Courts & Rulings
Recording calls without consent still illegal, California Supreme Court rules
California’s prohibition on secretly recording phone calls applies to both parties on the call and not just third-party eavesdroppers, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The court’s unanimous decision reverses the Fourth Appellate District’s opposite interpretation from 2019 that the law applies only to nonparties and does not forbid those on the call from recording each other without consent.
Bar on parole hearing for youthful rapist is invalid
A man who committed a rape-at-knifepoint in 1998 at the age of 19 and was sentenced under the “One-Strike Law” and sentenced to what was essentially a life term is entitled, despite the statutory command to the contrary, to a youth offender parole hearing, Div. One of the Court of Appeal for this district held Friday, drawing a dissent from a justice who sided with contrary decisions from other panels.
Judge orders Oakland police to release misconduct records ‘promptly’
A state judge ordered the city of Oakland and its police department Friday to promptly release thousands of documents on police misconduct journalists requested two years ago, after the California Legislature enacted a landmark police transparency law. “It’s clear the production has not been prompt enough to satisfy the law. Not by a long shot,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said.
Judge admonished for saying jury’s ‘not guilty’ verdict ‘gift from god’ because defendant really guilty
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has been publicly admonished for “improper demeanor” toward two defense attorneys and an “inappropriate” remark to a defendant who had been acquitted, the Commission on Judicial Performance announced Friday. Connolly was admonished for telling a defendant who had been acquitted that he had “been given a gift from God because there’s no question in my mind that you’re guilty of this crime,” according to the commission’s document, which noted that the remark was “thereby disparaging the jury’s determination that the defendant had not been proven guilty.”
Supreme Court upholds rollback of federal restrictions on media ownership
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld a regulatory rollback of federal limits on media ownership in local markets, a decision that could open the door to further industry consolidation. The court, in an opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, ruled Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission acted reasonably in 2017 when it loosened three longstanding media-ownership restrictions.
California court: Sports organizations must protect athletes
Sports organizations governing youth activities from soccer to swimming to gymnastics to baseball have a duty to protect athletes from sexual and other abuse, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday. In a case involving girls aspiring to be Olympians who were molested by their martial arts coach for years, the court held that USA Taekwondo could be held liable. But the court cleared the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee from liability because it did not have a close enough relationship with the coach or athletes.
LA presiding judge presents 'ramp up' plan for civil trials
Los Angeles County Superior Court leaders announced a series of first steps Thursday designed to ease a backlog of civil cases that has grown over a year of pandemic-related restrictions. The proposal unveiled by Presiding Judge Eric Taylor relies on centralized case coordination and enticements to lawyers willing to forgo traditional aspects of jury trials in exchange for faster trial dates.
Quest says ex-Amazon worker's medical marijuana suit fails
Quest says it accurately reported plaintiff Nathan Miller's drug test results to his then-employer Amazon and at no point did it violate Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Act, explaining that the statute's anti-discrimination provision only applies to employers, not testing sites. Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Act's nondiscrimination provision is explicitly directed to employers, Quest told the court in a brief Tuesday, noting that "the rules of statutory construction dictate that others not specifically mentioned, such as workplace drug testing laboratories, are not subject to the provision."
Another 9th Circuit judge ‘goes senior,’ creating second vacancy on court
Judge Marsha Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced on Tuesday that she would be taking senior status after 21 years on the court. Berzon, a San Francisco-based judge who was nominated by President Bill Clinton, is the second judge on the circuit to announce her semi-retirement in the last month. On Feb. 11, fellow Ninth Circuit Clinton-nominee Judge Susan Graber, who is based in Portland, Oregon, announced that she would be retiring from regular service when a successor is confirmed.
Statute benefitting persons found ‘NGI’ is constitutional
The Third District Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the constitutionality of a statute enacted in 2017 to extend the same sentence reductions to persons found not guilty by reason of insanity and institutionalized as were conferred by Proposition 36 - the “Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012” - on convicts. The statute - Penal Code §1170.127 - does not amend legislation created by the voter-approved initiative and therefore did not need a “super-majority” two-thirds vote, Justice Andrea L. Hoch said in an opinion that was not certified for publication.
