NewsLinks is a collection of recent news items relating primarily to the California judicial branch. NewsLinks does not verify nor endorse the accuracy or fairness of the news items, and the views expressed in opinions, editorials, and commentaries are those of the writers only.

Proposed Hike in State Bar Fees Goes Too Far

April 30, 2019 | The Recorder
State Auditor Elaine Howle concluded that while the bar has made the case for a fee increase—which would be its first in 20 years—the lawyer-oversight agency can get by with a lower charge of $525 if it spreads certain costs over several years, cuts other expenses and derives more income from leases at its San Francisco office.

Santa Rosa abandons prior position, agrees to release police records

April 30, 2019 | Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Santa Rosa officials announced Tuesday they plan to release police records from 2018 and earlier, abandoning their prior position that they needed clarity from California courts before releasing them. Officials said in a statement they will begin releasing records within a week, but did not identify what the records will contain.

Judicial Profile: Los Angeles County Judge Wendy Chang

April 30, 2019 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) Chang said the most successful attorneys know their case front to back and present their issues or motions in a careful, systematic way that’s easy for her to follow. She’s fairly flexible with continuances within reason and tries to encourage settlement where possible, but she does have to keep her calendar moving, the judge said.

Supreme Court affirms death penalty — imposed after third trial — for 1997 rape/murders

April 29, 2019 | At the Lectern
The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Ming Chin rejects numerous appellate arguments, including many concerning the testimony and earlier statements of the victims’ son and brother, who was five years old when the crimes occurred. The court also holds that the superior court did not err in admitting the defendant’s confession, despite claims of a Miranda violation and of involuntariness.

Newsom’s first pardon request veiled in secrecy

April 29, 2019 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) Gov. Gavin Newsom seems to be continuing a tradition of keeping the clemency process in the shadows, submitting his first clemency request to the state Supreme Court last week under seal without publicly explaining what the felon’s three crimes were.

An algorithm wipes clean the criminal pasts of thousands

April 29, 2019 | BBC News
This month, a judge in California cleared thousands of criminal records with one stroke of his pen. He did it thanks to a ground-breaking new algorithm that reduces a process that took months to mere minutes.
A census undercount could cost California billions — and LA is famously hard to track

A census undercount could cost California billions — and LA is famously hard to track

April 29, 2019 | Los Angeles Times
The county, officials say, will be the nation’s hardest to tally because of its high concentrations of renters and homeless people, as well as immigrant communities that may not participate, because of language barriers or because they fear reprisal from the federal government — especially if a citizenship question is added to the form.

Accused Judge Contests Sexual Harassment, Misconduct Charges

April 26, 2019 | The Recorder
Laettner was also accused of resetting bail in the absence of a defendant, failing to disclose to a public defender an ex parte communication he had with a prosecutor, revoking a defendant’s “own recognizance” status in his absence, prejudging a minor’s case, improperly offering a 25 percent reduction in jail days for defendants who pleaded guilty, and failing to disclose in three criminal cases that his son worked for the district attorney’s office.

Justice Groban to discuss “what to expect from the Brown Court”

April 26, 2019 | At the Lectern
The May 8 early evening program will feature Joshua Groban, who is not only the Supreme Court’s newest justice but also who, as a senior advisor to then-Governor Jerry Brown, played an integral role in the appointment of three of his current judicial colleagues.

Column: Justice Ming Chin by the numbers

April 26, 2019 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) Justice Chin is nearly always with the majority. Justice Chin appears, at least in civil cases, to file dissenting opinions strategically, when flipping a single vote will reverse the result of the case. Throughout his tenure, Justice Chin has voted fairly consistently with his conservative colleagues.

Commentary: South Monterey County courthouse must have priority

April 26, 2019 | Monterey Herald
If our local judicial leaders truly want to adhere to Cantil-Sakauye’s mantra of equitable justice, it is our belief that no other court facility in Monterey County should be constructed before fulfilling its promise to South County and constructing the Greenfield Courthouse.

Giants Security Guard Can Pursue Pay Claim Under State Labor Law

April 25, 2019 | Bay City News Service
In the underlying case, Melendez claims the termination of his work at the end of each season amounts to a discharge or layoff, and is subject to a labor law provision requiring immediate payment. The Giants contend that Melendez has an ongoing employment relationship that is therefore subject to a different provision requiring payment within two weeks.

