Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Month: August 2016

A Crisis of Corruption – Call to Action

A Crisis of Corruption – Call to Action

A broad coalition of local and state advocates are calling upon Governor Jerry Brown to issue an Executive Order directing Attorney General Kamala Harris to take jurisdiction and control over the investigations of all allegations arising out of the involvement of any member of a law enforcement agency with the rape victim identified as Celeste Guap.   

Public Safety Requires Public Trust 

SEX TRAFFICKINGWe find ourselves in the midst of a crisis in public safety. The very police officers that are charged to protect and serve the public have been exposed as engaging in a conspiracy of sex trafficking. For 8 months, local law enforcement and public officials hid this scandalous behavior from the court-appointed monitor in Oakland and the public, while taking no real action against the officers who violated the public trust.  Even today – 11 months later – there has not been a single prosecution of anyone for any violations of law.  Officers who have resigned voluntarily remain uncharged.  Certainly the list of possible offenses include statutory rape, assault with intent to commit rape, obstruction of justice, interference with a police investigation, perjury, just to name a few.

 

We believe the reason for the apparent lack of accountability under the law and to the public trust is that our local officials have a conflict of interest. Every District Attorney’s office, every City Attorney’s office and every County Counsel’s office works closely with local law enforcement on a day-to-day basis.  To ask or expect these law enforcement agencies to diligently investigate and prosecute their partner law enforcement agencies is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.  

The Call to Action

On September 1, 2016, we will issue a call to action to Governor Jerry Brown.  We believe that the alleged conduct of these law enforcement officers involves an abuse of power and a violation of the public trust that is best addressed by a single and independent law enforcement agency rather than each local law enforcement agency. Six different law enforcement agencies have been implicated to date.  What appears to a lack of communication between Oakland officials and other local law enforcement agencies is startling. It clearly suggests that our concerns about the human trafficking of our daughters, sons, sisters and brothers across county lines in the Bay Area are not being taken seriously.

 

Let us be clear that we understand that “Celeste Guap” is not the only victim of this type of police abuse, and we are not calling for increased criminalization of minors, women or men identified as sex workers in our communities. We understand and appreciate that minors and women engaged in sex work in our communities are extremely vulnerable to the abuse of power by our law enforcement agencies and that “blaming the victim” is not an appropriate response to our crisis.

 

We believe that upon direction by the Governor of California, our Attorney General has the authority to investigate, manage, interpret, prosecute or inquire about any alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers with “Celeste Guap.” We believe that the Attorney General’s independent investigation of this crisis in our communities is essential to restoring public trust in our law enforcement agencies. We believe that public trust is essential to public safety. We therefore call upon Governor Brown to exercise his authority under Article V, Section 13 of the California Constitution to ensure a comprehensive and independent coordinated investigation of these incidents.

The Signatories:

 

Attorney Pamela Y. Price, Political Education Chair, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter, Member Elect, Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee

Kathleen Sullivan, President, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter

Jerilyn Stapleton, President, California NOW

Cheryl Branch, President, CALIFIA NOW

Sarai Smith-Mazariegos, Co-Founder, MISSSEY, Founder, S.H.A.D.E. Project

Cat Brooks, Co-Founder, the Oakland Anti-Police Terror Project

Leigh Davenport, the Take Back Oakland Coalition

Freddye Davis, President, NAACP Hayward/South County Chapter

Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Executive Director, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area

Mike Katz-LaCabe, the Center for Human Rights and Privacy

Nola Brantley, Founder & Former Executive Director, MISSSEY

Ben Steinberg, Community Activist, Richmond California

Sign The Petition Calling for An Independent Investigation

A Crisis of Corruption: How Long Has It Been Like This!

SEX TRAFFICKINGA Crisis of Corruption: How Long Has it Been Like This!?! We are shocked by the recent news that police officers have engaged in sex trafficking of a teenager across 6 jurisdictions. In fact, the current crisis of corruption is the latest in a history of corruption within the Oakland Police Department. Here are a few examples.

From the Archives

Between 2006 and 2008, Oakland settled two lawsuits brought on behalf of Asian-American women targeted by Oakland police officer Richard Valerga. Officer Valerga would pull women over for traffic misdemeanors and hit on them. Most of the women were recent immigrants.  They included teenagers to women in their 40s.  In 2006, the City agreed to pay $190,000 to two Asian-American women.  In 2008 it agreed to pay an additional $2 million to 16 other Asian-American women targeted by Valerga. Officer Valerga was arrested and charged in 2005. His plea deal in 2006 got him three years probation and six months in jail.  Attorney John Burris who represented the plaintiffs called it “a slap on the hand.”

