John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
By my count, it will be day 5 of the racial profiling, I-5 traffic stop evidentiary hearing in U.S. v. Sanchez-Palomino, see9/10/10 post for full details, this Friday, 10/1/10, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge England.
In an opinion piece in today's Washington Post, 9/28/10, AG Eric Holder stumps to break the logjam for Senate confirmation of federal judges, including EDCA nominee judge Kimberly Mueller:
Today, 23 judicial nominees -- honest and qualified men and women eager to serve the cause of justice -- are enduring long delays while awaiting up-or-down votes, even though 16 of them received unanimous bipartisan approval in the Judiciary Committee. The confirmation process is so twisted in knots that we are losing ground -- there are more vacancies today than when President Obama took office. The men and women whose confirmations have been delayed have received high marks from the nonpartisan American Bar Association, have the support of their home-state senators (including Republicans), and have received little or no opposition in committee. These outstanding lawyers and jurists deserve better, as do litigants who bring cases to increasingly understaffed courts.
In the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento, there are 1,097 cases filed per judge annually. Six months ago, the president nominated California Judge Kimberly Muellerto help relieve that workload. Judge Mueller is a distinguished jurist with seven years' experience as a magistrate judge, a unanimous rating of well qualified from the American Bar Association and the unanimous backing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yet she has still not been confirmed.
SecondClassJustice.com is about ending the unfair and discriminatory treatment of people in the criminal justice system by documenting that treatment. Contrary to the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws and the etching “Equal Justice Under Law” on the Supreme Court building, the kind of justice people get in America’s courts depends very much upon the amount of money they have. Poor people are deprived of their liberty – and even their lives – because they cannot afford competent legal representation.
Iosif Caza, an interpreter who insists he was caught up in zeal to help fellow Romanians escape persecution in their homeland, was sentenced Monday in Sacramento federal court to 7 1/2 years in prison for helping dupe authorities into granting scores of bids for asylum based on false documents and testimony.
Caza, 44, worked with attorneys at a now-defunct Sacramento law firm, three of whom were sentenced to prison Friday. He, like two of the lawyers, was taken into custody immediately.
The years-long fraud sent shock waves through the government's immigration apparatus. The Department of Homeland Security is working to correct the flaws in the asylum system exposed by the investigation and prosecution, while at the same time reviewing a mountain of cases that were handled by the Sekhon & Sekhon law firm to determine whether they will be reopened.
"When the asylum process is corrupted by cheating and lying, that cuts to the heart of what this country is about," said U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. in imposing Caza's sentence.
The judge was angry about Caza's view of himself as a savior of his people, especially as he expressed that view in a Bee article published Friday.
"We don't need heroes like him," the judge told Caza and his lawyer, Assistant Federal Defender Timothy Zindel.
* * *
Early in the Caza hearing, which began late Friday and was continued to Monday, Damrell demanded that Caza tell him whether he was misquoted. But, when Caza started to speak, Zindel stopped him.
"Let him answer," Damrell ordered. "I want to know if he was misquoted."
"I'm doing the talking for Mr. Caza today," Zindel said evenly.
California's Voter Registration Deadline is October 18, 2010. You can print out an application here, California Voter Registration Site, complete, sign, and mail it in. It's that easy.
It's a common misconception that all persons who have been convicted of a felony or are in jail lose their right to vote. Although the rules vary from state to state, in California persons convicted of a felony can still vote unless they are incarcerated or on parole. See A Voting Guide For Currently or Formerly Incarcerated Californians. That means you can vote even if you have been convicted of a felony, if you
*Are in a local jail as a result of a misdemeanor conviction;
*Are awaiting trial or are currently on trial and have not yet been convicted of a crime;
*Have completed parole for a felony conviction; or
* Are on probation.
There's a lot at stake on November 2. If you don't vote, don't complain!
In a grueling seven-hour hearing Friday in Sacramento federal court, three attorneys were sentenced to prison for engineering a scheme that gained scores of immigrants asylum in the United States based on false documents.
Jagprit Singh Sekhon, 39, a partner with his brother in a now-defunct Sacramento firm that specialized in immigration law, was sentenced to nine years.
Jagdip Singh Sekhon, 42, who ran the San Francisco office of Sekhon & Sekhon, was sentenced to five years.
Manjit Kaur Rai, 33, an associate in the firm, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years.
U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ordered the Sekhons taken into custody. He directed Rai to surrender Oct. 15, giving her time to arrange a move of her 5-year-old son to Canada, where he will live with her parents.
Luciana Harmath, 29, who worked for the firm as a Romanian interpreter, was sentenced in June to four months in prison.
The sentencing of Romanian interpreter Iosif Caza, 43, was not completed and will resume Monday.
All five defendants were found guilty by a jury on June 25, 2009, at the conclusion of a 3 1/2-month trial. . . . .
[U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner] said immigration officials are reviewing hundreds of asylum cases that emanated from the Sekhon firm to determine if they will be reopened. The firm's clients were primarily from India and Romania. It also filed claims on behalf of Fijian and Nepali nationals.
A 330-pound ex-prizefighter sporting ruffled shirts and a well-groomed beard and moustache, Iosif Caza is the public face of Sacramento's 20,000-member Romanian community.
Caza heads the Romanian American Chamber of Commerce and the Romanian Cultural Center and recently hosted a Romanian American festival at Cesar Chavez Park.
But he's more famous in Romania, where the leading newspaper called him "The Biggest Human Trafficker in the U.S.," Caza told The Bee.
Today, Caza is due to trade in his tailored threads for an orange jailhouse jumpsuit – federal prosecutors expect him to be sentenced to nine years for his key role in one of the most brazen asylum fraud scams in U.S. history.
Caza was the chief interpreter and rainmaker for the Sekhon & Sekhon law firm, which boasted a 95 percent success rate in getting clients asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries.
Sacramento Bee, 9/24/10. Sentencing of Caza and the other Sekhon defendants is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. before Judge Damrell.
In the EDCA eco-terrorism prosecution, U.S. v. Eric McDavid, EDCA No. 06-0035-MCE, 9th Cir. No. 08-10250, the Ninth Circuit today affirmed McDavid's conviction and sentence, rejecting a variety of legal claims in an unpublished memorandum decision. See U.S. v. McDavid, 9/21/10.
[Added 9/22/10]: Defense attorney Mark Reichel said he will "absolutely" seek review of the decision by an 11-member circuit panel. "This is the biggest miscarriage of justice I could ever imagine," Reichel said. Sacramento Bee, 9/22/10.
The federal Department of Justice is reviewing whether there were any civil rights violations by the Bakersfield Police Department when two officers on July 9 shot to death a 15-year-old driver of a stolen car, police said Monday.
The inquiry was based on media reports that questioned whether Officers Timothy Berchtold and Noah Landers were too quick to shoot Traveon Avila after a short nighttime pursuit ended in the 1400 block of Windsor Street,, Police Chief Greg Williamson said. It was Berchtold's third fatal shooting in two months and all have been ruled justifiable, police reported.
FBI spokesman Steve Dupre said the review is to determine whether the Department of Justice wants to conduct a formal investigation of the incident. He said he did not know how long it might take the justice department to make that decision.