Gabby Petito: Police BodyCam Video of Traffic Stop

Tragically, 22 year old Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito’s remains were found today in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming after her being reported missing for weeks. She was on a van trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie. He returned home to Florida weeks ago in the Gabby’s van without Gabby. He decided not to talk to the police regarding Gabby’s whereabouts, although, he has a right to remain silent. As of last Tuesday, Brian is now missing. The cause of Ms. Petito’s death has not yet been determined.

Here is the full video from the officers bodycam of the traffic stop of Brian and Gabby weeks before she was reported missing. Traffic stop begins at 19:34 and was posted on youtube by Crime & Justice by Mentour lawyer. (posted here for educational purposes only).

As a former domestic violence prosecutor, may this video result in better training and response of officers in the handling of possible domestic violence situations (and Miranda rights training). Simply, my opinion.

May Ms. Petito rest in peace. My condolences to her family and loved ones.

Judicial Qualification Ratings Questioned by Harvard Study

According to a new study done by a Harvard PhD Stanford law graduate, with the support of the Harvard Center on American Political Studies, the American Bar Association’s rating system for judicial candidates is part of the problem why more women and minorities are not on the bench. The study examined 52 years of judicial ratings (1960-2012), findings published in New York Times on May 4, 2014:

(1) women and minorities are more likely than whites and males to receive lower ratings even when controlled for education, experience and partisanship, (2) Ratings are a poor tool for predicting judicial performance (no difference whether rated highly qualified or not) (3) and, taken together, the findings of potential bias and questionable usefulness point to a broken rating system. Read New York Times article on judicial ratings, “How Not To Pick Judges”. 

My thoughts…If we don’t let football players pick referees, why do we let attorneys pick judges? Conflict of interest, anyone?

And, if we don’t have a committee to “rate” the US President or other elected officials, why do we have bar associations and the ABA rating judicial candidates?

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read post on 10 Things To Know About Judicial Elections.

San Diego Judicial Elections: 10 Things To Know

Given the lack of information about San Diego Judicial Elections, here are 10 things (11 actually) to know about judicial elections: (Disclaimer: I am currently running for Judge in San Diego County in the June 3rd Primary election.)

• Superior Court Judges are elected by the People. The Governor of California is allowed to temporarily appoint judges to vacated seats (i.e. retirement, death, appointment to federal bench, etc.) and then the judges are up for election at the end of the appointed term. (California Constitution, Article 6, Section 15.) Superior Court Judges serve a 6 year term.

• Superior Court Judges are elected county-wide not city-wide. For example, if you are a registered voter in San Diego County (i.e. Oceanside, Ramona, Cardiff), you can vote for Superior Court Judges. It is a non-partisan race so the political affiliation of the judicial candidates will not appear on the ballot.

• There are no contribution limits in judicial races. Individuals, business organizations, PAC’s, etc. can give as much and as often as they choose.

• Judges and judicial candidates are not allowed to publicly endorse or oppose non-judicial candidates (i.e. Senators, Supervisors, Mayors, City Council, etc.) (Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5)

• In San Diego County, there are approximately 131 Superior Court Judges. About 45 Superior Court Judges are up for election every 2 years with their name only appearing on the ballot when they are challenged. If they are not challenged, they are automatically elected to a new 6 year term after the November general election. If a Judge decides to withdraw from the election during the nomination period, then the seat becomes open for 5 calendar days to allow candidates to file and run for the open seat. If one candidate receives over 50% of the votes, they are elected in the Primary election. Otherwise, the top two vote getters face a runoff in the November general election and the top vote getter wins.

• To uphold impartiality, judges and judicial candidates are not allowed to make statements on issues, cases or controversies as such matters are likely to come before them while they are on the bench. (Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5).

• Superior Court is the trial court. Superior Court Judges generally preside over jury trials, bench (judge) trials, hearings, and motions on civil and criminal matters. Superior Court judgments, convictions and orders may be appealed to the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court and may be heard by the US Supreme Court.

Each judicial race is designated a seat number (i.e. Seat #25). The seat number is just a random numerical designation assigned for ballot purposes. The seat number does not refer to a department, courthouse, or area of the county.

• A Superior Court Judge can be assigned to any division (i.e. civil, criminal, family law, probate, juvenile, etc.) The Presiding Judge determines the assignments and length of the assignment.

• Judicial candidate ratings are a poor tool for predicting judicial performance (no difference whether rated qualified or not), (2) women and minorities are more likely than whites and males to receive lower ratings which is part of the problem why fewer women and minorities are on the bench, (3) and, taken together, the findings of potential bias and questionable usefulness point to a broken rating system. (New York Times May 4, 2014 article, “How Not To Pick Judges” based on a new 2014 study supported by the Harvard Center on American Political Studies and 52 years of judicial ratings data (1960-2012).

• An attorney who is a US citizen, a registered voter and member of the California State Bar for 10 years may run for judicial office.

I think it’s important to provide information to you as judicial elections matter.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read post on judicial candidate ratings questioned by new 2014 Harvard study.

