Access to Justice


Audit Vindicates PUC Intervenor Compensation Program

By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California

The California State Auditor’s has reported that the Public Utilities Commission’s Intervenor Compensation Program “has generally awarded compensation to intervenors – individuals and groups that represent the interests of utility ratepayers – in accordance with state law.”

The audit report - long awaited by consumer groups and utility corporations - surely dismays AT&T, Verizon and PG&E. The Intervenor Compensation Program provides consumers an effective voice before state regulators when for-profit gas, electric, telecommunications or water utilities seek unwarranted rate hikes, or rules that harm residential ratepayers.

Justice in California: Raising Victims' Voices

By Lizzie Buchen

Flipping through this year's proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims' rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU's dominance in the media and in Sacramento, a new survey reveals that the group does not represent the majority of crime victims - who they are, what they need, or how they think about public safety.

Bradley Manning is Guilty of "Aiding the Enemy" - if the Enemy is Democracy

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious - and revealing - is "aiding the enemy."

A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, raised a pair of big questions that now loom over the courtroom at Fort Meade and over the entire country:

  • "Would it aid the enemy, for example, to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government?"
  • "In that case, who is aiding the enemy - the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?"

When the deceptive operation of the warfare state can't stand the light of day, truth-tellers are a constant hazard. And culpability must stay turned on its head.

Cracking the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Anthony Asadullah Samad

There has been another raging discussion taking place over the past couple months, that of the school-to-prison pipeline. How many different ways can we say that the absence of investment in America's intellectual capital causes - even promotes - devastating social consequences? And how many different ways can we assess the racial consequences of misapplied forms of social control? No, there are no more "whites only" or "colored only" signs, which causes society to suggest that we are a more racially homogenous society. Yes, we do come together on some levels today. But the most common way in which we come together is on anti-intellectual levels.

Fixing California's Mass Incarceration Mess

By Dick Price

As California grapples with a prison system so broken that the U.S. Supreme Court has mandated reductions in the number of prisoners it holds, the three-part "Smart Justice: Rethinking Public Safety in California" discussion begun this past week at the University of Southern California is examining both consequences and possible solutions to the state's mass incarceration mess.

Prop 8 Likely to Be Repealed Narrowly; Court to Hear DOMA Today

By Paul Hogarth

It is never wise to predict U.S. Supreme Court decisions on oral arguments, or else Obamacare would have been repealed. Based on the Justices' line of questioning, however, it appears that they will overrule Proposition 8 - but on narrow grounds that will only affect California. The Justices spent a significant chunk of time on "standing," but they will likely consider the Prop 8 supporters as proper litigants. But Justices Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts had clear problems with finding a "right" to same-sex marriage that would apply nationwide - and the "nine-state" compromise was widely panned. I predict they will rule Prop 8 unconstitutional by applying the Romer precedent and sustaining the Ninth Circuit decision, i.e., Prop 8 was unique because it "took away" a right that same-sex couples already had.

The Atrophied Conscience of Apartheid America

By Mark Naison

Little by little, we have created an apartheid nation, a place where a profound spatial and moral divisions separate the lives of the privileged and the unfortunate. The boundaries are not strictly racial - though those on the lower side of the divide are overwhelmingly people of color - nor are they marked by gates and walls and fences. Rather, they are enforced by a complex set of codes followed by law enforcement authorities who have acquired immense power to assure public safety since the imposition of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, powers that have effectively prevented the poor from doing anything to prevent their marginalization, and which have given wealthy elites virtually immunity from threats to their well being coming either from political action, mass protest or street crime.

After Delay, Ammiano Arrives Today at Pelican Bay

By Dan Aiello

After more than two months delay, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety, arrives today at one of California's Maximum Security correctional facilities to see for himself the progress the State's prison system is making to address concerns of judges and reform advocates for the care of incarcerated Californians.

Earlier this year Ammiano likened California's 33 prisons to "Gladiator Academies," where Californians incarcerated for homelessness, victimless crimes like drug possession and those with mental illness must choose between "being victimized or victimizing others."

For Real Prison Reform, Longer is Not Always Better

By Lizzie Buchen

Last week, while defiantly declaring the end of California's prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown insisted further reductions in prison overcrowding "cannot be achieved without the early release of inmates serving time for serious or violent felonies," a move that would "jeopardize public safety." In other words, now that Realignment is sending low-level offenders to local custody instead of state prison, those who remain in prison need to stay there to protect the public.

This unfounded assumption is used to justify a large and growing mass of the state's unnecessary incarceration. Most serious and violent offenders do need to serve some time behind bars to protect the public, but we keep them there for far too long. And the terms are only getting longer. If California wants a sustainable solution to its prison crisis, it needs to rethink its increasingly harsh sentencing policies across the gamut of offenses - not just the low-level targets of Realignment and Prop 36.

Ammiano Seeks New Moral Compass for California's "Failed" Prisons

By Dan Aiello

In the wake of California's election last month where voters passed two propositions aimed at reducing the number of inmates in California's overcrowded prison system, the State Assembly's Safety Committee Chair says he will introduce major prison reform this session targeting a correctional system failure rate that persists as the highest recidivism rate in the nation.

"With voters approving both propositions 30 and 36, I believe we are in a position to achieve significant prison reform to reduce our failure rate and begin decreasing our prison population," San Francisco Democrat Assembly member Tom Ammiano told the California Progress Report recently.