Just read the scary press release on California’s Judicial Council decision to stop their planned new case management system. No budget means no new system – I can understand that, and look disapprovingly at what passes for a legislature in modern California. The courts are tied to the same process that funds education, and being married to a teacher I understand the stresses there too. I’ve no illusions that any aspect of state-funded government in California is in any better shape these days. It does leave open the question though of what the courts are going to do without their precious new case management system. My unfortunate experience is that San Diego County courts are already in the position where documents regularly don’t make it to the correct files,.
Besides talk of salvaging bits of a system that they can no longer afford to buy, it would be nice to hear if someone has some kind of plans to get the administrative side of the state courts actually functioning again, even if it has to be with paper files and the suction tubes running documents around the building.
Jury Duty Flashback
When I had jury duty at the end of 2009, my post here didn’t mention much about the prosecutor. He presented a competent case, but the drama was all in the defendant. There were a couple of time where the DA lost his cool, but given the tenor of the trial it was understandable even if it was a bit over the top. Parts of it where also what I remember as junior DA theatrics, or maybe the legal equivalent of spiking the ball after a good play, but again, let’s remember he was playing against a mentally ill self-represented defendant. It came across like an NFL player spiking the ball after a good play against a Pop Warner team: poor sportsmanship, but nothing more.
The name struck a bell when I saw this article today though highlighting the prosecuting attorney’s conduct in another prosecution: Irrelevant and potentially inflammatory questioning and a pattern of misconduct that rendered the trial fundamentally unfair, at least according the the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Unfortunately I’m not surprised at all.
Great piece by Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain about all the great works that we, the public, would now have free access to if Congress hadn’t extended copyright protections in 1976. While there are certainly some good reasons for copyright protection, I think the article gives a great illustration of how ‘life plus 70 years’ may be a little extreme, and what the public domain is missing out on, and will continue to miss out on until 2050.
First Amendment Friday
Just doing a little shout-out for the First Amendment and the federal judiciary here today. Many of the amendments *coughFourthcough* *coughFifthcough* have been battered in recent years, but the First still comes through strong. Yes, being able to say whether you’re gay (or not) is speech. Yes, being able to write or draw something on your skin is speech. Maybe I’m just amazed that either of these issues needed to be litigated at all.
Interesting post at Joe.My.God on preparations in some quarters for quick rushes to the altar should a gap come between stays in the appellate process for Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
I know people who’ve planned their weddings for years. We took a month (and then four more for the reception). Strange to now be thinking about windows of opportunity for couples lasting only hours or days. Stranger still is that I keep flashing to the titular scene in The Great Escape, and wondering how many more we can get through the tunnel before the goons catch on.
Sad For The Future
I haven’t made much of a secret of my humble opinion that the California courts are seriously broken. Their infrastructure, particularly that for handling information, is at least 20 years behind the times. Instead of expanding to deal with the consequences of the recession, they cut back with a resulting slow-down in the handling of cases across the board.
The issue is compounded by a certain class of cases that will never, ever, end, taking resources forever. Yesterday while waiting (two hours to make a five minute appearance) for a case to be called, I watched the child support case of an elderly man where the state was still pursuing $164,000 in arrears for a child who is now 33 years old. The man was arguing his monthly payments should be reduced to $50 per month because he had just lost his job. The result of the day’s work on that case was squat nada bupkus because a continuance had to be granted because a party had only received certain documents 24 days before the hearing instead of the required 30. The court will take up the issue again in August.
NB: the interest alone on $164,000 of past due child support is $1366 per month. If his motion is granted, he will still only be paying 3 1/2% of the interest accruing each month, and never touching the principal.
I admit I don’t know what the solution should be in cases like this. I suspect it took a lot of neglect to rack up that much in arrears. Massive neglect, even intentional wrongdoing, doesn’t stop the government from bailing out banks, or automakers or reckless homeowners though, so maybe I should stop feeling judgmental about how the debt was created. I just hate seeing cases (or problems, or debts, take your pick) that by plan and inflexible laws can never end, and in the process eat up dwindling, finite, resources and judicial time.
Ignoring for the moment the substance of a certain new Supreme Court decision issued this morning, I’m going to be talking law to Spinner’s 5th graders tomorrow, and wondering if I should try to make them Venn diagram this:
KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
C. J., and SCALIA and ALITO, JJ., joined, in which THOMAS, J., joined as to all but Part IV, and in which STEVENS, GINSBURG, BREYER, and SO-TOMAYOR, JJ., joined as to Part IV. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a concurring opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opin-ion, in which ALITO, J., joined, and in which THOMAS, J., joined in part. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part,in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I’m taking the ‘scared straight’ approach to their exposure to the world of law. Just say no, kiddies.
The Path To Recovery?
The San Diego Superior Court will close all courtrooms and business offices on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 as well as the third Wednesday of each subsequent month through June 2010.
The California Judicial Council approved the unprecedented one-day-a-month closures for all state courts due to the ongoing statewide financial crisis and the Legislature’s reduced state funding to the courts.
Because, yes, this state is that messed up. This is on top of San Diego already closing the clerk’s office to the public at 3:30 every afternoon. Anyone care to remind me of any states where the California Bar has reciprocity for practice? It would be nice if they coincided with states that recognized my marriage.
Not really proscrastinating, just trying to avoid overthinking a hearing this afternoon. Need to keep things focussed and on point. I’d sneak out for a swim, but the tendons in my wrist seem to have gotten mangled (again) over the last week, and I’m trying to be good until BorgHealth can do some probes and give me some magic pills on Monday. Good equals bored though. Not only does the swimming keep me from becoming Jabba the Chuck, but it keeps me sane. Need to be doing something away from the electronic leashes, and the swimming cuts off the links for a while. That’s a good thing.
Being Stalked By Weather
Happily back in San Diego after a couple of days up the coast in Ventura. The little roadtrip was planned back in September as a pre-Christmas shopping trip scheduled around a billable court appearance but ended up just being a rain-drenched driving nightmare sandwiching an otherwise successful little hearing.
There was some anxiety about the scheduled trial, because the judge at our September settlement conference seemed skeptical of some of our legal arguments. Even more anxiety when I showed up at the courthouse and found there were fifteen cases on our particular judge’s calendar for that afternoon, and began to worry if I had enough clean socks and undies to deal with a continuance. Then when checking in the clerk let me know that because of the scheduling crunch we were being transferred to a different department down the hall. The new judge, my new most favorite judge, loved our legal arguments, and the hearing was a breeze. And easily the best part of the trip.
The rest of the trip was simply a rain-soaked disaster. Most Californians simply can’t drive safely in the rain, and despite a major storm with high winds most Angelenos still seemed to be trying to navigate the highways with a cell phone in one hand and a latte in the other. The 170 mile trip took 4 1/2 hours to make. I lost count of the number of totalled cars on the sides of the highways, but loved the semi on the 5 in Los Angeles that managed to block all four southbound lanes after it hit the center divider. Too bad the camera was in the trunk. Fortunately his debris only blocked one of the northbound lanes I was using.
Even walking around Ventura this morning there was snow visible on the nearby hillsides and I almost killed myself sliding on the frozen timbers of the Ventura Pier.
This isn’t the way a trip up the California coast is supposed to go, even in December. This wasn’t even Central California. This is the weather I abandoned in DC and Idaho, and now it’s followed me here. Maybe I should have tried for a restraining order while I was at the courthouse.