|From The Editor
I was editing a story last month where court administrative director Steve Jahr was quoted supporting the abandonment of his own agency's name.
It was the director unbound. I did not know he was so quotable.
His comments highlighted the absurdity that surrounds many policy decisions recommended by a coterie of officials from the Administrative Office of the Courts and pushed past judges on the Judicial Council.
"Retiring the name AOC will produce a perceptual change, or perhaps a cultural change," he told the council. "Yet under the substantive law, it makes no change at all."
It could be this, or it could be that, but really, it is nothing at all.
I told the article's author, Maria Dinzeo, that we should quote the director more regularly. She said she had never heard him speak with such freedom.
Indeed, something had changed.
The director's ability to speak outside the jargon and double-talk of his bureaucracy was a flashing sign that he was already outside of it. A couple days later, his retirement was announced.
While the Administrative Office of the Courts no longer exists, its officials, its offices, its policies remain. They are now referred to as the staff of the Judicial Council.
At first impression, I considered the gambit just another move in the game of hide-and-seek the administrative officials have played in the past.
Years ago, when I first began delving into the Cheshire Cat body of bureaucrats behind the disastrous software project called the Court Case Management System, I wanted to understand what made the system tick -- what allowed them to dominate the administration of trial courts that adopted CCMS, how they acquired the arrogance to try and take the power to hire the court clerk away from the presiding judge, how they succeeded in putting information systems in the hands of the clerks by rule, and why the result of such hubris was a trashing of press access.
At the time, I asked officials who on paper worked for the Judicial Council what was the difference between working for the administrative office and working for the council. The response was that they all worked for the same person, then-director William Vickrey. He was the "boss."
So I figured the council was under the boss, was the boss's puppet.
That impression was confirmed two summers ago when the council decided to put a hold on the software project that had racked up nearly a half-billion dollars in expense. The very next council session, the staff came back and said there was no hold, and the project was going ahead.
The obvious conclusion was that a vote by the council meant nothing, unless the staff agreed. Indeed, it meant the staff members could override the council, as they had just done.
Coming back to the present, what difference would it make if the staff changed its name from the AOC to the staff of the Judicial Council. They would still run the show.
So I was surprised at the reaction in the Legislature, which was clearly favorable. In addition, judges who have been strong critics of the administrative office agreed with the abandonment of the name and the idea of a separate administrative office.
Maybe, just maybe, the name change was more than a sleight of hand, more than a mere matter of perception.
In that case, what might the future hold?
First, the council would be held responsible for hundreds of bureaucrats and the ideas they come up with. That accountability would in turn lead to scrutiny of the how the council works and how the committees, many of them now theoretically open to the press, decide on matters to push up to the council.
That scrutiny in turn would lead to questions about how the council is selected and that in turn would lead to the real and only source of power in the whole set-up, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who picks the council members, leads council deliberations and ultimately directs the staff.
That focus could well lead to a better understanding of how the council works and an assignment of responsibility for the results.
Undocumented immigration to the United States is at a 40-year low, according to Border Patrol statistics.
The only immigration "crisis" our country faces today is that it's an election year, and congressional Republicans find it easier to beat up and lie about helpless and downtrodden people than it is to do their job, and actually try to help our nation.
In the past five years (fiscal years 2009-13), the Border Patrol has arrested 2.1 million undocumented immigrants, an average of 429,046 a year. The last time the Border Patrol's five-year arrest average was that low was in 1969-73.
Here are annual Border Patrol arrests, averaged over five-year periods, for the past 35 years. All the numbers come from the Border Patrol. (I know the agency has a new name now, but it still refers to itself as the Border Patrol, in its own documents.)
You can see the enormous drop in undocumented immigration in the past five years: just 36 percent of the average of the previous quarter century.
Yet Border Patrol staffing has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 10,819 in 2004 to 21,391 in 2013. And the 2004 staffing was more than twice its staffing in 1995.
The last time undocumented immigration has been this low was in the five years from 1969-73, when arrests averaged 396,495 a year.
So why the national uproar about an immigration "crisis"?
Well, I've already told you why, but let's look at the Republicans' proposed "solutions."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week that he's going to send 1,000 National Guardsmen to the Mexican border, to round up them immigrants - and send Washington the bill.
President Obama, suckered with the rest of the country into believing that there's an immigration crisis, asked Congress for $3.7 billion to speed up deportations.
And Congress, sensitive as always to its own vile urges, refused: preferring to keep the phony crisis in the news rather than to help suffering people, or admit the truth.
Look, there is a humanitarian crisis in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the closest U.S. port of entry to Central America.
