Monday, November 30, 2009

Is DA Bonnie Dumanis bullying a judge who was apparently appalled by evidence tampering?

DA Bonnie Dumanis boycotts Superior Court Judge John Einhorn
By Staff, City News Service
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Without explanation, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has been steering cases away from Superior Court Judge John Einhorn, it was reported Saturday...

Any time a case is assigned to Einhorn, prosecutors use a legal tactic called a peremptory challenge to block the case from going to the judge. Under the law, each side has one such challenge when assigned a judge. They do not have to state a reason for doing so, the Union-Tribune reported...

It is rare, though not unprecedented, for prosecutors to boycott a judge...

Einhorn has been at the center of two high-profile cases in San Diego over the past year. Sommer was convicted of murdering her husband, Todd, in 2007 by poisoning him with arsenic. She was granted a new trial in November of that year.

Then in April 2008, new evidence was discovered — tissue samples of Todd Sommer that showed no traces of arsenic — and that led to prosecutors dismissing the case.

[Maura Larkins note: This proved that evidence used in the first trial had been tampered with.]

The retrial had been assigned to Einhorn. Allen Bloom, Sommer’s lawyer, pressed for the case to be dismissed in a way that would preclude prosecutors from ever charging Sommer again.

That legal battle went on for more than a year, with prosecutors at one point telling Einhorn he had no authority to even hear the matter. Einhorn disagreed and said state law allowed him to consider the unusual request...

Eventually, Einhorn sided with prosecutors. On Sept. 25, he declined to permanently bar another prosecution of Sommer, but openly said he doubted the case would ever come to trial again.

It was around that time that the challenge apparently went into effect. Bloom said he doubted that the move stemmed from the Sommer case, because he said Einhorn ruled against him on most issues.

Still, Bloom said the move smacks of an effort to bully the judge...

Lemon Grove School District cross-examines teacher on her views of the Trinity for court case

It's ridiculous to complain about the word "Christ" in a song played at school unless the teacher is actually focusing on one religion as a subject, which was not the situation in the case below.

Note to Lemon Grove School District: Although "Christ" was added to the name of Jesus by believers after his death, and wasn't actually part of Jesus' name during his life, a lot of people have heard the words "Jesus Christ" so often that they think Jesus had two names. They are not saying "Jesus is the Messiah" when they say, or play a song tape that says, "Christ." Really, they aren't. You shouldn't have made such a big deal out of this word. It was unfair.

It's good to teach about religion in the classroom as long as more than one religion is covered. The California framework asks that teachers cover three or more faiths if they talk about religion.

Dance teacher fired for using religious music

Pacific Justice Institute
September 8, 2009

A dance teacher who was terminated from her job after a complaint was made that she used religious music in her instruction, is in trial this week. The single complaint which cost the teacher her job came from a school staff member rather than a parent or student. In addition to secular music on the day in question, the instructor, Kathy Villalobos, used a rendition of Dona Nobis Pachem, Canon in D and O Si Funi Mungu. Dona Nobis Pachem is a baroque piece by J.S. Bach and is sung in Latin. O Si Funi Mungu, which is translated as “Praise God,” is sung in Swahili, though the song has some English interspersed. Though the 15 stanza song is predominantly in Swahili, one stanza mentions Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

An attorney for the Lemon Grove School District, Dan Shinoff, cross-examined the teacher on her views of the Trinity. The jury sat attentive as the songs were played in court last week. Villalobos then testified as to the educational purpose for the selections.

Despite emails and testimony to the contrary, the District is claiming that Villalobos was not fired because of the religious music but for reasons such as pupil attendance class scheduling. Yet, the school is inconsistently claiming that it was justified in firing Villalobos to prevent a violation of the separation of church and state. “It is clearly constitutional and legal for a teacher to use both religious and secular music as a part of instruction,” commented Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute.

