Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Contra Costa County DA is Making a Mistake

But then again, that is my opinion. And we all know what that means.

By the way, what is it with the East Bay. In the past few weeks we've had bad decision after bad decision from that neck of the woods. Most notably we have seen the Oakland Police Department fail to adequately deal with a problem in its ranks. And now we have a District Attorney who seems to be saying that "If you don't give me everything I need, I'm not going to play."

Maybe that is a little unfair. But here are the basics for those who have not been following the news: the Contra Costa County District Attorney, a man by the name of Robert Cochly, has announced that if the proposed budget cut of $1.9 million goes through, he will stop prosecuting certain classes of crimes. According to a memorandum which has been circulated, Cochly's office will no longer prosecute the following types of cases:

  1. Any simple drug possession cases;
  2. Any public intoxication or being under the influence of drugs cases;
  3. All driving offenses which are not DUI cases;
  4. Simple assault and battery cases;
  5. Trespass or loitering cases; and
  6. All other misdemeanor cases not specifically listed as being cases that they will prosecute.
The memorandum goes on to ouline what types of cases they will prosecute at the misdemeanor level. They are:

  1. Driving under the influence;
  2. Domestic Violence;
  3. Firearms cases (i.e. possession or use in a crime);
  4. Vehicular Manslaughter; and
  5. Sexual assault cases
According to the District Attorney's memorandum, they will make a case by case evaluation of any misdemeanor case involving an assault on a police officer or an assault and battery case which results in injury where a weapon was used.

Looking at this in a cynical way, it almost looks like the District Attorney has chosen the most p.c. of crimes (those relating to drug use) and moved them off of his plate because he does not have the budget. He also seems to want to prosecute only the politically correct crimes, such as domestic violence cases and DUI cases (after all who can really ever put up an argument in favor of either?)

But at the same time, he has also moved off his plate protecting people's personal property. Misdemeanor cases involving theft, burglary, fraud (including check fraud), and embezzlement will not be prosecuted if the District Attorney's plan goes into effect. Basically, what the District Attorney is saying is that if, unless you are bleeding from a weapon, then your life and property are not as valuable in his estimation as someone who has been lost a greater dollar amount (since that is the way that theft cases get broken up between misdemeanors and felonies).

A very cynical person would know this District Attorney's political leanings. I do not. I'm just commenting on two things here: 1) How this is a mistake in my opinion and 2) options it appears he is ignoring.

Now, there are some arguments about why this is necessary. First, it was pointed out in the Chronicle, as well as the District Attorney's memo, that the District Attorney's Office in Contra Costa County has been beset by budge cuts for a while. On paper, they have an authorized office strength of 100 deputy district attorneys. There are apparently 72, and that number may drop further. Being a prosecutor is not a cush gig by virtue of being a government. You have to deal with a lot of people. You take crap from everyone including the victims. Unlike what you see on Law and Order, a misdeameanor trial prep sometimes means showing up at the courthouse, receiving a file, having 3 minutes to talk with the arresting officer and witness (if you have one), and then putting on your case after you pick the jury. You get to do that, plus manage a case load which would probably make most other people cry.

It's not an easy job. But it's one that needs to be done. If it's not done, then the system breaks down.

Now, I know its not a magic bullet, and the law of unintended conseques might be that it would hurt him come budget time next year, but I have to wonder why he does not consider using volunteers to staff his misdemeanor cases. In many counties, and in many states, misdemeanor cases are handled by the newest attorneys, in many cases fresh from passing the bar. The reason why? They are typically discrete matters that a novice should be able to tackle with minimal supervision. This is not to say that it is easy, they take skill and knowledge. The best comparison is to look at it as minor leagues in baseball.

However, in looking at the Contra Costa District Attorney's website, I do not see any sort of program. By comparison, I am aware of programs that are run by the U.S. Attorney's Office. They use unpaid volunteers to handle some of their cases.

Now why would I suggest this? In case no one has noticed, there are a lot of lawyers out there looking for work. A few big firms have gone under. More than a few have been laying people off. Unlike working for the public defender's office, which (as much as I am loathe to say) can look bad depending on the type of job you are going for, a volunteer stint at the a district attorney's office would look good for a lot of litigators. You get trial experience. You learn to work under real pressure (as opposed to a partner's pressure). You learn to put together a case to win.

However, it looks like Mr. Cochly would rather cut back, then admit he has to take on volunteers, or to even consider the idea.

