Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Stand Up for Justice" Rally at SF City Hall: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Today I attended the "Stand Up for Justice" Rally at San Francisco City Hall! This event was organized by the Bar Association of San Francisco, and our Attorney General Kamala Harris showed up as well as many other amazing lawyers and politicians. The focus was on how the lack of court funding is affecting our most vulnerable citizens.

CA Attorney General Kamala Harris addresses the importance of the court system to access to justice and equality for ALL

SF Mayor Ed Lee

Kelly Dermody, the President of the Bar Association of San Francisco, hosted the event and introduced all the speakers. The first was of course, none other than Miss Attorney General, Kamala Harris.  Harris stressed the importance of proper funding for our court system. The people who will suffer the most from the drastic cuts to the court system in California are the underprivileged and underrepresented. She emphasized that having access to justice is a fundamental tenet upon which this country was founded, and to close the doors to the courts means to close the doors to justice.

Supervisor David Chiu

SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi (also a Hastings alum!)

The severe defunding of the court system has given rise to some really crucial constitutional issues such as due process of law. People will be waiting longer and longer to receive justice. Hearings are postponed time after time and the line for the court clerk (which is open one hour less each day) is out of control. At 4:00 pm when the clerk's office closes, whoever is still in line is out of luck. They cannot even use a drop box; they must simply COME BACK another time.

Many of these people are victims of domestic violence. Imagine this, ladies: Your abusive husband just beat you and you have bruises all over your body. As you pick up the phone to call the police, he yells at you and tells you that if you call the police, both you and your child won't be long for this earth. You have no choice but to leave and go immediately to the court to file a restraining order. You get to the court, wait in line for hours with your restless and frightened child, and alas, it is 4:00. The court doors close in your face and you have not even had the chance to file your papers.

Now what? Do you go back home and risk your lives? Do you stay in a shelter? Nobody in this country should be faced with this kind of dilemma. The courts need to be open, accessible, well funded and staffed so that every citizen has equal access to justice. The de-funding of the court system is real, and it is a scary thing for many people, especially victims of domestic violence.

Take a look at what has happened just in the Bay Area alone:

  • San Francisco has closed six courtrooms
  • 67 court personnel were laid off, including 29 court reporters and ALL 8 court funded commissioners
  • In San Mateo, 114 positions were eliminated

There is a crisis going on in the justice system, and it affects all of us. Here were some of my favorite speakers from today.
Senator Joe Dunn (Ret.) (State Bar of California)

Justice Carlos Moreno (Ret.)

Judge La Doris Dordell (Ret.)

Ramon Arias (Bay Area Legal)

Julie Rumsey (SEIU)
If you are unhappy and outraged with the state of the justice system in California, PLEASE call your representatives and tell them that you care about court funding! Remind them how important court funding is to our communities and businesses.

Click here to find your elected representatives! If you are not familiar with them, this is the time to find out who they are and what they are all about! They were elected to serve you and if you are unhappy, you need to let them know.

Call Governor Jerry Brown at: (916) 445-2841.

Me (second to the right) and 3 of my awesome BLSA buddies at the rally!
Talk to your family and friends about this, and let everyone know that you care about justice for all!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Who is Spending Too Much Now? 2012 Presidential Campaign and How Super PACs Are Running the Show

Gingrich $4.5 in debt!

It seems like the Republican party is constantly bashing Democrats for "spending too much." Ironically enough, Newt Gingrich's campaign has spent about $4.5 million more than it has raised! Trying to keep up with Romney has proved disastrous for Gingrich (who also has almost no chance of winning). Who is spending too much now, Newt? Not too responsible, eh?

Super PACs - The New Craze

Interestingly enough, Obama was the first presidential nominee to forego public funding for the general election cycle, which created a huge advantage in his campaign against John McCain in 2008. Neither Obama nor Romney will take out the public fund this fall. If they did, it would limit each of their expenditures to about $91.2 million.

Awesome political cartoon by Dave Granlund

Super PACs (political action committees) are where the money is at. These groups basically exist as a legal means for corporations and trade unions to make donations to candidates. They are not legally permitted to do this directly. Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose political candidates! As with almost anything that is "unlimited," things can get out of control...

Right now, President Obama's fundraising is not nearly where it was in 2008. Of the top 10 super PACs backing presidential candidates, 9 are Republican and have raised a combined $116 million! This is some serious money, people! Priorities USA Action (the only Democratic Super PAC) took in only $6.5 million. That's a huge discrepancy in funding. Democrats are having a really hard time adjusting to this super PAC era. It seems that a lot of people underestimate Romney as a potential threat to President Obama. This kind of thinking is dangerous, and if you want to win an election, you gotta be ready to fight until the end! It also does not help that we are in a recession...

I don't know about all of you, but I am not at all comfortable with the idea of unlimited amounts of money being spent on campaigns. This inevitably leads to corruption. There is a reason why there are limits on contributions to federal candidates, and I do not believe that using super PACs to basically get rid of this limit is fair or wise.

What do you think? Do you think super PACs should be made illegal?