Villalobos’ lead attorney in the case is Karen Milam, PJI Senior Counsel who directs the southern California office. Assisting her in the trial is PJI attorney Matthew McReynolds. The trial, now in its second week, will likely go to the jury on Thursday. California law which allows instructors to use non-proselytizing references to religion while teaching, specifically identifies dance instruction as an acceptable subject for use of such references. (9/1/09, Pacific Justice Institute)

No God Music

San Diego Reader
By Jay Allen Sanford
Oct. 14, 2009

“I played a song in my after-school dance class, a job that I had for five years [and] this song mentioned the name ‘Christ,’ ” says former Lemon Grove arts teacher Kathy Villalobos. “This name…seemed to bother an administrator, a clerk, and an after-school coordinator; subsequently, I lost my job a few days later.”

“Religious art and music should not be banished from our schools,” says attorney Karen Milam of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is appealing a recent San Diego County Superior Court decision dismissing Villalobos’s claim of wrongful discrimination because “[Villalobos] had not suffered as much as the Jews in Nazi Germany.”

The song in contention, “O Sifuni Mungu,” is mostly sung in Swahili. Villalobos claims the song — chosen for its danceable African rhythm — was the cause of her termination. The Lemon Grove School District maintains she was fired mainly due to missing a number of classes and district rescheduling.

“They are also on record as saying this is about insubordination,” says Villalobos. “I have never, ever in all the five years had one complaint or warning laid against me until someone heard the name of Christ in one of my songs.… They have offered me a ‘settlement,’ what I call ‘hush money,’ and they absolutely refuse to publicly admit what they did.”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scientology tried to stop investigations

Scientology : The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power

Monday, May. 06, 1991

By all appearances, Noah Lottick of Kingston, Pa., had been a normal, happy 24-year-old who was looking for his place in the world. On the day last June when his parents drove to New York City to claim his body, they were nearly catatonic with grief. The young Russian-studies scholar had jumped from a 10th-floor window of the Milford Plaza Hotel and bounced off the hood of a stretch limousine. When the police arrived, his fingers were still clutching $171 in cash, virtually the only money he hadn't yet turned over to the Church of Scientology, the self-help "philosophy" group he had discovered just seven months earlier.

His death inspired his father Edward, a physician, to start his own investigation of the church. "We thought Scientology was something like Dale Carnegie," Lottick says. "I now believe it's a school for psychopaths. Their so-called therapies are manipulations. They take the best and brightest people and destroy them." The Lotticks want to sue the church for contributing to their son's death, but the prospect has them frightened. For nearly 40 years, the big business of Scientology has shielded itself exquisitely behind the First Amendment as well as a battery of high-priced criminal lawyers and shady private detectives.

The Church of Scientology, started by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to "clear" people of unhappiness, portrays itself as a religion. In reality the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner. At times during the past decade, prosecutions against Scientology seemed to be curbing its menace. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

San Diego City College District loses appeal in Mesa College case

This is an interesting case, establishing that you can NOT give up your right to due process as established by the Education Code.

Filed 7/28/09


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Joan M. Lewis, Judge. Affirmed.

Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, Ray J. Artiano and Richard E. Romero for Defendants and Appellants.

Grady and Associates, Dennis M. Grady, Kenneth W. Baisch, and Bradley K. Moores for Plaintiff and Respondent.

... The trial court granted Farahani’s petition for writ of mandate (Code Civ. Proc., § 1085), ruling that the Agreement violated the Education Code and Farahani’s due process rights. The court issued a peremptory writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085...

Farahani was a tenured professor of international relations and public policy at Mesa College. He had worked for the District for 18 years prior to his termination in June 2006.

Beginning in 1994, the District received complaints from female students and staff about what they described as unwanted sexual and social advances. In October 2000, after investigating some of these complaints, the District gave Farahani a written reprimand advising him that continued misconduct would result in discipline up to and including termination...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Judges in other countries are even more hostile to freedom of speech than Judge Judith Hayes. Solution? Free Speech Protection Act of 2009

S. 449: Free Speech Protection Act of 2009
111th Congress

Free Speech Protection Act of 2009 - Allows any U.S. person against whom a lawsuit for defamation is brought in a foreign country for defamation on the basis of the content of any speech by that person that has been published, uttered, or otherwise disseminated in the United States to bring an action in a U.S. district court against any person who, or entity which, brought the suit, if: (1) the speech at issue in the foreign lawsuit does not constitute defamation under U.S. law; and (2) the person or entity which brought the foreign lawsuit serves or causes to be served any documents in connection with such foreign lawsuit on a U.S. person.

