Thursday, September 23, 2010

Legal Roundup

From the Times:

A former drug-and-alcohol-intervention specialist at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School was convicted Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, four counts of distribution of oxycodone and one count of possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, according to the U.S Attorney's Office.

None of the drug sales involved students.

On one occasion, Smith allegedly left Rainier High School during school hours to meet the informant two blocks away to make a drug deal, according to the indictment.

Smith faces up to 20 years in prison for each count when he is sentenced on Jan. 6.

From the Times:

A paralegal for Seattle Public Schools is expected to be charged this week for allegedly selling crack cocaine to an informant working for Seattle police.

It appears that the transactions occurred away from any school district building.

The police report did not say whether Bryant is believed to have been selling drugs to students. Authorities say that Bryant went by the street name "Teach."

That's a pretty disrespectful thing to call yourself given where he works but maybe he thought it was hilarious.

He is on paid administrative leave with the district.

From KUOW on the School Board recall case:

The latest attempt to recall a majority of the Seattle School Board from office failed Tuesday. A judge in King County Superior Court says parents who filed the recall petition did not have sufficient grounds.

Michael DeBell said this:

DeBell: "Litigation and recall and so on uses up district resources that otherwise could be spent in the classroom. And I would encourage the community members who are unsatisfied with the direction of the school district to use the democratic means."

Really? The district is just paying out almost $1M for a sexual harassment/retaliation case and he's whining about these legal fees? Also, isn't going to court part of our democratic process? (This is a major reaction that I hate. "If you don't like it, run yourself." or "Wait for the next election and vote them out." Both are true but pat answers. Also, tick tock, where is the Board's response to their part in the state audit? Oh, it's okay if they just say "we'll do better." Good to know.)

The judge said something different.

The judge commended parents who filed the recall. He said they participated in a process that's legally complicated. One of the parents was there for the ruling. She said she had not understood the recall process in the beginning. She agreed her petition did not have what the court calls legal or factual sufficiency.

The plaintiffs will not appeal. What is odd here is that the only citation I can pull up is from KUOW. No Times? No Publicola? Hmmm.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

DeBell's comment misses an extremely important point about democracy. He says that parents should use the democratic means instead of the recall process. But actually, the recall process is a fundamentally democratic one. It protects our rights to have public officials who will be accountable to us.

Also, I would be curious to know what does constitute sufficient grounds for a recall.

-DemocracyMom

Chris said...

Oh Mr. DeBell, ...I am sooooooo disappointed in you. I saw lots of democratic process in your coffee hours but you did SQUAT.

Rosie said...

Filling up the courts with matters that have no chance of success doesn't sound like democracy -- it sounds like a waste of lots of time and money.

From a constitutional perspective, the courts are actually highly anti-democratic. They protect from "the tyranny of the majority," meaning that the majority passes a law and the courts say they can't enforce it.

I agree that in theory, recalls are highly democratic. But in practice, it's not a tool to be messed around with. The judge said things nicely, but frankly, what business does a person have bringing suit who admits "She said she had not understood the recall process in the beginning. She agreed her petition did not have what the court calls legal or factual sufficiency."

If you have a case, use the courts. But when you haven't even taken the time to understand the process, or hired an attorney who will help you do so, you're wasting our collective money by forcing the courts to spend time on them. Courts are over-crowded already, so adding useless cases to the docket also delays the time that legitimate lawsuits get heard.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Democracy Mom,

Our recall attempt to recall each of five directors failed on several points:

(1) We did not show that a director had violated a specific law or policy for one.

(2) The Court system has precedents in place from Supreme Court rulings that change the law from what one might believe it to be from reading it into something else.

Violations of the Open Public Meetings Act are thought to be trivial in a recall case and always dismissed.

Although the Recall law makes no mention of intent, the court sees intent as a major factor.

Violation of School Board policies also seems to be a trivial matter in most cases.

Look for a much stronger Recall case soon against some SPS directors.

It will center on the non-trivial matter of the award of an $800,000 contract without competitive bidding and without satisfying either state law or school board policy to allow a non-competitive bidding situation.

We will name laws and policies violated and show that each director named clearly voted for a contract without a competitive bid process and that they had or should have had sufficient knowledge to know that this process was not legal because none of the requirements for exemption from the competitive bid process were in place.

An illegal award of an $800,000 contract is clearly not trivial matter.

Several of us believe in using the legal tools available to us in an attempt to stop clearly illegal behavior.

If we lose this one, it may be worth a WA Supreme Court appeal.

Director DeBell would not need to worry about these kinds of legal actions if the Board would:

(1) Supervise the Superintendent as in they are Directors so direct the Superintendent. (Why is anyone still subject to listening to MGJ's malarkey on the Southeast Education Initiative? Why the rubber-stamping of 98% of her proposals?)

(2) Follow State Laws and School Board policies.

-- Dan

dan dempsey said...

Dear Rosie,

There is no requirement to use a lawyer for a recall action. In fact the wording of the Recall law describes a very simple process. Thanks to bringing this recall action many of us have a much better understanding of the way that this law is applied, which is not evident when reading the law.

You should also be aware that the prosecutor's office also does an initial screening for sufficiency before a recall moves to Superior Court. This screens out some recall filings that will certainly be dismissed before the District has need to hire a lawyer.

Stayed tuned for the next recall filing.

-- Dan

Exagni said...

Rosie: I am an attorney too, and while I think some of your points are good, I think you are too critical. Dan (and others) spent a great deal of time and attorneys' fees filing the suit on the adoption of Discovery Math (which they won -- and which the District elected to spend a great deal of money challenging that have could been saved had the Board just reopened their decision, looked at the evidence, and made an EVIDENCE based decision, rather than an arbitrary and capricious one).
The recall petition sounds like it was the equivalent of a pro se matter. While no litigator likes litigating against pro se parties, because things are often done/allowed that an attorney couldn't get away with -- pro se access to the courts is available, and the government should expect that citizens will use it if those who govern consistently refuse to listen to their constituents or to act in accordance with what citizens understand to be the law. When is the last time you remember a recall petition in Seattle being filed against School Board members? Right! Me either!

Finally, while I haven't agreed with all the legal actions Dan has taken, it is not at all clear to me that a recall petition against certain members of this Board "has no chance of success [and/or] is a waste of money." And if you are referring to other lawsuits Dan has filed, well, I agree with Dan and Judge Inveen that the Discovery Math decision was, in fact, arbitrary and capricious (indeed, had the Court been required to delve into the sordid tale of how the District's curriculum adoption committees are stacked and manipulated to arrive at "cooked" results, which she didn't have to review because, astonishingly, none of the Board members relied upon that! -- she might have found a lot more arbitrariness and capriciousness.)

But -- I do think that filing repeated suits that are poorly pleaded or ultimately unsuccessful (and Dan is NOT there yet) would begin to "wear" on the reputations of those bringing the suits (sort of like how people react - pro or con - when Tim Eyman files "another initiative.")

On the other hand, in Dan's case, I think that already those members of the Board who have no intention, ever, of disagreeing with or voting against anything MGJ wants have started to pay more attention to how unseemly their behavior has been and have started to at least go through the motions of acting like a governing body. And it is my hope that perhaps one or two (we need two!) may have taken to heart the substance of what they are hearing, and have actually examined what has been (in my opinion) their less than adequate performance in governing the District and representing its taxpayers, parents, and children over the last three years.

dan dempsey said...

Here is the brief from Lawrence B. Ransom of Karr, Tuttle, Campbell, which provides an excellent view of the reasons that the attempted recall of "Five Directors" lacked sufficiency.

Here is the current draft state of our next recall action, which hopefully corrects for the deficiencies noted by Mr. Ransom in our earlier attempted recall.

In the present Recall draft we focus on a major violation of state law by four school directors, the approval of an $800,000 contract without a competitive bid process. None of the actions to seek an exemption from the competitive bid process were undertaken. The Directors Carr, Sundquist, Martin-Morris, and Maier just made a commitment for paying $800,000 to NTN, without meeting the legal requirements that would enable them do so.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Xagni,

Does the above look better?