Santa Clara County courts: Now providing legal representation in misdemeanor court to anyone who can’t afford their own

A couple of years ago, it was common to hear of Santa Clara County indigent community members tell us they plead guilty to a misdemeanor at arraignment. Since the Public Defender’s office didn’t staff all arraignment courts, many took a plea without consulting an attorney. Many would pay the consequences of their uninformed decision after the fact in terms of jobs, housing, and immigration. We still remember going to meet with Jeff Adachi in San Francisco, and being stunned at the differences of services offered for public defender clients who faced misdemeanor charges. The main difference being ofcourse that in San Francisco people could consult with an attorney at arraignment, and in Santa Clara County, they were denied that right. De-Bug’s ACJP and other members of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability met with the Public Defender’s office about this discrepancy in 2010. Very excited to see now that the Santa Clara Public Defender’s Office will staff all arraignments!

By Tracey Kaplan for the Mercury News: Ending an era in which criminal defendants’ constitutional rights were routinely jeopardized, Santa Clara County will now offer legal representation to anyone who can’t afford an attorney at their initial court appearance.

The reform, which begins next week, brings the local judicial system in line with the majority of other California counties — including San Mateo and San Francisco — that have long staffed misdemeanor arraignments, a defendant’s first court appearance. A 2009 Mercury News investigation prompted the county to provide representation for defendants in custody. Now that right will apply to all defendants accused of misdemeanors. Continue reading

LaDoris Cordell: San Jose Should Outfit Police Officers with Cameras


Judge LaDoris Cordell San Jose Independent Police Auditor

Police Chief Chris Moore,  the City Council, and the mayor, are all in agreement with getting the  San Jose Police Department outfitted with cameras.  We have the funds to purchase the cameras,  and San Jose should take the next step and do it.  This would help stop the fraudulent police reports, unnecessary use of force, and restore the trust back in the community which is long over do. Read the position by Judge Ladoris Cordell, San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor.  Submission Post by Gail Noble

By LaDoris Cordell: Special to the Mercury News — Thursday morning saw San Jose’s eighth officer involved shooting this year, the fourth to end in a fatality.  The  circumstances of the  shooting are under investigation by the San Jose Police Department.  Undoubtedly, there will be a review and an assessment by the district attorney;  and because a member of  the  public registered a concern about the shooting with us, the Office of the Independent Police Auditor will ensure that the investigation into the question of whether or not there was any police misconduct is fair, thorough and objective.

But already, the finger-point has begun.  The officer’s version of the incident has the deceased  in a bedroom brandishing a gun at the officer;  and the civilian witness’s version has the officer shooting at an unarmed man in his bedroom.  This “he-said, she said” response is nothing new.  It happens all the time when there are controversial police incidents;  in most instances, the final determination whatever it is, leaves one side or the other dissatisfied.  If the officer is absolved of any misconduct and the shooting deemed justified, a public outcry ensues with shout of biased policing, frequently emanating from communities of color.  If the officer is deemed to have violated department policy, police officers and their multitude of supporters in the community express their outrage.  And what we all end up with is a city divided by anger and mistrust.

Sisters That Been There: New Women’s Peer Mentorship Program Offers Innovative Alternative to Incarceration

Steeda McGruder, Founder of Sisters That Been There

At a forum on realignment towards the end of 2011, our very own Steeda McGruder blew away the audience as she described how the strength and encouragement she found from other women while incarcerated is what allowed her to transform her life, and break a cycle of incarceration. She had a dream of working with incarcerated women to help them turn their lives around. Just months later, Steeda is running a ground-breaking new program in Santa Clara County in collaboration with probation. Check out her story!

By Steeda McGruder — Below is a letter I wrote and handed out to all the women participating in my new program called Sisters That Been There – a support group for women being released from prison and returning to Santa Clara County, done in partnership with the Santa Clara County Probation Department. Continue reading

San Jose Mercury News: Warrant Needed For GPS Tracking, High Court Says

In October 2010, local San Jose student Yasir Afifi found out that the FBI was secretly tracking him when he discovered a GPS device in his car.  It turned out he was being investigated for about 3-6 months for terrorist activities, all of which he completely denied.  On Monday, January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that this kind of investigation was illegal, and police can’t track suspects by installing GPS technology without first obtaining a warrant. As Professor Donald Tibbs from Drexel University says, “The Supreme Court’s decision is an important one because it sends a message that technological advances cannot outpace the American Constitution.”  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