Allows the award of treble damages if it is determined by a preponderance of the evidence that the person or entity bringing the foreign lawsuit intentionally engaged in a scheme to suppress rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution...

Monday, November 16, 2009

UCLA professor offers wild solution to bad bank behavior: long jail terms

UCLA professor offers wild solution to bad bank behavior: Scare them straight
Peter Cohan
Nov 16th 2009

A UCLA professor has come up with a wild idea to help prevent the next financial meltdown. He doesn't propose expensive regulations and mechanisms of enforcement on financial actors. Instead, he suggests that swift and decisive punishment of the biggest instigators of financial mayhem could scare the industry straight.

Before getting into the details of his proposal, let me introduce the man and his new book, from which this idea springs. Professor Mark A.R. Kleiman heads UCLA's Drug Policy Analysis Program. Years ago, we shared an apartment while I was working at a summer job in Cambridge, Mass., and he was teaching at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Kleiman also runs a great blog -- The Reality Based Community. I contacted Kleiman a few weeks ago after seeing his new book, When Brute Force Fails, from Princeton University Press, in the window of the Harvard Book Store...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This movie asks why we don't end poverty: How the rich steal from the poor

Nov 13, 2009
Beyond The Multiplex
"The End of Poverty?": How the rich steal from the poor
Does a confrontational new documentary try to resurrect Marx for the 21st century? And is that such a bad idea?
By Andrew O'Hehir

So here's the real question about capitalism, the one nobody really wants to face: Does it create gross inequality as an unfortunate byproduct of its energy and dynamism -- or is gross inequality itself, between rich and poor, between the industrialized North and the underdeveloped South, the principal product of capitalism over the last five centuries?

..."The End of Poverty?" seeks to remind us that the global victory of capitalism over the last 30 years has only brought its flaws into sharper focus. We now live in a world where 20 percent of the population -- that's you and me, bub -- use 80 percent of its resources, where upward of 1 billion people live on $1 a day or less, where 16,000 children die daily from malnutrition and where the people of sub-Saharan Africa, the globe's poorest region, spend $25,000 every minute servicing their massive debt to the rich countries of the North.

All those markers of extreme poverty have gotten dramatically worse since the '80s; despite rapid technological and agricultural progress in the developed world, the number of people suffering from chronic malnutrition has roughly doubled in the past 40 years....

It's become conventional to blame the culture and climate of poor countries and poor people, at least in part, for their own plight, as if corrupt dictatorships, ethnic warfare and raw-material economies were somehow intrinsic to Africa and Latin America. In depressing but largely convincing fashion, Diaz's film argues that all those things were the result of a lengthy historical process. Africa's dysfunctional and often anti-democratic regimes definitely aren't helping matters, for example, but they themselves -- along with the dire poverty they can't manage -- were produced by the European and North American powers' relationship to the global South, from 16th-century colonization right through 21st-century globalization...

No to California Interscholastic Federation (CIF); Yes to Senate Bill 225

I never understood why so many schools use taxes from all families to support athletics for a small minority of students.

I was appalled about ten years ago when Valhalla High School changed its admissions policy to the girls tennis club from open enrollment to top players only. The result was that more than forty girls were thrown out so that a small group could get specialized coaching at public expense. Not surprisingly, that small group consisted largely of girls whose families had provided them with private lessons.

At about the same time, Cuyamaca College decided that only the best players should be given sports classes, and the rest should just go to the fitness center. Fortunately, this policy was reversed after complaints.

Is the goal of education to separate the haves from the have-nots, or is it to create a society of productive individuals? I also wonder if we're doing young athletes a favor by distorting their egos and making them feel that performance in sports is more important than the well being of society as a whole.

