Today, having managed to keep them apart in my head, there’s good reason for me to like Toobin. It’s because of his timely post at the New Yorker, “Chief Justice Roberts, Meet Bundy and Sterling.”

“It is a sentiment out of touch with reality . . . .” – Associate Justice Sotomayor

It was a post I wish I’d written because it resonated so completely with my views on the state of race in America today. As recently as last January, for example, I’d related my thoughts on how race still matters. That was prompted by the outing of racist ex-judge Richard Cebull andOne more add on a marinated post-racial America.”

Toobin was first to the door, though, masterfully dovetailing ever so neatly Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and their respective racist viewpoints with the stirring stand-up-and-cheer 58-page dissent by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor last week in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. That case involved a 2006 Michigan ballot initiative imposing a state constitutional ban on “all sex and race-based preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting.” By a plurality, the nation’s high court ruled 6-2 that voters could ban such considerations of race and sex through the ballot box. See Schuette v. BAMN – Supreme Court of the United States.

Justice Sotomayor wrote, in part, “While our Constitution does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently, forcing the minority alone to surmount unique obstacles in pursuit of its goals—here, educational diversity that cannot reasonably be accomplished through race-neutral measures.”

And quoting from the dissent and referencing Chief Justice Roberts’ simplistic recipe for ending racial discrimination, Toobin opined: “Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote about a country where the Bundys and Sterlings still hold considerable sway. Indeed, she went beyond the simple bigotry of the Bundys and Sterlings and found that more subtle wounds of racism still exist in this country. “Race matters,” she wrote, “because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’” Indeed, Sotomayor threw Roberts’s famous line back at him. She quoted him—“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”—and then wrote, “It is a sentiment out of touch with reality, one not required by our Constitution, and one that has properly been rejected as not sufficient to resolve cases of this nature. While the enduring hope is that race should not matter, the reality is that too often it does. Racial discrimination … is not ancient history.”

I’d planned to blog about the decision and particularly Justice Sotomayor’s dissent. But no matter. As John Lennon presciently warned, Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” So as it turns out, Toobin has instead captured it all so concisely and incisively that woulda-coulda-shoulda doesn’t matter. I refer you instead to his excellent post.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Photo Credits: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor by DonkeyHotey at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;

 

Read Full Post »

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ad/WMATA_third_rail_at_West_Falls_Church.jpg/320px-WMATA_third_rail_at_West_Falls_Church.jpgIn politics, there’s the ‘third rail,’ a metaphor for topics so charged that like a train’s exposed electrical conductor, they’re too dangerous to touch. For at least some lawyers, the profession’s ‘third rail’ is the lawyer discipline system.

The closest most want to brush against lawyer discipline is a glance at the list of sanctioned lawyers in the monthly bar magazine. And that’s just in case there’s someone there they know.

In Arizona, the consumer protection agency also known as the state bar does a good job reminding its lawyers about the consequences of violating ethics rules. The bar’s website prominently features up-to-date news of Arizona lawyers who’ve been disciplined.

By comparison, bar websites in neighboring California, Nevada, and New Mexico don’t have such front-page listings. But true to its express mission of protecting the public from its lawyers, the Arizona bar additionally sends press releases publicly identifying the drubbed and the defrocked.

Afraid of the system.

But ask an Arizona lawyer to explain how discipline works or to state how many bar prosecutors there are or how much money is spent each year protecting the public and chances are good you’ll get a headlight-caught Bambi expression. More than “don’t ask” — afraid of bad karma it’s “don’t tell me — I don’t want to know.”

 

Take the financial piece, for example. Lawyer discipline takes the biggest chunk of member dues. In Arizona, the number runs about $5M annually.

But if there’s a detailed financial accounting explaining how, what, why and where those monies are expended, I wouldn’t know about it.

To be fair, that doesn’t mean such a report doesn’t exist. I may just be the last person in Arizona to know it. All the same, whether you’re talking legal elites or state or local government, transparency hasn’t been big here.

Consequently, it may simply be that run-of-the-mill members even if they’re paying for the whole kaboodle aren’t supposed to be privy to it — sort of like questions above their pay grade.

On the bar’s website, however, at least there’s an 11-page April 30, 2013 Annual Report of the Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee to the Arizona Supreme Court. Admittedly, it’s not a financial statement. It’s a statistical report of admission and discipline cases for the year. It’s also about one-fifth the size, for example, of the Washington Bar’s 2012 Lawyer Discipline System Annual Report. The Washington state report, by contrast, is replete with cost and discipline expense data.