Justices jettison dispute over Twitter users banned by Trump
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday snuffed out a ruling that said Donald Trump violated the First Amendment as president when he blocked users from interacting with his Twitter account. Though the court vacated the decision summarily, averting oral arguments now that Trump’s ban from Twitter has mooted the case, Justice Clarence Thomas penned a concurring opinion to expand on the power and reach of Twitter and other social media companies.
Policy/Legal Issues
Amid outcry, states push mental health training for police
The officer who Cassandra Quinto-Collins says kneeled on her son’s neck for over four minutes assured her it was standard protocol for sedating a person experiencing a mental breakdown. “I was there watching it the whole time,” Quinto-Collins told The Associated Press. “I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.”
District attorneys fire back at ACLU and prisoner advocates over death penalty lawsuit
District attorneys in three California counties are firing back at the American Civil Liberties Union and other prisoner advocacy groups, calling their attempt to block the prosecutors’ participation in a longstanding death penalty lawsuit frivolous. Additionally, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin and San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe say they take offense to recently being characterized as “bloodthirsty” and trying to “fast-track executions” in California.
This Sac'to bill would restrict judges statewide in applying sentencing enhancements; it goes beyond LA DA Gascón's charging policies; it's advancing now
A bill authored by state Senator Nancy Skinner (D, Berkeley) has been amended and advanced through the state Senate Public Safety Committee in ways that would restrict grounds on which judges statewide could apply sentencing enhancements to those found guilty of certain crimes. As SB 81 would apply statewide at the decision-making judicial sentencing level, in that respect it goes beyond controversial policies of L,.A, County DA George Gascón' who has refused to pursue certain sentencing enhancements.
Charges filed against 17-year-old Lamborghini driver in fatal car crash
A 17-year-old Lamborghini driver is facing charges nearly two months after a Los Angeles crash claimed the life of a 32-year-old woman. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office announced that charges were filed Wednesday against the teenager involved in the deadly crash. Because the case involves a juvenile, the specific charges can't be revealed until arraignment, the office said.
Two district attorneys in SoCal disagree on punishment for killer
Some gruesome crimes from 40 years ago reveal deep rifts in approach to law and order in Southern California. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón have been at odds over Kenneth Rasmuson's punishment. Rasmuson was convicted of raping and killing two 6-year-old boys during the 1980s.
Beverly Hills store let criminals stash guns, drugs and cash in vault at strip mall, prosecutors say
When federal agents descended on a Beverly Hills strip mall last month, it took them five days to seize the contents of hundreds of safe deposit boxes inside a store called U.S. Private Vaults. On Friday, the government revealed why it was so interested in the seemingly mundane business wedged between a nail salon and a spa: It was laundering money for drug dealers and letting them stash guns, fentanyl and stacks of $100 bills in security boxes that were rented anonymously, prosecutors alleged.
Accused California mass shooter charged with four counts of murder
Prosecutors have charged the California man accused of killing four people in a mass shooting Wednesday with four counts of murder and two charges of attempted murder of a police officer. Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, 44, is accused of fatally shooting four people in an Orange County business complex and attempting to murder three other individuals including two officers with the city of Orange Police Department.
DA unsure of whether they will retry Oxnard man whose conviction is being reversed
Ventura County's District Attorney says the convictions against an Oxnard man who has spent more than a decade in prison will be reversed based on key evidence that he says was inadvertently kept from the defense in the trial of the now 32-year-old Ignacio Ixta Junior of Oxnard. It was evidence that would have been used to impeach a key prosecution witness's testimony against Ixta.
Ex-state employee charged with embezzlement, other counts
A former state employee accused of funneling more than $200,000 in disability payments to herself while she worked for California's Employment Development Department failed to show up in court Friday for arraignment, prompting a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to issue a bench warrant.
