Month: October 2011

Photographers Feel the Law's Short Sharp Shock

The tension between some journalists and some peace officers continues, as the ACLU of Southern California sues the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for interfering with freelance photographers on suspicion of casing public facilities for terroristic purposes, and the Newspaper Guild organizes a protest of the alleged rough treatment given photographers by officers in the Occupy Oakland mêlée (pictured). The Northern California ACLU, meanwhile, has quickly filed an ambitious request for records of the Oakland Police Department concerning its unusually forceful confrontation with the Occupiers. Photos: Jean-Philippe...

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Hospital Directors Complain to Boss of Attorney Critic

Oceanside’s Tri-City Healthcare District board majority has been contending for some kind of gothic governance award for years, among other things for the way it treats two of its members who too frequently ask questions and express dissent. The crowning act of discipline has been to banish the pair from all closed sessions—not because they have leaked information from them in the past but because closed session is where Tri-City power is controlled and executed, and the majority apparently wants no witnesses as to just how. The exile is one of those flamboyantly despotic maneuvers that local government officials sometimes get up to because they think the victims cannot afford take them to court and because their attorneys guarantee them they’re acting lawfully in any case. The latest flail is not against the two directors themselves but against a lawyer who had the audacity to complain that they—the directors he had voted for—had been unlawfully stripped of key powers of office.  First the story, then a veteran local columnist’s...

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NPR: You Have the Obligation to Remain Silent

National Public Radio, under new leadership after the departure of a top executive who shared the public heat for the firing of Juan Williams for a moment of  candor a year ago, is now under the beginnings of a new siege for telling an opera program producer it would no longer carry her show after she spoke up as a demonstrator at a D.C. area Occupy gathering. One critic in particular calls the move hypocrisy, given NPR’s apparent tolerance in the past for political opinions voiced by several of its top news stars. A question still awaiting an answer: How clearly are those in any contractual relationship with NPR told that their speech, petition and assembly rights must be put on...

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Ventura Court Clerk Sued for Records Access Delays

If justice delayed is justice denied, is access delayed to court records access denied—contrary to the First Amendment? That’s the position taken by Courthouse News Service in its federal court lawsuit against the clerk of the Ventura County Superior Court, which it says is often days, even weeks late in allowing the public to see newly filed cases. Reporting for Courthouse News Service, Bill Girdner explains that the defendant blames the lag on processes made necessary by the new statewide court information system. Ventura’s court clerk was sued Thursday by Courthouse News Service over delays in press access to newly filed cases, a frequent source of news. The delays in Ventura stand in stark contrast to the same-day access to new lawsuits provided by federal courts and big state courts throughout the nation. “By denying Courthouse News timely access to newly-filed civil unlimited jurisdiction complaints, these records are as good as sealed for an appreciable time after filing, in violation of the rights secured to Courthouse News by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, federal common law, and the California Rules of Court,” said the complaint. The complaint said the news service has tried to work with the clerk, Michael Planet, to no avail. Courthouse News is represented by Rachel Matteo-Boehm, David Greene and Leila Knox out of the San Francisco office of Holme Roberts &...

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Bank Fires Man for Questioning City Manager's Pay

The city manager of a Riverside County hamlet of 5,000 or so souls, paid more than a quarter million dollars a year along with some surprising and costly perks, got a bank employee fired for questioning his compensation at a city council meeting and submitting public records requests to document his suspicions, reports Bonnie Barron for Courthouse News Service.  But it’s the bank and the officer who did the firing who are being sued—for wrongful termination in retaliation for the vice president’s exercise of his constitutional rights to speak freely and seek public information. A former vice president claims his bank fired him because he dared to ask the Indian Wells City Council, at its public meeting, how much it was paying its public officials – a request that infuriated the city manager. The fired VP says the manager of the city of 5,093 was paid $283,020 in 2009, plus, apparently, lifetime medical coverage, an 80% pension for life, free golf and free car washes. In his Superior Court complaint, Haddon Libby says the topic of compensation was an agenda item for the City Council the night he spoke, and that the topic was in the news, and on people’s minds, due to the scandalous salaries and benefits that had been revealed in the L.A. suburb of Bell. Libby sued the First Foundation Bank, its corporate parent First Foundation...

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