I agree with the following letter by Danielle Andreassi.

Subject: FW: NEED YOUR HELP: With Rights Being Denied to the Disabled as per SB225 by the
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009

Please help us implement Senate Bill 225 as it was written.

Please contact me if you need more information, but this is a serious problem that our disabled students as they are being denied a FAPE (free and appropriate public education), and this is a violation of State, Federal and ADA laws and we are all paying for this as taxpayers. This is coming at a high price to these parents and a huge emotional cost to these students. Each of of these parents that have been touched by inappropriate behavior by CIF has had to pay a high financial price and most likely had to go to court for the sake of their child. A high school student should see time on a field or basketball court not a courtroom.

Thank you for your time.

Danielle Andreassi

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Health Insurance Monopolies Are Legal

Health Insurance Monopolies Are Legal
October 29, 2009
Monica Sanchez
Campaign for America's Future

Health insurance companies are exempt from federal antitrust laws — laws that protect commerce from monopolies and unfair business practices in most other types of markets. As a result, health insurers have become highly concentrated and premiums have soared. There is movement on Capitol Hill to remove this exemption, but the best way to quickly infuse competition into health insurance markets across the country is with a strong, national public health insurance plan option.

The U.S. Senate debates insurance company protection

The Morality of Health Care Reform, pt. 6
By Terrance Heath
November 9, 2009

As the Senate Finance Committee moved into its fourth day of deliberations over the health care bill, tensions continued to rise.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), broke new ground defending an amendment he'd proposed that struck language from the bill defining which benefits employers are required to cover -- in this case, basic maternity care.

"I don't need maternity care,
" Kyl said. "So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), interrupted Kyl: "I think your mom probably did."

The amendment was defeated, nine to 14.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

25 Chicago middle school students jailed in food fight; lounge food fight by "Castle Park Family" teachers seems to increase status of participants

A comparison of two food fights, a recent brawl by students in Chicago and a 1999 outburst by teachers belonging to the "Castle Park family":

It took two janitors over a week to clean walls and shampoo rugs and upholstered furniture in the teachers lounge at Castle Park Elementary School after a small group teachers went wild after the students left on the last day of school in 1999. (The teachers never reimbursed the taxpayers.) The teachers brought the leftovers from class parties to the lounge, including lots of fruit punch and whipped cream.

These teachers ruled the roost at the school, getting rid of principal after principal that didn't do what the "family" wanted. One principal acceded to so many demands for spending that he plunged the school deep into debt and was fired. Another allowed teachers to engage in so many illegal actions that the district ended up in court for years defending those teachers. Principal Ollie Matos was hired to get the teachers under control, but the teachers union, Chula Vista Educators, prevented him from doing so.

25 Chicago Students Arrested for a Middle-School Food Fight
New York Times
Published: November 10, 2009

CHICAGO — The food fight here started the way such bouts do in school lunchrooms most anywhere: an apple was tossed, a cookie turned into a torpedo, and an orange plunked someone in the head. Within minutes, dozens of middle-school students had joined in the ruckus, and spattered adults were ducking for cover.

By the end of the day, 25 of the students, ages 11 to 15, had been rounded up, arrested, taken from school and put in jail. A spokesman for the Chicago police said the charges were reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.

That was last Thursday afternoon. Now parents are questioning what seem to them like the criminalization of age-old adolescent pranks, and the lasting legal and psychological impact of the arrests.

“My children have to appear in court,” Erica Russell, the mother of two eighth-grade girls who spent eight hours in jail, said Tuesday. “They were handcuffed, slammed in a wagon, had their mug shots taken and treated like real criminals.”...

San Diego prosecutor withheld evidence favorable to defense of 3 men charged with raped

San Diego prosecutor suspected of withholding evidence in rape case
CBS News 8
Posted: Nov 10, 2009

A San Diego prosecutor is under investigation, suspected of withholding evidence in a high-profile rape case. The case resulted in plea bargain last month and the rapists walked free.