Mayors worry Greenfield courthouse plans endangered by Monterey proposal

April 25, 2019 | The Salinas Californian
What ultimately happens, however, is in the hands of the Judicial Council of California, which put the Greenfield project on an indefinite delay in 2012 amid budget crunches, Ruhl said. That agency oversees almost all state courthouses and controls the purse strings for new courthouse construction.

Bar probes average 6 months

April 25, 2019 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) An attorney charged with a felony is required to report it to the State Bar within 30 days, which would initiate an investigation under Business and Professions Code §6068. The State Bar declined to comment on whether it is investigating Avenatti, citing the confidentiality of the process.

Judicial Profile: San Joaquin County Judge Gus Barrera

April 25, 2019 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) Barrera also likes to carry on his grandfather’s legacy by getting involved with the community, including talking to students about his work and running mock trials to help them understand how courts work. He’s participated in Every 15 Minutes, a program that talks to high school students about drunk driving.

Dems Kill Legislation that Would Help Independent Contractors

April 24, 2019 | Valley Voice
This proposed legislation would have allowed hardworking Californians who are independent contractors to continue with their employment choice. SB 238 would have conformed California’s test for employment with an existing federal standard.
Should an accomplice to a killing be charged with murder? A controversial new California law makes it harder to do so

Should an accomplice to a killing be charged with murder? A controversial new California law makes it harder to do so

April 24, 2019 | The Mercury News
Supporters of the new statute contend it will ensure that getaway drivers and other low-level accomplices to crimes like robbery that spiral into murders are not punished for killings they did not carry out and never intended to happen. But critics, including many prosecutors, argue the tougher standards will make it harder to win murder convictions in complex cases and allow dangerous offenders back on the streets.
U.S. Supreme Court Sides With Business in Arbitration Case

U.S. Supreme Court Sides With Business in Arbitration Case

April 24, 2019 | Wall Street Journal
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that private arbitration, which many companies impose as a condition of employment or doing business, offers “lower costs, greater efficiency and speed” over lawsuits in state or federal court. “Class arbitration lacks those benefits,” he wrote, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Governor Newsom sends first clemency request to the Supreme Court

April 23, 2019 | At the Lectern
Unlike the clemency recommendation requests submitted by Brown, Newsom’s cover letter to the court that appears on the court’s website does not say what Burton’s three convictions were for. (A Google search indicates the convictions were possibly for drug offenses.) It is not clear how much, if any, other information that was sent to the court is publicly available.

LA courts expand mentally ill diversion program

April 23, 2019 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) At a press conference Monday, Peter P. Espinoza, director of the Office of Diversion and Reentry, said the airport courthouse will act as the county’s second case management site, allowing the Superior Court system to hear cases for mentally ill inmates in nine of the county’s 12 districts. Espinoza said with the support of the Board of Supervisors, the program to remove mentally ill inmates from jail and place them in supportive housing will service the entire county.

Who Begs To Go To Prison? California Jail Inmates

April 23, 2019 | The Marshall Project
Garland no longer spends his days in the Sacramento jail. Since December, he has been living in a prison medical facility in San Luis Obispo, where he says his health problems have improved. How did he get transferred? In 2018, he hit a sheriff’s deputy in the jail. Garland did not contest charges of resisting an officer and assault likely to produce great bodily injury, a felony. “They wanted to give me six months in jail,” he recalled recently. “I said I’d take two years if you’d just let me go to prison.”

The Ninth Circuit and the California Supreme Court: It’s about time

April 22, 2019 | At the Lectern
The Ninth Circuit had been waiting quite a while for the Supreme Court to explain how to determine the timeliness of a prisoner’s state habeas corpus petition, which in turn is important in determining the timeliness of the prisoner’s subsequent federal habeas petition. The Supreme Court finally agreed to help out the federal appeals court, but even the wait since then has been inordinately long.

California Supreme Court Poised to Provide Guidance on Ascertainability in Class Actions

April 22, 2019 | The National Law Review
Given the split among the appellate courts, it is not surprising that the California Supreme Court granted review in Noel. The specific issue on review is: "Must a plaintiff seeking class certification under Code of Civil Procedure section 382 or the Consumer Legal Remedies Act demonstrate that records exist permitting the identification of class members?"
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