This is just my idea. Seems better than just not prosecuting crimes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is This What Passes For Local Government Responsibility?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Oakland Police Department seems to have a problem. The problem is either that they have officers who lie under oath on sworn documents or they are not training their officers in what it means to fill out a warrant form.

So let's see, its either the officers are unsuited for work as peace officers because they are liars or they are unsuited for work as peace officers because they cannot read. Either way, these officers, still unnamed, are are a disgrace to all the good law enforcement personnel out there who do their job.

Apparently, the Oakland police department has decided to make an example of some of them (still unnamed). Four of the officers, it was announced today, have been fired. However, seven others still remain employed as police officers by the Oakland PD.

Their counsel, Mary Sansen, continues to maintain that they have done nothing wrong and that the officers are being unfairly persecuted. Her rallying cry to defend the officers? It's the Oakland PD's fault for not training the officers. Ok, while the training may in fact have been sub-standard, how does she get around the fact that they were signing sworn documents which were being submitted to the court?

Now, I'm an attorney. And I've had my client's tell me some tales that I was stuck with when it came time go against the other side. But in this case, I have to wonder how Ms. Sansen, who by the way used to train peace officers, is able to say this with a straight face.

So what is the score right now? Four officer's belated fired. 16 convicted criminals let back out on the streets. 2 more have been cleared of their probation violations. That's not counting the two civil suits that have been filed by people who were victims of these warrants. And that's just the begining of the damage these defective officers/improperly trained officers have caused.

Something tells me that this is the tip of the iceberg. Either the Oakland PD is ridiculously negilgent in the training and supervision of its officers, or it tolerates them. If its, the former, then these officers are probably sacrificial lambs. If its the latter, then there are some serious problems that are not being brought to light.

Either way, the Oakland Police Department is not going to look good in this case. Which is a shame, since there are a lot of good officers working for the Oakland Police Department who are going to suffer because of the actions of a few. And in the end, its just going to make their job even harder to do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Thought I Could Trust The Voters (Dancing With The Stars Rant)

Alright, which of you mutton-headed nimwits voted for that whining pansy partner of Julianne Hough? I mean, yes, Julianne is the perfect little girl next door hottie who, oh by the way, happens to have talent oozing out of all her pores. On the dance floor, she knows what she is doing. Her singing is good (even though I'm not a fan of her songs so far).

But this nimwit she is partnered with, both in public and in her personal life, is really a big whiney baby. Yes, dancing is hard. Yes, the judges actually do judge sometimes (more on that below). And yes, if you do not do the moves to the music and in the right way, then you are not going to get rewarded. And yes, its physical, yes it will hurt at times, and yes, your girl friend is the expert so why don't you shut lil mouth and do what the expert tells you to do.

And yet, the American viewers keep bringin Chuck Wicks back. Are you kidding me? The judges gave him a gift because Julianne did a very smart thing in the choreography: she kept the attention on her, but made sure that Wicks had just enough so that Len would not notice what she was doing.

Please, end the madness. Stop voting for Julianne, its forcing the rest of us to suffer through more of Mr. Wicks. And that is just ridiculous.

Now, about the judging. There seems to be a bit of favoritism going on. My wife first twigged to this. I'm not sure its overt, but it jsut feels like certain of the stars are getting preferential scoring. The one my wife points to is Melissa Rycroft. After watching for a couple of weeks (although not this past week, this past week she got, in my opinion the right score) it seemed like they were giving a her a bit of a pass. On the one hand, it could be that they feel bad that she did not have all the prep time that the rest of the stars had but then again, maybe someone is whispering in their ear? If so.. at least she colorably could be worthy of going this far. However, the performance this week showed she was really supposed to be where she is.

Now, over the past few weeks, the various couples have been going through their own doledrums. With LT out, the weak members of the herd should be Wicks and Ty Murray.

I think you know how I feel about Wicks. Julianne, stick around, do some stuff with the other pros, but please, do us all a favor and take out the garbage!

Now, where Wicks is just a baby, Murray has continually put his best out there and been willing to learn. This is a guy who is so out of his comfort level, that sometimes the look on his face makes me feel bad. He does not move well and he always seems stiff. But damn, if he doesn't put his best effort in every time. I can't see him making the finals, but please, please reward this man by voting off the crybaby Wicks next week!