Now, the mother of the victim is ... accusing the San Diego District attorney’s office of a cover up.

It was a brutal case of rape by intoxication in San Marcos. Three north county men accused of kidnapping a Palomar College student in May of 2008, getting her drunk and gang raping her.

News 8 has learned [prosecutor Dan] Rodriguez is now the subject of an ongoing disciplinary investigation. He’s accused of withholding evidence in the case.
Initially Rodriguez told the mother of the 18-year-old rape victim that all three defendants were facing serious prison time.

“We were told they were looking at -- with kidnapping and rape charges -- they would be looking at 20 years to life,” said Tammie Heintzman. She said Rodriguez assured her the case as solid...

From the beginning, the case was high profile. The victim had met one of her attackers on the MySpace web site... At the last minute, a new prosecutor was assigned to the case and soon thereafter the District Attorney’s office reached a plea bargain with all three defendants.

Two pleaded guilty to rape by intoxication, the third to felony assault. All three walked free after serving just 8 months in jail.

It wasn't until later that Heintzman, the mother of the victim, says she finally found out why the original prosecutor, Dan Rodriguez, was taken off the case.
“It was shared that Dan had been suspended and it was related to the case, and it was related to misrepresenting evidence,” Heintzman told News 8.
The evidence withheld was favorable to the defense.

All three defense attorneys involved in the case confirmed to News 8 that prosecutor Dan Rodriguez failed to turn over in a timely manner what they called highly exculpatory evidence, including a tape recorded police interview with the victim and statements the teenager made during a medical exam...
The new prosecutor, Kate Flaherty, quickly offered the defendants a plea deal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If we refuse to pay for good schools for poor kids, we end up without national defense

November 9, 2009
Too Few Youths Eligible for Military, Leaders Say
Report Recommends Investments in Early Childhood Programs
By Dakarai I. Aarons

The United States should invest in early education to help bolster the number of young people eventually eligible to serve in the military and protect national-security interests, a report released last week argues.

A majority of the nation’s young adults are ineligible for military service because they have not graduated from high school, have criminal records, or are physically unfit, says the report.

Based on research from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the report says 75 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24—about 26 million people—are ineligible to join the military.

“A quality education is really an issue of national security,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a Nov. 5 news conference held to release the report. “If we don’t educate our children well, we put our nation at risk.” ...

Teacher evaluations are worthless: teachers almost always get good evaluations

Jay Mathews at the Washington Post opines that schools should be able to evaluate, reward, promote or dismiss teachers however they want. He notes that most teacher evaluation systems end up giving good evaluations to almost everybody.
--Emily Alpert's Bright and Early

Forget about rating teachers---rate schools instead.
Washington Post

Those unfortunate people in the District may worry about the quality of their teachers, and wait anxiously for the results of the school system’s controversial new evaluation of classroom techniques and test score improvement. But those of us in the Washington area suburbs don’t have to worry because we already know that close to 100 percent of our teachers are entirely satisfactory. How? Our school districts say so.

I asked suburban school officials to share the latest results from their teacher evaluations, which are usually done by principals and subject specialists. Here are the percentages of teachers rated satisfactory, in some cases called meeting or exceeding the standard: Alexandria 99 percent, Calvert 99.8 percent, Charles 98.4 percent, Culpeper 97 percent, Fairfax 99.1 percent, Falls Church 99.55 percent, Loudoun 99 percent, Montgomery 95 percent, Prince George’s 95.56 percent, and Prince William 98.3 percent.

Anne Arundel, Arlington, Fauquier and Howard, and Manassas City say they don’t collect such data. Carroll says it is doing it for the first time and hasn’t finished yet.
Those numbers in the high 90s sound good, but they don’t impress some advocates of better teaching. Near perfect teacher evaluation passing rates are common throughout the country.

One reason why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has launched her complex IMPACT evaluation of the District’s teachers is that the research and training organization she founded, the New Teacher Project, is a sworn enemy of those standard evaluation systems. Since teacher ratings in most districts are as discerning as peewee soccer award night, with everyone getting a trophy, why bother?

