May 2011 Archives

Nick Cannon Understandably Baffled By CPS Investigation

May 30, 2011,

Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey just welcomed twin babies into their lives. But, according to Nick Cannon - Baffled Nick Cannon Didn't Trust Child Protective Services Official At Hospital, CPS was the first paparrazzi to want to take a look.

Apparently someone reported that Mariah Carey was drinking alcohol and using drugs while pregnant so CPS thought it should investigate. Apparently you only need a CPS badge and an anonymous tip to violate anyone's privacy-- even that of the rich and famous! So in light of the fact that the information was totally bogus, Cannon was suspicious of the CPS worker's intentions.

After scrutinizing the CPS worker's badges and contacting lawyers, Cannon realized this was the real deal. Just like any old family falsely accused of child abuse, Cannon and Carey were investigated at the hospital. Yet, unlike most families wrongfully accused in this system, Cannon and Carey later got an apology.

It would be amazing if Cannon and Carey used their celebrity to highlight the absurdity of CPS's apparant unbridled chutzpah to show up in the delivery room and poke around whenever they see fit. In the case of this celebrity couple, one can only wonder why CPS was really there (or if they took a photo "for their file").

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Botox Mom Now Says It Was a Hoax; Didn't Inject 8 Year-Old Daughter

May 26, 2011,

According to ABC News Health's article Mom Who Said She Injected Her 8-Year-Old Daughter With Botox Fights to Keep Her Daughter, the mother accused of injecting her 8 year-old daughter with Botox states she made the whole story up for money. A week after Child Protective Services (CPS) removed Upton's daughter from her home, this mom now says that the whole story was fabricated.

Many people were astonished when they heard about this mother who proudly declared that she injected her daughter with Botox in an effort to help her compete in child beauty pageants. The eight year-old claimed that her facial lines were a problem and that the cosmetic procedure helped her look prettier. CPS phone lines rang off the hook as people voiced outrage over this news story.

Now it appears the whole thing may have been a hoax. Ms. Upton claims she staged the injection scene and lied for money for the news story. As a result, Ms. Upton's daughter is now out of the home and CPS is still investigating.

When I initially read this story, my first thought was "how stupid." Even if she believed Botox helped her daughter compete in pageants, the extent of her efforts were inappropriate. But I have represented many parents who have made oddball and just plain dumb mistakes that led to CPS investigations that were remediated with some parenting instruction. Maybe this mom just got caught up or was living vicariously through her daughter. While this case was extreme, we all know parents who have unfortunately pushed a kid too hard to do something the parents always wanted to do- be it a sport, an academic pursuit or even a career. Maybe, I thought, this mom just wasn't very bright and was influenced by the madness of pageant people.

Now I'm not sure. If Upton did make up this story for the money, what was she thinking? Of course CPS would end up investigating these claims. Upton took a great, great risk in participating in this hoax and exposed her child to this embarassing ordeal. The financial motivation may offend many but doesn't particularly offend me in light of the graphic and horrific exploitation that takes placed with children around the world. Upton's exploitation of her kid for money is comparatively benign but dumb nonetheless, if this was all a hoax.

But the criminal defense attorney in me really wonders if the "hoax" claim is too made up. Now that Upton knows how offended everybody is over Botoxing an 8 year-old, a hoax claim may be her best defense.

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SCOTUS: California Must Release More Than 1/4 of Prisoners

May 23, 2011,

California must address its overcrowding crisis by releasing over 1/4 of its prison imnate population, according to the Los Angeles' Times Supreme Court orders California to release tens of thousands of prison inmates. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy, the SCOTUS has upheld a federal court order that called for releasing 38,000 to 46,000 prisoners. It was one of the largest prison release orders in the nation's history.

The conditions in California prisons are abysmal (and the losing "war on drugs" has only compounded this problem). Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that California's prisons had "fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements" because of overcrowding, resulting in conditions in which as many as 200 prisoners may live in gymnasium and as many as 54 prisoners share a single toilet. This overcrowding has caused inmate suffering and death. California responded to the federal court ruling by moving some prison inmates to county facilties but are still over the allowed numbers.

The dissent criticized the opinion and claimed the federal court did not have the power to order the states to release the inmates. The dissent also claimed that, basically, bad things will happen with felons on the streets. Scary picture, right?

Actually, not right. As most criminal defense attorneys knows and according to DrugWarFacts.Org, sentencing and release policies, not crime rates, determine the numbers of persons in prison. In the period from 1991-1998, California had a 44% rise in its incarceration rate with a 36% drop in crime rates. This is a result of the failed war on drugs.

Let's stop wasting taxpayer money on a useless war on drugs and in funding the prison industrial complex. Sorry, prison guard unions, the SCOTUS has spoken.

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Court of Appeal Addresses O.C. D.A.'s Hiding Exculpatory Evidence

May 22, 2011,

According to the Orange County Register's article, Court considers censuring D.A. in 'enemies' list case, the state Court of Appeal will soon decide whether the Orange County District Attorney's Office should be censured for what appears to be prosecutorial misconduct in a case where indicted ex-Capistrano Unified administrator Susan McGill went before the grand jury for her purported role in the creation of political "enemies" lists of district parents. Ms. McGill's sole charge of lying to a grand jury under oath may also be dismissed as the Court tentatively ruled that the D.A. withheld exonerating evidence.