Fullerton man charged with hate crime for allegedly throwing rocks at Asian woman, 6-year-old son in car
A 28-year-old man has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly throwing rocks at a car in which there was an Asian woman and her 6-year-old son, officials announced Monday. Roger Janke, of Fullerton, was charged with one felony count of violation of civil rights, one felony count of vandalism, one misdemeanor count of throwing a substance at a vehicle, and one felony hate crime enhancement, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Pacific Gas & Electric charged in 2019 Northern California wildfire
A California prosecutor filed 33 criminal charges Tuesday against the troubled Pacific Gas & Electric for a 2019 wildfire officials blamed on the utility. The Sonoma County district attorney charged the utility with felony and misdemeanor counts in the October 2019 Kincade Fire north of San Francisco. The blaze burned more than 120 square miles and destroyed 374 buildings. The utility did not immediately comment.
Los Angeles District Attorney
Gascon pushes to eliminate juvenile strikes, reorganizes gang unit
District Attorney George Gascon today outlined plans to reorganize his office's gang unit and co-locate prosecutors in police stations in hopes of creating closer community ties. Gascon's remarks came during a news conference he co-hosted to promote Assembly Bill 1127, which would eliminate the use of juvenile offenses to impose tougher sentences on adults.
George Gascón’s plan to downsize DA’s gang unit concerns top deputies, demoralizes prosecutors
In a Zoom call with dozens of wary deputy district attorneys, two top lieutenants of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón acknowledged it will be “an uphill battle” to quickly implement his controversial plan to downsize and rebrand the office’s vaunted Hardcore Gang Investigations Unit.
Los Angeles DA shrinks gang unit while homicides and gang violence surge
Over the past year, the city of Los Angeles has seen a sharp increase in homicides, thanks in part to a surge in gang violence. Naturally, district attorney George Gascon has decided that the best way to handle the issue is to downsize the city’s gang unit. The city’s "Hardcore Gangs" unit is being shrunk, according to sources in the unit. It is also being renamed, with sources saying that Gascon’s administration “doesn’t like it” its current title.
City Council unanimously adopts resolution affirming vote of no confidence in Gascón
At its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, the Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution No. 21-7, expressing concern in Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s Special Directives 20-06, 20-07 and 20-08, and affirming a vote of no confidence in Gascón. “Our City has long been hailed as one of the safest in the nation,” said Mayor Bill Miranda.
Former LA County DA Steve Cooley blasts George Gascón
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has some harsh words for the elected official who currently holds his former job. Cooley - who was the DA of L.A. County from 2000 to 2012 - told Inside the Issues that new DA George Gascón's directives are problematic. In particular, Cooley takes issue with the one that bans sentencing enhancements. "All gone, according to him," Cooley told host Alex Cohen.
L.A. County D.A. Gascón downsizes ‘hardcore gang’ and ‘major narcotics’ units: Report
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón reportedly “gutted” his office’s Hardcore Gang Unit and Major Narcotics Unit this week, severely downsizing both as he continues to transform the nation’s largest criminal justice jurisdiction. FOX 11 News investigative reporter Bill Melugin first reported that Gascón was planning to dismantle the Hardcore Gang Unit more than two weeks ago.
Los Angeles County/City
Residents of world-famous Venice Beach demand LA move homeless off the streets as tents and crimes multiply
Patrons dining in beachside cafés in Venice now have a clear view of what's become one of the city's biggest homeless encampments - hundreds of tents lining the world-famous Boardwalk. From the Boardwalk and on surrounding streets, NBC4 viewers have filmed assaults, tent fires and just about every kind of violence - part of a spike in crime in Venice where the housed and unhoused are often targets.
Demonizing law enforcement and then crime goes up! Who KNEW?