“Ethics allegations about judge . . . .”

woman face 5But the real reason to bring up lawyer discipline today is not because I have a pent-up hankering for self-administered third-rail electrocution. It’s  because of Wednesday morning’s front-page news story concerning a persistent non-lawyer named Mark Dixon and the bone he’s been picking with the state’s lawyer discipline chieftain, presiding disciplinary judge Hon. William “Bill” O’Neil.

According to news sources, Dixon’s been complaining about Judge O’Neil since at least 2009. Indeed, almost 2 years ago Dixon even filed an affidavit in support of Lisa Aubuchon’s disbarment appeal. For those who forgot, Aubuchon was the former deputy county attorney ultimately disbarred for her role in former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas’ prosecutorial misconduct against county officials.

None of this was news to me. I caught a whiff a couple of years ago when Phoenix New Times ran an unflattering account, “Mark Dixon Disses Disciplinary Judge William O’Neil, Who He Says was a “Close” Friend, in Affidavit Filed by Lisa Aubuchon. New Times reporter Ray Stern put Dixon in a less than credible light.

But now comes this week’s news account in the Arizona Republic, “Divorce case stirs ethics allegations about judge.” Talk about an attention-grabber — especially if you’re a lawyer. So naturally, the interest of legal community types was piqued, especially when the allegations weren’t just directed at any judge but the one charged with disciplining lawyers. Even so, these were only allegations and ones that had been previously dismissed out-of-hand. So inasmuch as Dixon’s beeves had been grilling for a while and that he’d become a minor cause célèbre among local Tea Party types, why was the mainstream newspaper now taking this on? Slow news day?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/Apatosaurus_skull.jpg/320px-Apatosaurus_skull.jpgI doubt it’s because the Arizona Tea Party and its supporters have that much pull, if any, with the state’s largest newspaper. Moreover, their support of Dixon is colored. They’re still picking their own Brontosaurus-sized bone with the state bar and the court’s disciplinary arm for defrocking their hero, former county attorney Andrew Thomas.

So it’s a mystery to me. But as for the Republic story, writer Dennis Wagner did a terrific job time-lining events and giving equal time to both sides.

Most importantly, in detailing the series of events, coincidences, and timing of the real estate short sale of Judge O’Neil’s mother-in-law’s house to his friend and subsequent business partner and the judge’s purchase thereafter of a half-interest in the home for $25,000, Wagner was smart to raise the relevant “appearance of impropriety” ethics standard.

It’s CANON 2 of the Arizona Supreme Court Code of Conduct,“A judge shall avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s actions.” Section A of Canon 2 of the Code; rule 81, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court, further provides: “A judge should … conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” whereas section B of Canon 2 provides in part: “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.”

To Judge O’Neil’s inestimable credit, though, when asked about the appearance of impropriety involving the short sale transaction and subsequent purchase, Judge O’Neil told the news reporter, “In hindsight, would I have done this? The answer is ‘No’.”

No props, though, for straight-faced zealous advocacy from the judge’s lawyer, who when told by the reporter of the judge’s woulda-coulda-shoulda said, “I hate to contradict the good judge, but . . . there isn’t any appearance of impropriety.”

But no need to go into the rest of the story here. Read Wagner’s account instead.

And while this may not necessarily be open discussion at law firm water coolers, I think even lawyers apprehensive about a ‘third rail’ fan kick might by now found the wherewithal to sneak a peek at the news report — at least from under the covers.

_________________________________________________________________

Photo Credits: “WMATA third rail at West Falls Church.jpg” by Ancheta Wis under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, Wikipedia Commons;”Deer caught in the headlights,” by Harold Neal at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License; Skull of Apatosaurus, a sauropod by Ghedoghedo at Wikipedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license;

“smirk? sneer?” by makelessnoise at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring;”smirk or smile,” by egreg17 at Flickr under Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.

 

 

Read Full Post »

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/96/Golf_ball_5.jpg/320px-Golf_ball_5.jpgA couple of Saturdays ago, we were paired up on the golf course with a happy wise-cracking guy who turned out to be a presiding judge in another jurisdiction. I won’t mention where he was from but let’s just say, he was one happy hombre hitting white dimpled balls in the sunshine while his cold snap compadres back home were freezing theirs.