(Updated post 5/18/2014)

Oscar Pistorius Faces Premeditated Murder Charge

Oscar Pistorius will be charged tomorrow with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He is expected to enter a plea of not guilty with a trial to begin in March 2014.

Did he plan to and intend to kill Steenkamp (premeditated murder) or was it an accidental killing?

Reeva was behind a locked interior toilet door with her cell phone in the very early morning hours of February 14, 2013. Neighbors claim they heard arguing coming from Oscar’s home. According to Oscar, he and Reeva were sleeping in the bed when he heard a noise. He gets out of the far side of the bed, goes to the other side of bed, the side closest to the bathroom where he hears the noise, and grabs his gun which is underneath the bed just below the area where Reeva was sleeping. According to the bail hearing, he doesn’t call out to Reeva or check that she is safe. He instead fires several shots into the toilet believing an intruder was inside and kills Steenkamp dead.

Read my posts: Oscar Pistorius Intruder Defense is Nonsense & Oscar Pistorius What Doesn’t Make Sense.

As a former domestic prosecutor, the evidence, so far, unfortunately, points to a tragic domestic violence killing. Fear of losing was the intruder.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

If Bob Filner Misused Public Funds Career Over

(Updated 8/18/2013: As reported in the LA Times, Filner could get removed from office for using the City’s credit card for personal expenses under the never been used before section 108 of the San Diego City Charter. It states, “every city officer who willfully approves or allows an unauthorized payment from the city treasury is subject to removal from office.” Yet, there is no set procedure for removal. The City Council and a judge would likely be required to remove Filner. The misuse of public funds is a felony. Why not let the San Diego District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office (if DA Dumanis is recused) arrest and prosecute Filner for the alleged misuse of public funds, just like the DA did in 1986 to Filner’s predecessor (I kid you not) former Councilman Uvaldo Martinez who resigned pursuant to a plea bargain over his misuse of $1800 in city funds. Seriously, I’m not making this up. My bet, Bob will resign, too, when jail is the alternative. Besides, it’s cheaper than a 30 million dollar voter recall or enduring the civil process of testing out a 1931 section of the City Charter.)

Mayor Bob Filner is now being scrutinized for alleged “improper” expenses on his January to May 2013 Mayor’s (taxpayer) credit card statements including frequent hotel charges and $3000 paid to a reputation management firm.

Misuse of public funds?

If Filner misused public funds, game over. Filner faces up to 4 years in prison and can be barred from holding public office.

Having handled many sexual harassment cases and prosecuted many domestic violence cases, I am not surprised to learn of possible financial abuse allegations. Financial abuse commonly occurs by perpetrators of sexual abuse and harassment. When misused, money, just like sex, is just another way perpetrators control others and abuse their power.

Follow the money.

It may just reveal the misuse of public funds.

As stated by the California Attorney General,

“Public funds may not be used for personal purposes.

The starting point for any analysis concerning the misuse of public funds begins with the principle that public funds must be expended for an authorized public purpose. An expenditure is made for a public purpose when its purpose is to benefit the public interest rather than private individuals or private purposes.

Once a public purpose is established, the expenditure must still be authorized. A public official possesses only those powers that are conferred by law, either expressly or impliedly.

The California Constitution and a variety of state statutes make it clear that public funds may not be expended for purposes that are primarily personal. Such expenditures are neither for a public purpose nor are they authorized.

The prohibition against using public funds for personal purposes does not mean that no personal benefit may result from an expenditure of public funds.

For example, the payment of a public employee’s salary confers a personal benefit on the employee, but it is an appropriate expenditure of public funds because it is procuring the services of the employee for public purposes.

The misuse of public funds occurs when the personal benefit conferred by a public expenditure is not merely incidental. The term “public funds” is not limited to money, but includes anything of value belonging to a public agency such as equipment, supplies, compensated staff time, and use of telephones, computers, and fax machines and other equipment and resources.

Examples of Misuse of Public Funds
1.In People v. Dillon, a city commissioner used official government discounts to purchase items for himself and others. This was a misuse of public funds, even though those receiving the discount paid for the items with personal funds.
2.In People v. Sperl, a county marshal furnished a deputy marshal and a county vehicle to transport a political candidate, his staff and family.
3.In People v. Battin, a county supervisor used his county compensated staff to work on his political campaign for Lieutenant Governor.
4.In People v. Harby, a city official used a city car, entrusted to him for use in connection with official business, to take a pleasure trip from Los Angeles to Great Falls, Montana and back.

Violations of the laws prohibiting misuse of public funds may subject the violator to criminal and civil sanctions.

These penalties may include imprisonment for up to four years and a bar from holding office.” (See California Attorney General’s website, Misuse of Public Funds)

If Filner’s alleged improper credit card expenses were for personal use, he may face felony charges and, if found guilty, it will likely be the end of Filner’s political career.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read Huffington Post story on Filner’s questionable expenses.
Could Filner get arrested for assault & battery? Read my post Filner arrest or deal?.
Legal Analyst Michele Hagan on Los Angeles KVI talk station.