We turned everything upside down and decided that laws and those who enforce them are BAD. And criminals and the lawless are GOOD. So funny things happened! After a police chief and then appointed Attorney General George Gascón left San Francisco absolutely hated by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, it was noted that demoralized prosecutors and law enforcement there saw an exploding level of lawlessness in his wake.
Robbers run right over outraged woman trying to stop Lancaster getaway car? Murder charge
Murder charges were filed Friday against one of three men suspected in the death of a woman who was struck by a getaway car she was standing in front of after an attempted robbery in Lancaster. Jajuan Welch-Arroyo, 26, is charged with one count each of the murder of Samantha Mena and the attempted robbery of a separate victim, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
‘This dude? Probably' – Body worn video shows LAPD Hollywood officers grabbing the wrong man
Newly public LAPD body worn video recordings show officers from the Hollywood Division weren’t sure if a man they stopped outside an apartment building on Fountain Avenue was the person described in a 2019 emergency call, which is now the subject of a civil rights lawsuit. “This dude?” one officer is recorded saying as a patrol car makes a u-turn on May 24, 2019. “Probably,” says the officer’s partner.
Public Safety/Crime
Murder monster from the past, justice at last: Modern family DNA fingers alleged double sex killer, 65
Forty years ago a young mother was tied up, sexually assaulted and strangled. Her battered body was dumped under some bushes in Montclair. Thirty-five years ago a Reseda young woman was asphyxiated and her body was ultimately found in the trunk of her car in an empty parking lot in Burbank. She, too, had been tied up and sexually assaulted.
Man wanted for 2017 Northridge homicide arrested in Mexico, returned to L.A
A man wanted in the New Year’s Eve 2017 killing of a man outside a Northridge restaurant was in custody Thursday in Los Angeles following his arrest in Mexico. Derek Bryan Dominguez, 31, was returned to the Southland and booked on suspicion of murder early Wednesday, according to the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He’s being held on $3 million bail, the sheriff’s department reported.
Auto parts thefts increase in Los Angeles
The city of Los Angeles recorded the highest number of auto-parts thefts for a single month in at least 11 years in January, according to a report released Thursday. There were 471 such crimes reported in the first month of the year, according to Crosstown, a nonprofit news organization based out of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, in partnership with the Integrated Media Systems Center at the Viterbi School of Engineering.
Neighbor helps Camarillo police track down 3 catalytic converter theft suspects
Three men were arrested on suspicion of stealing catalytic converters in Camarillo, officials said Friday. The vehicle exhaust emission control devices are increasingly being stolen because they contain precious metals and can be scrapped for quick profit. Thieves typically use saws to cut them from vehicles and that can be a loud process.
‘Ghost guns’ seized from 2 ex-con gang members in Pasadena, police say
Police seized two unserialized “ghost guns” during two separate encounters with ex-convict gang members in Pasadena on Friday, authorities said. The first arrest took place about 7:40 a.m in the area of Raymond Avenue and Woodbury Road, Pasadena police Lt. Anthony Burgess said. Officers spotted a man slumped over inside a parked car and stopped to check on him, he said.
Study: California’s licensed cannabis shops aren’t selling to minors
California’s licensed marijuana shops are doing an excellent job at preventing sales to minors, according to a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That means the industry is living up to a key promise advocates made when voters legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older nearly five years ago.
Consumer Alert: FBI, DCCA warning on selling and buying fake coronavirus vaccination cards
As more COVID-19 vaccines roll out in hopes to slow the coronavirus pandemic down, another problem is popping up with fake vaccination cards. The FBI is warning the public about buying and selling fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards. The FBI said by doing so, con artists are endangering those around them, and it’s breaking the law. The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is also joining in on that message with a stern warning of their own.
Product liability lawsuits against Amazon happening in the U.S.
Amazon and similar companies have given consumers access to products from businesses across the U.S. and around the world. The biggest online marketplaces combined had more than $2.6 trillion in sales worldwide in 2020. With the growth and popularity of the e-commerce industry, it is unsurprising that there has been a steady increase in lawsuits against Amazon for defective products they sold.