He was also a much better duffer than me which, of course is no big deal since I set the bar pretty low on the golf course. But I especially liked his bracing candor and absence of pomposity particularly when referring to his day job. His ‘hail fellow well met’ attitude was refreshing. Ah, but then again, we were basking on a sunny Arizona golf course. Who knows what he’s like back home? But at least he wasn’t like Judge Spaulding Smails!

Nonetheless giving him the benefit of the doubt, mid-round I commended the long-time jurist for having successfully inoculated himself from black robe disease — and for not asking me to kiss his ring. Hearing my good-natured razzing, he laughed and smote his Pro-V-1 down the middle of the fairway.

And with that I segue to less berobbed congeniality in the following updates:

From the slapping the spanker file.

Remember Texas Judge William Adams who lost it in more ways than one? For those who forgot, he was the jurist suspended for a year after his daughter, Hillary, posted an embarrassing angry belt-whipping video online. Judge Adams was the belter and Hillary was the beltee. Well, add one more loss for the now ex-jurist. Following enough mea culpas, Judge Adams had been reinstated by the Texas Supremes in November 2012. But thing was, that video followed him around like the proverbial tin can tied to a cat’s tail. So thanks to getting caught beating his daughter on the video, he lost re-election last month. Chalk one up for prudent voters slapping down an ill-advised reelection bid. And give credit to much-maligned judicial elections, which now and then do somehow manage to impose some semblance of accountability courtesy of the voters.
Meanwhile back in Texas, remember Judge William Adams who lost it in more ways than one? For those who forgot, he was the jurist suspended for a year after his daughter, Hillary, posted a video online of the belt-whipping he administered. Well, add one more loss for the ex-jurist. The judge who was reinstated by the Texas Supremes in November 2012 after he was caught beating his daughter on video lost re-election in March. Chalk one up for voters slapping down an ill-advised reelection bid. And chalk up one for much-maligned judicial election voter accountability.
body parts,Buddhism,feet,footprints,religion,religious symbols,toes,visitations

From the foot massages no more file.

Sadly at only age 56, former Clark County, Nevada District Court Judge Elizabeth Halverson passed away March 1, 2014. She’ll be remembered for a lot of things, including the stuff that led to the imposition of judicial discipline. In particular, I’ll recall her former bailiff Johnnie Jordan’s affidavit where he said the judge had ordered him “to massage her feet, neck and shoulders, or some combination of those body parts.”  Also see “Foot massages no more. Nevada Supreme Court reaffirms district court judge’s permanent removal.”

From the shame in his game file.

photoAnd finally it turns out there was more than a little shame in the game of Wayne County, Michigan Circuit Judge Wade H. McCree Jr.

At least more than enough to convince the Michigan Supreme Court to hand down an order dated March 26, 2014 to remove from the bench the self-professed “No shame in my game” judge with a hankering for old-school R & B; inappropriate liaisons in chambers; and bare-chested texts.

_________________________________________________________________

From the more FREE CLE file.

With the usual disclaimers about content, continued availability and jurisdictional approval find the following:

Practising Law Institute

9:00 AM -12:30 PM (Pacific)

How to Find and Handle Your First Pro Bono Case 2014

Free  
Register Now

___________________________________________________________

National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA)

Studio71 Webcasts - NITA – National Institute for Trial Advocacy

http://www.nita.org/index.php?option=com_dtregister&view=event&layout=list&controller=event&task=category&list1=9&tab=webcasts

Miscellaneous Topics – Free & Online

For example,

  • Effective Handling & Use of Exhibits at Trial: How to Look Cool & Be Persuasive Using Stuff at Trial

May 20, 2014

___________________________________________________________

CRITELLILAW

http://www.critellilaw.com/

CritelliLaw Mediation WorkShop Webinar

Apr 17, 2014 to Apr 18, 2014

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM CDT

Register Now at:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/194303361

CritelliLaw Litigation WorkShop Webinar

Noon  May 6,7, and 8th 2014.   3 Hrs FREE CLE

Register Now at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/110472208

___________________________________________________________

LexisNexis

LexisNexis® presents a Complimentary CLE-Accredited* Webinar: Cutting Through the Noise: Practical Guidance on Administering Obamacare & Other Health Plans

Length: 95 Minutes

Date: 04/22/2014

Time: 2:00 PM (EDT)

___________________________________________________________

US Legal Journal

http://www.uslegaljournal.com/?page_id=87

FREE MCLE COURSE | US Legal Journal

Navigating the Ethical Minefield of Social Media for California Attorneys

_________________________________________________________________

Read Full Post »

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ee/Menudo_%28sopa_de_M%C3%A9xico%29.JPG/640px-Menudo_%28sopa_de_M%C3%A9xico%29.JPGI was having a bowl of menudo yesterday and thinking about Elizabeth Warren. Not so odd a juxtaposition — chowing down the communal Mexican ‘breakfast of champions’ while chewing on the Massachusetts Senator who champions populist economics and battles predatory financial institutions.