Warrant needed for GPS tracking, high court says

By JESSE J. HOLLAND and PETE YOST Associated Press
AP Photo/ Photo by PAUL SAKUMA
Posted: 01/23/2012 07:30:10 AM PST
Updated: 01/23/2012 06:43:42 PM PST
WASHINGTON—In a rare defeat for law enforcement, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed on Monday to bar police from installing GPS technology to track suspects without first getting a judge’s approval. The justices made clear it wouldn’t be their final word on increasingly advanced high-tech surveillance of Americans.
Indicating they will be monitoring the growing use of such technology, five justices said they could see constitutional and privacy problems with police using many kinds of electronic surveillance for long-term tracking of citizens’ movements without warrants.
While the justices differed on legal rationales, their unanimous outcome was an unusual setback for government and police agencies grown accustomed to being given leeway in investigations in post-Sept. 11 America, including by the Supreme Court. The views of at least the five justices raised the possibility of new hurdles down the road for police who want to use high-tech surveillance of suspects, including various types of GPS technology.

Cop Punches Woman: Bus Passenger Tapes LA Sheriff’s Deputy Hitting Rider(Shocking Video)

January 12, 2012

Updated at the bottom: Sheriff’s officials try to justify the use of force.

LA Weekly Report

This video speaks for its self, the officer has no perception of what it means to be a Peace Officer.  It appears he is the one with mental health issues.

Fear did not take the place of justice, Jermaine was not intimidated by the officer’s command and threats to hand over his camera phone.  One person can make a difference.  Stand against Police Misconduct.  Submission Post by Gail Noble

A passenger on a bus recorded a Los Angeles cop punching a woman in the face who apparently hadn’t been violent while the camera rolled.

Jermaine Green, the man who taped the Monday night incident in Bellflower, told NBC LA that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who struck the woman threatened to arrest him if he didn’t hand over his camera phone.

The woman brought a stroller laden with pillows on to the bus and Green described her as having “special needs.” Two deputies allegedly boarded the bus at the next stop and confronted the lady, who began cursing at them, according to Green’s retelling. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Albert! We Are Honored to Continue Your Vision

Albert at his graduation from San Jose State University.

Today is the birthday of one of our community heroes Albert Cobarrubias — who we named this project after. Albert was a dedicated co-founder of our work, and we named the work in his honor after his passing in 2010. We did so because we know Albert continues to fight for the community, and so every time the community takes a step forward in the fight for justice, we call his name. Love you and miss you brother.

Becky Cardenas started the first ACJP in Albert’s neighborhood in East San Jose, something we know Albert is proud of, here is her birthday wishes.
Happy Birthday Albert! He was a young hard working father and law student whom I met during a difficult time in my life, whom also became San Jose’s 1st homicide in 2010. In his rememberance I am proud to be part of an awesome team and facilitate the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project in East Side San Jose, a community and advocacy project that assists individuals and families who have encountered the criminal justice system. Together we carry on the dream! God bless you, Albert! He introduced me to Silicon Valley-De-Bug whom as become a family to me!

Words from Albert — this was piece of a larger essay Albert wrote while applying for law school:
I was raised by my grandparents because my mother was only 15 years old when she had me. I soon became the focus of my entire family and everyone from aunts to uncles to cousins wanted to help out with raising me. As I grew up my grandmother became one of my biggest inspirations. She was a nurse for 25 years and taught me a lot about perseverance and commitment. It meant the world to her when I graduated from San Jose State because I am the only male and only the second person in my whole family to graduate from a 4 year college. At my San Jose State graduation her present to me was a promise that she would still be alive to be at my graduation from law school. She is now 80 years old and is in failing health. In my mind, that promise was the best present ever given to me.

Healthy Cal: Fewer Youth in State Detention After Juvenile Realignment

The results of juvenile realignment forced our state to think more creatively and compassionately about juvenile offenders.  As a result, according to this article, the youth prison population went down 88% in the last 10 years.  Hoping the same results happen through the jails realignment.  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

Fewer youth in state detention after juvenile realignment

Published: January 9, 2012

By Callie Shanafelt, California Health Report

Michael Bryant has been in and out of Juvenile Hall in Santa Cruz since he was 13 years old, when he started drinking alcohol everyday. Now 17, Bryant is doing time in a treatment center after plea-bargaining on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

Some counties would have viewed this crime as a second strike and sent Bryant to a state facility. But Santa Cruz rarely sends youth to the state for supervision. In part, that’s because the county is a participant in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Continue reading

Commemorative Poster Art for De-Bug’s Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project

Click image to see high resolution poster by Doug Minkler and Aram James

De-Bug’s Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP), we often hear families say they feel “lost” when they first find out a loved one is facing criminal charges. There is a deep resolve to assist, but a lack of direction of how. At the ACJP, through the community built with other families walking along a similar journey – they find their way. In that regard, ACJP is that compass a family creates to move collectively towards the justice they seek. Continue reading