Left-wing prosecutors hit fierce resistance
Larry Krasner’s election in 2017 was a triumph for progressives nationwide: The man who had sued cops 75 times, represented Black Lives Matter, promised to end cash bail - and was widely seen as the most liberal district attorney candidate in the country - won. Four years later, Philadelphia’s top prosecutor - and one of the leading figures of the country’s criminal justice reform movement - is under siege.
Murders rose last year. Black and Hispanic neighborhoods were hit hardest.
On April 26, 2020 Telish Gardner, a 49-year-old sanitation worker and father of four, was shot and killed in his home in south Los Angeles. Two days later, just a few blocks away, Magali Alberto was killed in her car waiting for a light to change when three young men drove up alongside her and fired multiple shots into her tinted windows. Police say the 28-year-old single mother was randomly targeted.
Police defunded: Major cities feeling the loss of police funding as murders, other crimes soar
Cities in parts of the U.S. that slashed their police department funding last year, in part as a result of police-involved shootings, have seen an uptick in certain crimes over the past year, according to data analyzed by Fox News. Cities such as Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, have shifted funds from police departments to social services programs. Such cuts have led some departments to lay off officers, cancel recruiting classes or retreat from hiring goals.
22 states fight California gun restrictions, urge Ninth Circuit to rule against large-capacity magazine ban
A coalition of 22 states, led by the Republican attorneys general of Arizona and Louisiana, is urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to again rule against California’s controversial attempt to ban high-capacity magazines, after the court agreed to reconsider its decision to rule it unconstitutional. "California politicians are at it again, convinced that their agendas should override the Constitutional rights of the people," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, in a statement, announcing the filing of an amicus brief.
Fight against Boudin’s recall gets $100,000 gift from Gascón PAC
Remember George Gascón? Both SF district attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles DA Gascón face recall efforts, a pro-Gascón PAC has made a lavish contribution to help Boudin. Well, here’s a wrinkle to the narrative that the Recall Chesa Boudin effort is largely funded by one donor. Boudin’s allies are fighting back against the still-collecting-signatures effort to recall the very liberal Democratic Socialist SF district attorney, and as such, have started up a couple of political action committees (PACs) to finance that fight.
Texas prisons stopped in-person visits and limited mail. Drugs got in anyway.
Last year, the Texas prison system unwittingly started a controlled experiment. Agency leaders have long blamed prisoners’ friends and families for a constant flow of drugs they say are often smuggled in through visits and greeting cards. To combat this, prison officials in early March set up new rules curtailing prisoner mail. Two weeks later, they shut down visitation to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
California sheriffs are feeling the heat
A half-century ago, I was the editor of a small daily newspaper in Northern California and one of my reporters dug up a terrific story. He learned that that the county’s Board of Supervisors had privately compelled the county’s sheriff to receive alcoholism treatment by threatening to take away some of his administrative powers. The sheriff’s excessive drinking habits were well known to courthouse insiders and he had crashed at least one county vehicle while driving drunk, although it had been covered up.
War on police’ gives rise to violent crime
It seems like just yesterday when candidates running for political office in big cities vowed to prosecute the kind of relentless war on crime that would have impressed General Patton. “Cracking down on violent criminals” was a standard refrain on the campaign trail. Indeed, both our current President and Vice President built their careers with platforms focused on fighting crime. Times have certainly changed.
Outraged daughter almost kills elderly mom with wine bottle slam to head: Living together? No. Prison? Yes
Mothers and daughters argue, but this was one time the debate got out of hand as an adult daughter ready to leave her Yorba Linda residence and move in with her mother ended up almost killing her mom with a wine bottle blow to the head. The 44-year-old Yorba Linda woman pleaded guilty Monday and was immediately sentenced to 11 years in prison for slamming a wine bottle over her mother’s head, leaving her battling for her life in a hospital.