The standard evaluation system “not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top performers or supporting growth among the broad plurality of hard working teachers who operate in the middle of the performance spectrum,” said a recent New Teacher Project report.

The organization studied 12 districts, including Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati and Little Rock, in four states and found that less than one percent of teachers were rated unsatisfactory. Yet a survey of 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators in those districts found that 59 percent of the teachers and 63 percent of the administrators believe their district was not doing enough to identify, compensate, promote and retain the most effective teachers.

School officials in the Washington suburbs say they don’t have that problem. They are helping teachers build their skills, they say, even if that work is not reflected in their evaluation summaries. “Principals and supervisors work hard with teachers to improve instruction,” said Keith Hettel, assistant superintendent, human resources, in Charles County.

“We have made professional development a priority this year,” said Amy Carlini, spokeswoman for the Alexandria schools.

I would reject such talk as mere public relations, except for the undeniable fact that most Washington area districts--when compared to school performance in the rest of the country--are doing a splendid job. We have an advantage because of our relatively high family incomes, which correlate with academic achievement, but the quality of teachers and administrators I have watched in the last decade is usually high and the results good.

So what to we do? I agree that 99.8 percent satisfactory evaluation rates are ridiculous. Stop wasting time and money on them. Instead, emulate those schools--mostly public charters--that choose principals carefully and let them evaluate, reward, promote or dismiss teachers any way that works for them.

Bonuses should go to the whole school to be divvied up, not to individual teachers. And if student achievement isn’t growing at a healthy rate, or if teachers are fleeing in disgust, get rid of that principal and hire a better one. It will reduce paperwork, and free more time for teaching kids.

By Jay Mathews | November 8, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Audit reveals expenses of ousted East Side Superintendent Bob Nunez

This story is from the Bay Area, but it reminds me of our own notorious Bob Watkins, former president of the San Diego County Office of Education. When is the San Diego media going to find out what expenses he charged while at SDCOE?

Audit details ousted East Side schools Superintendent Bob Nunez's expenses
Mercury News
By Sharon Noguchi

Ousted Superintendent Bob Nunez routinely spent $1,000 a month for meals, travel and lodging and sometimes charged the cash-strapped East Side Union High School District as much as $4,000 a month.

The details were revealed for the first time Friday in a lengthy report into Nunez's spending habits that led to his departure last week from the struggling San Jose school district — complete with a $120,000 severance check.

The revelations were outlined in a 2,100-page report by the San Francisco law firm Hanson Bridgett, which reviewed two years' worth of Nunez's credit card spending. The report, commissioned by the East Side board, also concluded that Nunez did not improperly receive vacation pay or commit a conflict of interest...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

At last the 9/11 Commission can get a look at the evidence in the World Trade Center attack

See all posts on WTC collapse.

For some unknown reason, President George Bush ordered the steel from the World Trade Center buildings that collapsed on September 11, 2001 to be immediately sent to China for recycling. Obviously, the evidence of the collapse couldn't be studied at that time, but we can all go look at it now that it's been turned into a ship.

USS New York comes to life; ship born of 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel

BY Stephanie Gaskell
November 7th 2009

The USS New York is seen during its commissioning on November 7, 2009 at Piers 86 and 88 in New York City.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stands with sailors and Marines at the commissioning of the USS New York.

* Articles
* Bear Stearns execs told black AND white lies: prosecutors
* Get the details on the Yankee parade in Manhattan
* President Obama OKs extension of unemployment benefits, first-time homebuyers tax breaks
* Gov. Paterson defends pricey trips abroad if they can help bring jobs to NY
* No satisfaction for Paterson in Bam's heat over election losses

The New York came to life Saturday, becoming the Navy's newest warship - and a proud symbol of fortitude.

The $1 billion amphibious transport dock carries 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center in her bow stem.

"The New York will be a visible testament to our resilience," said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus as the first watch was set and hundreds of sailors and Marines ran onto the decks of the ship, a tradition signaling the official commissioning of the vessel.