Menudo — the spicy traditional Mexican soup of honeycomb beef tripe in a red chili pepper broth base, garnished with lime, crushed oregano, chopped onions and cilantro doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. And neither does Elizabeth Warren.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012.jpg/319px-Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012.jpgBut I like both. A year ago I cheered when the former lawyer and Harvard law professor took down our nation’s weak-kneed financial regulators for their shameful timidity. When Elizabeth makes news, I pay attention.

“Corporate judges.”

A speech she gave last week criticizing the “striking lack of diversity” on the federal bench prompted my menudo musings about Elizabeth. She called for more “professional diversity” and decried the continued trend of “corporate judges” who keep getting nominated to the federal bench.

Her speech echoed the points made by an Alliance for Justice report that the federal judiciary lacks judges “with experience (a) working for public interest organizations; (b) as public defenders or indigent criminal defense attorneys; and (c) representing individual clients—like employees or consumers or personal injury plaintiffs—in private practice.” According to the Alliance, 85 percent of Obama’s nominees have either been corporate lawyer types or prosecutors and sometimes, both.

Preaching to the converted, she told her Alliance for Justice audience that President Obama’s federal bench nominees ought to “have represented people other than corporate clients.”  Few have been public interest lawyers, labor lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, solo practitioners, or plaintiff’s trial lawyers.

j0289753The obvious implication is that once on the federal bench, by dint of their narrow work backgrounds exclusively representing “corporate interests” and their homogenous sociocultural experiences, the judges nominated will supposedly be more favorably predisposed to a conservative political world view. Warren and the Alliance suggest that the federal bench is stacked against the less powerful and weighted instead toward wealthy and politically conservative, pro-corporate special interests.

The reality, however, is that federal judicial nominees are chosen not so much because of their work experience but out of the mixed bag of political ideology; personal loyalty; party affiliation; their Senate confirmation potential; race, gender and judicial experience. And more often than not, candidates for appellate nominations also come from a state’s respective U.S. Senators. And those politicos have their own crony-bag of personal, ideological and politically connected favorites.

Apolitical judiciary?

And speaking of political ideology and party affiliation, as I riffed a while back, the irony is that life tenure for federal judges supposedly keeps them independent from those concerns. Canon 5 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges even says as much, “A judge should refrain from political activity.”

So are judges apolitical? The answer is ‘no.’ “Judges are as opinionated as anyone else – – – maybe, more so. Merely donning a black robe, doesn’t magically make ideological inclinations or political predilections disappear.”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/ba/Jules_Joseph_Lefebvre_-_Lady_Godiva.jpg/373px-Jules_Joseph_Lefebvre_-_Lady_Godiva.jpgAlong with the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree and Lady Godiva’s naked ride through Coventry, it’s simple mythology like the one perpetuated of Judges as Umpires.” The most famous proponent of that unfortunate baseball metaphor remains U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

In his book, “The Persistence of the Color Line,” lawyer and professor Randall Kennedy opines, “Roberts’ performance as a justice belies his claim. He is, as Professor Professor Christopher Eisgruber notes, “an odd sort of umpire” – – one who consistently calls the key pitches the conservatives’ way.”

But rather than baseball metaphors, it’s really more a cat-and-mouse game. Judicial nominees neuter their political and ideological persuasions while the rest of us try to ferret them out.

Any wonder then, that to futilely shield themselves from bare-knuckled partisan confirmation battles and win the lifetime-tenure prize, nominees parse, dance, glide and dodge their political backgrounds? Suddenly, they are all political agnostics. And about as crystal clear as a bowl of menudo. See “One Fourth Of Federal Judicial Nominees Did Not Answer Party Membership Question.”