Ms. McGill testified in 2006 before the grand jury that she had no idea how the lists were used after they were obtained. The appeals court said prosecutors appeared to have "deliberately tried to mislead this court" when they withheld the fact that another Capistrano Unified official at the time told investigators that he prepared the lists and gave themn to the former Superintendant. This was exonerating evidence because it tended to show that Ms. McGill may have not prepared the memo that became the basis of her charge.

The D.A.'s office has countered that the Court of Appeals appears to "misunderstand" what they believe Ms. McGill did. Yet, the D.A.'s office has maintained they were unaware of this evidence, despite an obligation under law to present it.

The Appeal's Court's final ruling is pending.

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Los Angeles County Supervisors Take Over Child Protective Services and Probation Departments

May 18, 2011,

After years of federal oversight, Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services Department and Probation Departments failed to improve the quality of services they provide to the children and families. As a result, yesterday, the Supervisors voted to take over the departments, according to the Times' L.A. County supervisors take control of child services, probation departments. These departments will now be under the direct oversight of the county board.

Attorneys who practice child welfare and juvenile delinquency law in Los Angeles County witness the problems in these departments first-hand. Players in the system refuse to collaborate, view families and parents as adversaries, and then fail to keep kids safe in out-of-home care or in juvenile detention facilities. The system that sweeps children out of their parents' homes does no better raising them with inadequate resources, supervision and care. The result is a culture of institutionalization and one that leaves many children no better off than they were before their came in contact with the people who are charged with helping them. In some cases children face a fate far worse, even death.

How the Supervisors will change administration of these agencies is to be seen. In 2010, as many as 41 children died who has some DCFS history, according to an April report discussed in the Press Telegram's article, Report: Los Angeles County child abuse deaths are on decline. This author of the report opined that, "There is no trend that says whether you keep them at home or you bring them to foster care, the kid's going to be safe. The data doesn't substantiate any of that."

The report fails to address that children are sometimes needless removed from their family's home and placed in foster care, which adds additional trauma. Hopefully, changes in the administration of DCFS services will address this issue as well as the unacceptable rates of child deaths of kids in DCFS care.

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California Criminal Expungements On The Rise in 2011

May 5, 2011,

According to SF Gate's, California criminal expungement petitions see a massive increase due to continuing harsh job market, expungements in California have risen over 200% in the past year. Individuals seeking expungement under Penal Code Section 1203.4 have convictions of all types and are accessing the statutory relief in droves. Types of "expungements" available in California include criminal expungement for all types of convictions, juvenile criminal record expungement, certificate of rehabilitation, arrest record sealing, and early termination of probation services.

In light of the highly competitive job market caused by the economic downturn, many people are hoping to improve their chances of getting a job after cleaning up their record. Fortunately, there are many options to cleaning up one's criminal history in California. While there is a plethora of information about how to "do it yourself" on the internet, California criminal defense attorneys sometimes encounter complicated scenarios that need cleaning up: multiple convictions, convictions needing to be set aside in the interest of justice, or claims that defendants were not advised of immigration consequences by their attorney priot to having entered the plea, in light of the SCOTUS's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky.

Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense attorney can tailor the appropriate motions to an individual's situation and sometimes even appear for the client, avoiding further loss of wages from missed work. I encourage anyone with a criminal conviction to at least investigate the type of relief that s/he may be entitled to in California. If relief is available, there is little reason not to avail one's self of it.

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Interim Director of Los Angeles County's DCFS Resigns, No Applicants In The Running

May 3, 2011,

Last week the interim director of Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the agency responsible for child welfare for the county, resigned, according to The Daily News article, Acting head of DCFS resigns, lone candidate for job withdraws. Meanwhile the only other applicant for the job has dropped out of the race. L.A. paper, the Daily Breeze reports the interim director resigned in defiance of the County Supervisors, in Acting DCFS head resigns in defiance of supervisors.

It appears that the DCFS, an agency with a troubled history for children being seriously injured and dying in foster care, is having a difficult time finding a new director to take over. Former interim director, Antonia Jimenez, apparently resigned after refusing to sign an agreement with the Board of Supervisors to agree to cooperate with a new unit created to investigate abuses, neglect and death of children in the care of DCFS. This new unit, the Children's Special Investigation Unit, will report directly to the Board. (A description of the lead attorney position for this unit can be found HERE.)

According to the Supervisors, Jimenez was the only holdout of the nine other departments who signed the agreement. I appears the culture of secrecy and silence is alive and well within DCFS. Jimenez offered only one possible replacement to the Board and the Board chose not to offer him the position.

According to Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, Los Angeles' DCFS has had six permanent and acting directors over the past 15 years. When the county will find a replacement to take on the challenge of reforming this huge mess of a department, and who will assume that task, is to be seen.

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