Now, in the past, I have put Giles and Shawn as the favorites. Giles continually shows that he deserves that. However, Shawn has slipped a little bit. In the two weeks before this, her routines just did not go over well. In particular, the rhumba fell flat and cost her. I'm not saying it was bad, it just did not play to her strengths. However, this week, she got back to something a bit more uptempo and flirty. And that works for her. If she can build on this week, she goes back into the top two. If she stumbles next week, then its going to leave it open for Lil Kima and Melissa to come charging in to fill the spots.

At this point, Giles just needs to hold steady, trust Cheryl to teach him. Cheryl, on the other hand, when she gets Giles to the open dance (because seriously, if America votes him off, this couple has shown they deserve to go that far), she just needs to worry about coming up with something to top the Drew "Save a Horse" Lachey routine from a few seasons back. Aww hell, watch it again why not?

Now, the challengers to the top spots are Lil Kim and Melissa Rycroft. Melissa is not a surprise, at least not after the first week. Lil Kim on the other hand is the big surprise for me. When I saw the lineup, I thought she was going to be hard to teach and resistant to doing this. I mean after all, she is Lil Kim, diva, performer, and, unfortunately, ex-con.

However, Derek Hough must be some sort of genius for figuring out how to teach her and coach her so that she's acting more like an athlete star rather than a music/acting star. If Shawn slips, and Melissa isn't ready to pounce, Lil Kim is a real threat to be in the top two at the end.

Right now, it looks like Giles has this in hand. However, if he lets up, fails to wow and goes conservative, he will be in serious trouble because, even though he was in the Sex and The City Movie, he probably has one of the smaller fan bases. Shawn has fallen off, so much so that she might soon be overtaken, I think, by either Melissa or Lil Kim. If this week is the start of a new surge, then Shawn should be able to have a good shot at the end against Giles.

In the end, its all up to the voters. And judging by how stupid you are, I'll probably be stuck watching Wicks stay on to the end.

So to make up for that, how about a picture of some of the female pros?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Does This Administration Get It?

It was cute when they insulted the British Prime Minister earlier this year by treating him like he was the head of a third world nation, instead of one of our most important and stalwart allies. It was a good chuckle when President Obama broke with tradition and bowed to foreign monarchs. And I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it when the North Koreans began to pull out of the working group and agreements set up to prevent it from being nuclear armed and the Obama Administration answered with a resounding...by the way what did we do? Send a nasty email? Oh that's right, some sort of Security Council resolution.

Let's see, what else the Obama administration has been up to. Iran is continuing their progress in their quest to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal. The Russians are moving to finish up (or should I say finish off) in Georgia. I'd say that the Obama administration is doing exactly what they promised to do in the election. It's working so well, that we are further away from our goals now than we were under W's misguided attempts diplomacy.

Not content to make things so interesting in the foreign policy arena, it looks like the Obama administration wants to gut the people we need in order to effectively execute a foreign policy program that will capitalize on the early "successes" of the Obama Administration. Yesterday, President Obama ordered the release of certain memoranda covering authorizations and tactics used in interrogations of suspected terrorist.

I mean, its not like there is an actual, if not undeclared conflict going between the United States and non-state actors who deliberately targt non-military, non-governmental locations for the purposes of maximizing short-term mortality rates in those locations. It's not like we don't have government employees in various parts of the world trying to deal with these non-state actors in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, civil reconstruction efforts, medical and humanitarian relief efforts, and targeted direct action to prevent the instigators of "man-made" mortality events. Those employees' health and well-being, as well as the success of their various governmentally-backed and sanctioned initiatives, probably benefited from these activities.

What's more, releasing how interrogations used to work gives too much information to people who already are trying to figure out how to withstand interrogatoin. If you know that the interrogator won't really put a harmful insect in your cell with you, it makes it that much easier to call the interrogators bluff and remain silent.

Am I in favor of torture? No. Then again, having read some (but not all of the memos) I fail to see how in the context of these situations (i.e. unlawful combatants captured in foreign lands, terrorist operatives caught in military operations, etc.) these can be construed as torture. There is a difference between military operations and civilian criminal cases. By blurring the lines between the two, we are going to end up hurting both.

But back to my admiration of the Obama Administration's policies over the past few months.

The only thing this can serve is to demoralize and make tenative our intelligence services, because they are going to fear being prosecuted for doing their job. It gives ammunition to our enemies out there.

But then again, the Democratic leadership, since 2003, has failed to differentiate between being anti-Bush policy and the security of the United States. At one moment, they are helping to pass massive bills which trample over our constitutional rights (i.e. PATRIOT ACT and PATRIOT ACT II). The next moment, they are trying to tear the teeth away from those entities which are trying to protect us. It leaves us a country where the government is starting to protect itself more from the people it governs than protecting the people from the threats it is supposed to protect it from.