Cmdr. Curt Jones, a native New Yorker, took command during an emotional ceremony at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum attended by more than 6,000 people, including Secretary of State Clinton, Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg.

"There is a lot of emotion that is associated with this ship for all of us," Jones said. "The steel that is in the bow of the ship, that motivates us literally every day in what we do."

The ship, which has a crew of about 360 sailors, will be docked at Pier 88 until Thursday, when it heads to its home port at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia.

"This ship has been the product of a lot of hard work," Paterson said. "It is not just named the New York - it IS New York."

Clinton said the New York will help the nation heal, more than eight years after the World Trade Center attack.

"In that steel, burned but unbroken, lives the spirit we saw on 9-11," she said. "Sometimes our pain can lead us to purpose."

Mike Petters is the president of Northrop Grumman, which built the ship in Avondale, La.

"We needed this ship," Petters said. "New York needed this ship. And America needed this ship."

For Carl Scheetz, a firefighter with Rescue 1 in Hell's Kitchen, the ship is a reminder of the city's strength.

"To me it's a show of resiliency to the whole tragedy that happened," he said. "The crew members are great. I met a Marine and went to say 'Thank you' to him. He said, 'No, sir, thank you very much.' "We have a lot in common," Scheetz said.

CALA admits that many lawsuits against government agencies have merit

San Diego would save many millions if our district attorneys would quit prosecuting obviously innocent people like Dale Akiki and Jim Wade, and if our city attorneys would discourage wrongful actions like secret pension deals.

San Jose keeps lid on litigation costs
By John Woolfolk

San Jose has forked over a lot of taxpayer cash to resolve lawsuits and claims from people who felt the city owed them for a host of wrongs — from errant golf balls to sexual harassment.

But the city seems downright frugal in what it has paid out for verdicts, settlements and outside lawyers compared to other major California cities, according to a new report by a citizen watchdog group.

The report this week by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, or CALA, found that San Jose's annual litigation costs in the last couple years were a fraction of those for similarly-sized San Francisco and San Diego, as well as smaller cities such as Oakland and Sacramento.

"Some communities are more effective at avoiding lawsuits than others, and that's good management practice," said Marko Mlikotin, Northern California regional director for CALA, a non-partisan group opposed to abuses of the legal system. "It's very important for governments to have good management practices so that they don't expose taxpayers to these types of litigation."

The group's report compared costs incurred by the most populous California cities and counties for paying legal claims, verdicts and settlements, as well as hiring outside lawyers for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 budget years.

San Jose's litigation costs were $1.9 million in 2006-2007 and $1.7 million in 2007-2008. The report argued the $1.9 million could have paid for more than two dozen firefighters
that year.

But the city's costs paled in comparison to some of its peers. For 2007-2008, San Diego spent $17 million on litigation, Oakland $7.9 million and Sacramento $3.3 million. Los Angeles spent a staggering $72 million.

San Jose records also show a decline in annual litigation costs from $4.9 million in 2005-2006 to $1.5 million in 2008-2009.

"We try hard to keep those numbers down," City Attorney Rick Doyle said.

Santa Clara County did not fare quite to well in comparison to its peers. The county spent $4.7 million in 2007-2008, less than the $5.2 million cost in 2005-2006. Smaller Alameda County spent $4.4 million on litigation in 2007-2008, while San Diego County spent just $1.2 million.

San Francisco, which is both a city and a county, spent $18.3 million on litigation in 2007-2008.

The report noted that while many of the lawsuits brought against government agencies have merit, some seem absurd...

Former Helix High 16-Year-Old Says Josh Stepner "Did Nothing Wrong"

See all Josh Stepner posts.

Doesn't Bonnie Dumanis have anything better to do? Aren't there some actual bad guys she should be charging with crimes? Did Helix High and/or Grossmont Union High School District (controlled by extremist Jim Kelly) get legal advice regarding this case?

Sometimes I wonder if education attorneys intentionally create problems so that there will be a lawsuit against the school and the attorneys will be paid $100,000s to defend the school. My advice to Helix High: settle this case right now, before it really gets expensive.