The crisis is that tens of thousands of traumatized children are coming to the United States, some with their mothers, some all alone, because of murderous violence from drug gangs and their own governments in Central America.
Suffering children are always news.
Suffering children need help.
It does not help suffering children to turn them into political ping-pong balls, to stir up hatred against them with calculated lies, to accuse them of bringing "diseases" into the United States, or of trying to "take our jobs," though child labor is illegal here.
Honduras, the murder capital of the world, averages 82 homicides a year per 100,000 people: that's 6,600 murders a year, in a country of 8 million.
El Salvador, the world's second most-murderous country, averages 66 homicides per 100,000, according to United Nations figures.
To put this in perspective, the murder rate in South Sudan is 13.9 per 100,000.
In the United States, the average is 4.8.
Speeding up deportations of these children, which President Obama has proposed as a "solution" to this catastrophe, will not relieve suffering.
Gov. Perry's insane bluster will not help.
These children do not resist arrest. Tracking them down and arresting them is not our problem. Figuring out what to do with them is our problem. The Texas National Guard can't help us with that.
Some day, if political honesty becomes legal again in the United States, today's brouhaha over a nonexistent immigration crisis will be seen as what it is: a national disgrace. A vile, pathetic, brutal, dishonest response to the suffering of thousands of children.
(CNS news editor Robert Kahn is the author of "Other People's Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade.")
|From The Courts
Social media can be tricky.
Sure, you can reach the masses, but it doesn't work if the masses don't know you're there.
I could be wrong, but I'm guessing promotion in a lawsuit isn't the best way to reach the masses.
I bring this up because I found this in a Los Angeles lawsuit the other day: "Consumers may obtain information about this lawsuit on Facebook: Facebook.com/CitibankLawsuit."
Consumers, that is, who regularly read lawsuits.
Check out the link to find out how successful this education campaign has been.
As of this writing, there's one "like."
I'm guessing the guy who put up the page (apparently a Beverly Hills lawyer) tested the liking system.
Your next challenge is obtaining information about "this lawsuit" if you've managed to find the Facebook page.
As far as I can tell, there isn't any information about the lawsuit there. Maybe I missed it, but if I have, that's a serious marketing failure.
OK, I know this lawsuit is an aberration, but brings to mind two interesting questions.
Should you promote your lawsuit on Facebook?
If so, how should you go about it?
The answer to the first question is that it depends on what kind of lawsuit you've filed and whether there are any pictures of your client drunk.
If drunk client pictures are likely to appear, avoid Facebook, unless the basis of your lawsuit is that someone should have known better than to take advantage of your drunk client.
The sort of lawsuit you want on Facebook is the kind you're sure you're going to win. Remember that the primary purpose of Facebook appears to be self-embarrassment. Think of how your firm will stand out if you're not embarrassed.
Be sure not to allow access to the page to firm family members.
Facebook is an excellent tool in cases in which discovery is vital. You may not be able to get anyone to admit to sexual harassment in depositions, but selfies don't lie.
Once you've decided to post a lawsuit on Facebook, promote it with the kindest, most heartwarming tool you have: friendship. Send friend requests to everyone you can think of.
Then tweet a link to your page using every trending hashtag and some attention-grabbers.
Examples: #scumbag, #fartjoke, #porn, #weasels, #delicious, #gourmet, #love, #hate, #indifference, #policzer, #threeway.
It's not your fault if some people have dirty minds.
You'll be viral in no time.
Quote of the Week: "Orton-Bell insists that she only admitted to this after she was told that hugging and kissing constituted sexual intercourse, and that was all she meant. (And because we are reviewing a grant of summary judgment to the state, we accept her statement as true.)"
The aforementioned Orton-Bell has a degree in psychology. I'm guessing she may have missed a class or two.
The quote is from Orton-Bell v. Indiana , a July 21 ruling from the 7th Circuit, in which we learn that the staff at the Pendleton Correctional Facility has been having a lot of fun.
Or is pretty disgusting, depending on your point of view.
The ruling, I have to warn you, is for mature audiences only, so I know that the immature among you will go read it immediately.
I won't spoil it by revealing all the juicy details, but I have to note that it's a little confusing. The plaintiff seems to be complaining about sexual harassment but also complaining that she was fired because she had sex.
Finding just the right amount of sex at work can be tricky.
There was also this: "An investigator, who had been looking for security breaches, discovered that night-shift employees were having sex on Orton-Bell's desk and informed her. That investigator told her that he was not concerned about night-shift staff having sex but suggested she should probably wash off her desk every morning."
That's what happens when your desk is too neat.