The Oliver Case

In July 2010, the Oakland City Council approved a $6.5 million settlement in a case which exposed the routine use of false or misleading information for  search warrants. There, the department’s own records allegedly showed that more than 57% of all search warrants in drug cases involving a confidential informant between 2001 and 2008 were based on false information. Eleven officers were fired. Most were later reinstated. Despite the large payout of our tax dollars, none of the officers accused of creating false police reports were ever prosecuted. Some of them still work for Oakland police.

The Amaro Case

In October 2011, Oakland agreed to pay $1.7 million to the family of Jerry Amaro. Oakland police beat Mr. Amaro while arresting him on suspicion of trying to buy drugs from undercover police officers. They broke five of his ribs and lacerated one of his lungs. He died a month later of pneumonia caused by his fractured ribs. None of the officers involved documented the use of force. His mother was told that her son “died in the street” following a gang dispute over drugs. None of the officers who were accused of concealing the beating by filing false police reports were ever prosecuted. Some of them still work for Oakland police.

The Blueford Case

In June 2014, Oakland agreed to pay $110,000 to the family of Alan Blueford, an 18-year-old Skyline High School student shot by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso. Masso was a former NYPD officer who had been accused of excessive force in New York in 2007 before he was hired in Oakland. Masso and 3 other officers were accused of beating, macing, and tasering Rafael Santiago, a prisoner in a holding cell at the 52nd Precinct station house in the Central Bronx. Medical records confirmed that Santiago had a black eye and six serious burns on his back from the electronic shocks. Santiago was put back in his cell and denied medical attention. NYPD investigators identified Miguel Masso as the officer who refused Santiago’s requests for treatment.

Fast forward to May 2012 in East Oakland. Officer Masso and his partner detain Alan Blueford and two friends. While he is being questioned, Alan gets up and runs away. Oakland police initially said that Alan was shot in an exchange of gunfire with Officer Masso. They later acknowledged that Alan did not fire a gun and admitted that Masso had shot himself in the foot with his own gun. A gun was found at the scene that police claimed belonged to Alan. That gun had not been fired. The District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute Officer Masso. He now works for a different police department.

Do we want to hold police officers accountable for lying under oath and filing false police reports? I believe that public safety requires public trust. What do you think? Feel free to post your comment here or at my Facebook page.

A Crisis of Corruption: Is Something Wrong In Gotham City?

A Crisis of Corruption: Is Something Wrong In Gotham City?

Since May 2016, the citizens of the City of Oakland have been shocked and appalled by the abuse of power within the Oakland Police Department (OPD). The story begins in Richmond in 2010 where a 12-year-old girl says she begins to have sex for money.  Fast forward to September 2014, in Oakland, Irma Huerta Lopez is  shot dead in her home. The prime suspect in her death – her husband, police officer Brendan O’Brien. Despite her family’s protests and the suspicious circumstances, Irma’s police officer husband is cleared of all wrongdoing by his employer, the Oakland Police Department. O’Brien also received a pass from the Alameda County District Attorney’s office – no charges are filed.

On September 25, 2015, O’Brien commits suicide. Sometime prior to his death, O’Brien begins a sexual relationship with the young girl from Richmond, while she is still a minor. O’Brien is aware that she has sexual relationships with other police officers, including multiple OPD officers. O’Brien leaves a suicide note. He admits his sexual relationship with the teenage girl and names other OPD officers whom he knows are having sex with her. OPD begins a very quiet and apparently limited investigation. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office does not file any charges against anyone. The City Attorney’s office takes no action.

SEX TRAFFICKINGFast forward 9 months. The teenage girl goes public on social media and with investigative reporting by local reporters. The scandal explodes. City officials scramble to get ahead of the public disclosures and deny the widespread nature of the conduct, only to be exposed as collaborators themselves in the crisis of corruption. The scandal spreads to include 6 different law enforcement agencies.

Oakland’s History

Oakland is historically “ground zero” for police corruption. It was the unbridled racism of our police force that gave birth to the Black Panther Party 50 years ago. Police scandals in cities like Richmond, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are mirrored in our own “Riders” scandal. OPD is under one of the longest imposed consent decrees in the country with a federal court-appointed monitor. The abuse of power by some police officers is nothing new in Oakland.

“Something is clearly wrong in Gotham City.” Three police chiefs down in 9 days. 28 police officers with allegations of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) against them. Our crisis of corruption has exposed how deep and far the abuse of power has spread. Even the Oakland Police Officers Association President professes to be “deeply disappointed.”  While our community decries the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and works to end human trafficking, many police officers acted like it was “business as usual.” And, some of the guardians of the law turned a blind eye to this form of abuse of power.  Hence, my question – is something wrong in Gotham City?

Check out this Petition calling for an independent investigation on Change.org. I would also love to hear your comments. Feel free to post your comment here or at my Facebook page.

State Bar Rules Reform-Part 2

VOICEThe State Bar is asking for public comment on a new rule that would forbid lawyers from having sexual relations with a client unless a sexual relationship existed between them before the lawyer began to represent the client.  Lawyers and the public have to make their views known by September 27, 2016.  The new proposed rules will be submitted to the California Supreme Court by March 31, 2017.  Once approved by the Supreme Court, the rules will apply to 190,000 active lawyers in California.

Rule 3-120 currently only prohibits lawyers from having sexual relations with a client in certain limited circumstances.  For 22 years, there has not been one published case where the State Bar of California enforced the current rule.  This lack of enforcement suggests that the rule is not effective to stop sexual harassment of clients. California’s current rule is different from the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rule that is followed by many other states.  A change in the California rule to the ABA Model Rule would create a “bright-line” standard that says no sexual relations with a client.

The Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct has recommended a new rule (1.8.10) to set a bright-line rule against sex with a client. I support the Commission’s recommended rule.

In these very challenging times, we are either part of the solution or part of the problem.  Let’s start to make our State Bar a part of the solution.  If you are a lawyer, your dues matter, and what you do matters.  If you are not a lawyer, your voice is still important and will be considered.

Public comment can be submitted online here.  The deadline is September 27, 2016 by 5:00 p.m.  If you are not able to use the online form, comments may be submitted by mail to:

Office of Professional Competence, Planning and Development
State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639

Tell the State Bar what you think.  Tell me what you think! Do we want our State Bar to stop lawyers from having sexual relations with clients?  Feel free to post your comment here.

State Bar Rules Reform-Part 1

SHIRLEY QUOTE.01The State Bar is asking for public comment on new Rules for lawyers by September 27, 2016.  The current rules have been in effect since 1987.  The last comprehensive revision of the California Rules occurred in 1989 and 1992.  In November 2014, the State Bar appointed a Commission to review and revise the Rules of Professional Conduct.  The Commission was charged to work to promote confidence in the legal profession and the administration of justice and ensure adequate protection to the public.  The new proposed rules are to be submitted to the California Supreme Court by March 31, 2017.  Once approved by the Supreme Court, the rules will apply to 190,000 active lawyers in California.

For 22 years, the State Bar of California has been unable to enforce its own anti-discrimination rule.  Rule 2-400 prohibits lawyers from discriminating against clients or employees.  We are sanctioned, disciplined and monitored for many rule violations, but the basic requirements of Rule 2-400 are not enforced unless and until there has been a final court decision finding discrimination by the attorney or his firm.  This clause has made Rule 2-400 irrelevant for the past 22 years. Based on my 33 years of experience litigating discrimination claims, I can tell you that discrimination, especially race discrimination, is very hard to prove and get a final judgment.

We have the chance to change the status quo.  The Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct has recommended a new rule (8.4.1) to eliminate the requirement of a judgment of discrimination and allow the State Bar to enforce the rule against discrimination the same as it enforces all other rules.  The Commission’s recommended version of the rule (ALT1) has been watered down by a Staff version (ALT2) to keep the State Bar from enforcing the rule unless and until there has been a judgement against the lawyer.

I support the Commission’s recommended version (ALT1).

In these very challenging times, we are either part of the solution or part of the problem.  Let’s start to make our State Bar a part of the solution.  If you are a lawyer, your dues matter, what you do matters.  If you are not a lawyer, your voice is still important and will be considered.

Public comment can be submitted online here.  The deadline is September 27, 2016 by 5:00 p.m.  If you are not able to use the online form, comments may be submitted by mail to:

Office of Professional Competence, Planning and Development
State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639

Tell the State Bar what you think.  Tell me what you think! Do we want our State Bar to take discrimination as seriously as it takes all other rule violations?  Feel free to post your comment here.