Channel 6's Jeff Powers served the public well by getting this story:

Exclusive: 16-Year-Old Says Josh Stepner "Did Nothing Wrong."
Reported by: Jeff Powers
San Diego Channel 6

EL CAJON - Former Helix High assistant principal Josh Stepner was supposed to appear in court on Thursday to face a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for giving a female student a ride to a bus station, but his arraignment was postponed.

Dakota Garza is the student who was given that ride, and she is shocked that Stepner was even charged in the first place. She says at the time of the ride, she was no longer a student at Helix High.

"I'm a lot more comfortable now," Garza told San Diego 6 in an exclusive interview from her hometown in Medford, Oregon. "I'm in my familiar town where I was born and raised and I'm very happy to be back."

Garza says she is doing well. "Stay in all my honors classes and I'm back in soccer and enjoying school."

Garza began the school year as a student at Helix High. She had been living with relative Karen Flores and 9 others in a two bedroom home.

On August 24th, the 16-year-old took action. A court order shows Garza dissolved any legal custody to Flores. She was trying to get back to Medford and says she told Assistant Vice Principal Kevin Osborn.

Garza said, "After I had purchased the ticket I went into his office and just was letting him know that I was going to be unenrolling from the school."

Garza purchased a bus ticket on the morning of September 17th from the school computer. She says she went through the procedures Helix requires for unenrollment and says she alerted Osborn to those details. It was very clear to her that she was no longer a student.

Officials at Helix would not confirm the timing of Garza's withdrawal from school. It was later that night that Josh Stepner gave her a ride to the bus station.

Garza said she is surprised Stepner is facing a misdemeanor because, "He was really just trying to help me. He did absolutely nothing wrong. I think he was the only one who really tried to reach out to me and help me with what I was going through."

Stepner says the past couple months have been tough on him and his family. "It's been a nightmare. It's hard to watch yourself being talked about when you know you're a good person -- you know that you're a righteous person."

Garza says now it's about putting this behind her and exposing the truth. "I really think that in this whole thing he's just been more of a scapegoat. He's just been someone that people felt that they could just dump things on and you know accuse him and point the finger at him."

Stepner and his attorney are due back in court December 14th. Stepner's attorney is challenging the legitimacy of the misdemeanor complaint.

We asked to interview Helix Assistant Principal Kevin Osborn but our offer was declined.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Citizen Media Legal Project website--Will Judge Judith Hayes be able to shut it down?

Someone sent me a link today to Harvard University's website about threats to citizens who try to exercise their freedom of speech.

The website is here.

It's amazing how many powerful people think that the First Amendment doesn't apply to people who criticize them.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Do ethical lawyers prepare orders for a judge to sign that indicate that their motion was granted when it actually was denied?

Do ethical lawyers sometimes write a proposed order for a judge to sign that doesn't mention that their motion was denied?

I am interested in hypothetical situations. If you figure things out ahead of time, it makes it easier when push comes to shove to make the right decision.

So I've been working on this imaginary scenario in which a lawyer believes he can get a judge to sign an order that is significantly different from the minute order prepared by the judge. In this fantasy, a judge has denied the lawyer's motion without prejudice, and given the opposing party a very specific instruction. But the lawyer never mentions in his proposed order that his motion was denied, and he adds significant details to the judge's instructions.

Is this something an ethical lawyer would do? Hmmm. Do readers have any thoughts on the matter?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rally regarding corruption at Office of Administrative Hearings

A rally/protest will be held in front of the Governors/OAH building at 1350 Front Street on November 9, 2009 from 10am-12am. (I call this building the California building.) Many parents feel that they don't have a chance at due process due to corruption at OAH (Office of Administrative Hearings).

Dayon Higgins, Volunteer Parent Advocate, says, "I will be wearing an orange jumpsuit and carrying a cardboard casket. I believe that without special education rights to a fair due process that we are condemning children to prison or poverty. Without support our children lose opportunities."