Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to buy a judge (and fairly cheap, too)

Christopher Brauchli totes up the bucks at Counterpunch:
One of money’s more amusing appearances was in the 1980s when the Texas Supreme Court decided a contract dispute between Pennzoil and Texaco in favor of the former with the result that Texaco settled with Pennzoil for $3 billion. Following entry of that judgment, wags observed that in one year the lawyers for the winning side had contributed in excess of $300,000 to members of the court for their reelection efforts whereas lawyers for the losing side had contributed less than $200,000. Only a cynic would believe that the contributions affected the justices’ decision, at least until West Virginia came along.
But if you follow the money...Read more »

Friday, June 11, 2010

Griesa's felony harassment trial set to go,
amid hints that sides may have cut a deal

The second compartment in the legal portmanteau of People v. Joseph Griesa and People v. Santana and Vasquez is set to open in Yuba County Superior Court Tuesday, despite doubts it will.

There are several signs flashing on the courthouse marquee that a deal may be imminent in the Griesa matter.

For one thing, Sacramento defense attorney Kenneth Rosenfeld was either hedging his bets or milking the situation for suspense, when he dodged Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Young’s question whether the trial would finally start next week, or not.

“Anything could happen,” Rosenfeld coyly replied.

But the options may be narrowing...Read more »

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sacramento jury finds man guilty
in 'unique' nitrous oxide DUI case

A Sacramento jury found Jeffrey Hutchings guilty Wednesday of driving under the influence of nitrous oxide in an incident variously called "unique" and ”one of a kind.”

The trial in People v. Hutchings,#10T00976, started Monday before Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown and ended Wednesday afternoon with a swift verdict of guilty from a jury of eight men and four women.

The trial, though comparatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, considering there were six murder trials underway at the same time in the same courthouse, was of keen interest to inveterate court-watchers who termed it "unique" and "unusual."

Brown mentioned during the trial that pre-trial research could locate no previous case similar to this one, which therefore made it, in its own small way, one of a kind.

Careening car on road, canisters on floor...Read more »

2 items of interest: Griesa, Hutchings

Two items of interest to court-watchers are working: the state prosecutions of Joseph Griesa in Yuba County and Jeffrey Hutchings in Sacramento County superior courts.

Both were in court Tuesday; both seem to be reaching some sort of conclusion. Fuller stories will be available tomorrow. For the moment, though, here is a brief recap.

An impartial judge appointed by the state Supreme Court has rejected a defense motion to recuse a visiting judge from trying the case of People v. Joseph Griesa.

Griesa, a former tow company executive, is now in his third or fourth lawyer, his second trial and is still embroiled in legal problems stemming from allegedly sexually bothering under-aged female employees at Mitchell Towing Company.

His disputed testimony in also a key issue in the separate but linked matter of People v. Santana and Vasquez.

Griesa’s attorney, Kenneth Rosenfeld of Sacrament, had claimed that out-of-town judge Ersel Edwards might be too prejudiced against Griesa to rule fairly in Griesa’s second trial in the sex allegations case.

San Joaquin County Judge Bernard Garber ruled Tuesday that while Edwards may have set views on how the Griesa trial should be conducted, it does not mean he is prejudiced against any case the defense might present.

The trial in that matter is now expected to continue, but only after a number of last-minutes motions have been dealt with in another hearing Yuba County Superior Court hearing slated for June 15.

Notable Trials correspondent Sam Pierce has been following the Griesa proceedings closely. We’ll have a fuller joint report tomorrow on what’s up with that controversial case.

Meanwhile, another case of interest has suddenly popped up in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Court clerks, lawyers and others tuned to the everyday doing in that courthouse steered Notable Trials to a new and rather odd trial now underway before Judge Lawrence Brown in Department 38.

While some called the matter of People v. Jeffrey Hutchings “first of its kind,” prosecutor Darren K. Indermill of the state Attorney General’s Office, would only go as far as calling it “unusual.”

Hutching is charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence of the “rave” substance nitrous oxide in January of this year.

The circumstances described by several prosecution witnesses, primarily arresting and investigating officers from a variety of local law enforcement agencies certainly did make it seem unusual.

The officer who first stopped Hutchings just off Highway 50 near Folsom called it “unique.”

Some 40 or so expended canisters of nitrous oxide were reportedly found littering the inside of the car operated by Hutchings with a companion passenger.

Two unexpended canisters and another box of multiple unexpended canisters were founding the vehicle after it was stopped for weaving drastically around the roadway.

I came into the case late and not all details were immediately available, but they are expected to be recapped in closing arguments scheduled to occur today.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Leary requests, gets 4-week trial delay

The defense asked for and got a delay Tuesday in the pending matter of People v. Michael Leary, #09F07685 the former Sacramento jail commander suspected of fraud, forgery and other related felonies.

The prosecution quickly bowed to the postponement request so Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gary Ransom moved Leary’s last pre-trial hearing to 1:30 p.m. July 6. There is now no firm start date for the trial.

Outside of court, defense attorney William Portonova dodged being specific about exactly why he’d sought the delay.

Problems may have arisen in rounding up needed documents or materials and unnamed individuals may have experienced a change of mind and/or heart in recent weeks, Portonova alluded.

“Time wounds all heels,” he added, cryptically.

Black suit; ready smile... Read more »

Monday, June 7, 2010

Leary’s last pre-trial hearing 1:30 Tuesday

Former Sacramento County sheriff’s Lt. Michael P. Leary is slated to be in court tomorrow for what is likely to be his last pre-trial hearing before he stands trial for several felonies allegedly committed during a disputed property transfer.

Trial of the one-time Elk Grove city council member is expected to begin in superior court June 29.

He is looking at four criminal counts springing from a challenged transfer of title for a $610,000 residence at 3301 Marina Cove Circle, Elk Grove.

The 49-year-old Leary was booked and arraigned in October 2009 on charges of grand theft fraud and forgery stemming from the transfer between himself and his former live-in girlfriend Alyc K. Maselli in 2006.

Leary has pleaded innocent to all charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 12 years in state prison and fined $75,000. He remains free on bail.

A woman scorned; her revenge delayed...Read more »

Fed judges who may rule on oil spill
shown to have financial links to BP

More than half of the federal judges in districts where the bulk of Gulf oil spill-related lawsuits are pending have financial connections to the oil and gas industry, complicating the task of finding judges without conflicts to hear the cases, an Associated Press analysis of judicial financial disclosure reports shows.

Thirty-seven of the 64 active or senior judges in key Gulf Coast districts in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have links to oil, gas and related energy industries, including some who own stocks or bonds in BP PLC, Halliburton or Transocean - and others who regularly list receiving royalties from oil and gas production wells, according to the reports judges must file each year. The AP reviewed 2008 disclosure forms, the most recent available. -- AP
New York Magazine: in prison, Bernie Madoff is ‘free at last’