To me this almost smacks of an administration trying to ge a "bread and circuses" thing going. Why? Because Democrat legislators are already announcing that they want to hold hearings. Nice, big, public, embarrasing hearings, which will allow the news media to flash words like "Torture" and "AGENT'S IMPLICATED IN HARMING PRISONERS" and the like. I still remember Iran-Contra and how much play that got, as well as all the big headlines. However, it wasn't until years later that I studied it in college and realized that it was not what the media made it out to be.

But back to this point, bread and circuses. While all this is going on, it's almost as if Obama is going to be using this to distract Americans from something else that is going on. Usually, when you are doing that, its because something else bad is going to happen. More nationalizations? Another capitulation on the world stage? Who knows, but there is a little piece of my brain thinking that this is a little convenient. And that the Obama's chief of staff is a big time pragmatist.

Now, before some people start saying things like "There was a court ordered deadline for disclosure", stop. I know there was. I also know that there are a lot of smart lawyers over at the Justice Department. Smart enough that they could have gotten an extention.

So back to the main point, does this administration of President Obama get it?

Sadly, I'm starting to thing it does not.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ridiculous, Absolutely Ridiculous

Now, let me put this out first: I do not like pillorying the police. They do a hard job. They occasionally get injured or dead to try and keep the rest of us safe.

However, I find it extremely disturbing what is going on over in Oakland. It was reported today that the Oakland Police Department will not be firing 7 officers who admitted to lying on affidavitsfor search warrants.

Let me make this clear, they were LYING on an affidavit for a search warrant. An affadavit for a search warrant is a statement of the facts which give probably cause sufficient for a judge to issue a search warrant. They are made under oath. That means, they are made under penalty of perjury.

Now, the example that one article uses (I'm not going to give the officer's name here) tells how they would submit search warrant requests to the judge, when the facts contained in those affidavits were false. For example, they would say that tests had confirmed that drugs were present when no tests had been conducted.

That is not a little thing. Its the difference between someone going to jail and not going to jail. In some cases, its the difference between keeping a criminal in jail and allowing a criminal to go free because the warrant, under which all the evidence was later acquired, was based on lies. When that happens, guess what, the criminal goes free.

The argument put forward by an attorney for the officers boils down to this: they weren't trained properly, therefore, they can't be held responsible for mistakes on the warrant application. Excuse me? Take a look at a search warrant application here and here. Notice, down at the bottom of the federal document, it says "Sworn before me". That means it is done under oath (as in I swear to tell the truth the whole truth...). The second one, a California affidavit form, even states that the affiant swears under oath that the facts contained in the affidavit are true.

It's not some rocket science. Its a simple question. At the time, did the people swearing under oath know that the facts were true or that they were not true. Lying under oath is unacceptable for peace officer, especially when it comes to a warrant.

Let me be clear about something. Even if you accept the officer's defense, the City of Oakland has a problem. On the one hand, you have corrupt officers. On the other hand, you have officers who are not trained enough to read the forms they are filling out.

However, it looks like Oakland would rather sweep it all under the rug than make sure the officers it does have on the streets are properly trained. Good job Oakland. I feel so much safer now.

The fact that Oakland has decided to allow these officers back on the job, after a nearly four month long paid administrative leave is ridiculous.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

More on the Kip and Nicole Macy Case.. But Few Answers

So there has been some action in the Kip and Nicole Macy case. In case you are not aware, here are some of my earlier postings. Essentially, if the allegations are true, these two give scumbag landlords a new name. Fortunately, they were arrested. Whether they will be convicted is another story.

The defense team for Mr. and Mrs. Macy brought motions to dismiss the indictment against the two. It was supposed to be heard on March 30, 2009, at the Courthouse on Bryant Street. However, I have not been able to see what happened.

Judging by the fact that I don't have any comments from the poster whom I presume is Mr. Macy, I would say that either the motion was unsuccessful, has been taken under submission by the judge after arguments, or has been continued to another date. Basically, sorry but I can't help you. Believe me I would love to tell you, because now its like a cliff hanger for me.

All I can provide you with for now is the motions brought by Kip and Nicole Macy's attorneys. Remembering, this is their argument. The DA will presumably have filed their own response. In reading through these, its interesting that what they say is that they are all but admitting to civil wrongs in trying to evade the criminal ones.

But perhaps that is just my interpretation.