Felon's own words doom chance at mental health diversion from possible third strike
A Fresno County man with a long history of violent crime and mental health problems nearly got a chance at freedom despite a new robbery case, but a judge says the man’s own words made it impossible. Michael Gonzalez is no stranger to the jail jumpsuit he wore Wednesday. His criminal history dates back to the 1980s. Among his crimes was rape by force against a person who was disabled.
Corrections & Parole
Prison officials investigate death of inmate as homicide
Prison officials are investigating as a homicide the death of a 33-year-old inmate, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Saturday. Myles S. Asuega was found unresponsive in his cell Friday afternoon at the California State Prison-Los Angeles County, the department said. Staff members weren't able to revive him. Asuega was serving an 18-year sentence for attempted second-degree murder.
Board grants parole to man convicted in 1989 Seaside murder
The California Board of Parole granted Bradley Phillip Hardison parole after 30 years in state prison for the murder of Sonjii Yvette Johnson in Seaside in 1989. The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced the decision in a press release last week, stating Hardison pleaded guilty to a first-degree murder charge to avoid the potential of the death penalty, launched unsuccessful appeals based on ineffective assistance of counsel at plea and wrongful denial of parole, and denied the murder at parole hearings until 2007.
Articles of Interest
Retired police officer prevails against adult film studio Strike 3
Holdings in proving his innocence in copyright infringement suit
Recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of Judge Thomas S. Zilly of the District Court of the Western District of Washington in favor of defendant John Doe, a retired police officer accused of illegally downloading and distributing adult content produced by Strike 3 Holdings LLC. [1] Agreeing with the district court’s finding that Strike 3 failed to prove its claim that the defendant pirated its adult films, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s order requiring Strike 3 to pay defendant John Doe $47,777 in costs and fees.
Taken to the cleaners
When a state court clerk teams up with a private vendor to exploit the public record, it all looks good at the beginning. The clerk will make a bundle and the vendor will make out too. But really, one of them is the patsy. We at Courthouse News have lately been looking at Texas where clerks are fighting against press access like a dog guarding a bone. They surely make some extra money selling court records, but the state is getting taken to the cleaners.
Court rules Torrance can recoup underpaid utility taxes, but can it collect?
Southern California Edison improperly billed customers in Torrance, depriving the South Bay’s largest city - and potentially dozens of others in Southern California - of revenue from special taxes on utility companies, a state appeals court has ruled. Hundreds of millions of dollars could be at stake statewide as well, the attorney representing Torrance said, with 104 cities and counties having similar voter-approved taxes that utilities across California may have also incorrectly calculated.
You can use my french toast
The things I learn from litigation never cease to amaze me. This week’s new bit of information is that there is a company that describes itself as “the world’s leading food image agency.” I had no idea there were any food image agencies, let alone a world leader in food images. You’d think an image licensing company wouldn’t be that specialized. It turns out though that Stockfood America Inc. does indeed exclusively offer food photos.
Uber ordered to pay $1.1 million for discriminating against passenger with guide dog
For Lisa Irving, a legally blind woman determined to live on her own terms, Uber rides were often a lifeline, helping her get to work, socialize and run errands. But it would quickly turn into a nightmare any time drivers would pull up, take one look at her guide dog Bernie, and unleash a torrent of invective. “Drivers took their anger out on me. They vented that they hadn’t been informed, they vented that they didn’t have to take me and my service dog and they said some very nasty and demeaning stuff,” Irving said in a phone interview.
No, rescuing pensions won’t destroy them
In the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, Democrats inserted an estimated $86 billion to prevent the collapse of distressed multiemployer pensions and preserve the retirements of some 1,500,000 workers and their families. As I have written elsewhere, this was the first time that a major pension law wasn’t bipartisan: after years of failed attempts at bipartisan compromise, Democrats acted unilaterally. That, in turn, outraged both Republicans (many of whom oppose “union pension plans”) and those who want reforms in pension funding practices and oversight.
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