____________________________________________________

Photo Credits: Menudo, a typical Mexican soup made with tripe, hominy, and chile, by Ron habla hispana at Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; Elizabeth Warren at a campaign rally in Auburn, Mass, Nov 2, 2012, by Twp at Wikipedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; George Washington as a boy and the cherry tree, at Wikimedia Commons, lithograph engraved in 1867 by John C. McRae after a painting by G. G. White, public domain; Lady Godiva, by Jules Joseph Lefebvre at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Read Full Post »

It was premature to say so. But the election of Barack Obama did not augur the start of a new ‘Post-Racial’ America. If there was any doubt about that, a 2013 Pew Research Center poll cleared it up.

50 years after Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, the Pew Survey indicated only 26 percent of African-Americans believed the situation for blacks had improved the past five years — while 21 percent said it was actually worse.

Race is still with us. And even on “M.L.K. Day,” there’s this fatuous example from the racial-justice cognoscenti Sarah Palin who after noting today’s remembrance twitters Obama should stop ‘playing the race card.’

There are miles to go before there’s a color-blind society — assuming it ever happens. Yet surprisingly, others have suggested that the evils the civil-rights movement fought against have been “vanquished.” Racism is dead. What remains are simply “lousy schools, a thriving drug trade and a misguided governmental response, the collapse of marriage.”

RestaurantMarinated malignment?

Who knew?

So no surprise there was such a furor from the racism-is-dead crowd when last November Oprah Winfrey told a BBC interviewer, “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism, and they just have to die.”

People 27701Admittedly, the 60-year old Oprah painted the greatest and not-so-greatest older generations with too broad a brush of aggrievement. And astonishing, too, coming from the one-time architect of touch-feely television therapy whose stock-in-trade is engagement, approachability, and likeability.

KKK public-domain-Library-of-Congress-Creative-Commons-ImageBut perhaps Oprah was merely affirming — although in a ham-handed way what Denis Leary said a few years ago about the generational legacies we leave our children. “Racism isn’t born,” Leary said. “It’s taught.”

Race matters.

Bigoted attitudes may be fading with the passing of preceding generations. The young do appear generally more enlightened and open-minded on such matters. But that’s not to say they don’t linger. Not long ago, yet another survey revealed that for those 18 to 30-year olds of the Millennial Generation, race continues to matter.

And unfortunately, it also still matters and in a much less benign way to members of the Boomer generation. Of whom one refers to as “the last reminders of our racist, homophobic, sexist past. When you look at those “white only” diners and drinking fountains in those photos from the 1960s you just can’t believe it. Or how women were treated. And gays. But many of our beloved boomers were teenagers back then, living with parents who watched Ozzie and Harriet and raised to believe that people who weren’t white weren’t to be trusted, women were meant to stay at home and gays were sinners.”

Habitually repentant?

http://lawmrh.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/judge-cebull.jpg?w=181&h=203And with that, we turn back to another signpost that race continues to matter and to that aptly named former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Montana and now retired — 70-year old Dick Cebull. No matter his other achievements, he’s the jurist now best-remembered for passing around racist anti-Obama emails.

Well, there’s an update. As it happens, what was once believed to be aberrational and leading to a belated racist email repentance — has now turned out to be something of a bad habit. It now appears he just happened to get caught forwarding that one particularly nasty email that suggested President Obama’s mother had sex with a dog.

“I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is,” he afterward. “I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

Last Friday, a Memorandum of Decision in the Proceeding in Review of the Order and Memorandum of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit divulged that Judge Cebull had actually sent hundreds of other bigoted emails.

The majority of the emails the former Montana federal judge sent via his office email account were political in nature. But as the memorandum additionally disclosed, “A significant number of emails were race related. Whether cast as jokes or serious commentary, the emails showed disdain and disrespect for African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics, especially those who are not in the United States legally. A similarly significant number of emails related to religion and showed disdain for certain faiths. Approximately the same number of emails concerned women and/or sexual topics and were disparaging of women. A few emails contained inappropriate jokes relating to sexual orientation.”

But for the objection of U.S. 3rd Circuit Judge Theodore McKee, the public might never have known the extent of Judge Cebull’s misconduct.

Judge McKee had accused the 9th Circuit investigative panel of hiding Cebull’s misconduct because of their failure to release their findings. Once Cebull conveniently resigned, they’d proclaiming the whole thing “moot” and filed away Cebull’s embarrassing revelations.

Fortunately, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States found the lower panel in error when it withheld its investigative findings. The Committee stated, “The imperative transparency of the complaint process compels publication of orders finding judicial misconduct.”

