Let's Get Honest! Blog: Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?…' (posted 3/23 & 3/5/2014). Over 680 posts, Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.

March 8, 2009 Full Disclosure.net Interview with Richard Fine, explains the Dilemma of County Payments affecting Court Cases

with one comment


I keep wondering what ever happened to the Silva v. Garcetti lawsuit — was the money distributed? Did this case help precipitate somehow the stipulation that only statewide agencies could distribute child support (versus the local D.A.’s office)?

Hopefully Full Disclosure people will appreciate why Im posting this, and its relevance to what happens when an ADMINISTRATIVE agency (let alone one at the Federal Level) starts affecting Trial Court Cases.

  • District Attorneys are paid by the county.
  • Court Reporters (if court-provided) are paid by the county.
  • Child Support Enforcement Agencies are, of course, paid by the county.
  • Court-appointed GALs and Child Support ATTORNEYS (who may appear in custody-related hearings) are paid by the county.
  • Court-appointed mediators, to my understanding, are paid by the county.
  • County Supervisors/Commissioners are paid by the county.

(Anyone who wants to know who or what else a County pays for — can go look at its payroll records, and accounts which are public records, often on-line, or could be requested as a FOIA, a simple form letter to the given agency requesting  the information.  Often newspapers or investigators may do this — but anyone is allowed to, I believe).

The county has an incentive to increase its holdings and delay distributions by this fact: it’s an institution! Certain scenarios (when it comes to child support) INCREASE account holdings, and result in Federal Matching funds or rewards. Certain practices would indicate perpetuating certain grants streams (for example, increasing noncustodial parenting time after court-referred services coming under the A/V grants system).

And I didn’t even raise the issue of when County-employees actually form separate nonprofits in order to outsource — to their own nonprofits — the basic business of government.

The “Family Justice Center” model is such a sample, although I believe the Full Disclosure crowd is not involved with this at all. It seems to be my pet peeve, and a few other people’s….

But this Transcript of a Sunday Night I believe is helpful explanation of what’s at stake.

Above the section I quoted, also see comments (and some videos) by a Supervisor and others, “to the contrary” point of view.  I was searching “Silva v. Garcetti,” which brought up this section.  Highlights are mine, and I might add a paragraph within a person’s comment, for easier reading.

The source is an “AV Hi Desert Forum” under “Judges Lose LA County Payments.”

{BEGINQUOTE:}

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Attorney at Law

EXCERPTS FROM FULL DISCLOSURE NETWORK�
Interview With Leslie Dutton On March 3, 2009

LESLIE: You’ve been up against some formidable challenges. But none quite like the one that’s facing you today. Would you say that tomorrow’s (contempt fearing* before Judge David Yaffe) is — how would you compare that to all of the challenges you’ve had before this?

{{*”fearing” sounds like a Freudian slip?  Should be obviously, “hearing”}}

RICHARD FINE: Well, tomorrow’s hearing is interesting because the challenges that I’ve had before are basically challenges that we can say work with in a functioning system. And when I was getting all of this money back and so forth, I was dealing with a system that was functional. I mean, you have a case, you go into a court; it either gets settled, you win it or you lose it, and you’re dealing with a system that has integrity.

Tomorrow’s case, or the case that we have now, is dealing with a dysfunctional system because of the fact that this is now pure politics and retaliation.

We are dealing now with a judge who took money from the County of Los Angeles, who then made an order that I should pay money to the County of Los Angeles, holds me in contempt for refusing to answer questions about my personal assets to force me to pay that money, and now wants to send me to jail because I’m in contempt for not obeying his illegal order, which was illegal because he took illegal money from the County. We’re dealing with a dysfunctional system and a judge that is dealing with political retaliation. So we’re not dealing in a justice system anymore. We’re dealing with what some people would call a third-world country; we’re dealing with all the things that America condemns about other countries. That is what we have in this courtroom tomorrow. So I wouldn’t say that it’s really a comparison. We aren’t dealing in a system that this country was set up to operate.

LESLIE Tomorrow when you go into court, Judge Yaffe is going to make a — he’s going to give you a sentence; is that it? He’s already found you in contempt?

RICHARD FINE: Yes. He’s — he’s found me in contempt for refusing to answer questions from a commissioner about an illegal order that he has made. And he wants to sentence me to jail until I answer those questions. Now, I have gone to the Court of Appeal with what is known as a writ of habeas corpus, which means “bring in the body,” and I have asked the Court of Appeal to enter a stay stopping Judge Yaffee from doing anything. I haven’t heard yet, as of [to]day, whether they’ve entered that stay or not. If they enter the stay, Judge Yaffee is dead in his tracks. If they don’t enter the stay, then I’ll go into the California Supreme Court, and if the California Supreme Court doesn’t enter the stay, then I’ll go into the United States District Court. Sooner or later, I will win. Whether I win before he sends me to jail, I don’t know. But that — that is what we are dealing with.

{{LGH COMMENTARY:

Richard Fine shows here he’s determined to have a return to the Functional Justice system — and the matter at hand is conflict of interest.  Notice, his willingness to go to jail for it.   He did indeed get sent to jail, but IDEALLY for the rest of us that may or may not have that amount of guts and commitment, nor can we ask others to go to jail for standing up to governmental “dysfunction” (in the form of bribes) – – I’m hoping there is another way, which would include educating enough people on what is and what is NOT a literal bribe, and how to smoke them out FIRST — and THEN go about one’s court litigation.    It’s not enough to be bothered or upset; one has to have the data on what happened, what should’ve (legally) happened instead, and what has been going on over the years.

Also note:  Like any attorney who’s been litigating — he understood it’s a matter of timing.  If the stay he sought was delayed, he could go to jail.  if it was delivered timely, then not.   The entities issuing such stays (or disbursements) certainly understand the ramifications also; in fact this same Judge Yaffe presided earlier over a case with low-income tenants where the real estate developer’s simply delaying designating (I forget exact term, but whether or not it had actually “begun” its development) meant, did families get to stay — or did they get booted out?   That was another prolonged struggle in which the low-income population lost, involving this same Judge in a mass-eviction:  (I’ll; put this text in GREEN — it’s for a teaching point, but involves the same judge…)

From a Yahoo Groups discussion on “Lincoln Place” apartment redevelopments, Venice, CA

There are dozens of newspaper articles and TV stories about AIMCO’s redevelopment of “Lincoln Place”, which is a property in Venice, CA for which AIMCO similarly has plans to demolish garden apartments to build a larger number of new units.

http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/heartless-in-venice/57/ (LA Weekly News, December 8, 2005, is pasted into this e-mail), outlines the story (with a mention of the contributions of AIMCO’s lawyers to the City Attorney’s election campaign, and of Patti Shwayder, AIMCO’s Vice President who is involved in the Springhill Lake plans).

The Venice Paper, at http://www.venicepaper.net/pmt_more.php?id=248_0_1_0_M states:

MAY 17 — An attempt at mediation between AIMCO, Lincoln Place Apartments owner, their tenants, architectural preservationists and Venice community members ended without an agreement on the fate of the fifty elderly and disabled tenants still living in the complex, nor on the shape of future development of the site…”

and

“…AIMCO spokesperson Patti Shwayder had no comment on the company’s immediate plans. However, the company was negotiating to build 1,284 units of luxury condos, including 190 units of affordable housing, on the property. That is more than the 1,008 units the company was seeking last fall. There were 795 units in the original garden apartment complex…

http://www.lincolnplace.net/pr/pr060830.htm (August 30, 2006), “LINCOLN PLACE TENANTS TAKE STRUGGLE TO AIMCO SHAREHOLDERS”, contains the following paragraph:

“…In 2002, the City of Los Angeles approved a redevelopment of the property subject to the condition that no tenant be evicted against their will. The condition was offered by AIMCO and its then partner and subsidiary Los Angeles Lincoln Place Investors, Ltd., and is binding on all successors in interest. In 2003, AIMCO became sole owner of Lincoln Place.  Rather than live up to its binding agreement to relocate tenants within Lincoln Place, AIMCO began evicting tenants in 2005. On December 6, 2005, 58 households were locked out of their apartments by L.A. sheriffs, the largest single-day lockout in the history of Los Angeles. Now senior and disabled tenants fear they will have to face the same trauma.”

It appears to me that in part, this was possible because AIMCO postponed announcing something that might have triggered the no-evict clause.   Representatives from the City Attorney’s office, AIMCO and I guess the tenants, spoke in front of Yaffe  – — meanwhile the sheriffs threw people out of their homes (shortly before Christmas 2005).   Here’s a bit of summary from an article By LINDA IMMEDIATO; Thursday, December 8, 2005 – 12:00 am:

Some 12 hours earlier, 52 families were forcibly removed from their homes in the affordable-housing complex in Venice. Sheriff’s deputies descended at 9 a.m., kicked them out and changed locks. The families were allowed three trips, holding whatever they could carry in their arms, leaving valuables and heirlooms behind. By evening, the displaced families who had lingered on the pathways, confused, upset and lost, had found somewhere to go. Some went with friends, others to distant relatives or homeless shelters.

When my 15-year-old son left for school today, he had no idea there would be no home to come back to,” said Clare Sassoon between sobs. “Imagine what that’s going to be like for him. We went straight to a real estate agent, and hopefully we can find something. But as of now, we are homeless.
The tenants have 15 days to arrange to return for their belongings — a one-time shot, just before Christmas.

The evictions came just minutes before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe was to hear arguments from AIMCO — the Denver-based corporation that owns Lincoln Place — the City Attorney’s Office and preservationists.

{{And I’m sure no in on the court, or at AIMCO, or at the City Attorney’s office had “any idea” that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department was throwing people out of their homes at the time.  Must have been coincidence.   Sounds like even the resident’s City Councilperson was taken by surprise; this article, a few months later (summary pasted into URL link) called “The Miseducation of Bill Rosendahl” portrays him as trying to force AIMCO to commit to a plan in order to save the remaining elderly and disabled residents. . . who must certainly have felt as they were under siege, and unheard.  Apparently sticking up for one’s constituents isn’t good business practice… Residents express the situation:

[2/2006]

Lincoln Place residents have claimed that the City Council has ignored them during meetings, some members refusing to look them in the eye. “They just sit there and eat their lunch while you’re talking,” said resident Frieda Marlin, 82 (years old, trying to save her home!). “They don’t care.” Last year, during one meeting, the City Council actually threw a football around while tenants waited to be heard. Another tenant claimed she heard Councilman Jack Weiss lecturing Rosendahl. Weiss was heard saying, “You’re anti-development, Bill, and that will hurt you.” Rosendahl said he couldn’t comment on what Weiss had said, because it happened during a closed meeting.

This is the biggest problem he’s encountered with the City Council — its penchant for closed meetings. “The public should see democracy in action. What are they afraid of?” said Rosendahl. “When meetings are closed, we can’t talk about what happened inside afterward. There’s no accountability.”

AIMCO is from Denver.   Interesting — so many corporations influential in the family law arena are Denver-based as well; CPR, PSI, also NCADV… something about the state, maybe, where monopolists congregate to run the rest of the country}}

[12/2005]
The hearing on Tuesday stemmed from an earlier Court of Appeals judgment requiring that conditions for Lincoln Place’s development plan be reviewed. The issue: whether AIMCO’s bulldozing of five buildings in 2003 signifies the start of the project, with all the city-approved conditions kicking in, including a no-eviction clause. It’s hard to sort through because AIMCO won’t publicly state what it plans to do with the property. “We’re not sure,” says Patti Shwayder, AIMCO vice president.

It boils down to this: If AIMCO can hold off announcing that it plans to go through with the preapproved project until after all tenants are evicted, it will make the no-eviction clause moot. This is exactly what the tenants and preservationists believe is happening. Yaffe decided that yes, the conditions must be followed, but he didn’t clarify whether they should be followed now, while tenants are being evicted, or later, if AIMCO applies for permits. Yaffe did his job — he only had to review the conditions, not enforce them. According to Amanda Seward, a representative for the preservationists, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo himself promised he would ask the court to enforce the no-eviction clause.

It’s the City Attorney’s Office, I believe, that would clear the issuance of the permits (I’m not a real estate person).   If AIMCO had paid into that office, and then neither the office nor the Judge will take a position on what is, or is not, ethical behavior by this monster (one of the nation’s largest) developers — then no one is responsible.  As AIMCO evicted, not applying for permits, and no one stopped them — then it wins and the tenants lose, without even a hearing on the issues.  (sounds like family court, almost….)

Diamond {City Attorney spokesperson} passed the buck to Yaffe, claiming it was the judge who “declined to respond and address the issue of enforcing the conditions.” Diamond conceded, “It’s a tough time of year to not have a home.” When asked if it was true that two of AIMCO’s attorneys had contributed to Delgadillo’s campaign, Diamond replied, “You know what? It doesn’t make a bit of difference.”  {oh??}

It makes a big difference to the tenants of Lincoln Place. If you hear them tell it, the 38-acre development was a community for people of all ages. Neighbors would pop in on those who were sick or elderly to see if they needed anything from Ralphs, a prescription picked up at Rite Aid, or their mail fetched. Slowly, AIMCO’s evictions have killed the once-thriving community. By next March, when the last of the evictions will have taken place, the way of life there will be but a memory, unless some city agency steps up to challenge the out-of-state developers and protect affordable housing in this city. 

FAST-FORWARD TO 2009 and here is Richard Fine, who has stood in front of Yaffe before (on behalf of taxpayers) on similar issues — and he is waiting to see if a “stay” on Yaffe’s contempt action (based on conflicts of interest, etc.) is going to come.  If it’s delayed, off to jail he goes, potentially.  I gather this is standard practice in Los Angeles area….

California is a leader in the court arena and many other.  Its practices trickle (or rather, stream, like flooding) to other states and countries — in part because so many of the personnel in the courts here do indeed have global aspirations; they want to change the world (full speed ahead, civil code of procedures & civil rights be damned.. — or just ignored…) and are good at persuading others to even pay for the transformations).   Same with the educational field.    So what happens in Los Angeles — and what DID happen last decade — has national relevance.  (Did I mention, California is also often chosen for a “demonstration” site of the latest practices.  Possibly just because it’s so large… largest court system in the US).}

{CONTINUED QUOTE :  3/8/2009 FullDisclosure.net}

LESLIE Tell us how this all started.

RICHARD FINE: Well, this — this all started in a very innocent type of way. It started back in 1999, and in 1999, I brought a lawsuit called John Silva vs. Garcetti — Gil Garcetti, Los Angeles District Attorney.

{{Note:  by this time the states were to have begun centralizing their child support distribution into ONE unite per state, according to 1996 PWORA & TITLE IV}}

And that lawsuit was based upon the fact that John Silva had paid money as part of his divorce — child support money. And child support money was being paid into the County of Los Angeles because the County of Los Angeles, as you know, collects child support money. Now, what we found out is that he had paid his child support money in, but the child support money wasn’t going to his wife. The County was not distributing it. And the County wasn’t distributing about $14 million of child support money. What the County was doing is, the County was taking this money in and it was holding it.

{{It appears that, had Fine & Silva not happened to show up, that money might still be sitting in their earning interest and the kids wondering, “what happened?”}}

Now, there’s a law that says that the County must distribute the child support money within six months or give it back to the father. And they will only give it back to the father if they can’t find the wife or the children. Now, in John’s case, he knew where his wife was, and he knew where the children were, because his wife was friendly. You know, he was giving the money to the County support system; the County wasn’t giving it to his wife. His wife knew that the money was going in, so she was cooperating with us, and we found out that all these other women and children were not getting their money.

{{LGH — OHO CASE WHERE PARENTS SUED THE AGENCY RESPONSIBLE :

Ohio child support collection agency sued

On behalf of Ralph A. Kerns & Associates posted in Child Support on Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ten years ago, the state of Ohio was sued by a group of parents who claimed that the state was withholding child support money. As a result, the state paid millions of dollars to custodial parents who were not distributed the correct amount of child support.

But earlier this month, another legal claim was filed against the state of Ohio and the state’s Department of Job and Family Services.     Allegations are that the agency has been over-collecting child support and failing to inform parents of the actual status of their payments. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of parents who need the child support to provide for their children.

The lawsuit claims that the Ohio agency knew that parents were paying more child support than necessary and not seeing those payments go to the custodial parent. The state has said that the problem originates from computer glitches, but some believe it could be a bigger problem. In fact, an example was given of a father who had to pay the state child support even though the child was in his custody.

In addition, a parent in Ohio who fails to make child support payments can go to prison for falling behind. But if there are computer glitches, are some parents going to jail even though they have actually made timely payments?

Right now, there are millions of dollars in undistributed child support in Ohio alone. How many families are unable to provide for their children because of this undistributed money? National concern has been sparked over this issue as more child support collection agencies across the nation are being accused of deceptive practices.

At this point, it is not certain whether Ohio agencies are intentionally withholding child support or simply dealing with some technological difficulties. Regardless, custodial parents rely on child support to provide food, clothes, and shelter for their children. Going without that financial support can make things more difficult for all.

Source: The Sacramento Bee online, “Child Support Overpayments: Lawsuit Alleges State Withholds Too Much Money, Unfairly Charging Parents and U.S. Taxpayers,” 10 May 2011  {{note — broken link, although other child support articles show up on the Sacbee… }}

Here’s that article — and note, they are quoting a fathers’ rights person — but he’s right to bring this up!  (I’m color-coding to keep the articles separate)

A class action lawsuit filed on Friday, 6 May 2011, claims Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS is the designated agency for OHIO) over collects child support payments in violation of state statutes and federal regulations. Records indicate in excess of $176 million has been wrongfully taken from over 114,000 child support payers.  The suit further alleges ODJFS knowingly and willfully deceives parents concerning the status of their child support records while receiving tens of millions of dollars in unearned incentive and reimbursement payments from U.S. taxpayers.

According to Michael McCormick, executive director of The American Coalition for Fathers and Children (ACFC, www.acfc.org):

“Overzealous and erroneous child support collection efforts affect all citizens. This case is not about parents who don’t, or can’t, pay child support.  ODJFS is literally taking money it is not entitled to from tens of thousands of good support paying mothers and fathers who could use those funds for food, shelter, and education for their children when they are with them.”

McCormick adds: “The state should not be misleading parents that their child support balance is zero when they are, in fact, overpaid and should have an account credit.  Parents are told they cannot recover the overpayment until the child support case is finished. For many parents that’s ten, twelve or fifteen years down the road.

“Ohio regularly incarcerates poor parents who fall behind on their support obligations sentencing them to what are in effect ‘debtor prisons.’ Now it’s alleged the state has, for years, been pilfering from parents who have fully paid their obligations.  There’s more going on than can be justified by the typically forthcoming ‘computer glitch’ excuse.  It appears there are problems in the agency across the spectrum of payers,” said McCormick

This is not the first time Ohio has been sued regarding child support payments. A decade ago Ohio was sued for wrongly withholding collected child support money from custodial parents. Millions of dollars were paid to affected children and parents.

In 2010 The Columbus Dispatch reported the story of a young father from whom the state collected $200 per month for his 5 year old son, while the child lived with him.  Ohio deprived this child of much needed support for over a year.

(One scenario this might happen — if the father previously had an arrears, and then custody was switched from mother to him….))

Reports list Ohio as having over $26 million in net collected, undistributed child support, also known as UDC. Most states have millions that have not been timely distributed to families.

(Where are the links to those reports?  Over time, I can see that as possible — especially as both OCSE and the GAO acknowledge — no one knows, really, how much UDC is there!)

These problems are not unique to Ohio.  National dialogue, increased scrutiny and Congressional oversight hearings probing the numerous errors and questionable practices of child support collection agencies are necessary.

Incarcerating indigent parents unable to pay support is bad enough; for states to knowingly and unlawfully take excess money is unconscionable.

APPARENTLY THE WAY TO EXTRACT MONEY LEGALLY DUE A PERSON __ INCLUDING ONE’s KIDS — FROM THE STATE IS TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT TO GET IT BACK.  HOWEVER, THE ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES INCLUDE Automatic wage garnishment, tax intercepts, etc.)

{BACK TO RICHARD FINE INTERVIEW, and SILVA case, referring to (@2009) events a decade earlier.  IN other words (see above), not much has changed in the interim.  you want your money?  sue the State agency {or whoever is responsible} for it.  Before then, figure out who the county is paying….}

So I sued the County to have this money distributed. The County answered and told me how much money was there, where the accounts were. All they had to do was distribute it. They were refusing to do it. I went into court, and we got to the end of the trial}  The County moved to dismiss, and the judge dismissed the case.

And I was astounded.** And I went up into the appeal, and after the trial was over and before I filed my first brief, I found out that the judge, Judge James C. Chalfant, had received money from the County of Los Angeles. That’s how it started. That was one case.

{{**Mr. Fine was apparently not working with welfare parents here, or with anything relating to domestic violence issues — so he may have been unaware of the many other incentives to the courts (if not directly to judges) such as the A/V grants system, or the prolific supervised visitation industry supported in part by this.  Also, in 1999, the Centralized State Distribution Units (at least obviously in California) were not (all) in place yet.   He talks about COUNTY money functioning as bribes, however we know know that there is also federal incentives to the states functioning similarly.  Not to mention private.  Kids’ Turn, for example, had been up and running — however his practice appears to have been more in the taxpayer advocacy realm}}.

The second case that it started out with was the case that I mentioned earlier about the County of Los Angeles taking money from the environmental fees, and in that case — that was a case called Amjadi and Lacaoehs vs the Board of Supervisors of County of Los Angeles. And I was brought into that case to get that money out of the general fund of the County of Los Angeles and into a special fund. And I won that. I got the case, you know, got the special fund established. I got $11 million that they still had in the general fund put into the special fund. I got the fees frozen for three years until that $11 million was used up, and then when it came time to get the attorneys fees, Judge Kurt Lewin, who was the judge in the case, refused to award the attorneys fees, saying that I was representing a County union, and unions shouldn’t sue the County

{{The County appears to have the habit of keeping fees for its own purposes; another case I think Fine was on involved the DWP — Dept. of Water and Power.  At some point, this guy is clearly beginning to become a thorn in their sides who wished to mix special-fees-funds with the general fund.  FYI, this also came up when I was reading about the UDC (Undistributed Child Support) — at least one Southern California county dumped the interest from its withheld (“UDC”) monies into the general purpose funds, which is like trying to track water mixed with water, unless there is some procedure in place for intake & outgo! }}

 

SPEAKING OF, MIXING SPECIAL TAXES (AND UNFAIR PROFITS FROM UNFAIR RATES) INTO GENERAL FUNDS, TO BE USED “AT-WILL” BY THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES:

{{Speaking of water, here it is — 2006 article.  I’ve posted it before, so no commentary):

 

(1)

 

…Tough Judge makes Villaraigosa return a cool $30 million

On March 25, L.A. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Freeman handed down a tentative ruling against the city’s practice of skimming 5 percent off the top of Angelenos’ water bills, and slamming city officials for this sleazy move just when City Hall can least afford to give back any ill-gotten funds.

For years, city leaders propped up the general fund with as much as $30 million in revenue derived from an added tax on water used by residents and firms.

In 1996, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association crafted state Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, which Californians approved to make sure that “revenues derived from the fee or charge shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which the fee or charge was imposed.”

(And of course, the City fought that, including with some “slick maneuvres” according to this article……

Here’s a 2007 article (on a different type of tax) by the President of this Taxpayers Association, called “No Tears for L.A.”  Notice how the City is exploring how to get rid of the Proposition 218, in place to protect taxpayers.  Jon Coupal says, some of this doesn’t pass “the laugh test,” and why:

 

(2)      NO TEARS FOR L.A. – May, 2007

(Keep this in mind as crocodile tears over the budget keep showing up in various public official’s faces, nowadays)

BAIT & SWITCH IN PROP. 218 — PASSED TO ATTEMPT TO HOLD CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT TO THE CALIF. CONSTITUTION….

 

May 20, 2007by Jon Coupal

The city of Los Angeles has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar. The city’s hands are experienced at this maneuver, but they don’t usually get caught. In this case, the California Court of Appeal has ruled that the city broke the law by imposing a tax increase on cell phone use that did not receive approval of voters. Voter approval is required by the expressed language of the California Constitution; specifically, Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act.

Now highly paid city officials are singing the blues that the coming fiscal year’s budget will be short an anticipated $167 million.

 In the past, this would have been no problem, as the members of the City Council, the highest paid in the nation, would make up any budget shortfall by snatching up Department of Water and Power revenues that have served as a city slush fund for years. However, a recent $30 million raid on the DWP has been blocked by another court.  {{see prev. article}}

There will be more posturing and blustering by public officials as they tell sad stories about the programs that must be cut if the court’s decision is not overturned by the state Supreme Court. However, in a city where most new revenue goes to support pay and benefits for the highly paid municipal workforce, the real issue about which they are concerned is their own welfare.

They should have seen this coming. The constitutional language mandating voter approval is so clear even dissembling elected officials should be able to figure it out. In response to abusive taxes, often on utility users, that were imposed by communities throughout the state without voter consent, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association authored Proposition 218. The Right to Vote on Taxes Act was enthusiastically approved by voters in 1996. It clearly stated that new taxes that were directed to a city or county general fund must be approved by a simple majority of voters — taxes that are earmarked for a specific purpose already required a two-thirds vote approval by Proposition 13. Proposition 218 also clarified the way in which fees and assessments could be imposed, guaranteeing the public a stronger say in their implementation.

So hostile were members of the Los Angeles City Council to the idea that the public would gain more control over local taxes, they approved a motion by then Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg directing the city attorney to prepare a suit that would seek to invalidate Proposition 218. After reviewing the issue, the city attorney reported back that a suit would be without merit.

Now, the City Council — I think I mentioned they are highly paid — may claim that they are victims of term limits and therefore have no institutional memory of these events, but this does not pass the laugh test. The Council has well-compensated legal advisors to point out to them that Proposition 218 and its right to vote provisions are embedded in the California Constitution and therefore take precedence over the whims of city officials. . . .

 

(3) “A GORILLA WALKS INTO A (SNACK) BAR”:

— overpriced water = fees slosh into the general funds, Loophole found to Prop. 218…)

 

L.A. Overcharging for Water 

(another Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association article, 10/2/2007)

Koko the gorilla, a resident of the Los Angeles Zoo, had become quite adept at picking the pockets of the zoo keeper. One day Koko used the zoo keeper’s key to let himself out of his cage, and ambled over to the snack shop. Climbing onto a bar stool, he grunted “Water.” When the man returned with a bottle of Aquafina, Koko handed him a $20 bill from the zoo keeper’s wallet. Guessing the gorilla wasn’t too smart, the man gave Koko one dollar in change. “We don’t get a lot of business from the animals here,” the man remarked. Koko snorted, “At $19 for bottled water, I’m not surprised.”

Koko is not the only Los Angeles resident paying too much for water. And the snack shop isn’t the only water purveyor hoping that its customers aren’t too smart. In fact, every Los Angeles water customer has been overcharged for years. And, although the California Supreme Court ruled last year that cities can no longer charge customers more than it costs to provide water service, the City of Los Angeles was hoping it could break the law again this year and no one would notice. Sorry, L.A., we at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association noticed.

But first, a little history: In 1999, we sued the City of Los Angeles over its water rates because, for each of the preceding four years the City set rates at an amount that significantly exceeded its cost to provide water. The overcharges resulted in a surplus of over $20 million each year, which the City transferred to its General Fund for the City Council to spend at its discretion.

Perhaps that didn’t sink in, so I’ll repeat it in red (which the practice keeps the residents in, by overcharging).   $20 million OVER charged, per year X 6 years.

 In 1999, we sued the City of Los Angeles over its water rates because, for each of the preceding four years the City set rates at an amount that significantly exceeded its cost to provide water. The overcharges resulted in a surplus of over $20 million each year, which the City transferred to its General Fund for the City Council to spend at its discretion.

The City will need the surplus to defend itself from lawsuits by disgruntled taxpayers.  Clearly they are planning ahead…..

Our lawsuit alleged that the overcharges violated Proposition 218, which in part states, “Revenues derived from the fee or charge shall not exceed the funds required to provide the property related service,” and “Revenues derived from the fee or charge shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which the fee or charge was imposed.” The suit also alleged that, to the extent water rates did exceed the funds required to provide water service and were spent on other purposes, the overcharge constituted a special tax which required voter approval.

The Taxpayer association is trying — hard — to get the City to function as the public servant it is supposed to be, and not a private corporation…At least they are putting up a fight!

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal sided with the City, ruling that metered water rates are not fees for a property-related service and therefore are not subject to Proposition 218’s cost-of-service requirement. The Court certified its opinion for publication, which made it a precedent binding every lower court in California. Cities and counties throughout the state immediately took advantage of the decision by raising their water rates to generate new General Fund revenue for things unrelated to water.

This seems like mincing words — the second inbound water hits a meter, it’s suddenly no longer a property-related service?   Who is the Court working for?  Prop 218 should never have been even needed — it’s obvious (to fair-minded people) that if taxes are sold as for a certain purpose, then they ought to go for that purpose.  Also fair is that as we are already paying the salaries of our public officials, they ought not to be voting to gouge us for basic needs — like water!  However, that assumes we’re all approximately on the same page.  My point is, we aren’t!  (not in this state, at least….)

This was the state of affairs for six years. Then, in 2006, the California Supreme Court granted review of a case called Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Verjil. The Bighorn case involved a voter’s initiative to reduce water rates after a water district promised rate relief, but didn’t deliver. The lower court, adhering to the precedent in HJTA v. City of Los Angeles, held that water rates are not subject to Proposition 218. That meant, according to the court, that rates could not be reduced using 218’s initiative power.

The Supreme Court reversed the lower court. The high court not only ruled that reducing rates is within the people’s initiative power, it also held that water rates are subject to the other requirements of Proposition 218 as well. In so doing, the court expressly overruled the precedent from six years earlier in HJTA v. City of Los Angeles.

Aha, persistence pays off at the Supreme Court level….

The Supreme Court issued the Bighorn decision one year ago, in July 2006.

Anyone with faith in the rule of law would expect that, by now, the City of Los Angeles would have adjusted its water rates to comply with the law as laid down by the state’s highest court. Only a cynic would be looking for the small legal notice that appeared in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise addressed to “All persons interested in the matter of the validity of the transfer of $29,931,300 from the Water Revenue Fund of the City of Los Angeles to the City’s Reserve Fund.

According to the notice, circulated only in this one obscure newspaper and only for three days, the City of Los Angeles recently filed a lawsuit against all of its water customers, and this was their notice that they are being sued.If someone sees the notice and files an Answer to the lawsuit by July 23rd, the notice explained, then the City will litigate with that person whether it may legally continue to generate and transfer a surplus from its Water Fund to the General Fund Reserve.However, the notice continued, if no one files an Answer by July 23rd, then the Court will enter a Default Judgment against all of the City’s water customers, validate the transfer of funds, and the issue will be settled forever.

Although the City was obviously hoping that no one would catch the notice, someone did. We prepared an Answer to the City’s lawsuit denying the City’s asserted right to continue generating and transferring a surplus, and affirmatively alleged that the City’s practice became illegal not only generally, but specifically as to the City of Los Angeles when the Supreme Court overruled HJTA v. City of Los Angeles. The two sides will now battle it out in court, and we’re not monkeying around.

Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Timothy Bittle is the organization’s Director of Legal Affairs.


How horrible to be dealing with a huge corporation (the City of Los Angeles) of highly paid employees in a smog-ridden city (last I heard) with all kinds of troubles, including gangs, riots {{after Rodney King beating}}, drug-dealing, police corruption ({Ramparts case}}, and major issues, like many urban areas — and KNOW, that HABITUALLY, the City is going to be trying to pull a fast one on the residents.    And then retaliate on whistle-blowers like Mr. Fine…  .  SUMMARY here

 

BACK TO FULLDISCLOSURE.NET 2009 INTERVIEW and trying to cut off attorneys’ fees after they got $11 million into a special fund, where it belonged….

 

And in addition to that, that unions were always in negotiations with the County for wages. And therefore what the union was really doing had really brought the case, not to help the public, but really for its own benefit. Well, I also found out that Judge Lewin was getting money from the County. And to pay the attorneys fees, the attorneys fees would be coming out of these funds, which was County funds.

LESLIE When you talk about these judges getting money from the County, how is it that money is coming to them? For what purpose? Under what..?

RICHARD FINE: Okay. What — the — to answer your question, the way that the money comes from the County to the judges is that every year, the County, as part of its budget, under what is known as Trial Court Funding — if you look in the budget, you’ll actually see this under Trial Court Funding, you will see money going to the judges, and that money in this particular year is approximately $20 million, or $46,370-some-odd per judge. Now, how it started was, back in 1988, the County of Los Angeles, decided, through its Board of Supervisors, that they wanted to pay judges — and these are their — somewhat their exact words — to attract and retain qualified judges and qualified candidates to sit as judges in this — meaning LA — County. And that was their reason. Now, they knew — and we actually — I actually have a copy of the document — they knew at that point in time that they couldn’t do this. They knew that to do this was illegal because under the California Constitution, under what is known as Article 6, Section 19 of the California Constitution, only the State legislature could prescribe the compensation of the judges.
[Edit]

RICHARD FINE: There’s a document in November of 1988 which was written by the — at that point, the County Counsel to Frank Zolin who was the Clerk of the Courts, and it actually went from the County Counsel to the Clerk of the Courts, explaining these things. So the L.A. Superior Court actually got this document. In that document, it said that the Attorney General had given the opinion that this could not be done, and so what the County Counsel tried to rationalize is, he said, “Well, this part of the Constitution really only meant salaries and it didn’t mean compensation,” so they’re gonna try and get around it in that way. They knew they were doing wrong. They also knew that the Attorney General had given opinions that you couldn’t pay this money as part of a statute as compensation for judges. So they knew right then and there that what they were doing was wrong. The other thing that they knew is that if you’re giving the money to attract people as candidates for judges, judges are elected officials — they’re State elected officials under the California Constitution. We vote for a Superior Court judge every six years. So if you’re going to be giving money to a judge to attract him to be a candidate, you’d be giving money to his political campaign, and that would be a gift of public money to a private individual, and that would be a violation of Article 16, Section 6 of the California Constitution.

LESLIE How much was this money that they were giving them?

RICHARD FINE: It turns out that at that point in time they were giving them about 27 percent of their salary, and back in ’88 I’m not sure what the salary was, but it was probably, maybe around $20,000-some a year. Now it’s doubled to $46,000 a year.

LESLIE So would they be able to give that kind of money as a campaign contribution?

RICHARD FINE: As a campaign contribution in 1988, they wouldn’t have been able to give that amount of money to a judge because the campaign contribution limits the State to $1,000 per candidate.

LESLIE So would you say, then, that basically the County was buying judges?

RICHARD FINE: The bottom line of it is yes, because the only reason that the County could be giving this money — the only underlying reason — is that the County had — had cases in front of these judges. The County is a major litigant in the California courts, and it’s the same thing as if Tony — the fictional Tony Soprano had been giving money to the judges. In fact, the County has an average, as far as normal cases are concerned — when I say “normal,” that’s excluding child custody cases, that’s excluding criminal cases — just taking your regular cases. The County has about 700-800 new cases a year in the Superior Court. So when the County is giving this money, the underlying thought, in my opinion, is that the County wanted to influence the judges to decide the cases in the County’s favor. Now, this thought of mine actually came true because we have documents from the County Counsel to the Board of Supervisors that show that in the year 2005 and in the year 2006 and 2007, not one case that was decided by an L.A. Superior Court judge was decided against the County of Los Angeles. So basically nobody won in that period of time. And for the year 2008 — 2007, 2008, in that fiscal year, the documents are a little bit more vague, and possibly two cases were decided by a judge against the County of Los Angeles. But that was about the most. So that gives you the effect of the monies.

[Edit]
LESLIE Now, you made that statement, “That gives you from the beginning of the payments with respect to the payments,” but you’ve only cited 2005, 2006, 2007. You don’t know what the win/loss ratio was from 1988 to 2005?

RICHARD FINE: There — there are no documents that I know of that tells me the win and loss ratio from the years in between, because the only documents that I have been able to pick up are the ones that started in 2005. Now, the County may have internal documents that were not published or that have not been made public that might have — might tell us what’s happened in the previous years. And I don’t know if the court is keeping internal documents as to what has happened on the various cases. Somebody actually — if somebody wanted to go in and do the survey, you could go into the court system and take every case where the County of Los Angeles is named as a defendant and then go in and look to see what happened in the cases and whether it was a judge decision or a jury decision. That would be a fairly large project, but one could do that. And because you’re looking at from 1988 to, say, 2005, you’re looking at approximately 17 years of cases, and 700, you know, cases per year. So you’re looking at maybe 13,000-some-odd cases. It would take a little bit of time for someone to do the survey and dig up the records. But you could actually find out the exact number.

 

 

WELL, my time is up for today, so I wanted to just finish off by linking to Ron Kay in LA describing Yaffe’s decision to finally release Mr. Fine, and how holding him 180 days after the time presumed to determine whether coercive confinement is actually going to break someone was, er, wrong.

 

It was a bizarre and unexpected end to a bizarre story — the Yom Kippur release of anti-tax crusader Richard Fine from County Jail where he was locked up pointlessly for coercive confinement for 18 months.

Judge David Yaffe backed down Friday afternoon and without a hearing or attorneys present issued a court order that basically says Fine must be crazy to have endured the pain and horror of jail for so long and to have fought so hard and at so much personal cost to expose the scandal of tens of millions of dollars in illegal payments to judges by LA County.

Yaffe’s order (Yaffe-Release-Order.rtf), obtained by Leslie Dutton whose Full Disclosure Network has championed Fine’s cause, represents both an attempt to quarrel intellectually with Fine and to dismiss him a nut case whose conduct is “bizarre…irrational…makes no sense.”

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Fine’s conduct is irrational. Fine has always had the key to his own jail cell. He has elected to give up his freedom for 18 months in order to keep a judgment creditor from collecting a $50,000.00 judgment.

“He refuses to even discuss his obligations to the judgment creditor but portrays himself as a lone hero who is being incarcerated because he has exposed a vast conspiracy of over 400 judges of this court who are dishonestly collecting money to
which they are not entitled.”

Yaffe finally concludes:”Fine’s continued incarceration is a detriment to the public because Fine is using up jail space in an overcrowded jail, and may cause the release of persons who constitute a greater threat to the public than Fine does.”

Why it took Yaffe 18 months to determine Fine’s confinement does not serve “any useful purpose” is hard to understand unless you know the judge is regarded by attorneys who have appeared before him as erratic and often irrational in his decisions.

So I guess if Yaffe resorted in the end to self-justification by calling FIne crazy, it’s something he knows about — if only a juvenile name-calling excuse.

Maybe Fine is crazy, maybe everybody who fights for what they believe in is crazy.

That’s certainly the viewpoint of every repressive regime and of every oppressor in modern history. That’s why they use gulags, and prisons for the politically incorrect.

The legal standard for coercive confinement in a contempt of court case is five days in jail after which it is presumed the incarcerated will not back down. Yaffe exceeded that by 180 days.

There was never any question Fine would break. His whole life is marked by an obsessive passion for doing what he believe is right, fighting against illegal taxation and official abuses.

As Yaffe knows, the legal standard for insanity is knowing the difference between right and wrong. The question which deserves a proper judicial inquiry is whether Yaffe — not Fine — can tell the difference.Enhanced by Zemanta

Inexplicably and without notice on Yom Kippur eve, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Superior Court Judge David Yaffe came to his senses and concluded the jailing of anti-tax crusader Richard I. Fine 18 months ago would not break his will.

Fine, 70, was freed from LA County Jail at sundown Friday night. (Previous articlesLetter from JailPrisoner of Conscience)FineinJail.JPG

On Thursday, Yaffe issued a court order (Yaffe-Fine.pdf) refusing the Tarzana attorney’s latest filing seeking to annul the contempt of court case and other rulings against him. Neither Fine nor the attorneys for the Marina del Rey developer, Marina Strand Colony II, which had sought Fine’s financial records, were present.

Yaffe wrote his previous orders were final so he had no jurisdiction over any aspect of the case except whether the jailing of Fine in March 2009 amounted to coercive confinement that no longer served a purpose since Fine had not backed down. It is unprecedented for coercive confinement to last more than five days, the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court years ago in a case involving LA Times reporter Bill Farr.

“The only continuing jurisdiction that this court retains in case B8109420 is the discretion to release Fine from confinement in the county jail on the ground that his continued confinement will not induce him to answer questions put to him in a
joint debtors examination,” Yaffe wrote.

“Fine’s demand for a release on that ground was ruled on by this court on August 23, 2010, and is calendared for further consideration six months from’ that date.”

Yaffe noted that even if he had jurisdiction, the incarcerated Fine filed his request 13 days before the August hearing when legal procedures required 16 days’ notice.

“The Court will take this matter under submission solely for the purpose of adding to this ruling corrections to certain misstatements of fact made by Fine in his moving papers,” Yaffe said.

Yet, 24 hours later, Yaffe, who is retiring next month, issued another order freeing Fine, apparently accepting the fact that someone who refused to back down for 18 months could not be coerced even if held in jail for the rest of his life as the judge had vowed to do.”

Fine, who won numerous cases fighting illegally imposed taxes, ran afoul of the judiciary when he started crusading against secret illegal payments made to judges by county supervisors.  (etc.)

Following up on this theme, I encourage us to look at Federal Incentives to Trial Courts (in custody cases) and to just get SMARTER on who’s on the local county payroll that might be showing up in court cases.  After all, these institutions ARE business, they establish business relationships with vendors and contractors (and in the case of child support enforcement, sometimes multinational corporations) and any number of employees are invested in maintaining THEIR jobs also.

 

Nevertheless — No taxation without representation — takes work to achieve; make time for it!  Who else do you think will do the job — the local City Council?  Judging by Los Angeles, I’d have to say — no.  You want the local churches to be making the decisions?  I’ll say No to that one (by the way — see http://www. THERESPONSEUSA.com and “go figure”  The ACLU has already filed several FOIA requests on that one.

 

So who’s going to do it?   Skip a PTA meeting and take a look at your local budgets, and teach the skill to someone else.

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

Written by Let's Get Honest

July 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. That ACLU FOIA — Gov. Rick Perry meets the Dobsons…..

    Legal Program
    Open Records Requests
    July 2011
    July 20,2011-City of Houston
    July 20,2011-Office of the Governor
    July 20,2011-Harris County Sheriffs Office
    July 20,2011-Harris County Fire Marshall
    July 20,2011-Harris County Auditor

    familycourtmatters

    July 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

martinplaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Let's Get Honest! Blog: Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?...' (posted 3/23 & 3/5/2014). Over 680 posts, Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.

iakovos alhadeff

Anti-Propaganda

Red Herring Alert

There's something fishy going on!

The American Spring Network

News. by the people, for the people. The #1 source for independent investigative journalism in the Show-Me State, serving Missouri since 2011.

Family Court Injustice

Mom & Kids Need "Just Us" to Fight Family Court Injustice

The Espresso Stalinist

Wake Up to the Smell of Class Struggle ☭

Spiritual Side of Domestic Violence

Finally! The Truth About Domestic Violence and The Church

%d bloggers like this: