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How Traffic Tickets Help City Budgets, and Build New Courthouses….during a Budget Crisis

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Recommended Reading

I just had someone post a post-length comment to my May 28th, 2011  “What’s Money Got To Do With It?” post.

It talks about judges’ requirements to file their Form 700 (Statement on conflicts of interest), the “high-conflict” relationship between Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein & the Administrative Offices of the Courts,  and many (many!) other issues.  It is recommended reading; besides commentary specifically on the SF Courts circus (“we’re going to fire everyone!  Courthouses will be shut down!  Divorces will take more than a few months (Say WHAT??)”   “No we’re not — the AOC is going to rescue us with a few million, no strings attached.”  “Wait a minute, there ARE strings attached?  We object! !!”  (and other infighting between the trial courts, the AOC and the Judicial Council) — you will probably learn something about what can get a judge disqualified, including falsifying expense reports.  Although I tend to think that anyone filed for such a “minor” matter probably offended someone in power on another level as well.

We are not, really, amused about the family squabbles (very high-conflict) and cross-accusations between the San Francisco Superior Courts, the California Administrative Office of the Courts (that’s ALL California Courts, but it happens to have an SF address), and the California Judicial Council, (that’s for ALL California Judicial matters) of which the AOC appears to be a subset, and a subset of that is the AFCC-professionals-led ‘CFCC” which of course is all about the welfare of families and children….

I’d like to point us to “Courthousenews.com

Courthouse News ServiceCourthouse News Service

Courthouse News Service is a nationwide news service for lawyers and the news media. Based in Pasadena, California, Courthouse News focuses on civil litigation, from the date of filing through the appellate level. Unlike other Internet-based publishers that simply aggregate information prepared by other content providers, Courthouse News publishes its own original news content prepared by its staff of reporters and editors based across the country.

Entity Number Date Filed Status Entity Name Agent for Service of Process
C1909963 08/25/1997 ACTIVE COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE WILLIAM GIRDNER
It’s also registered in Nevada as a foreign (out of state) corporation:  in Rhode Island as a News Wire Service focusing on civil litigation,
trademarkia” says this trademark (name of company) is actually “dead” circa 1997 (formation, I gather)  However it’s also registered in Arizona as

e: COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE, INC (FN)
and probably a few more places.   Anyhow, it’s definitely interesting.  And from this we get (along with the latest scoop on the SF Courthouses scandal) an interesting class action, article July 29, 2011 (i.e., recently).
A man tired of getting screwed in traffic court figured out that criminal convictions, by statute, contribute to COURTHOUSE BUILDINGS through a “Courthouse Construction Fund.”   This to me sounds similar to the concept of “extended custody litigation = county /state gets to hold onto collected child support, collect INTEREST on it, get more federal incentives (Title IV-D) in fact, get gold stars from the HHS for, between them, earning money on our distress.  As this money comes to the county level, it is in the county’s best interests to actually fail to collect child support well, and exacerbate family law cases, not to mention get various grants to come to the courts to facilitate dealing with all the flawed, angry, and sometimes confused, parents coming through its doors, which are clogging the dockets.  Clogged dockets then justify more buildings, money, and programs — which brings up the question:
WHO owns the buildings? (usually a corporation.  Who is on the board of those corporations?)  Who is leasing the buildings (answer:  the public).  Who is on the boards of the nonprofits that get the grants to come to the courts that are held in those buildings?  Well, that varies from place to place, but I have a general idea of where some of these individuals conference together to figure out what to call the next round of  “Family Solutions” for their problem-solving Unified Whatnot Courts.
For example, in San Francisco, there is a Pre-Trial Diversion program.    “PTD” is described (for US attorneys) here:  Pre-Trial Diversion is a national practice, and there’s an agency to discuss it:

The National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) would like to thank the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance for its funding of this document and continued support of pretrial diversion programs.

Anyhow, here’s San Francisco’s Pre-Trial Diversion Project, Inc.

Pretrial Diversion

The San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project (SFPDP) provides first-time misdemeanor offenders with court-proceeding alternatives and services such as anger management, parenting, domestic violence, and substance abuse counseling and education.

For more information, contact us at info@pretrial.com

 

I.e., where a victim of DV may wish the matter to be treated as criminal (particularly where injury is involved, or serious threats to life & limb after serious injury), the court’s interest might just be to divert it into counseling instead.  CLogged dockets, you know.  Notice, to find out about it, the address is a *.com, not a *.gov.  It’s an “INC” meaning it’s a corporation.  OK, here I go:
San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project, Inc.
567 Seventh Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Telephone: (415) 626-4995 
Entity Number Date Filed Status Entity Name Agent for Service of Process
C0763761 02/11/1976 ACTIVE SAN FRANCISCO PRETRIAL DIVERSION PROJECT, INC. WILLIAM S LEONG
The first thing I notice is that it’s been around for a long time, and that its registered agent sounds real familiar, as does the process.  A 2008 monograph (with DOJ support, via a grant) describes the concept, and comments that this hasn’t been studied/surveyed, summarized, etc. since 1982!

Background

Over the past few years, criminal justice practitioners have rethought their approaches to crime prevention, adjudication, and punishment.

As they were not publishing this and telling the rest of us so much, are we to be telepathic and understand that the criminal laws are no longer to be taken as such?

Growing corrections populations, larger court dockets, and the rising number of former prisoners returning to American communities have forced localities to be as smart about using criminal justice resources as they are tough on those who commit crimes. In the last decade, America’s criminal justice systems have become laboratories for innovative programs and collaborative problem-solving approaches. A body of developing research suggests that these approaches can reduce crime, promote better victim services, and enhance public trust in the justice system.

Interestingly, many of these problem-solving approaches are based on the well-established concept of pretrial diversion—community-based alternatives for nonviolent defendants to better address the underlying social and psychological reasons for their criminal behavior. Specialty courts, community-based sanctions for quality-of-life crimes, and services and training for former prisoners all have at their core the idea of using methods outside of traditional case processing and sentencing to provide meaningful interventions and sanctions for criminal behavior and to help reduce future criminality.

Pretrial diversion programs have operated successfully at the federal, state, and local levels for decades providing close supervision and needed services to thousands of defendants each year.

This particular corporation is a nonprofit:

Organization Name Registration Number Record Type Registration Status City State Registration Type Record Type
SAN FRANCISCO PRETRIAL DIVERSION PROJECT, INC. 020881 Charity Current SAN FRANCISCO CA Charity Registration Charity
1
it has quite a decent budget:

iscal Begin: 01-JUL-08
Fiscal End: 30-JUN-09
Total Assets: $466,382.00
Gross Annual Revenue: $3,959,457.00
RRF Received: 03-MAY-10
Returned Date:
990 Attached: Y
Status: Accepted
Fiscal Begin: 01-JUL-09
Fiscal End: 30-JUN-10
Total Assets: $396,321.00
Gross Annual Revenue: $3,527,864.00
RRF Received: 17-FEB-11
Returned Date:
990 Attached: Y
Status: Accepted
It’s purpose (incorporating documents) show a contract with the city to provide alternative to the criminal courts, at the discretion of the Municipal Court.  Some letters may have not described well, and the doc’t is available on-line.

Statement describing progress and accomplishments during the year in carrying out exempt (charitable) purposes.

San Francisco Pretrial Diversion·Project, Inc. was formed in February, 1976 to undertake financial and accounting responsi- bilities for operation of a court diversion project in San Francisco. The corporation signed a contract with the City and County of San Francisco undertaking this responsibility and now receives LEAA funds through the City to be disbursed for operation of the Project. The Project itself commenced operations in April, 1976, when it began to receive the’first referrals of misdemeanor defendants from the Municipal Court. These defendants are interviewed from a program of education, training, counseling or other activities .. The Diversion Project reports back to the Court with a recommendation for or against diversion three weeks after the referral. If the Court decides to divert the defendant, criminal proceedings are suspended for a period of 90 days to one year. If the diverted d~fendunt completes the program assigned satisfactorily and conforms to the other conditions of diversion, the charges against him are dismissed. At present the Project is receiving approximately 150 misdemeanor oefendants each month for evaluation and recommendation. Approximately 100 defendants are being diverted by the Municipal Court each month. The Project currently has a caseload of approximately 500 persons,

Wow.  Sounds like fatherhood programs too — the individual is over the barrel for something (probably child support payment) and then is diverted to another program.  From the Website: In reading websites, we are basically reading the folklore of an organization.  Here’s this one’s:

Who We Are

 
The SFPDP building entrance.

 

 

The San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project (SFPDP) organization was established in 1976 through the joint efforts of a group of socially conscious citizens, the San Francisco Bar Association and the Judges of the Municipal Courts.

Their experience had shown that most individuals charged with a misdemeanor offense did not benefit perceptibly by jail time. They were convinced that both the goals of crime prevention and rehabilitation would be better served by an alternative program of education, rehabilitation and community service work. SFPDP was formed to provide “first time” misdemeanor offenders of non violent charges an opportunity to have their case dismissed by completing a program.

Continuing our tradition and philosophy of “Dignity and Respect, Compassion and Accountability,” SFPDP added more programs designed to address various needs of the Courts, the Clients and the Community.

 

 

 

Interesting concept.  The SF Bar Association, some Municipal Court Judges, and “socially conscious citizens” decided there was a better alternative to the justice system, and so simply went about making one.  What a grass roots effort:

re:  Socially conscious citizens:  There are just 4 people listed as incorporators on the founding documents. We’re going to look at who:

Irving Reichert, Jr., Frank E. Farella, Robert G. Sproul, Jr.. and for 4 months? only Thomas H. Gee (same address as Reichert).

One was Mr. Reichert, who as we see above was Exec. Dir. of the SF Bar association at the time, i.e., an attorney.

 

(1) IRVING REICHERT, JR.

One of the original signers (and the registered agent) was Irving Reichert, Jr., (d. 1997)  who apparently got some of the ideas for this from the British system, after a Ford Foundation study/travel grant 1972ff..

Irving Reichert Jr., renowned Bay Area attorney and dedicated legal reformer, died of a heart attack Saturday at his home in Palo Alto at the age of 76.

Mr. Reichert had a long and varied legal career. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Law School, he was a law clerk to former state Court of Appeal Justice Raymond Peters before joining the San Francisco district attorney’s office, where he was an assistant district attorney from 1951 to 1958.

. . .

In 1972, he received a Ford Foundation Travel Study grant, which took him to England for a year to study the British criminal justice system.

He returned to the Bay Area in 1973 and served as a consultant to the American Justice Institute and the Santa Clara County Criminal Justice Pilot Program.    From 1975 until 1985, Mr. Reichert served as the executive director of the San Francisco Bar Association, concentrating on expanding its role in providing legal services for the poor and enlarging its involvement in the criminal justice system.

In 1987, he came out of retirement — neglecting “my promising career in lawn bowling” — to take charge of the Own Recognizance Bail Project, a program that he had been instrumental in founding several years earlier.

 

 (2)  FRANK E. FARELLA

Partner in Farella, Brown & Martel, LLP.   He does mergers and acquisitions with an interest in the beverage / wine industry in particular.

FRANK E. FARELLA, PARTNER

Frank E. Farella, a founding partner of Farella Braun + Martel, maintains a diverse practice in corporate, financial and international transactions.  The firm knows quite a bit about formation of trusts, nonprofits, family estates, etc. and publishes on these and other topics.

Frank E. Farella Mr. Farella owns and operates his family’s vineyard and winery in the Napa Valley, Farella-Park Vineyard and is a member of the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

Mr. Farella served as President of the Bar Association of San Francisco in 1978.  He chaired a California State Bar Committee and authored the California legislation requiring attorneys to arbitrate fee disputes.  He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America for Corporate Law for almost three decades.

 

(3) Robert G. Sproul, Jr.

JusT FOR THE RECORD, ROBERT, JR.’s father was president of UCBerkeley, which explains why there’s a “sproul plaza” named after him.  He died one year before formation of this organization, SF pretrial diversion project.  There is a “robert G. Sproul, Jr. Award” which I see relates to pro bono, civil rights, diversity, etc.

 

 

I can’t find much about this person except who received awards named after him, at this time. There is an oral history about his father (in 2 volumes) at UCB

(4) Thomas H. Gee

Born in Canton, China, was a SF attorney and Library commissioner (Secretary of this organization) and died in March 1999.  “A native of Canton, China, Mr. Gee came to the United States in 1929. He was a 1941 graduate of San Jose State College. He served as a sergeant in the Army Air Corps, and was assigned to the U.S. Military Intelligence Language School. He was a 1954 graduate of Lincoln University Law School and a longtime administrative law judge for the state of Nevada in Las Vegas.   

He served as president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in 1948 and in 1991. In the 1970s, he was a founder and administrator of Northeast Medical Services, a Chinatown health organization. He also served on the boards of two other prominent Chinatown social service organizations, On Lok Senior Health Services and Self Help for the Elderly.

(IF I have the right Thomas H. Gee).

Corporationwiki mentions him as president of a ” Commercial and Industrial Development of San Francisco Chinatown, Inc”

Entity Number Date Filed Status Entity Name Agent for Service of Process
C0663011 08/17/1972 SUSPENDED COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT OF SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN, INC. SAMUEL NG

Organization Name Registration Number Record Type Registration Status City State Registration Type Record Type
COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT OF SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN, INC. EX513099 Charity Exempt – Active SAN FRANCISCO CA Charity Registration Charity
1

Interesting how this one can still be active — look at the details!

Below is the detailed data for the registrant you selected.
You may CLOSE this window to return to the Search Results and choose another registrant.
Registrant Information
Full Name: COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT OF SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN, INC. FEIN:
Type: Mutual Benefit Corporate or Organization Number: 0663011
Registration Number: EX513099
Record Type: Charity Registration Type: Charity Registration
Issue Date: 12/31/1990 Renewal Due Date: 5/15/1991
Registration Status: Exempt – Active Date This Status:
Date of Last Renewal:
Address Information
Address Line 1: 754 COMMERCIAL ST. Phone:
Address Line 2:
Address Line 3:
Address Line 4: SAN FRANCISCO CA 94108
Annual Renewal Information
Related Documents
No Related Documents
Prerequisite Information

(do you see an EIN# there?  I don’t either….)  There is a Chinatown CDC still active, a compilation (April 1977) from other organizations:

On April 1, 1977, five grassroots organizations came together and created the nonprofit community development organization theChinatown Resource Center (CRC).  The newly formed CRC comprised of organizations that advocated for affordable housing, tenant rights, open space, transportation and revitalization issues –y it

So, obviously these people that started SFPD in 1976 were socially conscious, socially active individuals (it also being the 1970s!) of very influential backgrounds (Sproul, Reichert, Farella, all of them) at least at that time, movers and shakers. So they figured out that it was time to change the criminal justice system in SF by diverting cases; incorporated and did so.  So maybe I should give the Family Justice Center folk a break — after all, everyone is doing this, right?  Being employed by the public in the legal, law enforcement, district attorney, or family law (etc.) professions — and simply, while there, CHANGING them, because some had a brainstorm that doing so would be a good idea.  They just forgot to run it by the public — who was paying — and the poor  — who would be most affected by it.

ANYHOW, the 2009 IRS shows about $4 million of gross receipts ($605K from program service income) of which $3.6 million was spent on services (not described in much detail), $102K for Mr. Leong (salary); there are no contractors, there are thousands in “professional fees” and there is a “management committee” which is composed of (I’m going to list them):

Judge Herbert Donaldson

Judge Kay Tsenin Judge Teri Jackson Judge Loretta Giorgi

Commissioner Ron Albers

District Attorney Kamala Harris represented by Greg Barge

Public Defender Jeff Adachi represented by Kwixuan Maloof

Patrick Boyd, Chief Adult Probation Officer

OK, if I am not mistaken, all these judges are paid by the state (not counting any undisclosed fringe benefits).  The commissioner, district attorney and probably public defender and probation officers are probably paid by City & County of SF.  Moreover, the SFPD is also paid by contract with the City.   Lord knows if there are also private donations — but how is this not a conflict of interest?

There is also a “mentor court” since 1996….based on (it says) a model from (across the bay) Oakland Court

Another way someone can be induced to participate in an SFPD-style alternative is to get a PARKING or TRAFFIC TICKET.  That’s not too hard to do in overcrowded San Francisco!    Going into community service after being dinged (or hit) with a ticket, is kind of interesting when one thinks about who set up and paid for this to start with — Bar Association, Judges, and paid for by the City.  So, ostensibly, but assigning enough traffic tickets, some real community service might get done.

Project 20 
The Project 20 Fine Alternatives program is for people who cannot afford to pay their parking tickets or traffic violations. People are assigned community service hours in lieu of paying.

Project 20 serves the City and County of San Francisco. All clients must have a referral from either of these departments to participate in Project 20. Out-of-county cases require a referral from the California League of Alternative Service Prorgrams.

For Parking Tickets: Clients are referred from the Department of Parking and Traffic. DPT is located at 11 South Van Ness Ave., (415) 701-3000.

For Traffic Violations: Clients are referred from the Traffic Division at the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant Street, Room 101.

I wonder what kind of “bang for the buck” a traffic ticket translated into free cleanup etc. services for the city would be:

Q: HOW MANY HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE HOURS MUST I PERFORM?
A: The number of hours is determined by the amount of the fine assessed and the type of fine incurred. Parking and traffic fines are assessed at different rates.  For parking fines, community service is performed at the rate of $6 per hour, for example: $120 parking fines would require 20 hours of community service.  For traffic fines, community service is performed at a rate of $10 per hour.  Please note that Project 20 does not set these rates.

. . .

Q: IS THERE A LIMIT ON THE NUMBER OF CITATIONS ALLOWED FOR Project 20 WORK? 
A: Yes, there is a limit of 10 citations total (or $250.00) per vehicle per calendar year, (January 1 through December 31). Beyond this, a citizen can still sign up for Project 20 but will be required to pay 50% of the contract fine amount, and the remainder can be worked off in community service hours.

Q: CAN I DO MY Project 20 WORK ANYWHERE?
A: No, since the citations were issued in San Francisco, the community service must be completed in San Francisco. We encourage clients to participate with the NEW citY! DPW community service project because it’s the quickest way to complete the program while helping to beautify San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

Q: IS THERE A SIGN-UP FEE?
A: YES! Project 20 charges a nominal program administration fee which is based on the amount of assigned community service hours.

Q: WHY MUST I PAY A PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION FEE TO DO Project 20?
A: Project 20 operates solely on program administration fees collected. This program receives no city, state or federal funds and its existence relies entirely on the nominal fees paid by its clients.

So, if someone gets fines totalling $250 / year, San Francisco can get approximately one week (6 X 40 hours) of work from the individual if it was a parking ticket.   
Or, depending one’s category of need, you might get this kind of help, or I saw acupuncture also listed.
SELF-AWARENESS/ DRAMA THERAPY STRESS MGMT/DRUMMING
Introduces clients to strategies for curtailing obsessive thinking, anxiety, depression and hostility. During these weekly groups, participants learn to utilize relaxation techniques and conflict resolution using drama therapy, non-verbal drumming, and meditation techniques.

I have a few problems with judges, district attorneys, probation officers, and a court commissioner, encouraged by prominent attorneys, to take into their hands whether or whether not to divert what would be a criminal case, perhaps a domestic violence case with no criminal past, into “diversionary” activities designed to reform the individual.  That this reform will help — and because the prisons are overcrowded — is a theory.  I have a problem in particular with this one, from San Francisco:  I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs, and to the right, you’ll see I actuallys tarted a page investigating this case from 2005.  At least, in 2005, that’s when they found the woman’s body in the trunk of a car.  McAlpin is the man (the aggressor), and Melnitchenko is the woman (the victim):

– On Dec. 23, 2001, McAlpin went to Melnitchenko’s place of work in San Francisco, forced his way in and threw Melnitchenko against a wine crate, prosecutors say. Charges were filed, but McAlpin went free pending the outcome of the case.

— In March 2002, McAlpin went to Melnitchenko’s home in San Francisco, put his hand over her mouth, pinched her nose and held her so hard that her mouth bled, according to prosecutors. He held her hostage for two hours, at one point ripping the phone out of her hand, prosecutors say. He was arrested and jailed briefly.

— In July 2002, McAlpin, who was free again despite the two pending cases, allegedly broke in to Melnitchenko’s home. “He said, ‘If you don’t come back to me within a week, I’m going to kill you, bitch,’ ” Cogan said. He fled when San Francisco police arrived, leading officers on a pursuit to the East Bay, prosecutors say. He later turned himself in.

— On Oct. 31, 2003, McAlpin admitted to stalking, assaulting and threatening Melnitchenko in charges stemming from the three cases.

— In December 2003, Cogan sought a six-year prison term, but McAlpin was allowed to plead guilty, over prosecutors’ objections, to retired Judge Herbert Donaldson, who sentenced him to time served and probation. “We felt his acts were so significant to warrant state prison, even without a prior criminal history. I brought in Anastasia, her mom and sister to testify,” Cogan said. The judge, she said, granted probation “over our strong objection.” Donaldson also ordered McAlpin to undergo counseling and spend 52 weeks in a domestic violence program.

— On Aug. 1, 2004, McAlpin allegedly tried to kidnap Melnitchenko as a co-worker escorted her to her car after work. McAlpin allegedly slapped her and carried her down the street, saying: “You’re dead, bitch!” Melnitchenko escaped when a passer-by sprayed McAlpin with Mace. Melnitchenko suffered scratches to her face, prosecutors said.

— In October 2004, Melnitchenko failed to show up at the preliminary hearing in the case and could not be reached, despite what prosecutors described as “numerous attempts.” Upton said Melnitchenko was doubtless scared of her attacker and justifiably afraid of testifying. “If the system had sent a message it could protect her, she would have moved forward.”

— On Dec. 1, 2004, the case was resolved with a guilty plea and a sentence of one year in jail.

– In the spring of 2005, McAlpin was freed under a judge’s order that he attend domestic violence classes and come to court each month. He had progress reports in April, May, June and August, but failed to show twice, including this month. A judge issued a bench warrant for him on Oct. 13.

I forgot to identify the article — here is the title and credits:

Slaying suspect’s violent past / 8 felony convictions, but he’d never been sentenced to prison

October 25, 2005|By Jaxon Van Derbeken, Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writers

Scott McAlpin stalked, harassed and threatened his former girlfriend for three years, once even carrying her down the street in an attempted kidnapping until someone maced him, authorities say.

They had no children together, and I don’t recall, but believe had never lived together.  Apparently this young man felt that an immigrant had no right to say No!

On Monday, the 24-year-old El Sobrante man was accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Anastasia Melnitchenko, 21, of San Francisco, and stuffing her body in the trunk of his Honda Civic.

The retired judge who gave this man opportunity to kill his ex-girlfriend, sentenced him to time served and probation, was also socially conscious, compassionate, understanding progressive, and presided over a “behavioural court.”  The photo is from his obituary (2008, of cancer):

Judge Herbert Donaldson dies: ‘A born jurist

December 10, 2008|By Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer

  • Superior Court Judge Herbert Donaldson presides over behavior court at the Hall of Justice. Judy Mauve, who has a court file many inches thick, is now out of jail and in a treatment program - which is where the judge, DA and public defender agree she should have been all along. The problem is that too many people like her - with major mental illnesses - are in jail. She's spent more than a year behind bars and has more than 50 arrests for everything from arson, drug possession to prostitution. Diagnosed as bipolar and severely depressed, she now appears every other week before a judge who presides over an unusual new program - behaviorial health court. Event on 8/7/03 in San Francisco. MICHAEL MALONEY / The Chronicle
    Superior Court Judge Herbert Donaldson presides over behavior court at the Hall of Justice. Judy Mauve, who has a court file many inches thick, is now out of jail and in a treatment program – which is where the judge, DA and public defender agree she should have been all along. The problem is that too many people like her – with major mental illnesses – are in jail. She’s spent more than a year behind bars and has more than 50 arrests for everything from arson, drug possession to prostitution. Diagnosed as bipolar and severely depressed, she now appears every other week before a judge who presides over an unusual new program – behaviorial health court. Event on 8/7/03 in San Francisco. MICHAEL MALONEY / The Chronicle
    Credit: Michael Maloney

Herbert Donaldson, a retired Superior Court judge who was widely known in San Francisco for his role in gay organizations long before it was either acceptable or fashionable, and for his tenure as one of the city’s more compassionate and community-oriented jurists, died Friday at his home in San Francisco, surrounded by his friends and his three cats. …

During the 1960s, he was chief attorney for the central office of the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation,** which provided legal services for the poor. Four years after his 1999 retirement from the bench, he served a three-year term as the first judge of the newly created Behavioral Health Court, a special branch of the San Francisco Superior Court system designed for defendants with mental health problems.

Jennifer Johnson, a deputy public defender in San Francisco, said Monday that Judge Donaldson “was instrumental in shepherding us through the process of breaking down barriers between agencies that don’t traditionally work together.”

**in 2000, this group, merging with two East Bay groups, became “Bay Area Legal Aid.”  See URL for description..  they handle domestic violence issues — but not as criminal matters; they do not deal with criminal matters, but claim to provide domestic violence protection, and I’m sure, do provide some.

Priority Areas

Practice Areas

  • Domestic Violence Protection: BayLegal helps those needing to escape from dangerous or abusive home situations. Domestic violence survivors are assisted in stopping the violence and creating safe and stable homes for themselves and their families. BayLegal handles all family law matters related to domestic violence, including full legal representation in dissolution proceedings,** including obtaining support orders and protective orders, and also assists immigrant victims of domestic violence and victims of sexual assault.
  • Economic Security:  BayLegal assists low-income Bay Area residents who need help getting or keeping their basic safety-net benefits. BayLegal helps people through direct legal representation, education, outreach, and also provides training to public benefits workers. BayLegal’s economic security work is designed to help families achieve basic economic self-sufficiency.
  • Homelessness Prevention and Expanding Affordable Housing:BayLegal helps low-income Bay Area residents with housing issues. BayLegal staff works to prevent homelessness, preserve and expand affordable housing, and fight illegal evictions.
  • Health Care Access:  BayLegal helps low-income Bay Area residents get the health care services they need. Attorneys assist people with enrolling in and obtaining uninterrupted services from health insurance programs.

Clients Served
In 2008, more than 70,000 people benefited from Baylegal’s services.

Funding
BayLegal is funded by a combination of government and private grants, as well as corporate, law firm and individual donations. We are the only organization in the Bay Area to receive federal funds from the Legal Services Corporation.

This (from their 2000 IRS 990 statement) describes the merger and who “Legal Services Corporation” is:

Bay Area Legal Aid (formerly San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation) EIN #94-1650231 Details of Name Change

In 1999, the Legal Services Corporation consolidated six Bay Area service areas into one service area. The Boards of five programs obtained a $15,000 grant to consider a merger. A merger consultant worked with six entities: Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLS), Contra Costa Legal Services Foundation (CCLS), San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation (SFNLAF), {{Judge Donaldson, founder}} Alameda County Bar Association, Legal Aid of the North Bay, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. By June of 1999, only CLS, CCLS, and SFNLAF remained in merger discussions and the Boards voted for merger. In November 1999, the designated new Board of Directors hired Ramon Arias to become the Director of the new program named Bay Area Legal Aid. SFNLAF was renamed Bay Area Legal Aid as the surviving corporation. A core of private attorneys from large law firms prepared the major documents and conducted a due diligence review of the program. Local bar associations designated new board members during the week of December 8, 1999, and on January 3, 2000 the new board held its first meeting.

Bay Area Legal Aid (BALA) is a California not-for-profit corporation that began operations on January 1, 2000. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a not-for profit corporation established by Congress to administer a national legal assistance program, primarily funds BALA. BALA provides specialized legal assistance in the areas of welfare, domestic violence and fair housing, among others, for very low-income residents of the San Francisco Bay area.

The 5 officers (apparently 4 of them attorneys) are moderately paid, all under $100K.  BALA shows $10.4 million assets and $9.5 revenues, as of 2010.
Legal Services Corporation is itself a 1974 founded, Washington DC-based nonprofit with an usual start:

LSC-funded programs provide a wide range of civil legal assistance to their clients. The most frequent cases involve:

  • Family law: LSC programs assist victims of domestic violence by obtaining protective and restraining orders, help parents obtain and keep custody of their children, help family members obtain guardianship for children without parents, and provide representation and assistance on other family law matters. More than a third of all cases closed by the local programs are family law cases.
  • and….
  • Who are helped by LSC-funded programs?

    Three out of four clients are women — many of whom are struggling to keep their children safe and their families together. Overall, the clients are the most vulnerable among us and are as diverse as our nation, encompassing all races, ethnic groups and ages, including the working poor, veterans, homeowners and renters facing foreclosure or evictions, families with children, farmers, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, the elderly and victims of natural disasters.

AND — get this:   “Board of Directors Profiles

LSC is headed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. By law, the Board is bipartisan: no more than six members may be of the same political party.
I’m looking at the board members, and so far, all of them were appointed by our fatherhood loving President Obama in 2009, including CHarles N.W. Keckler, with this background, including Harvard undergraduate and experience in Chicago:

Charles N.W. KecklerFrom 2007-2009, Prof. Keckler was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families where he worked on regulatory matters and oversaw networks of federal grantees providing billions of dollars of services to disadvantaged populations. In this role, he testified before Congress and led the United States diplomatic delegation to the Organization of American States Conference on Social Development.

Prior to his work with HHS, Prof. Keckler taught civil procedure and comparative law for two years at George Mason University School of Law. He began his academic career as a lecturer at Northwestern Law School. He previously practiced as an appellate and trial litigator with Mayer Brown in Chicago….

I’m beginning to understand why, in the years of my family law (in this Bay area, though not SF) I was completely unable to get ANY help from Bay Area Legal Aid.
ANYHOW, this retired Judge Herbert Donaldson, sentenced, incredibly, McAlpin to “time served” after which he went out and murdered his girlfriend, as he’d promised her he would.   Somewhere in there, the domestic violence intervention program nonprofit also got itself a warm body, probably good for the next round of grant applications at the time, although I imagine the negative press was a bit of a drawback this time.
Note:  this is not the only murder to follow a diversionary sentence to Batterers Intervention (or anger management) classes.
Now we are ready to look at this COURTHOUSE NEWS recent NEWS: and I have a little more research to do on this Courthouse Construction Fund:

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – A federal class action claims California’s Administrative Office of the Courts and the state Supreme Court are “using the Administrative Office of the Courts as a collection agency to build new courthouses for themselves,” by adding fees for a “Courthouse Construction Fund” to traffic tickets and other fines.
     Lead plaintiff Jessee Welch Jr. calls this “self dealing” by the defendant agencies, which have an unbearable conflict of interest that can be expressed by a simple equation: “Convictions = Courthouse, No Convictions = No Courthouse.”
     The budget disaster suffered by California’s Administrative Office of the Courts has been extensively reported by Courthouse News. Welch says that “the sole source of money for the courthouses is the ‘Courthouse Construction Fund.'”
     “The entire funding scheme implemented by statute and being embraced fully by the court is an assessment that has as its sole condition precedent the conviction of people,” Jessee Welch says. “If there is no conviction, there is no assessment. Without assessments there can be no courthouses. The court wants courthouses. Therefore, the court must convict.”
     He adds: “There is a dollar for dollar, conviction for conviction, direct benefit bestowed upon the Court. The very court that will make the rules, interpret the laws, determine credibility, and exercise almost unfettered discretion in every criminal case. All state appeals, up to and including the Supreme Court of California, have the same issue of ethics and conflict of interest and are therefore incompetent to hear this case.”
     Welch says he got a speeding ticket in June 2009, which he fought unsuccessfully.
     He claims that he was “denied evidence, ordered to return to court numerous times, denied numerous dismissal motions, and subject to unethical conduct by both the prosecutor and the traffic commissioner. Welch, finally exhausted by the burdens placed upon him and under the advice of counsel, plead[ed] to the offense and filed a timely appeal.” But he lost that too, so he paid the fine and the cost of his insurance increased.
     Welch claims no California court should hear his case, as they all have the same conflict of interest.
     “If (any) person is found to have violated any law, i.e. found guilty or admits, then the Administrative Office of the Courts shall impose an assessment. The sole purpose of that assessment is to build new courthouses for the benefit of the very court that heard the case. In fact, the fund the assessment must be deposited to is named ‘Courthouse Construction Fund.'”
     Welch says the courts violated his right to due process: “the California court hearing Welch’s case never informed him that the California court was going to construct new courthouses and the sole source of money for the courthouses is the ‘Courthouse Construction Fund.’ Welch was not told that to contribute to the ‘Courthouse Construction Fund’ Welch must first be found liable for any offense.”
     He claims to represent all people whose cases were heard by California’s criminal courts.

Well, THAT’s interesting!
HEre’s a sample article, same timeframe:  “Group Wants to Cut Courthouse Fund
A California court budget group recommended a $60 million cut to the courthouse construction fund last Friday, possibly affecting the proposed $58 million Santa Clarita courthouse.

The $60 million cut was recommended by the Trial Court Budget Working Group to help pay daily court costs for the Judicial Branch of California, said Philip Carrizosa, spokesman for the Judicial Council of California Courts’ Administrative Office of the Courts.

“We don’t know yet how this will affect individual courthouse projects, such as the one planned for Santa Clarita,” Carrizosa said. “But our plans are to continue with negotiations with Los Angeles County to secure a site for that courthouse.”

This cut comes after the state borrowed $310 million from the courthouse construction fund and took $350 million from the judicial branch’s general budget to help balance the state budget.

The state has not said when it will give the $310 million back to the courthouse-construction fund, Carrizosa said.

According to Carrizosa, members of the Court Facilities Working Group will decide how to proceed with court construction in light of the recent cuts.

The California Legislature approved the courthouse-construction fund in 2008. Court-user fees were supposed to generate $5 billion over 5 years for the fund, but the fund has less than $100 million in it now, Carrizosa said.

Currently, 41 courthouses are waiting to be built or updated by the courthouse construction fund. Sixteen of those projects are projected to cost over $100 million each.

A little more info from January 11 (official stuff) and I’ll be back on this one!

Written by Let's Get Honest

September 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

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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

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