Which leads me to finally conclude with what the late Christopher Hitchens said in reply to the question — “What is it you most dislike?” Hitchens answered, “Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”

____________________________________________________
Photo Credits: Barack Obama, by DonkeyHotey at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.

Read Full Post »

Since the California State Legislature took matters into its own hands and passed AB 1024 allowing applicants who satisfy admission requirements — but who are not lawfully present in the United States to be admitted as attorneys in California, no further can kicking down the road was needed. Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1024 into law on October 5th.

So this morning — one day after AB1024 officially became law and in a move that surprised few, the California Supreme Court handed down its decision, In re Garcia on Admission. And with the following words took the lead from the pols in Sacramento and granted undocumented immigrant Sergio C. Garcia admission to practice law in California.

Judges Gavel“Our order to show cause requested briefing on a number of issues raised by the Committee’s motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar, including the proper interpretation of a federal statute — section 1621 of title 8 of the United States Code (hereafter section 1621) — that generally restricts an undocumented immigrant’s eligibility to obtain a professional license but that also contains a subsection expressly authorizing a state to render an undocumented immigrant eligible to obtain such a professional license through the enactment of a state law meeting specified requirements.  Very shortly after we held oral argument in this matter, the California Legislature enacted a statute that was intended to satisfy this aspect of section 1621 and the Governor signed that legislation into law.  (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 6064, subd. (b); Stats. 2013, ch. 573, § 1, enacting Assem. Bill No. 1024 (2013-2014 Reg. Sess.) as amended Sept. 6, 2013.)  The new legislation became effective on January 1, 2014.

“In light of the recently enacted state legislation, we conclude that the Committee’s motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar should be granted.  The new legislation removes any potential statutory obstacle to Garcia’s admission posed by section 1621, and there is no other federal statute that purports to preclude a state from granting a license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant.  The new statute also reflects that the Legislature and the Governor have concluded that the admission of an undocumented immigrant who has met all the qualifications for admission to the State Bar is fully consistent with this state’s public policy, and, as this opinion explains, we find no basis to disagree with that conclusion.  Finally, we agree with the Committee’s determination that Garcia possesses the requisite good moral character to warrant admission to the State Bar and, pursuant to our constitutional authority, grant the Committee’s motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar.”

On Facebook, the elated Garcia posted,“With tears in my eyes I’m happy to report I am being admitted to the bar, thank God! This one is for all of you who dare to dream and by doing so change the world! Love you all! History was made today!” And so with all of the turmoil and the controversy now behind him, look for paralegal Sergio Garcia to be at long last sworn in as a California lawyer.

j0289753“Undocumented immigrant.”

In its first footnote, the Court also made a point of shying away, no doubt to the annoyance of many, especially here in Arizona, of shorthand terms like “illegal alien.” It instead opted to avoid “the potential problematical connotations of alternative terms” and adopted the term undocumented immigrant “to refer to a non-United States citizen who is in the United States but who lacks the immigration status required by federal law to be lawfully present in this country and who has not been admitted on a temporary basis as a nonimmigrant.”

The Court then acknowledged that the federal government has “plenary authority” on immigration and “that provisions of federal law relating to immigration prevail over any conflicting state law.” But thanks to California’s new law, it did not have to delve into how best to interpret 8 USC § 1621 (c) (1) (A), which renders an undocumented immigrant ineligible for any State or local public benefit such as a professional license.

Section 1621(d) grants States the authority to make “an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States” eligible for any State or local public benefit they might otherwise be ineligible for under 1621’s subsections (a) and (d).

No moral turpitude involved.

And with respect to how an undocumented immigrant having broken federal immigration law by his unauthorized presence in the U.S. can nonetheless be sworn to uphold the law — the Court said that since unlawful unauthorized presence does not itself involve moral turpitude or demonstrate moral unfitness,” it does not “justify exclusion from the State Bar, or prevent the individual from taking an oath promising faithfully to discharge the duty to support the Constitution and laws of the United States and California.”

The Court further said that “existing federal limitations on the employment of undocumented immigrants do not justify excluding undocumented immigrants from admission to the State Bar.”

Momentous.

There’s scarcely any doubt that the California high court’s precedential decision today will also help other undocumented law graduates like Cesar Vargas and Jose Godinez-Samperio in other states. As I  while California decisions are not dispositive in other jurisdictions, state courts do tend to pay attention to what California does. So thanks to the California Supreme Court’s decision, Sergio Garcia’s case has again taken on a much more momentous dimension.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers